The simple budget plans that can help you beat inflation


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While simply hearing the word “budget” can send even the most laid-back person into a panic, setting a budget is really an essential step in taking control of your personal finances. Don’t believe us? 3 in 5 Americans don’t know what they spent last month, and 18% of workers with salaries greater than $100,000 are living paycheck to paycheck. By setting a budget, you will not only keep on top of your spending and see opportunities for savings, but you will also enjoy greater financial freedom by making a plan and sticking to it. It’s an important step in your financial plan, and with the help of this guide, it can be an easy one.

What Is Budgeting?

A budget is an outline of your expected expenses and actual income. Budgeting means you know how much money is coming in and out of your accounts each month, and allows you to get a better grasp on where you spend the most and how you can cut spending, such as limiting the amount of money you spend during the holidays. Anyone can create a personal budget, including retirees on a fixed income, and it is crucial for businesses to create a corporate budget. It’s important to include a comprehensive list of your monthly expenses — like rent, mortgage and utility bills as well as things like clothing, entertainment and travel — and your projected income.

5 Budgeting Misconceptions You Should Stop Believing

There are many reasons, or myths, that keep people from creating a budget. Most can be easily debunked. Creating a budget doesn’t require a degree in accounting or even a lot of time. Once you get going, the process gets quicker and easier. It can be a helpful reference for you month to month.

  1. Creating a budget is difficult: Setting a budget requires only basic math skills, and no one will judge you if you use a calculator. You can even use apps to help you, including Mint and Goodbudget.
  2. Budgeting is time-consuming: Once you take the initial step to itemize your expenses and income, you’re off to the races. Instead of thinking about the time involved, think of it as an important step in ultimately reaching your financial goals.
  3. Why do I need a budget when I can work it all out in my head? Many people think they are on top of their spending, but when asked to recall what they spent where, they draw a blank. Even if you’re on a fixed income and have the same expenses month to month, you can still benefit from seeing your spending on paper.
  4. Unexpected expenses pop up all the time, so a budget wouldn’t work for me: There is an easy way to account for impromptu expenses in your budget. You can call it your rainy day fund or miscellaneous; regardless, it’s helpful to see how much extra money you have left each month for when life happens.
  5. I make a high salary, so I don’t need a budget: A high salary doesn’t mean you don’t need to budget your money. In fact, you may be automatically overspending because you assume you can afford it.

5 Good Reasons to Implement a Budget Now

  1. Setting a budget helps you improve your financial picture for today and tomorrow. Whether planning for early retirement, building a nest egg or saving up to purchase a home or car, sticking to your budget is best for your overall financial health. And don’t think it’s too early to save for retirement, even if you’re currently a college student making limited income.
  2. Get and stay out of debt: Student loans, mortgages, car loans, credit card interest — it’s all too easy to sink into heavy debt, and that’s why it’s so important to have a budget for yourself. By seeing where you are spending, you can potentially allocate a portion of your money to paying off debt faster by making extra payments on your mortgage principal.
  3. Save for retirement: Don’t let saving for retirement fall to the wayside because it seems like a long way off. You don’t want to be nearing retirement age and have failed to save anything. You can start contributing small amounts that will compound over time and garner you a higher amount for your retirement.
  4. Make large purchases: It can be easy to get caught up in the here and now of spending and forgetting about bigger-picture purchases you’d like to make. Whether it’s saving for a down payment on a home or a dream vacation, setting a budget can put your goals in front of you, and having a plan can motivate you to reach them.
  5. Save for an emergency: Living paycheck to paycheck can be daunting. It can give you peace of mind to have an emergency savings fund. You can start allocating money to this fund by creating your budget and seeing how much money you can have left over to save.

Practical Steps to Creating and Using a Budget

Before creating your budget, it helps to get organized about your cash inflow and outflow. Knowing how much money you bring in each month and how much you will need to spend on bills and necessities can be a good foundation for planning your budget. While it can seem overwhelming if you’ve never budgeted before, follow these simple steps for a seamless way to get started.

