You can fight inflation.
It’s simple math, says retirement guru Ed Slott, a Rockville Centre certified public accountant and the star of PBS specials.
“You either make more or you spend less.”
It may sound glib. After all, skyrocketing prices have put consumers and businesses in a hammerlock.
But Slott’s logic is airtight.
Long Islanders arguably are well positioned to take on inflation. After all, they are battle-scarred veterans of a high-cost region and schooled in taking on side hustles, renting auxiliary apartments and tracking down bargains. They’ve been at it since the Big Duck was a duckling.
To help, we’ve come up with 30 ideas on how to squeeze every penny from your dollars and add new income streams.
The strategies are sorted as defensive (spending reducers) and offensive (income boosters), but many can work either way, depending on whether you’re a provider or a consumer.
CURB YOUR COSTS: 15 ways to spend less
1. Track your spending: “Everybody has their own personal inflation rate, depending on what they buy,” said Bankrate.com analyst Sarah Foster. Tracking spending with an app such as Mint, one of the many free spreadsheet templates or simply scrutinizing receipts can provide insights into spending anomalies and goods and services with rising prices and possible alternatives. “Make sure you know what’s inflated,” she said.
2. Join a “buy-nothing group”: These localized Facebook groups give furniture, clothing and housewares a new life by offering them at no charge. Members offer each other free goods and solicit the products they need. Freebies also can be found on Craigslist, Nextdoor and other online services.
3. Rotate your streaming services: With streaming services from Netflix, Disney, Apple, Amazon, Comcast and others proliferating, viewers may face their own pulse-pounding drama when it comes time to pay their bills. Retiree organization AARP suggests cutting costs by signing up for a streaming service, binge watching for a few months, canceling and signing up for another service. Rotate as desired.
4. Food for thought: There’s no getting around the need to eat and drink. The Flipp app (available for iOS and Android) and website lets users find deals and coupons for supermarkets, drug stores and discounters like Walmart. Registered dietician Amanda Reichardt suggests that on-site workers pack their lunch instead of ordering out. The savings, over the course of a year, amounts to the cost of a vacation, she said. Reichardt’s other tips: Buy local produce when it’s in season and frozen when it’s not, and fire up crockpots for soup and chili meals that save money and time.
5. Check your auto insurance policy: Are you a remote worker? If so, call your insurance company to make sure your policy reflects your reduced mileage. That call yielded savings of more than $600 on an annual basis for this writer. (A good return on a 15-minute call.) And while you’re at it, make sure you’re getting a defensive-driving discount. If not, find a class for multi-year savings.
6. Travel strategically: Travel can open vistas and provide a much-needed break. It also can be expensive. To keep costs down, be opportunistic. Traveling in low season (or at least in the margins between low and high season) can be a start. You can stretch your dollar by taking advantage of exchange rates. In recent weeks, the dollar has reached parity with the euro, meaning Europe is on sale. Also, avoid credit cards that charge foreign transaction fees and find a cost-effective mobile phone plan before taking off, or buy a SIM card at your destination.
7. Check gas prices: Gasoline prices remain elevated even though they are down from their recent highs. Comparison shop for the best gas prices using the GasBuddy mobile app or the GasBuddy and Geico web sites: gasbuddy.com/home and geico.com/save/local-gas-prices/.
8. Inflate those tires: For every pound-per-square inch each tire is underinflated, your car will lose about 1% of your vehicle’s optimal fuel economy, said Robert Sinclair Jr., senior manager of public affairs at AAA Northeast. Doing the math, a car with one tire under-inflated by 2 psi and another by 3 psi would lose about 5% of its optimum mileage. A car that gets a healthy 30 miles per gallon at its best would get only 28.5 mpg with underinflated tires. Assuming a 12-gallon gas tank, the car’s range would go from 360 miles to 342, requiring an additional half-gallon of gas to go roughly the same distance.
9. Keep the pedal off the metal: Aside from simply driving less, Sinclair suggested a more gentle driving style to save gas: “Accelerate gently, brake gently, lower your highway speed.” The most economical speed for most vehicles is about 50 mph, he said. Need incentive to ease off the gas? “For every 5 mph over 50 it’s like adding 25 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline,” he said.
10. To your health: Health care costs are hard to avoid and out-of-pocket expenses can be painful. Make sure medical and dental insurance covers your providers and procedures. Or find a health center that offers services at sliding-scale fees at findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov. And Stony Brook University’s School of Dental Medicine offers discounted care; dentistry.stonybrookmedicine.edu/dentalcarecenter.
11. Trim the cost of your trim: Students at Long Island Beauty School, with shops in Hempstead (516-483-6259) and Hauppauge (631-724-0440), can make you look like a million dollars, but at a discount price. Seniors get a steeper discount.
12. Go to the library: Long Island’s public libraries are not just about books anymore. These unheralded gems offer dozens of services. Think free language classes, tax assistance, museum passes, movie-streaming devices, lectures, live music, audiobooks and pre-loaded Kindle ebooks. Many also offer defensive-driving classes for a fee (see No. 5).
13. Get to the points: If you’re going to pay those bills, why not get a little something back? Web sites like The Points Guy thepointsguy.com rate credit cards and provide strategies for maximizing points and cashback offers. For instance, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card carries a $95 annual fee, but in addition to its welcome offer, cardholders get a free hotel stay every year. One caution: Cardholders typically have to reach a spending threshold to qualify for sign-up bonuses. ValuePenguin travel analyst Sophia Mendel warned against going into debt just to snare a tempting offer.
