We're taking home smaller paychecks now that higher Social Security payroll taxes are back. At the same time, gas prices are spiking and causing a ripple effect on other goods and services that rely on transportation. One oil company executive says we shouldn't be surprised if the price per gallon hits $5 in the coming weeks.
It's a familiar saga. Our budgets are squeezed. We're forced to do more with less.
To minimize the sting of higher prices, and to help you save money, we've pulled together a few simple steps you can take today:
- Morning joe. Instead of spending $5 for your daily cup of coffee, make it at home and take it to work.
- Comparison shop for gas. Go to sites like gasbuddy.com and fueleconomy.gov to find local gas stations that have the cheapest price per gallon. And while you're there, check your tire pressure. Flatter tires can decrease fuel efficiency. Use the lowest grade of gas for your car that the owner's manual allows. For example, if you can fill up with a standard or mid-level grade rather than premium, you may sadve as much as 40 cents per gallon.
- Arrange a carpool to work. It can save you thousands of dollars each year. If you can't find a colleague at work to share the ride, consider using erideshare.com to hook up with someone in your area.
- Print coupons. Before you head to the grocery story, print out coupons from sites like couponmom.com or coupons.com. An online search for coupons will bring up dozens of sites.
- Reveal your age. Being older has its perks at some supermarkets and local food stores, which offer unadvertised discounts of up to 10 percent. Ask at your store.
- Retail savings. Couponsherpa, retailmenot and other websites pool the best printable discounts from retailers like Kohl's, WalMart, Gap and Best Buy. Some have mobile apps that let you scan bar codes with your smartphone or tablet computer.
- Hair-less. Instead of getting your hair cut or your grey roots touched up at a high-priced salon, consider heading to your local beauty academy. You can get your hair done for a fraction of the price.
- Unplug it. Computers, televisions and other devices and appliances burn energy when they're plugged into outlets. So when they're not in use (this goes for cellphone and laptop chargers, too), unplug your stuff.
- Cool down. If you're away from home for most of the day, lower your thermostat to 58 degrees . The Alliance to Save Energy says you can save 3 percent on your heating bill for each 1-degree thermostat reduction.
- Movie night. Instead of paying a small fortune for movie tickets, rent a movie online with Netflix, Hulu or a dozen other sites. Or for a little more than a buck, find a Red Box location near you and rent a recent release.
Photo credit: Agentakit via flickr.com