  1. List your income and expenses: While many people choose to do their budgets monthly, your budget may depend on your pay cycle. Whatever the time frame, your first step should be gathering your income and expenses and including an itemized and total list. If you’re a freelancer or don’t receive a steady paycheck, it can be helpful to look at your income and expenses over a period of time, such as the past 12 months, to get an average breakdown.
  2. Determine the right budgeting platform for you: You might want to go old-school and write down your budget, or maybe you’d like to use an app that helps you plan your expenses. Think about what tools you use the most every day so your budget fits in seamlessly and can be accessed at a glance.
  3. Decide what your financial goals and priorities are: If there’s a big-ticket item you’re saving for, or you need to start saving more for retirement, keep this goal in mind as you create your budget. Your goals will help you decide where you need to spend and where you can cut back. It’s also helpful to mark down what expenses are essential, like groceries and rent, for example, and which are discretionary or non-essential, like eating out at restaurants.
  4. Look for opportunities for savings: By taking a hard look at your finances, you might find that you’re spending unnecessarily on streaming services you don’t use, for example, while you could be paying more toward the principal on your mortgage each month. It’s also helpful to look at your energy bills and see if you can find savings, thereby adjusting the thermostat if they are on the high side.
  5. Adjust your spending: Consider your budget as a goal you’ll strive to meet. When you see how much you can start saving, it can make it easier to resist those extra costs because you know you’re working towards meeting your goals.

How to Create a Budget With a Spreadsheet

Using a spreadsheet for your budget is a great way to keep your expenses and income organized. Many free programs are available, and many have built-in templates that make it even easier to set up. Another helpful aspect is that many programs will sync to all your devices, so you can access your budget whether you’re on your laptop or using your mobile phone. Many have features that let you see your budget in visuals, such as a pie chart, which can be a fun and helpful way of looking at your financial picture.

Budgeting Examples for Personal Finances

Budgeting can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before. Still, it can be helpful to see how other people have formed their budgets — especially if their finances resemble yours. Consider some examples to help you get started, whether you’re a student or budgeting for a family of four.

Example Student Budget

Students with a limited income can benefit from having a budget to stay on track and avoid unnecessary spending. And if you work several part-time jobs, you’ll want to itemize your income to see precisely how much you’re making. It can be helpful to have two charts: one for your income and one for your spending.

Example Family Budget

It’s especially important to stay on track if you’re a family on a budget since unexpected expenses can always arise, and you’re accounting for spending on behalf of multiple family members rather than just yourself. A family budget will typically be more detailed than a student or individual budget simply because multiple people are involved. You might choose to break down the income part of your budget individually or jointly if you have a partner who makes income. Consider this joint example.

Family income

Family expenses

Effective Budgeting Strategies and Methods

There are many ways you can structure your budget. Some methods are more complex than others. The ideal strategy for you will depend on whether you have a high or low income, your financial picture, habits and goals. Keep the pros and cons in mind when picking a method.

1. 50/30/20 Budget

Popularized by Senator Elizabeth Warren, the 50/30/20 budget is a way to break down finances into three parts: 50% on necessities, 30% on wants and 20% on savings or paying off debt. It can be a helpful way to give yourself financial discipline and work toward your savings goals while still spending a portion of your money on things you enjoy. You’ll have to be somewhat organized to stick to the plan when following the 50/30/20 budget, though this method requires less effort than other budgeting strategies.


Say your take-home pay for the month is $3,000. You’ll allocate $1,500 toward essentials like food and rent. $900 can be allotted toward things you want, like streaming services, vacations and going out to eat. The remaining 20%, or $600, should be applied toward any debts or deposited into savings.


The 50/30/20 rule is fairly straightforward to use, but there are a few caveats. Whether it’s right for you will depend on your financial habits.


  • Simple to use. The 50/30/20 budget rule requires only simple math, and can be adjusted month to month if your income changes.
  • Not too restrictive. With 30% allocated toward fun expenses, you won’t feel like you’re doing without.
  • Can be adjusted. Since it works with percentages, it’s easy to adjust your budget if you have a change in income.


  • Doesn’t take into account your expenses. For example, if you have an exceptionally high mortgage, it can be challenging or impossible to stick to the 50/30/20 rule.
  • The percentages are fixed. If saving is a priority, you might want to dedicate more money toward your savings accounts. But this budget is pretty prescriptive in that the percentages are fixed.
  • The ratio may not suit your needs. If you’re working toward a goal, like saving up for a home or working to pay off debt, the allocations may not be the best match for you. You might want to choose another budget method that aligns with your financial needs.

