Tips for paying less when everything costs more

If you’ve noticed that the prices of everything from gasoline to the doctor’s visit are going up when your paycheck is the same, you wouldn’t know it. Consumer prices are up 6.2% from a year ago, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is the largest annual increase in inflation in 30 years.

On their own, these changes may seem minor – this bacon was 20% cheaper last year – but they can add up, especially for families living paycheck to paycheck. There is no quick fix, but there are ways to pay less using a few tech tools.

If you’re worried about inflation taking a toll on your budget and want to make sure you’re paying the lowest possible price for gasoline, string cheese, or galoshes, here are some places to start.

– How to find the lowest gas prices.

In theory, you can drive around town and see which gas station has the lowest prices, but that does require using gasoline and possibly canceling any discounts you might get. Instead, look ahead. There are several tools that claim to have real-time (or recent) gas prices.

GasBuddy is a website and app that displays prices. Geico offers a similar service and gas prices are integrated into Google Maps searches. Searching their websites, especially using a private browser like DuckDuckGo, is the best way to make sure that you aren’t paying for these free services with your data. If you install an app like GasBuddy, make sure to turn off all location tracking options (or only allow them when the app is open) and only share as much data as is necessary.

Bonus low-tech tips: Since prices between sites may vary or be out of date, call and ask! Some gas stations will also offer lower prices if you pay in cash. And the last low-tech tip is to take public transport, carpool, or ride a bike when possible.

– Online store comparator

Normally, comparing prices while shopping on your phone or computer means going between sites or apps and entering the same search term, such as “pink dog sweater.” There are several ways to view the prices side by side. You can start with Google Shopping, but take a closer look as the actual ads and listings get mixed up. Find the product you want and look for an option to compare prices across multiple stores. Google Shopping doesn’t include all stores, so add traditional search to find more listings as well.

Browser plugins do a lot of the work as well. Despite the literal name, Capital One Shopping is a solid plugin that will tell you if a product you’re about to buy is available for less on another site.

– Get off the beaten track of Amazon

Many Amazon Prime shoppers don’t even bother to look at other stores. They get rocked into thinking they’re always getting the lowest price, or that the convenience of free shipping and a registered credit card number makes up for any difference. This is great for Amazon but potentially bad for your bank account. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Be sure to look around to compare prices for common items, including going directly to the manufacturer’s site itself. The price comparison tools above can display other prices directly on Amazon product pages. Think carefully about what is cheaper on Amazon and why. The site is full of inexpensive and unbranded versions of popular products, and sellers regularly write reviews. Here is a guide on how to know when a product is real or suspect.

If convenience is more your thing, consider setting up a cross-site payment tool like Apple Pay or PayPal so that you don’t constantly re-enter shipping and credit card information, or try a similar service like Target Circle. If you have some spare time, figure out how much more an Amazon Prime membership can save you. It is currently $ 119 per year in the United States.

– Use coupons, they’re always cool

If you’ve never cut out little rectangles of paper to get $ 1 off a box of cookies, you’re missing out. Coupons these days are mostly digital but no less satisfying. Some are store specific; for example, you can find an online version of the weekly printed offers for Target in the app or on its site. RetailMeNot has coupon codes and sale ads, and Honey is a browser plug-in that finds coupons and deals. Rakuten is another browser plug-in for finding coupons and discounts on products, but you need to create an account and the discounts are paid as a “refund” you get every three months.

Some coupons still exist in paper form. Look on your receipt a mile from CVS or another drugstore or grocery store for them, in weekly flyers often left in piles in front of stores or in your mailbox.

– Do the spring cleaning of your subscriptions

Subscriptions are sneaky. These monthly or annual payments happen automatically on set dates, or go into effect after a free trial period that you probably already forgot. At least once a year (hopefully more often), sit down and do a tally of all your subscriptions to see what you’re still using and what may be fine. Consider a subscription management tool like TrueBill, which can alert you to subscriptions you may have forgotten. If you are more advanced, you can even try to juggle them according to your needs. For example, if you have completed “Ted Lasso,” you can cancel Apple TV Plus and activate it at the end of the following season.

If you’re feeling daring, try canceling some of them – customer service reps are frequently allowed to offer big discounts to keep subscriptions. If you are an Apple customer, check your subscriptions as they are often bundled.

– Audit your delivery applications

During the pandemic, delivery apps were a boon. They made it possible to have groceries, hot dinners and other produce left right on our doorstep without having to brave a crowded store or restaurant. But the prices and fees for these apps have likely gone up and should be checked regularly.

If you use DoorDash, Uber Eats, or Grubhub for delivery, always pay attention to delivery charges. Look at past orders to decide whether you should sign up or cancel a subscription like Grubhub Plus. Before ordering, choose a dish and search for it on the restaurant’s website, not a third-party site like Yelp or Google. How much more is that banh mi tofu after all fees and tips in the app compared to picking it up yourself? (Limiting tips is not a valid way to save money in case you thought about it.) Save yourself and the restaurant the fees, and order from the website or call and pick it up. yourself.

Perform a similar check of all grocery delivery apps. Amazon recently added a $ 10 delivery charge for Whole Foods orders, which may make the transaction less attractive than before. You can also use grocery apps to compare prices at various stores, even if you are just planning to visit in person. On Instacart, put a few key items and write down their prices at all your local stores. If Greek yogurt, avocados, and a jar of dill pickles are all cheaper in one place, start your order there.

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