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How to Design a Foolproof IoT Cybersecurity Strategy – ReadWrite



How to Design a Foolproof IoT Cybersecurity Strategy - ReadWrite

Technology has been advancing at a dizzying speed in the last decade. Here is how to design a foolproof IoT cybersecurity strategy.

One area that has been growing fast is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT simply means a network of connected hardware devices that can communicate via an internet connection. The IoT network simplifies many processes and tasks by reducing human participation.

The Rise of IoT in Enterprise

While IoT has been a common concept in homes, enterprise use is only beginning to rise.  And with that comes the need for improved IoT cybersecurity.

McKinsey’s report shows that the adoption of IoT technology on an enterprise level has increased from 13% in 2014 to 25% in 2019. The same report forecasts that the number of connected devices is expected to shoot to 43 billion by 2023. That’s three times the number of connected devices there were connected in 2018.

It’s inevitable. IoT is becoming a prominent ingredient in enterprise operations. But there’s a caveat that comes with the rise of IoT — increased cybersecurity risks.

And that’s why you must design a foolproof IoT cybersecurity strategy.  

The Challenges of IoT Cybersecurity

IoT cybersecurity is a nightmare for most CISOs and CIOs. Unlike traditional IT cybersecurity, which is straightforward (more or less), securing an IoT environment is fraught with many challenges.

One of the biggest problems with IoT is that each device comes with its own software and firmware. In most cases, updating these is difficult. And as you know, software updates are a part of maintaining good cybersecurity hygiene. This poses a massive problem with IoT as every new line of code or functionality added could introduce new attack vectors. And conducting and monitoring updates at scale is next to impossible.

Another challenge is that most IoT devices don’t support third-party endpoint security solutions. One reason for this is regulations surrounding the devices (like FDA regulations for medical devices). As a result, enterprises end up focusing their security on the communication channels between devices and networks.

On an enterprise level, the number of connected devices is just too massive to keep track of. You can end up wasting valuable time and resources playing cat and mouse just to keep all your devices updated. That on its own can leave you open to attacks from other directions.

The Need for Enterprise Level IoT Cybersecurity Solutions

The need for innovation and efficiency are driving the growth of IoT adoption at an enterprise level. Business growth is virtually impossible today without keeping pace with current technology trends.

When it comes to cybersecurity, the more devices you have in your network, the more vulnerable you are. And because enterprises can deploy IoT devices and services at scale, they run a higher risk of being vulnerable to external threats.

That’s why, when adopting IoT in your business, you must be prepared to beef up your cybersecurity.

Because of the large number of devices in the network, IoT cybersecurity must be taken seriously. This is because a single infected device can infect and compromise the entire network. As a result, malicious agents can gain access to sensitive data or have control of your operations.  

4 Must-Haves for Foolproof IoT Cybersecurity

Because there are many entry points that malicious actors can take advantage of, IoT cybersecurity requires a multi-layered and scalable security solution. Here are some of the major components to consider as you build your IoT cybersecurity strategy.

  1. Block Attackers with Next-Generation Firewalls

A firewall is a network security device that monitors network traffic. It can permit or block data packets from accessing your devices based on a set of security rules and protocols. As the name suggests, its purpose is to establish a barrier between your internal network and external sources. Doing this prevents hackers and other cyber threats from gaining access to your network.

While there are many different types of firewalls, for your IoT cybersecurity strategy to be effective, you must employ next-generation firewalls (NGFW). Basic firewalls only look at packet headers, while NGFW includes deep packet inspection. This allows for the examination of the data within the packet itself. As a result, users can more effectively identify, categorize, or stop packets with malicious data.

Next-gen firewalls are a vital part of any IoT cybersecurity strategy as they can monitor traffic between multiple devices effectively. As a result, only verified traffic is allowed access to your network.

  1. Secure Data with Encryption

Another layer of security you need to consider for your IoT cybersecurity strategy is encryption.

A study by ZScaler shows that over 91.5% of enterprise transactions occur over plain text channels. That means only 8.5% of transactions are encrypted. This is worrisome as this means hackers have a huge opportunity to access enterprise systems and wreak havoc. For example, they could launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that could cripple your business.