2. Zero-Based Budget

Having a zero-based budget means every dollar is accounted for in your budget. At the beginning of the month, you’re essentially starting at zero, and by the end of the month, you should have all your funds allocated. If you have any money left over, a zero-based budget plan would have you contribute toward savings, leaving you with zero dollars to start the next month. It can be more time-consuming than other budgets, and you’ll need to plan out each month’s expenses in advance to make it work.


To start a zero-based budget, you’ll look at your expenses versus your total income at first. Say you need to pay $1,500 in rent, and you expect to pay a total of $900 for necessities and wants, and you’d like to contribute $200 toward your retirement account. That means you’ll need to earn $2,600 for your budget to equal zero.


  • Can be adjusted. Since you’re starting from zero each month and building out your budget, you have a lot of flexibility in how you decide to allocate your expenses. If your income changes, you can make adjustments.
  • Keeps spending in check. You won’t be able to live beyond your means if you follow a zero-based budget. Every dollar has a purpose, so to stick to your budget you’ll need to be disciplined.
  • Tracks spending each month. You’ll see exactly how much you’re spending since you’re redoing your budget each month and looking at last month’s financial picture. You can really start to see patterns over time and find ways to minimize spending.


  • Process can be extensive. Unlike other budget methods like the 50/30/20 rule, you’ll have to start over each month to create your zero-based budget. If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, you might want to pick another method.
  • Can be difficult to predict expenses. Since you are drawing up your budget in advance, it doesn’t specifically account for unexpected expenses that can arise. Even if you dedicate a portion of your money toward emergencies, you won’t know how much and if it’s enough to stick to your zero-based budget.
  • It can be complicated. If you’re just starting out with your budget, you might not want to begin your budgeting with a zero-based budget. Until you get the hang of budgeting, you might want to start with a simpler system to make things easy for yourself.

3. Envelope Budget

An envelope budget is a visual way of budgeting. You’ll have several paper envelopes labeled with your necessities, wants, savings and other categories. You’ll put a certain amount of cash into each envelope to spend or save as you choose. When you make a purchase, you’ll draw from the corresponding envelope to meet your budget. Although it may seem like an old-school method, the envelope budget has had a recent resurgence on TikTok.


Say you have $2,000 for the month. You could put $900 into an envelope for your rent, $100 for groceries, $200 for wants, $500 for savings and $300 for transportation costs. When you want to buy a new shirt that costs $50, you will take the cash out of your wants envelope, leaving you with $150 for wants for the remainder of the month.


The envelope budgeting strategy can be effective, but not for everybody. Certain factors may make it a hit or a miss for you, depending on how you make purchases and your payment schedule.


  • A physical method. By physically seeing the cash leave your envelope, you can be aware of how much you’re spending. In turn, this can help you be more frugal.
  • Simple to use. An envelope budget is one of the more straightforward budgeting methods to follow. You won’t need to do any math or calculations, and it can simplify spending for a family, for example.
  • Helps prevent debt. Because you’re paying for expenses in cash and not charging them, you won’t rack up interest charges or take on debt. This method can be helpful if you’re trying to reduce your credit card use.


  • You must use cash. If you primarily make electronic payments through your debit or credit card, this method may not be for you. It also requires you to carry cash, which not everyone prefers to do. While you could make a digital payment and then take the cash out of the envelope, this requires an extra, time-consuming step.
  • Not a digital method. If you prefer to track your spending on your phone or computer, this method may not work with your lifestyle. You’ll have to have paper envelopes on hand and like working with cash.
  • Time-consuming. You’ll need to have the cash withdrawn in advance and make time to put it in each labeled envelope. This method can be more time-consuming than some other budget options, not to mention you’ll need to have cash in hand at the beginning of each month.

4. Values-Based Budget

A values-based budget can be a loose term for spending on what you prioritize in life or what brings you happiness. It’s usually less focused on tracking every dollar and more on how you feel when you spend money, minimizing purchases that don’t feel fulfilling. It can be described as a way to spend more intentionally so you get the most from your spending.

