Cutting Back on Spending Due to Inflation? How To Save on Dining Out, Travel and Groceries
Inflation has hammered our wallets over the past year, as a poll by GOBankingRates that launched in April 2022 shows. The poll, which garnered over 20,000 responses, found that Americans have made cutbacks on the following categories: dining out (39%), travel (16%), groceries (13%), gas (7%) and other (4%). Twenty percent of respondents said they haven’t cut back on any expenses.
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Though inflation has cooled a bit in recent months, it hasn’t died down completely. And, with a recession on the horizon, many consumers are still in a pinch to trim costs. How can one cut back on categories where savings are top of mind, including dining out, travel and groceries? Let’s see what the experts recommend.
How To Save on Dining Out
The poll found that 39% of consumers made cutbacks on dining out amid inflation. Here are some evergreen ways to save on this expense.
Do a Little Research Online
Restaurants often run specials — that amount to savings — that you can find out about if you subscribe to their newsletters and/or follow them on social media.
“Always check online for any deals, vouchers, and offers your chosen restaurant may currently be running,” said Yasmin Purnell, a personal finance expert and the founder of The Wallet Moth. Often, a simple check can secure you an offer for a free dessert, or a discounted three-course meal.”
Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are also solid discounts destinations.
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Use the Right Credit Card
Some credit cards are better for dining out than others.
“If you tend to eat out at restaurants often, there are certain reward credit cards that offer programs that you can use to secure extra cash back when dining out,” said Lucia Jensen, CEO of WeLoans. “Depending on the card, these can vary between 1% to 5% cash back, but there are some like the Amex Gold Card that can net as high as 8% cash back.”
Order off the Lunch Menu
Why not have the lunch-sized salad for dinner? If the restaurant allows it, you’ll probably pay less.
“Some higher-end restaurants will offer separate lunch and dinner menus with the lunch options being cheaper and smaller portions,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “In many cases, the same dishes are often available, unless there’s something special on the dinner menu, which means you can dine out for less and at an earlier time than if you were to go out for dinner. This won’t always be the case, so be sure to do your research ahead of time, but when perusing menus (especially online) be sure to see if there’s a lunch menu available and what restrictions it has to see if you can get away with having a nice meal out without spending a fortune on dinner.”
How To Save on Travel
According to the poll, 16% of Americans are cutting back on travel amid inflation. Here are some salient ways to cut back on this category.
Shop for Flights in Stealth Mode
“Always be sure to use incognito mode or private browser mode and clear your cookies when looking for flights,” said Dan Gellert, COO of Skiplagged. “Using these settings will ensure the airlines can’t track what you are looking at and can get you the best price possible.”
Take a Carry-On Only
Most airlines charge steep fees for checked luggage. Ditch them by sticking to carry-on luggage only.
“Find out the carry-on luggage restrictions from your airline, and maximize the space you are entitled to take up with your bag,” Purnell said. “This can save you potentially hundreds of dollars a year.”
Use a Travel Credit Card
If you’re a frequent traveler, you should be (responsibly) using a credit card that rewards you for travel purchases.
“I personally use Chase Freedom Flex, and get 5% cash back when I book via the Chase Ultimate Rewards website,” said Alvin Carlos, CFA, CFP, a financial planner and managing partner at District Capital Management.
Consumers may also want to check out Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, Barclays JetBlue Plus Mastercard, Wells Fargo Autograph Card and other best travel credit cards of 2023.
How To Save on Groceries
The poll found that 13% of respondents cut back on spending on groceries. Here are tried-and-true ways to save on these essentials.
Shop in Bulk
Any expert worth their salt will recommend shopping in bulk, as does Lindsey Danis, a self-employed writer who covers food, travel and personal finance and founded the blog QueerAdventurers.
“Shopping in bulk at Costco for staples helps me save money. For example, I can purchase a 2 lb. bag of coffee from Costco for around $15. From the grocery store, 12 ounces of the same coffee would cost $10,” she said.
Shop at International Stores
If you have an international supermarket near you that you’ve not visited, go and explore it, if only for the cheaper prices on certain items.
“It won’t help you save on everything, but if you have international supermarkets nearby you may be able to pick up fruits and veggies that your mainstream stores don’t have on a regular basis, and for cheaper prices, too,” Ramhold said. “Additionally, this is a great way to pick up things like soy sauce, different oils, tofu, even fresh fish for much less than if you were to shop at regular grocery stores. Even if you need something simple, like more ground spices, you should check out the international aisle at your supermarket rather than the baking aisle.”
Compare Unit Prices
Is that item really cheaper than the next? Don’t go just by price tags. Go by unit prices, which will give you a better idea.
“Instead of focusing solely on the overall price tag, compare the unit prices first,” said Daniel Anderson, founder and editor, The Money Maniac. “Some brands may look cheaper than their counterparts but have fewer products, whereas others may be pricier but have better overall value. Grocery items are predominantly prone to shrinkflation, which puts less product amount, weight, or content to adjust their prices for consumers to keep buying.”
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