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Canadian inflation is well above 7 per cent, the highest in decades, and the ongoing global pandemic has continued to cause supply-chain issues, leading to demand for many products outweighing availability. As prices of products and services continue to rise, a little creativity can go a long way.

Visited a grocery store lately? Or a gas station? If so, then you know first-hand the pain of having to dig deeper into your pocket as prices continue to rise.

It can feel impossible to know how to combat increasing prices. A little creativity, however, can go a long way. Here are a few smart ways to stretch your dollars when inflation takes a bite out of your budget.

Increase your income

  • Consider selling items on sites such as Facebook Marketplace or Poshmark. The second-hand market is hotter than ever, with tons of people looking to score (or make) a deal. If online sales aren’t for you, yard/garage sales are still a thing. Selling your used items (or unused if you’ve kept something in order to avoid the hassle of returning it) can be a great way to add a few extra dollars back into your budget.
  • Explore cash back sites when you shop. These sites can be beneficial resources when you’re shopping online. You can often “double up” — pairing the cash back you get from using a site with a cash back credit card. In some situations, you may even be able to score up to 10 per cent back on your purchases, which can make a huge difference if you’re buying a big ticket item.
  • Find a side hustle. It’s common these days to have a side hustle (or side gig) to earn extra money outside your main job. If you’ve got the time, there are many great ways to make a few extra dollars each month. Use skills you already have to do things like tutoring or data entry or tap into your creative side to offer services such as writing or photography.

Energy-efficiency savings ideas

  • Consider switching to efficient LED bulbs from regular ones — and remember to turn off your lights each time you leave a room. It may not seem like a lot, but according to Direct Energy, a major North American energy-services provider, lighting accounts for about 9 per cent of a typical home’s energy use. (It’s fourth behind air conditioning and heating at 46 per cent, water heating at 14 per cent and appliances at about 13 per cent.)
  • Program your thermostat and use a ceiling fan. Programming your thermostat around your schedule will allow you to benefit from savings when you’re not at home. Setting the temperature cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer will also save you about 6-8 per cent of usage per degree, according to Direct Energy.
  • Replace filters and service often. Dirty filters in your furnace cause it to work harder than it needs to. By servicing it once per year and changing the filters each quarter, you’ll ensure your furnace runs as efficiently as possible.

Learn to barter and trade

  • Host a clothing swap. Trading clothes with friends, family or others in your network can be a fun (and savvy) way to refresh your wardrobe without spending any money. There are many online resources to help you host a successful clothing swap or to find a clothing-swap event near you.
  • Trade services. If you’re a pro at something like accounting, hair cutting or yoga instruction, there may be an opportunity to trade your services for something of similar value. You can find bartering networks online or spread the word in your immediate circles.

Make a point of cashing in

  • Use up old gift cards. Many of us have at least a few old gift cards lying around — and they can be a great way to bolster your budget by using them or trading them. People are often willing to buy gift cards or trade for a gift card at a different store. Leveraging your gift cards can also be a perfect way to buy gifts or treat yourself to items you want but may not be in your budget.
  • Use up loyalty points. Similar to using your gift cards, don’t forget to check your loyalty points at stores you frequent. You might use these points for everyday purchases like groceries or to splurge on something you’ve been eyeing. Either way, using these points up is a smart way to inject some cash into your budget.

Food/grocery shopping/meal plans

  • Shop in season. Nothing is worse than trying to buy a pint of raspberries in the middle of winter and spending $10 to get a berry that barely lasts the week.
  • Look for imperfect produce. Many grocery stores and farmers’ markets have dedicated sections for imperfect produce and are often offered at a discount. Looking to shop these sections can often mean a good deal.
  • Save on protein. With inflation, the cost of protein has drastically increased. By looking to adopt a vegetarian diet a day or two a week (hello, meatless Mondays!), you may find some meaty savings on your grocery bill.