7 ways to save money during a recession (or to offset inflation)

It is possible to save money when prices are rising everywhere. Here are seven creative ways to cut down on costs and increase savings.

by Anne Brennan
updated May 11, 2023 ·  3min read

There's no denying that rising costs have most Americans eyeing their expenses, and it's likely that the pricing roller coaster will continue.

But low unemployment means many consumers are still earning money. Now is the perfect time to tighten up expenses and build cash reserves.

A man seated at a counter looks over his notes while chatting on his cellphone.

“You may find that you will not only survive tough times ... but imagine if you could actually thrive," Tammy Trenta, the founder and CEO of Family Financial, an adviser service for entrepreneurs, says. “It can actually be a fun and empowering exercise."

Here are seven money-saving tips to consider during inflation:

1. Get a handle on debt

“Pay down high-interest credit cards first," Trenta says. Look to see if any of the 0% balance transfers are a fit for you, but I really seek to have less debt."

Researching credit cards can take time and effort, but it's often worth it.

“In the past, when [my husband and I] were dealing with debt, it was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul," Leah Ingram, an expert on helping consumers save money, says.“The 0% balance was a great option."

2. Pay careful attention to groceries

With skyrocketing price increases in staples like eggs (up 40% in July) and butter (up 20%), many consumers are finding that grocery trips are eating up their budgets.

“In a recession, you have to give up expensive brands," Ingram says.

Read your store receipt closely and see if shopping at a discount store might be worth your while, she advises.

Ingram found that saving a mere $3 per shop at discount supermarket Aldi added up to $150 over the year. If you do this across the board, that small change can add up.

Trenta advises her clients to make “tiny shifts in their thinking."

“Eat what you want to eat," she says. “But be smart about things."

3. Get your subscriptions under control

Online subscription services are a top place to cut costs, experts agree. Before you sign up for anything, be sure to check out the cancellation and refund policies. Many companies make cancellations and refunds difficult.

“Subscriptions are hard to cancel," Trenta says. “They make you jump through hoops. It's another thing to be vigilant about."

It's also a good idea to make sure you're using all the ones you currently subscribe to. Pick a few that feel essential and work on letting go of the rest.

4. Be vigilant about health costs

“Before they touch you, get the cash rate," Trenta advises. She says a colonoscopy from her husband's regular doctor costs $8,000, but a specialist charged $1,200 for the same procedure. Ask for rates and try to do research before any lab work as well, she says.

“Health care providers aren't going to be [financial savings] advocates," Trenta says.

Ingram also advises explicitly requesting generics for any prescriptions.

5. Use your insurance

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced new costs to most households. Buying rapid tests can add up, but “insurance companies have to reimburse eight tests per month [per member]," Ingram says.

That's $64 per person each month that can be sent in for insurance reimbursement.

6. Provide value at work

Companies get nervous during recession and inflation. “Make yourself indispensable at work," Sam Jacobs, the CEO of Pavilion, a private membership network for executives, says. “Companies are and will be looking at their head count and trying to understand if they can do more with less. Be the person that steps up and makes themselves essential."

7. Negotiate creatively

It's worth the effort to negotiate and try to lock down deals, especially when it comes to large expenses.

Trenta recalls negotiating her housing payment from $3,000 to $2,300 earlier in her career. Housing and rental apartment prices continue to spike, but you may be able to request a two-year lease instead of a one-year agreement with a landlord not only to get the apartment but to lock in your monthly rate.

Managing rising costs and economic uncertainty are not easy, but these methods are worth considering to save yourself some money.

Get legal help with financial matters GET STARTED

About the Author

Anne Brennan

​Anne Brennan is a business writer and writing coach in Cleveland. Her credits include the Chicago Tribune, Crain's Ne… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.