7 Steps U.S. Consumers Are Taking to Fight Inflation

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  • New data reveals that Americans are making changes to cope with inflation.
  • Some of the moves consumers have made over the past year could help free up cash for essential bills.
  • Dining out less, driving less, and searching for a better-paying job are just some of the ways people are fighting inflation.

Living costs keep soaring, and consumers are doing their best to adjust.

Although inflation has been raging since mid-2021, these days, the problem seems worse than ever. Not only are higher living costs causing Americans a world of stress, but they're also forcing consumers to alter some of their financial habits. Here are some changes consumers have made over the past 12 months, according to a recent Nationwide survey.

1. Dining out less frequently

Over the past year, 48% of consumers have cut back on restaurant meals. That's a smart move at a time when living costs are up. While it's nice to dine out and get a break from meal prep and cleanup, restaurant meals are an unquestionable luxury. Once they become unaffordable, it's important to pull the plug. Plus, food establishments are known for charging notorious markups for the items they serve. That makes cooking at home much more cost-effective.

2. Driving less

Gas prices may have soared in recent weeks, but they've been climbing since last year. As a result, 35% of consumers have taken to driving less. That's a smart thing to do if the option exists, so see if it's possible to carpool to work with friends or continue working remotely until gas prices come down. Planning out your errands strategically to minimize trips is another good idea.

3. Relying more on credit cards

In the past year, 21% of consumers have taken to depending on credit cards. That's not a great habit, though, because credit card debt can be costly. It can also damage your credit score. A better bet, if possible, is to work on cutting expenses to avoid racking up a credit card balance. If you're able to free up enough cash, it'll also help to build some savings so you'll have money to tap if needed.

4. Buying stocks

Inflation isn't just a near-term problem. Rather, the cost of living is apt to rise over time, and it's important to invest in a manner that allows you to keep up with it or, ideally, outpace it. To this end, 20% of consumers have bought more stocks over the past year. That's a good choice if you have money on hand you don't plan to use for a good seven years or longer. Just be sure to research investments you think will perform well long-term rather than trying to make fast cash.

5. Looking for a better-paying job

The labor market has been strong since the latter part of 2021, so if your wages are making it difficult to keep up with your bills, you may want to see if there's a more lucrative opportunity out there. Over the past 12 months, 19% of consumers have sought out better-paying jobs, so you shouldn't hesitate to do the same.

6. Moving in with family or friends to save money

Rent can be a major expense -- especially these days, now that many landlords are raising their prices. Over the past year, 14% of consumers have moved in with family or friends to save money. If that option is on the table for you, you may want to exercise it temporarily -- at least until you can build some savings.

7. Asking for more money at work

It's not easy to leave the comfort of a job you're used to. If you're eager to see your pay go up but aren't ready to leave your current company, consider asking your employer for a raise. It's a move 13% of people have made in the past year, and it's something your company might consider, given the way labor shortages have become such a problem.

Clearly, inflation has caused a number of changes in Americans' financial behavior. Many of the above shifts are positive ones, though, so it pays to take comparable steps to better your personal financial situation at a time when living costs are so incredibly high.

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