Higher prices are everywhere. At the grocery store. At your gas station.
You feel it. Gas prices have nearly doubled over the past year. Grocery products rose 8.6%, the largest increase in 40 years.
And the higher costs are here to stay, at least for now.
To fight inflation, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates last week and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said rate hikes would continue, vigorously, until inflation be under control.
This means you’ll pay more not only when you shop, but also when you borrow money.
It hurts our wallets a lot, but there are a few simple steps you can take to save money without disrupting your lifestyle. These 7 ideas won’t completely prevent you from paying more, but they’re worth trying.
1. Check your subscriptions
There are many streaming services that automatically charge a monthly fee to your credit card. We’re not suggesting you ditch Netflix, but now is a good time to review all your subscriptions and see if there’s anything you’re not really using, freeing up some cash each month.
In addition to streaming services, take a look at monthly fees for publications, gym memberships and more.
2. Pay off your credit card bills
If you keep a balance on your credit cards, you’re likely to see your interest rates go up. This means you will pay more.
If you have cash available, even in an emergency fund, consider using some to pay off your debt. You can also shop around for a zero or low rate card that lets you transfer your balance. Just make sure you know when the introductory prices expire.
Finally, call your credit card company and negotiate. Ask him to lower your interest rate. If you’ve been a good customer, chances are it’ll cut you a break.
3. Look at your longer-term loans
If it’s been a few years since you refinanced your mortgage, it’s time to take a fresh look. Although rates are indeed increasing, they are still low by historical standards. Additionally, if your home’s value has increased — as many have over the past few years — you might consider a cash refinance and use the extra money to pay off your credit card debt.
Also take a look at whether student loan consolidation might make sense to lower your monthly payment. Remember that if you have federal loans, you could lose some protections if you refinance with a private lender. If consolidation isn’t for you, see if you qualify for a new repayment plan to make your monthly budget more manageable.
4. Maintain your car
While paying a mechanic to fix your car can be an expense, it will likely save you money in the long run, which is essential with today’s high gas prices. Additionally, making sure your tires are inflated and your vehicle is not carrying extra weight in the trunk are other ways to reduce gas mileage.
You can also take advantage of programs that will save you a certain amount on each gallon of gas. Check out your favorite gas station’s rewards program, see if your supermarket’s loyalty program offers a discount on your gas purchases, and find out if your credit card does the same.
And before you head to the pump, check out the GasBuddy app or website, which is outsourced to list the best prices in your area.
5. Get new insurance quotes
If you’ve worked with the same insurance company for a long time, your premiums have probably increased over the years. Ask your agent for a new quote and ask about discounts for safe drivers and good students.
Raising your deductible is another way to lower your premium.
If you don’t like what your agent has to say, shop around. An insurance company that is new to you may offer attractive rates, especially if you combine your auto, home and other policies with the same company.
6. Clean up your inbox
Most people have at some point made a purchase online. Along the way, you’ve probably signed up to receive marketing emails. These pop up in your inbox, prompting you to make purchases you probably didn’t expect.
Take 10 or 15 minutes and unsubscribe from emails. And before saying: “No! I get coupons and discount offers from emails,” consider this: If you know you want to make a purchase – when you’re ready – you can always re-subscribe, get that discount code, and buy according to your own terms.
7. Do not hesitate to ask for help
Before the inflation spike, many people had problems paying their bills during the COVID pandemic. But there is help out there.
If you need help with your energy bills, a family of four with an income of $105,000 a year may qualify for the Universal Service Fund (USF) program, while a family of four with an income of approximately $77,000 per year would qualify for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
The LIHEAP application is open until June 30, 2022, and the application automatically enrolls you in review for the USF program. You can apply online at energyassistance.nj.gov or you can get help from an authorized local community action agency or community organization.
To learn more about both programs, you can call (800) 510-3102.
And if you need help paying your housing bills due to a loss of income due to COVID, the Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (ERMA) will award up to $35,000 to eligible homeowners.
To qualify, you must have suffered a loss of income related to COVID and now have an income not exceeding 150% of the median income of the region where the property is located. You can watch it here.
You can find the application portal here.
Eligible expenses include mortgage payments, escrow shortages, unpaid property taxes, tax liens, defaults, foreclosures, and household utilities or energy. Homeowners can also receive up to four future mortgage payments, including principal, interest, taxes and homeowner’s insurance.
To qualify, your mortgage or other housing costs must not have been past due by January 21, 2020.
If you don’t have internet access, you can call (855) 647-7700, and if you need further assistance, you can contact a housing counselor in your area or email HAFservicing @njhmfa.gov.
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