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Inflation has bumped up the price of household expenses. Here’s how to fight it.

Sara Doyle of Andover gets gas in the Fenway, where gas prices are on the rise.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

With the arrival of hot summer days, you may notice it’s significantly more expensive to keep the air conditioning cranked up at home this year. And with the price of food, gas, and other necessities also surging as inflation hovers above 8 percent, many households may feel stretched.

But there are steps you can take, not only to reduce your cooling costs, but also to trim household expenses in other areas.

Here are some ideas for saving money:

Q. What can I do to lower my cooling costs?

A. The cost of electricity has increased in Eastern Massachusetts by about 12.6 percent compared to last year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report. Some homeowners’ electricity bills may triple during the summer to account for air conditioning. Last week, Eversource, New England’s largest utility, said its basic service customers (about one-quarter of households in Eastern Massachusetts) should expect an increase of about 36 percent in electric bills this summer compared to last year.

The US Department of Energy recommends setting your air conditioning to 78 degrees when you are at home. When you are not at home, set it 10 degrees higher or turn it off. Yes, it will take some time to cool the house when you return. But not as much as you think, because a higher interior temperature actually slows the flow of heat into your home. Use a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust your settings to match your schedule.


Some tips: Using a fan or fans allows you to set your air conditioner at a higher temperature without sacrificing comfort by circulating cool air; make sure to regularly change the filters for highest efficiency in air conditioning; use a dehumidifier on humid days to feel cooler; close curtains and other window treatments to block sunlight from heating up your home; and use the oven and stove sparingly in hot weather.


Q. How can I save money at the gas pump?

A. Shop around for the cheapest gas. As of this week, a gallon of gas in my neck of the woods ranged from $4.79 to $5.70, according to GasBuddy. My midsize sedan has a 16.5 gallon tank. Filling up my tank at the lowest price saves me $11.55 compared to the highest price.

Q. Can I save on gas by joining a loyalty and rewards program?

A. Yes. There are many options, from convenience stores to big fueling companies to supermarkets and warehouse stores. Pick one or more that works for you and stick to it. As gas prices have skyrocketed this year, the lines of vehicles waiting to fuel up have gotten longer at my favorite BJ’s station. BJ’s stations are competitively priced for non-members, while members get another 5 cents off per gallon.

Q. What about saving at the grocery store?

If your supermarket has a rewards program, and you’re not using it, you are leaving money on the table. The rules vary from one supermarket to another, but basically, you get points for every expenditure you make, typically one point for every dollar. You can redeem your points the next time you shop at that supermarket (usually $1 off for every 100 points) or for discounted gas at a participating gas station. Digital coupons offer more discounts. Make sure you have your store’s app on your phone to take full advantage of the lowest prices.


Q. What about recurring charges?

A. Many consumers pay some monthly expenses “automatically” by way of charges to their credit card or checking accounts. These recurring charges required authorization, but only once — maybe months or even years ago.

Have you checked your recurring expenses lately? Take a look at your monthly statements. You may be paying for something you have forgotten or now realize you don’t really need.

One of my recurring charges is for Spotify, the audio streaming and media service. My adult children and I all listen to music on it. But spending $10 each on four individual plans was too expensive, so we got one family plan for $16, slashing our per user cost from $10 to $4.

Here’s a caution on recurring expenses: You may pay your phone bill or other monthly expense with your credit card. Fine. It’s convenient and protects you from mistakenly missing a payment. Plus, it gives you valuable credit card rewards points. But don’t fall out of the habit of reviewing your monthly bills. There may be new charges on it that you didn’t authorize.

Q. Should I buy extended warranties?

A. I recently bought a printer/scanner at Best Buy for almost $290, including taxes. As the cashier rang it up, she asked if I wanted the extended, four-year warranty for $35. I reflexively said no. Was I wrong?

Actually, I did the right thing, according to Consumer Reports. Consumers who buy extended warranties (and there are a lot of them) overestimate the likelihood that they will need them. Consumer electronics and appliances are actually pretty reliable, and when there is a breakdown, the cost of a fix isn’t much higher than the cost of the extended warranty.


Besides, if you use a credit card, you may already have an extended warranty. My credit card company doubles the manufacturer’s one-year warranty. So I’m good for two years at no additional cost.

Q. What about car insurance?

A. Consider raising the deductible on your collision auto insurance. Mine is now $1,000, but if I increase it to $2,000, I save $73, a 25 percent reduction.

Is it worth it? One thing to consider: If you opt for a higher deductible, make sure you’ve got enough in savings to cover the higher deductible in case you need repairs.

Owners of older vehicles of low value probably should drop collision insurance entirely. If your vehicle is worth less than 10 times what you are paying in your annual collision premium, it’s not worth it, according to an unwritten rule in the insurance industry.

Another way to save on auto insurance is to pay upfront. I saved 11 percent this year by doing so.

Q. What about lowering my cable bill?

A. A good way to lower your bill is to stop renting your modem, router, and other equipment. I bought a modem and router for $290 to save $14 a month. The modem and router will be paid off in 21 months. I also replaced the three digital adapters I rented from Comcast for $25.50 a month with streaming sticks for my extra TVs. The streaming sticks cost less than $50 each. They’ll be paid off in less than six months.


Got a problem? Send your consumer issue to sean.murphy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.