One way you can prevent malicious actors from gaining access to your network is to secure your data with encryption. This must be both for your software and hardware. But more importantly, you must use encrypted VPN solutions to ensure the safe transmission of data between your devices.

  1. Identity and Access Management

Initially designed for users, identity and access management (IAM) security solutions were designed for users. IAM ensures that only authorized people have access to systems and information they need to do their job. It also ensures that only authorized users have access to critical data.

But with the proliferation of IoT, IAM (which is sound management) is becoming another layer of security that can be applied to devices.

Just like human beings, digital devices have identities. And IAM tools have evolved to the point of being able to manage hundreds of thousands of devices and their users. With products like A3 from AeroHive, for example, IAM can identify each device in your network and grants them specific access controls.

When it comes to enterprise IoT, managing all your connected devices’ digital identity is critical to safeguarding your network infrastructure. More important is to ensure that each device only has the required access levels to your data. 

  1. Network Segmentation

Network access control (NAC) has been a critical part of cybersecurity since the birth of networks. And to this day, it remains an integral part of most cybersecurity strategies – especially IoT cybersecurity. 

The good thing about traditional network endpoints is that they usually run endpoint protection services. However, with IoT, this is not the case. And that’s where network segmentation comes in.

Using NGFWs to segment your IoT network from the rest of your network is advisable as it keeps potential threats confined within a controlled environment. For example, if an attacker manages to gain access to a device in your segmented IoT network, the threat is confined to that part of your network alone.   

Putting It All Together – Designing an IoT Cybersecurity Strategy

Now that you’ve seen your best options for IoT cybersecurity let’s quickly dive into designing your strategy. However, note that this is not a guide set in stone as every business’s cybersecurity needs are never the same. 

That being said, here are a few guidelines to help you design your enterprise IoT cybersecurity strategy: 

Determine what You Need to Protect

With your security protocols and guidelines in place, the next step to foolproof  IoT cybersecurity is to determine what you need to protect. This involves conducting an audit on:

Your Processes 

Understanding the most critical processes in your organization is essential as it enables you to know where to focus your efforts. Most cyberattacks target processes that can cripple your business, so be sure to have a clear picture of these.  Know what they  are — know how to protect.

Your Devices 

From data storage devices to devices that facilitate your processes, you must know every device in your network and where it fits in your operations. Remember, you’re only as secure as your most vulnerable device. And because all your data is stored and transmitted by your devices, you must invest more effort and time in ensuring your security is foolproof here.

Your Personnel

One aspect of cybersecurity many organizations overlook is their staff. You must ensure that your employees are up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity protocols and safety measures. Failure to do this could make your employees unknowingly compromise your security. For example, one employee could give another a password just to speed up an aspect of your process. While this may seem as harmless as playing a game during work hours — this is a severe breach of security protocol.

Having a clear view of how your devices and their users are connected is crucial to understanding your network’s most vulnerable points. As a result, you can plan on which security solutions you can implement at each point.

Consider Compliance

Sure, compliance is not really a security issue, but they do go hand in hand. That’s why as you plan your IoT cybersecurity strategy, you must do so with compliance in mind.

Incompliance is a serious issue that must be addressed as you map out your cybersecurity plan. Failure to comply could lead to you being slapped with hefty fines.

So what exactly does compliance mean in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity compliance involves meeting various controls enacted by a regulatory authority, law, or industry group. These controls are put in place to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data that your business works with. Compliance requirements are different for each industry or sector, and that’s why you must always be careful to know your industry’s specificities.

To ensure that you’re compliant, always have a compliance program that runs in conjunction with your cybersecurity strategy.

Know and Anticipate Your Threats

To ensure that you design a robust IoT cybersecurity strategy, you need to know and understand the security risks you face. To do this, start by evaluating your business by asking questions like:

  • What is your product?
  • Who are your customers?

While these may seem like simple questions, the answers will help you answer two fundamental questions:

This will help you narrow down the types of attacks that will most likely be targeted at your business.

You can also determine the kind of threats you’re most likely to face by studying your competitors. Take note of their risk profiles or the most common breaches in your industry.

Knowing the threats you’re likely to face will help you understand the kind of security measures you must put in place. After all, knowing your enemy is half the battle won (so they say).

Once you’ve determined all these factors, the next step is the most critical – selecting your cybersecurity framework. 

