Even though consumer spending is down overall, we are paying more for the things we buy. The prices of some goods and services have soared, based on information from Time Magazine's Special Money Issue: What We Spend, published last month. The following family expenses have hit families the hardest, making them important targets in your cost-cutting hunt.
1. Health Care
Lab work, medications, home health care and hospital fees all went up. Since 2008, the cost of health care has gone up 13 percent overall. That is a significant increase for a four-year period and can be crippling to people who have to pay out of pocket.
Medical insurance has also gone up because of medical providers passing on their increased costs to insurance companies. A study by Standard & Poor’s suggests that these insurance companies are passing that extra burden right onto its policyholders. Insurance premium prices have risen 9 percent in the past year alone, which indicates that their report was spot on.
In order to save, you will need to look online for prescription discount programs and insist on generics when getting a prescription. It is obviously of great financial benefit to invest more into preventative care than to penny pinch and end up needing serious treatment. Long-term health care insurance will save you money in the long run by locking in your rate and avoiding yearly increases.
2. Cell Phones, Cable and Internet
Cell phone providers and internet companies are really taking advantage of our dependence on social networks and instant communication. Most of us are overpaying by over $300 a year based on our actual usage and the variety of plan pricing and providers servicing our area. Instead of fixating on what company designed your phone or how new it is, look to prepaid unlimited talk, web and text phone providers. You still have access to internet, GPS and app markets, but pay around $30 less a month.
3. Higher Education
Tuition has risen at a rate more than twice the rate of inflation. You can get the same education, sometimes better when it comes to career prospects, by attending a local 2-year college before moving on to a high profile 4-year school. You're likely to get better marks and your good grades could even help you win scholarships towards a more expensive school. Also, choose your major wisely. Be practical and base your career choices on the situation in the marketplace, not just your dreams.
4. Hotels and Travel
Prices on travel have gone up and many people have been content to just save up more money before booking and going on vacation. There is no reason to stay home for your vacation or to go broke trying to book your fight and hotel with so many discount travel sites now. There are some that even allow you to select your preferred flight times and hotel locations and place low bids to try to snatch a great deal. What airline you fly on and where you stay is a mystery, but you pay much less and you can demand certain neighborhoods and star levels. It also adds a face of excitement you wouldn't get if you hand selected your flight and hotel.
5. Energy Costs
If you plugged all of your appliances into a single power strip and shut everything off when you leave the house, you would see about $15 savings. Just being plugged into an outlet sucks out expensive power, which some people like to call ‘phantom energy costs. This tactic isn't sensible with some products, like Internet used to monitor your home, or the refrigerator, which should stay running even while you are gone.
6. Chicken and Fruit
What an odd combination! Yet, manufacturers rarely issue coupons for these often high-demand foods. The best way to save here is to buy locally and in season. Poultry is typically cheaper closer to Thanksgiving and other holidays because other meats and birds are in higher demand at those times. Buy, freeze and pocket the savings.
Clothing is more expensive for everyone, regardless of age or gender. Gas and cotton prices are the culprits, but there are ways to curb these costs. Before going out to buy clothes, check the store’s website. They often have a page dedicated to a weekly coupon or a one-time discount available for signing up for e-mail alerts. Hit the thrift stores in more well to do towns to benefit from high quality used clothing.
8. OTC Drugs and Cleaning Supplies
Stuff like laundry detergent and headache medicine has been getting harder for struggling families to afford for the past couple of years. Makers of these products often have coupons up on grocery store websites or in the Sunday newspaper. Generic grocery store brands are made of all the same active ingredients and often cost half as much.
Televisions, bicycles, movies and other ways to spend our free time and make ourselves happy have gone up due to increase fuel and transportation costs. Consumer spending in this category has gone up a dramatic 25 percent since 2007. It goes to show that when the world around us tanks, we treat psychological wounds by increasing our leisurely activities. Happiness is always worth spending money on, but you can spend less by choosing your activities more wisely, State parks and recreation areas are often free.
Jessica Bosari is a freelance writer and blogger for various publications and her own blog. You can read more of Jessica's work here. If you have any comments or questions about SavingTools or about saving money, leave your comments in the form below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!