Rising costs for everyday purchases seem to be the norm these days — making it more difficult to save money, especially when on a fixed income. Rising utility bills, high gasoline prices, expensive food (groceries and dining), clothing and entertainment can combine to create real financial hardship for many. The good news is that there are many ways to save money through a bit of research and advance planning.
One way to save money is by shopping online, which may lead to fewer impulse purchases than in-person shopping. Brick-and-mortar stores place items strategically to entice shoppers to buy on impulse rather than need. In addition, whether shopping online or in-person, making a list and sticking to it can significantly reduce spending.
Other easy ways to save include purchasing less-expensive store-brand products as well as discounted imperfect items. Additionally, planning and stocking up on needed items when they are on sale can result in lots of savings.
Checking weekly ads, signing up for loyalty programs and downloading store discount apps can help you save even more. You can also take advantage of discounts at restaurants using membership or club cards, or just asking for a senior discount. Some stores and restaurants even have special senior discount days, so make a point of finding out about these potential savings.
Another savings opportunity that is often overlooked is unused food, which is often forgotten and then must be disposed of. Freezing extra food such as bread or leftovers or placing them in a highly visible place in your refrigerator or freezer can help to ensure that they aren’t forgotten. Then, instead of ordering an expensive delivery pizza for a break from cooking at the end of a long week, you can have easy leftovers of food you’ve enjoyed earlier.
Making our own household cleaners is another easy way to save money. Many products such as vinegar, baking soda and homegrown citrus fruit can be powerful (and natural) cleaners. You can also purchase inexpensive items at a dollar store and make them into cost-effective cleaning products. There are numerous online tutorials and videos that provide step-by-step guidance on how to make your own cleaning products for home.
Preventive care such as maintaining and regularly cleaning vehicles and household appliances can also be a cost saver. Even simple tasks such as unplugging unused appliances can save electricity costs and help to prolong the life of household items.
Purchasing energy-efficient products such as televisions, small ovens/air fryers, light bulbs and appliances, as well as running major appliances during nonpeak hours can also help lower electricity bills. In guest bedrooms, for example, lamps, alarm clocks and other electrical items can be unplugged for most of the year. It’s also a good idea to unplug unneeded items when leaving for vacation.
Whether it’s smart grocery shopping, food management or home care and maintenance, there are many ways we can all save money, even when costs are high. You can find more ideas on ways to save at aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving or refer to our recent AARP Bulletin article, “99 Great Ways to Save” (https://www.aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving/info-2023/99-great-ways-to-save.html).
JR Fujita is a senior state and community engagement specialist for AARP California and is based in Sacramento.