Values-Based Budget in Practice

A couple decides that instead of buying material things, they’d rather spend their extra money on traveling internationally. So they might look at their expenses and see where they can transfer funds from spending on material goods to their travel fund. Upon implementing a values-based budget, they decide they can trim $150 from their clothing and personal care fund each month toward their travel savings account to start saving up for a big trip they want to take.


A values-based budget may not work for everyone, particularly those with limited incomes or debts. But it can be a freeing way to budget for people who want to feel good about how they spend their dollars.


  • It’s not restrictive. A values-based budget gives you a lot of freedom to draw up your budget however you’d like. You won’t focus on tracking every expense or meeting a certain threshold each month; instead, it allows you to take a broader view of your spending.
  • Allows you to manage spending. When prioritizing your values, you may find it easier to avoid spending on autopilot or on things that don’t bring you joy or fulfillment. It’s an intuitive way to cut costs.
  • Helps you reach your goals. By getting clear in your mind about what it is you want, you might be able to reach your financial goals sooner because you have renewed focus.


  • Can be difficult to do on a limited income. If you live paycheck-to-paycheck, you would probably find it difficult to spend on things you value when bills and necessities probably come first. It can also be challenging if budgeting for a family since you have many priorities and values connected to your spending.
  • Not as detailed as other plans. Other budgeting methods are better for tracking every expense and staying super organized with your finances. The values-based budget can be a looser approach to budgeting that won’t work for all.
  • May not facilitate debt repayment or saving. If you have student or credit card debt, paying it off may not be at the top of your wants list. This method may not be conducive to meeting your financial goals or prioritizing repayment.

5. Pay-Yourself-First Budget


A pay-yourself-first budget means you immediately set aside money for savings when paid. Then, the remainder of your pay goes toward expenses. This can be a way to ensure you save money by automatically setting it aside, so you have less income off the bat to spend.


Say your take-home pay is $5,000. You’d like to ramp up your retirement savings as you’re nearing retirement age. You could automatically deduct $2,500 from your paycheck to put into a retirement account. This would leave you with $2,500 to pay your expenses.


Pay-yourself-first budgeting can be a great way to bolster your savings, but it may not suit every financial situation. You’ll need to be sure you can cover your bills after withdrawing your savings.


  • An easy way to save. Since you automatically save at the beginning of the month, you don’t have to worry about going over budget and skimping on savings.
  • Easy method. If you choose this method, you won’t worry about tracking every expense since spending for the rest of the month is pretty unrestricted as long as the money goes toward savings upfront.
  • Quick process. You won’t even have to think about transferring money each month after you decide on an amount to save and set up recurring transfers with your bank.


  • Can be difficult for those on limited incomes. Dedicating a portion of income to savings up front can be difficult if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and don’t have extra money left over.
  • Can facilitate spending too much. Since you’re dedicating money to savings up front, you might feel you can get a little spendy the rest of the month, derailing any attempt to keep spending in check and stay on track.
  • Doesn’t help reduce costs. Since you’re dedicating money to savings upfront, you might feel you can get a little spendy the rest of the month, derailing any attempt to manage your spending.

Resources for Budgeting

Many resources, including templates, calculators and apps, can help you reach your budgeting goals. Several are even free to download and use, while others are paid options.


Budgeting Apps

  • Want an easy way to budget? These apps can help you plan and stick to your budget, and they’re convenient to use.
  • Honeydue: This budgeting app can be particularly helpful for couples managing their money together.
  • Goodbudget: Families can sync and share their budgets to keep track of multiple expenses.
  • EveryDollar: If you struggle to remember payment deadlines, EveryDollar lets you set due dates for all your bills.
  • PocketGuard: Another popular app that helps you stay accountable for your spending.
  • Pylon: This resource is a paid option designed to help personal and business users track their monthly budgets.
  • Monarch: Monarch offers a beta feature that provides advice for your individual financial situation from financial planners.
  • Simplifi: Simplifi by Quicken offers insights into your spending to keep you on target.


