Thanks to COVID-19, shortages of goods and workers have pushed inflation to its highest levels in decades. And, today's already eye-popping prices are expected to keep surging.
The Federal Reserve has decided to stop suggesting high inflation will blow over soon, as various forecasters predict it will keep squeezing your wallet into the new year.
What can you do? A good strategy for fighting back is to take advantage of some simple ways to stretch your money — and make more of it.
Here are 10 ideas for putting some padding in your budget, so you can show inflation who's boss.
1. Cut the cost of your debt
High-interest debt from credit cards and personal loans can be a major drain on your bank balance, especially if you’re making only the minimum payments each month.
To slash the cost of that debt, you might take out a debt consolidation loan. You’ll trade in all of your current balances — on credit cards, loans, everything — for a single monthly payment at a lower interest rate.
You can borrow money with no collateral at rates as low as 5.95%. Depending on how much interest you’re currently paying on your debts, consolidating them could save you thousands of dollars and help you become debt-free years sooner.
2. Hunt down your long-lost money
You do know where all your money is, right?
Actually, people move on and forget all about money in old accounts all the time. It's so common that Americans currently have more than $40 billion in unclaimed funds waiting for them.
Is any of that yours? Search MissingMoney.com, which will show if you left any money in an old checking or savings account, or if you’re entitled to unclaimed life insurance policies from relatives who have passed away. (You'll want to be much more careful when you buy your own life insurance policy.)
You also should check with the IRS to see if there are any tax refunds you're missing. You can amend your previous tax returns for up to three years if you were eligible for a refund but neglected to claim it.
3. Refinance to a cheaper student loan
Payments on federal student loans have been on a long pause, but if you owe student debt to a bank or other private lender, you’ve been on the hook for your regular monthly minimum all along.
The good news is that interest rates on student loan refinances are are at all-time lows right now, even under 2% in some cases. So, you could pay off your current debt with a new and cheaper refi loan.
When you refinance a student loan to a lower rate, your monthly payment goes down — allowing you to pay off your college debt more quickly.
You can find quotes from multiple lenders in just minutes, so shop around and make sure you’re getting the best rate possible.
4. Use technology to save when you shop online
If you do most of your shopping online — and these days, who doesn’t? — you likely go to the same website again and again. You know the one.
But Amazon doesn’t always have the best prices, and nobody has time to price-check every store.
You can let technology do that work for you. You might download a free browser extension that will automatically find you deals and coupon codes every time you shop online.
You also can set price-drop alerts for your favorite products, so if they go on sale, you’ll be the first to know. Installation of the add-on takes just a moment and could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
5. Play the market with as little as $1
If you’ve never put money into the stock market, you might think owning a piece of a well-known company is out of reach. After all, stock prices have been climbing higher and higher over the last year.
But one popular investing app will let you buy pieces of companies like Google and Tesla for as little as $1 — and when they profit, so will you.
You can invest in fractional shares of stocks, options, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and cryptocurrencies, and you won't have to pay any commissions.
6. Shrink your car insurance bills
If you've got a car and aren't shopping around for cheaper insurance every six months, you could easily be overpaying by hundreds of dollars a year.
Comparing rates from multiple insurance companies may sound like a lot of work, but some websites do the shopping around for you. You might find a better deal in just a few minutes.
You'll answer a few quick questions and be presented with the best quotes from hundreds of car insurers. That way, you can find the lowest price available on the coverage you currently have.
7. Stop paying too much for home insurance
Homeowners insurance rates have been rising for many Americans. But if your bill seems too steep, you might be able to cut it down to size with some good old-fashioned shopping around.
Don't stay married to a policy that might be costing too much. Instead, go online and compare quotes from hundreds of insurers to find a better price.
Answer a few basic questions, and you’ll instantly see the best deals available in your area.
You could save close to $1,000 a year on your homeowners policy by comparing rates — while keeping the same level of coverage you currently have.
8. Switch to a high-deductible health plan and HSA
If you’re relatively healthy and your medical expenses generally don't go beyond physicals and screenings, a high-deductible health plan could save you money.
Your deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket before your insurance covers the rest. The higher the deductible, the lower your premiums will be.
Also note that switching to one of these health plans will make you eligible for a health savings account (HSA), a tax-advantaged account for medical expenses. The funds in the account grow tax-free, and as long as the money is used for eligible health costs, it can be withdrawn tax-free.
You'll want to do some comparison shopping online to find the high-deductible health plan offering the right coverage at the lowest rate.
9. Get paid when businesses behave badly
When companies do the wrong thing, they get taken to court — and sometimes their customers get compensated.
A site called ClassAction.com will show if you qualify for a refund for any product or service that was falsely advertised, defective or price-gouged you.
Recent settlements have involved Apple, Tesla, Juul and other companies. Many class-action claims can be completed online in a few minutes, though it may take up to a year to receive your rebate.
The criteria for eligibility will vary depending on the lawsuit, but in some cases you may not even need a receipt to get reimbursed.
10. Make money with your pocket change
Another way to use the stock market to help you battle rising inflation is by putting your pennies to work.
You might use a popular app that helps you grow a diversified portfolio by investing just your "spare change" from everyday purchases.
Inflation may be eating away at the value of money, but your pocket change is far from worthless. If saved and invested properly, it could turn into hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.