KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The U.S. is facing the biggest inflation spike since 1981, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In the last year, gas went up 48%, utility bills 13.5%, groceries 10% and even clothing costs rose 7% in 2022.
Despite the high inflation rates, a Hardin Valley mom is staying ahead of her finances.
"I love saving money, I love stretching my dollars," Melissa Cox said. "A lot of people aren't frugally minded, so this is a great time to test the waters so to speak."
Cox is a former coupon blogger and has always been good at pinching pennies, but a house fire in January put her skills to the test.
She is currently renting a home in Hardin Valley with her husband. Together, they are feeding, clothing and driving their two teenagers wherever they need to go, which costs a pretty penny.
Cox said being frugal starts with a lot of leg work on the front end of grocery shopping.
"Doing a little bit of research helps you save money and every dollar counts these days," Cox said. "I look at the ads every Wednesday morning, figure out what's on sale, especially meat. Kroger does these weekly digital coupons and it's probably about 10 different items, and you can buy five of those things."
Anybody can do research on the front end, but the main thing that sets a frugal spender apart from a lavish one is the execution.
Cox said sticking to a meal plan at home is key.
"$40 to $50 a week I'm saving doing this," she said. "I also shop Aldi for my staple items - things that don't ever really go on sale."
For clothing, Cox recommends shopping consignment or the off-season clearance racks in department stores and Kohls.
"Coats and jackets that were like $75 in January are now like $10," Cox said. "I'm also not going to spend $40 on jeans when I can get them for like $15."
Cox said the frugal life takes some serious leg work, but it pays off when the savings start piling up. She challenges young adults to start practicing.
"Instead of looking at it as like 'everything is so expensive,' challenge yourself," Cox said. "Look at the ads, figure out what you're going to eat based ff what's on sale, and I think once people kind of figure it out, it's kind of like 'oh, this is kind of fun to figure out how to stretch my dollar.'"
Many grocery stores have apps to keep track of sales and offer exclusive digital coupons, which can help alleviate the burden of rent or mortgage payments and utility bills.