Select an Appropriate Cybersecurity Framework

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to get practical by selecting and implementing your preferred cybersecurity framework. In essence, a cybersecurity framework is a set of policies and procedures recommended by leading cybersecurity organizations. These frameworks enhance cybersecurity strategies in enterprise environments. A cybersecurity framework must be documented for both knowledge and implementation procedures.

Different industries have different cybersecurity frameworks designed and developed to reduce the risk and impact of your network’s vulnerabilities.

While cybersecurity frameworks are never the same, they all must address five critical functions of cybersecurity.

  1. Identify. Your framework must help you identify the existing cyber touchpoints within your business environment.
  2. Protect. This function addresses how you take care of access control, data security, and other proactive tasks to ensure your network is secure.
  3. Detect: Here, your framework addresses how you will identify any potential breaches. This is usually done by monitoring logs and intrusion detection procedures at network and device level.
  4. Respond. How do you respond when a breach is detected? You must have a procedure for understanding the breach and fixing the vulnerability.
  5. Recover. This stage of your framework deals with creating a recovery plan, designing a disaster recovery system, and backup plans.

With a cybersecurity framework covering these five areas, your enterprise IoT cybersecurity strategy will be robust enough to handle (almost) anything. 

As I said, there are myriad different types of cybersecurity frameworks you can adopt. However, most of them fit in one of three categories, according to cybersecurity expert Frank Kim. Let’s take a cursory look at them, so you have a better understanding of frameworks and how they fit in your cybersecurity strategy:

Control frameworks are the foundation of your cybersecurity. They help you:

  • Identify a baseline set of controls
  • Assess the state of technical capabilities (and inefficiencies)
  • Prioritize the implementation of controls 
  • Develop an initial roadmap your security team should follow

Examples of control frameworks include NIST 800-53 and CIS Controls (CSC).

Program frameworks are designed to help you develop a proactive cybersecurity strategy that enables you to identify, detect, and respond to threats. This is achieved by helping you:

  • Assess the state of your security program
  • Build a more comprehensive security program
  • Measure your program’s maturity and compare it to industry benchmarks
  • Simplify communications between your security team and business leaders

Examples of program frameworks include ISO 27001 and NIST CSF, among others.

The risk framework allows you to prioritize security activities and ensure that the security team manages your cybersecurity program well. You can use this framework to:

  • Define key processes and steps for assessing and managing risk
  • Properly structure your risk management program
  • Identify, measure, and quantify risks 

Examples of risk frameworks include ISO 27005 and FAIR.

For an exhaustive list of examples of the different types of cybersecurity frameworks you can implement in your business, check out this article.

It’s Time to Take IoT Cybersecurity Seriously

The rapid digital transformation that has been brought about by COVID-19 and the fast adoption of remote work has led to many organizations’ cybersecurity being stretched to its limits. Throw in IoT into the mix, and cybersecurity has become a nightmare for most organizations.

But this shouldn’t be the case for your business.

The key to winning cyber wars is to be proactive and anticipate cyberattacks before they happen. And this is when a cybersecurity strategy comes to play. 

As you adopt IoT in your business’s infrastructure and processes, make sure to design and implement a robust security strategy. This will help mitigate the risk of you falling prey to malicious agents who thrive on taking advantage of vulnerabilities in an enterprise’s IT infrastructure.

So, it’s time to take your IoT cybersecurity seriously.

Neal Taparia

Entrepreneur & Investor

Neal Taparia is the co-founder of Imagine Easy Solutions, a portfolio of online educational services that reached over 30 million students yearly. Neal sold the business to Chegg (NYSE: CHGG), where he stayed there as an executive for three years. He’s now pursuing a new initiative, Solitaired, which ties classical games with memory and attention training.


5 Ways To Better Reach Your Audience



Brad Anderson

Attempting to reach your audience is difficult, as the internet is full of information, and consumers are flooded with the constant noise of advertising, social media, and email. It can be intimidating for a company to get its message heard over the noise. However, with a bit of care and planning, you can successfully reach your target demographic and interest them in your product.

Maybe you’re a new business with a great product and want to know how to drive traffic to your site. Or perhaps you’re established but have something fresh and exciting to offer, and you need to know how to spotlight it. Maybe you’re interested in learning how to reach a whole new demographic and are unsure how to do that.