This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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18 ways to stay ahead of inflation


No doubt, inflation is putting significant pressure on people’s budgets, and the future looks bleak when it comes to the potential of prices falling soon. The latest Consumer Price Index (May 11, 2022) revealed that consumer goods and services rose 8.3 percent (on average) over the last 12 months, noting shelter, food, airline fares, and new vehicles as the most significant contributors to this overall increase. And this isn’t just impacting lower-income families either—a recent study found that  31 percent of Americans making $100,000 and more struggle to afford their bills.

As prices continue to rise, here’s a look at beating inflation on everything from groceries to gas to household bills.


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Even if you’re not struggling to afford your bills, you can beat inflation by saving money on groceries. Doing so can free up some extra cash to put towards other things, like savings or investments. Here are a few tips for how to save money on groceries.


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Not only do you need to pay attention to grocery prices when shopping, but paying attention to how you shop can also result in significant savings at the food store. One study shows that shoppers who used self-checkout spent less on impulse than those who used the staffed lane. Another way to ditch impulse grocery buys is to use a handbasket rather than a cart. You don’t have as much space to toss in anything other than the necessities by doing this.


Store brands have come a long way in the last decade, so you don’t have to worry about sacrificing taste and quality to save, and you’re looking at spending around 30% less. Many grocery stores and big-box retailers are also more likely to offer deals and coupons on their food brands, so there’s even more opportunity to save.



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Shoppers will often find fresh foods at up to a 70% discount when nearing their expiration date. These include meat, cheese, chicken, fish, and dairy. Ask your store manager where you can find these options and freeze what you don’t plan to eat right away.





Saving money on restaurant meals is important for a number of reasons. For one, eating out is becoming increasingly more expensive as inflation continues to rise. Additionally, when you eat out, you’re not only paying for the food itself, but also for the service and oftentimes for the ambiance of the restaurant.

Here are some ways you can beat inflation by saving money on restaurant meals/takeout.



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Before heading out to eat, pick up a discount restaurant gift card. You can snag significant savings when buying bulk packs of gift cards from warehouse stores. For instance, you can get $25 off two $50 gift cards to Macaroni Grill and $20 off two $50 gift cards to California Pizza Kitchen, both available at Costco. If you don’t have a membership to one of these bulk stores, check out for dining deals, as this site posts discounted certificates for restaurants based on zip code.


Happy hour isn’t just for drinks, many bars and restaurants also offer deals on appetizers and select menu items, so this is a good time to dine out to save. Otherwise, look for early-bird or late-night dining deals as restaurants may discount meals when crowds die down. Meanwhile, families can save by searching for dining spots that offer free kids’ meals on certain days of the week. Download the Yelp app and tap on the Deals tab to look for dining and take-out specials nearby.


Take the sting out of rising restaurant prices by using cashback tools to save money. Sites like offer cashback for food delivery services like $2.50 back at Uber Eats and $10 back at Postmates. Meanwhile, you can earn an extra 4% cashback when you pay for your food and drinks using the Slide app at participating restaurants and coffee shops, including The Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, etc.


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In these (high) inflationary times, it’s more important than ever to save money on gas for your car. Rising prices at the pump can quickly eat into your budget, leaving you with less money to spend on other things. Here are a few ways to beat inflation and save on gas to keep more money in your pocket.

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Fuel prices can fluctuate daily, making it tricky to determine which gas stations have the best rate. However, you can quickly compare current prices per gallon using the GasBuddy app. Enter your location or allow the GPS feature to pull up your location and notify you where the least expensive gas is in your area or along your route.





Pay attention to where you shop for groceries, as some offer fuel reward programs, allowing you to redeem points for discounts at the pump. For instance, Kroger’s loyalty program provides one fuel point for every $1 spent on groceries which consumers can redeem for discounts at Kroger gas stations and participating Shell stations. Other grocery stores offer similar programs, so don’t let those rewards go to waste.


Cash is king when saving on gas, as card paying customers can expect to spend 10 to 15-cents more per gallon when swiping plastic. If you don’t typically carry dollar bills on hand, look for a gas rebate card to earn more cashback on fuel purchases. You can even double up on cashback by uploading pictures of your gas receipts using Fetch Rewards. You’ll earn points good towards gift cards to stores like Amazon, Target, or Walmart, which you can use to offset future spending needs.


Inflation can have a serious impact on your household budget, making it more important than ever to save money on household bills.

