The cost of living has increased by the biggest amount since February 2013 thanks to higher costs for gasoline, apparel and in a few other retail sectors.
That’s according to the latest Consumer Price Index, which showed an uptick of 0.6% in prices for January 2017.
Gasoline, apparel, food all start march upward
Much of the increase comes from the energy sector. Overall, the energy sector saw a 4.0% increase in price last month, with gasoline prices specifically climbing by 7.8%. Natural gas, meanwhile, saw a more moderate increase of 1.5%.
On the auto front, new vehicle prices took a 0.9% hike.
Apparel, meanwhile, saw a 1.4% increase.
‘Right now we’re seeing the most inflation we’ve had in years,’ consumer expert Clark Howard says. ‘That means the Federal Reserve is likely to raise interest rates at its March meeting next month. That’s now imminent after this price index news.’
How you can save money as prices rise
So, we’ve seen that prices are going up in key areas involving energy, automobiles and clothes. That calls for some cost-saving measures and we’ve got you covered with plenty of new ideas!
Don’t pay for premium gas unless you have to
Premium gas is, for most people, an unnecessary waste of money. Most cars will run just fine on regular gas — even a Porsche! And unless your vehicle specifically requires premium, using higher-octane gas may actually harm it.
If you’re not sure, just check your owner’s manual to see what your car or truck needs. Ultimately, you want to use whatever the manufacturer specifies, even if that means premium gas.
Comparison shop for gas before you fill up
Never let your tank get below 1/4 full
Waiting until your gas tank is almost empty before a fill-up is a bad idea. For starters, the fuel gauge isn’t always accurate. Experts suggest you should consider it an estimate — rather than an exact measurement — of how far you’ll make it before running out of gas.
Second, you could be damaging your vehicle by running that low on gas. The gas in your car ‘acts like a coolant for the electric fuel-pump motor, so when you run very low, this allows the pump to suck in air, which creates heat and can cause the fuel pump to wear prematurely and potentially fail,’ according to Consumer Reports. The repair could cost well more than what it would have cost you to fill up the tank in the first place.
Don’t forget about the simple ways to improve fuel economy right now
Looking for some no-brainers that can improve fuel economy on your existing vehicle? The old standbys still apply. We’ve all heard them a hundred times. But almost nobody remembers to do them — unload your trunk, keep your tires properly inflated and slow down out on the road!
Buying cars and trucks
We told you that the cost of a new vehicle rose by almost 1% in January — 0.9% to be exact.
But the real story here is that the cost of used cars and trucks dipped down 0.4% at the same time, according to the latest Consumer Price Index.
There’s no question that buying a used car is a better deal than buying a new car. Fortunately, there is a steady increase in the number of used vehicles for sale. That trend has been intensifying thanks to big waves of vehicles coming off lease, particularly three- and four-year-old cars.
You can buy an entry level new car for the same money as a four-year-old luxury car. The latter is actually a better deal because it has already depreciated out, while the new car will have tremendous loss of value due to depreciation over the first couple years of ownership.
For Clark’s advice on buying a used vehicle, see his guide.
Saving money on clothing
Men’s dress clothes are a great buy at thrift shops. They’re usually in fantastic shape because few men dress up for work anymore. The flip side of that is you probably won’t find good men’s casual clothing at a thrift shop because guys tend to wear their casual clothes until they’re threadbare.
Women, however, usually cycle through clothes more quickly and you can find some good outfits used.
If you want the best deals, find a thrift store that sells by the pound. Typical prices might include clothes, shoes and purses for $1.49 a pound.
If you’re looking for children’s clothing, try ThredUp.com. You can buy everything from 12 months to size 20 at discounts up to 80% off retail — all without leaving your home to go to a thrift store!
You may also want to check out ShopGoodwill.com, which is like an eBay of sorts for Goodwills from across the country.
Meanwhile, there are so many ways now to buy designer clothing at discount prices. Shopping at consignment stores can save you up to 90%. If you like trying the clothes on first, and you’re up for a little digging, check out places like Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack and DSW for designer clothing at up to 60% savings.
Here are some online shopping sites that offer 100% free shipping — no minimum required!