To reach out to a new audience online, keep your existing customers interested, or drive conversions, you need to plan your content strategy and SEO carefully. It’s not enough just to launch a product website, announce it on social media, and wait to see what happens. Instead, you’ve got to find a way to amplify your voice.

Initiating a Strategy

Content encompasses everything you use to communicate information to the world: social media, graphics, written communication, and your website itself are included in this category. Your content strategy and SEO should tackle the questions: Who am I trying to reach, What do I need to tell them, and How am I going to do that? MarketMuse’s extensive content strategy guide notes that an effective content strategy outlines business goals and aligns with SEO.

Depending on your company’s scale, you may want to hire someone to help you develop a strategy, manage a team of writers, designers, and developers, and keep an eye on metrics to ensure your messaging is on target and getting the results you need. However, be aware that it can take six months or more to gain traction and that there are some questions you’ll want to ask when hiring an SEO expert.

Here are five steps you can take today to ensure that you successfully communicate about your brand to reach your intended audience.

1. Identify who you want to reach

Regardless of company scale or team size, an effective content strategy begins with research and planning. This step can be time-consuming but is so important. It’s the foundation for building your overall content strategy.

The first rule of content is: know your audience. Who are you trying to talk to and why? Get as specific as you can in this step. For example, identify an age range, gender, if applicable, socioeconomic status, and interests. It is sometimes helpful to create an avatar or character to represent your target market and talk specifically to that person. If you nail your demographic, your message will carry.

Once you know who you’re targeting, make sure what you’re saying to them makes sense. For example, promoting your retirement savings 101 blog cluster and planning tools will not be effective if your language and approach only appeal to a 60-year-old.

2. Sell a lifestyle, not a product

This is one of the trickiest elements of content marketing strategy for any company to master. But, first, it’s important to remember that content isn’t about directly promoting a product or about making a sale. At least, not overtly.

Content strategy is about building relationships and offering something your audience values and needs: information. If your information is solid and you get it in front of the right people, you will build trust and drive conversions over time. It’s helpful to think about strategies employed by large brands – especially what they don’t do.

Athletic shoe companies don’t bore you with all the technical specs of their product; they show you an image of athletes running fast or thriving in their sport. They let you imagine yourself succeeding in the same way. Similarly, the best tech companies don’t talk about RAM or GPUs in their ads. Instead, they show you how sleek you look with the latest gadget. They show you how much that gadget will simplify your daily tasks.

If you work too hard to tell your audience about the details of your product (which may be exciting and important) in your content marketing, you’re going to bore them and lose them.

3. Make sure your content is on point

Great content isn’t necessarily about volume. If what you’re offering is sound, you don’t have to drone on forever. For example, we’re all annoyed by recipe blogs that make you scroll through five pages of irrelevant nonsense to get to what’s of value to you: the recipe.

If you want to avoid being the next recipe blog cliche, ensure your writing and graphics are clean and clearly communicate the data or insights you want to highlight. Plan social media posts to be playful and fun and get to the point right away. Attention spans are minimal when people are scrolling.

Your written content (emails, blogs, website copy) should be clean, clearly written, and well structured. Organize your site to include a search feature, ensure it is responsive to various devices and has multiple easy-to-find navigation options. The key is to eliminate the need for your audience to work to find what they want.

4. Use your digital tools thoughtfully

To ensure your content rises above all that noise online, you absolutely need to include SEO in your content strategy. This is where brands can get a little intimidated, confused, or overzealous, however.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is not as esoteric as you might think, but it takes time, research, and effort to implement correctly. SEO can include keywords that help ensure your page shows up in search results, your website’s design and security, and your site’s responsiveness to different screen sizes.

So, what does that mean? Well, the answer to that may vary, but a few essential points will put you on the right track. First, you want to ensure you’re not basing your content strategy on SEO considerations and keywords.

The result will be that your content feels shoehorned around obvious keywords (because it is) and won’t offer much value to readers. Maybe you’ll appear in search results, but that won’t do anything for you once people click on your page and decide there’s nothing valuable. At that point, you’ve lost trust. You may also lose those initial clicks as search algorithms constantly evolve.