14. Happy hour! Many Long Island bars have early-bird specials and theme nights like Taco Tuesdays and Burger Wednesdays. Consult your local bartender for details.
15. Call your cable/internet provider: You are a hot commodity. Companies are vying for your business. Threatening to defect to a competing internet or cable TV provider often can yield a lower price or a premium service.
MAKE MORE MONEY: 15 ways to boost your income
1. Ask for a raise: Obvious? Yes. But it can be the most direct route to keeping pace with inflation. Write a script and roleplay before you initiate a discussion with your boss or human resources official, said Andres Lares, managing partner at Baltimore-based Shapiro Negotiations Institute. Highlight your accomplishments as an indicator of future success, he said. Of course your employer, who’s also coping with inflation, could say no, or counter with upgrades in title, health insurance, 401(k) contributions, expense compensation or paid time off.
2. Rent that real estate: Services like Airbnb, Vrbo and HomeAway let hosts turn apartments and homes into greenbacks. In the first quarter of 2022, Long Island hosts using Airbnb earned more than $8 million, according to the home-sharing service. A 2021 Airbnb survey found that 60% of Long Island hosts said they used the extra money to cover rising living costs and 51% said the earnings helped them to stay in their homes. Cautionary note: Hosts should make sure that such rentals don’t run afoul of local ordinances.
3. Get a roommate: Even a spare bedroom can be turned into substantial monthly income. Online services like Spareroom.com simplify the process. In the first quarter of 2022, the average roommate paid $1,201 per month (up 12% year-over-year) in Nassau County and $1,050 (down 3%) in Suffolk, according to Spareroom. “It can be an effective way to earn a second income,” said Matt Hutchinson, a spokesman for Spareroom, based in Manchester, U.K. The service is not just for the younger set. Though most roommate seekers are in their 20s and 30s, those in the 55-64 and 65-plus age groups have registered the biggest increases on Spareroom.com from 2016 to 2021.
4. Rent out your boat: Ed Slott defines a boat as “a hole in the ocean to throw your money into.” If you are determined to keep that boat, however, why not turn it into an income generator? GetMyBoat.com and Boatsetter.com are marketplaces that let owners of everything from kayaks to yachts rent out their watercraft by the hour or day.
5. Rent out your pool: It’s summer and everyone wants to jump into a pool. Swimply.com lets owners rent out their pools. (Renters should check local regulations and confirm that they have adequate insurance to cover any mishaps.) Don’t have a pool? Swimply is expanding its listings to include rentals of tennis courts, private gyms, backyards and art studios.
6. Rent out your car: Car prices are high. Put that asset to work. Peer-to-peer car sharing service Turo Inc. launched in New York last month and lets owners rent their vehicles, whether it’s a Toyota Corolla or a Mercedes Benz S-Class. Car owners should make sure they have adequate insurance coverage.
7. Drive for ride-hail or delivery services: Services like Lyft, Uber and Long Beach-based Trellus need drivers. Drivers can set their own schedules and make money on the side or full time. As independent contractors, drivers have to pay taxes, but can take deductions related to their business expenses.
8. Sell your stuff: These days you can sell almost anything online. Ebay, Facebook and Craigslist have robust marketplaces. ThredUP.com is an online consignment shop for women’s clothing. Depop.com has apparel and other products for men and women. If you own luxury brands like Rolex and Hermes, consider Store 5A, which sells online and through several physical stores in the Midwest. “We buy a lot of luxury goods from Long Island weekly,” said Store 5A founder Jesse Johnson. Supply-chain disruptions have created intense demand for certain products like Rolex Submariner watches, he said. “It’s gotten so crazy that some pre-owned items are selling for more than they are new.”
9. Very interesting: One way to keep up with inflation is to make your money work harder. Investing in iBonds through Treasurydirect.gov provides protection from inflation with minimal risk. The interest rate fluctuates, but it will remain at 9.62% through October. For details, go to treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/indepth/ibonds/res_ibonds_ibuy.htm.
10. Sell your skills: Task Rabbit (taskrabbit.com) and Fiverr (fiverr.com) are online marketplaces where freelancers market their skills. Services on Task Rabbit include painting, furniture moving and yard work. Fiverr freelancers lean more toward digital services, including website design, software development and online tutoring.
11. Walk the dog: Do you love critters? Pets require care. Services like Manhasset-based Dan’s Pet Care and local animal shelters often advertise for dog walkers and pet sitters.
12. Find the typos: If you can corectly identfy the errors in this pargraph, you may be a candidate for an online editing or proofreading job. Remote jobs listed on Indeed.com and other career sites could provide scheduling flexiblity similar to freelance gigs.
13. Your call is important to us: Virtually all customer-facing businesses need someone to answer the phone. Typing “customer service representative” and “remote” in the Indeed.com search engine yielded more than 9,000 job openings.
14. Hey, bartender: Can you make a monster margarita? A magnificent Manhattan? Set ’em up because part-time opportunities abound. A recent search for part-time bartender positions on Long Island turned up 116 openings.
15. Just temporary: Some jobs are seasonal or tied to events, but they can still generate income. For instance, the J.Crew store at Tanger Outlet in Deer Park is looking for a seasonal sales associate, the Long Island Ducks minor league baseball team posted a listing for grounds crew members and a 5K road race in Deer Park is seeking a race assistant.