Here are a few ways you can beat inflation by reducing your monthly expenses and keeping more money in your pocket.


You likely shopped around for the best insurance rates when first buying your car or home, but you could be leaving money on the table if you haven’t compared rates. Run a quick price comparison using insurance comparison sites like to see if you could snag comparable coverage for less. Increasing your deductible and bundling policies are other ways to reduce your premium.




A recent study found that 90% of mobile users waste money on unnecessary unlimited data plans as they use much less than their plan provides. Review your data use and move to a lower-tiered data plan or save by switching to an online-only carrier like Mint Mobile, which offers plans for as little as $15 per month. Considering the average American cell phone bill is $70 for a single user, according to JD Power, that’s an extra $660 a year extra you will have to put towards your debt.





Carrying balances across multiple credit cards makes managing debt difficult and more expensive, especially for anyone with a variable-rate credit card. As rates increase, monthly interest fees will get more expensive, making it harder to pay down debt. While transferring balances to a zero-percent interest credit card is one option, consolidating multiple balances into one personal loan takes the stress out of managing several different payment dates and comes with lower interest rates. You can even find debt consolidation loans for bad credit by comparing offers at sites like


Inflation can have a serious impact on your household budget, making it more important than ever to make smarter choices when shopping.

Here are some ways to beat inflation when it comes to shopping.


You may have already started to limit impulse purchases and unnecessary shopping, but when it comes to buying stuff you need, think outside the traditional retail shop. Instead, join Buy-Nothing Groups on Facebook to pick up free things and trade kid’s clothing at Otherwise, look for gently used options online.

You can find secondhand home goods and furniture through:

  • Local listing sites like Mercari or OfferUp,
  • Previously-owned fashion at Poshmark or,
  • Gently-used sports gear at SwapMeSports, and
  • Refurbished gadgets at eBay or Best Buy to save anywhere from 30 to 70% compared to regular retail prices.




While marketers want you to believe you need something new for the upcoming or current season, chances are you can wait. And holding off on making the purchase can result in considerable savings. Many consumer goods like clothing, holiday decorations, power tools, and even sporting gear have a season it’s most needed, like swimsuits for summer and snowblowers for winter. Hence, prices peak when the item is in demand. Buying toward the end of the season (i.e. after the December global holidays) may offer less selection, but you can reap bigger 50 to 70% off discounts.


While hunting down coupons and comparing prices are two essential steps to finding the best deal on any purchase, don’t forget to track prices even after you buy. Many retailers offer price adjustments for recent purchases that go on sale for more money off within a week or two from the original date of purchase. While monitoring these price changes can be tedious, some tools work for you. For example, Edison Mail’s Price Alert feature will notify you when they detect a price drop for recent purchases. Also, they provide tips on how to request money back for stuff you already bought. This way, you never overpay.


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When it comes to booking travel, the best rates are often not the first ones to get displayed. Indeed, these days, one must hunt for the best deals. Here are some ways to beat inflation, and travel at the same time.


When and where you go will ultimately impact your vacation spending, so be flexible about your destination and travel dates to save. Choose a destination experiencing its off-peak season to enjoy hotel, airfare, and entertainment deals. Traveling midweek will also offer deeper discounts on flights and accommodation. Set airfare and hotel price alerts using sites like Hopper and Trivago, and take a holiday where you find the deals.

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1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals get started now.


Airfare and hotel will account for a significant portion of your overall travel budget, but even those daily activities and entertainment can add. Save yourself some serious dough by picking a destination that offers plenty of free things to do. For instance, the beach will keep your kids happy for hours, while a mountain getaway gives you plenty of options to play outdoors, including hiking, bike riding, fishing, star gazing, and more.




You don’t have to dish out hundreds of dollars on a hotel or home rental— a little creativity can go a long way to help you save on accommodation.

For instance, you can get a free or deeply discounted overnight stay by:

  • Swapping homes via,
  • Renting a room rather than a whole house through VRBO or Airbnb; or,
  • Tackling chores or office duties in exchange for free stays at hostels via


While inflation is something you can’t change, there are still ways to beat it. The key is to be mindful of your spending and make strategic choices that allow you to save money. From automating your finances to taking advantage of freebies, these tips will help you keep more of your hard-earned cash.


This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by





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