The key is ensuring you are offering quality information to your target audience. Make sure that information is clear and that your website is navigable, and then find ways to work in keywords naturally. Also, don’t be afraid to use social media to toot your horn.

5. Post often and repurpose content

In addition to optimizing your website and content, you’ll want to plan a solid social media strategy and use appropriate posting techniques to boost your web traffic and conversions. The good news is that not everything you post has to reinvent the wheel. For example, it is ok to repurpose the same link with slightly different messaging.

It’s also important to remember to post on different platforms for different reasons. If you’re trying to talk to a Gen Z demographic, you’re probably not going to be successful if your entire social media presence is based on Facebook. You might look at Instagram or TikTok instead.

As with blog and website content, you’re not going to be effective if you simply post ad copy on social media. Instead, find innovative and fun ways to draw your audience in. Make them laugh. Tell them how to solve a problem. Teach them a new skill.

And don’t forget to update your blog copy, too. For example, you might have a blog that predicts the best crypto investments in March. You can create an updated version in April without starting from scratch.

If you take the time to do your homework, develop a solid plan, allow your strategy appropriate time to work, and measure results (and use those to revise your plan, and so on), you have a solid foundation for your content marketing presence. Make sure your content is tailored to the right audience, easy to read, easy to navigate, and actionable, and you can’t go wrong.

Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska; Pexels; Thanks!

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at

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Connected Medical Devices are Revolutionizing Health Care



How Are Smart Thermostats Making Homes Greener? - ReadWrite

The Internet of Things (IoT) may be about to transform almost every aspect of people’s lives. Health care is one industry already seeing significant adoption of IoT technology. Connected medical devices are helping doctors and nurses remotely monitor patients, access health data, and conduct follow-ups online. As a result, IoT in health care could revolutionize the industry over the next few years.

How Does the Health Care Industry Use Connected Devices? 

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) includes various devices used inside and outside health care facilities. In most cases, these items provide a few of the same benefits — including streamlined treatment, reduced risk of error, and greater availability of critical data, like information on patient vitals.

Smart Patient Monitoring Devices

One popular application of IoT in health care is the smart patient monitor. This device continuously collects health care information from a patient, including data on heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and blood oxygen levels. 

These devices help make patient health data more accessible to doctors and nurses inside facilities. A patient’s medical team can quickly and remotely check their vitals from a hospital workstation or a secure device anywhere in the world. The smart patient monitor can also alert staff if someone’s vitals exceed safe levels.

Smart health care wearables and remote patient monitors allow doctors to continue tracking patient vitals without requiring them to remain in the facility. In addition, people who have been recently discharged from the hospital may bring smart patient monitors with them, allowing them to send important health information to doctors without having to return to the hospital for a follow-up. They can also access this information and get a valuable window into their post-release health.

The patient and their doctor can discuss any concerning health information over the internet using a telemedicine video call solution. The doctor can also immediately recall the patient to the hospital if the monitor suggests their health is in danger.

Various IoMT patient monitoring devices exist, ranging from large machines built for hospital settings to lightweight health-tracking wearables people can take with them wherever they go. 

Specific use-cases for IoMT monitoring technology include general-purpose smart patient monitors, motion sensors that track the progression of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, and mood sensors that can help doctors manage a patient’s mental health.

Smart Infusion Pumps and Medication Delivery Devices

Correctly dosing and delivering medicine is essential for patient treatment. However, medication errors remain a common challenge in many medical environments. These mistakes can cause serious injuries or adverse reactions that can lead to death.

The IoMT can help prevent medication errors by streamlining the dosing process and delivering IV medicine.

Smart infusion pumps are medication delivery devices that use innovative technology, barcode readers, and drug information libraries to reduce risk when administering IV medicine. The health care worker will designate an area of use — like the adult ICU or NICU — which will automatically configure the pump based on needs. The clinician will then select the medicine they need to administer from an internet drug library, select a concentration and configure the pump’s dose.

Information from the drug library will help prevent some of the most common medication errors — like dosing mistakes and combinations that may lead to health problems.

Some pumps may require that the clinician scans the drug using a barcode on its packaging rather than choosing one from a list.

Most pump systems incorporate a few safeguards that will help reduce the frequency of medication errors. For example, the pump may include the height and weight information of the patient receiving a drug, helping ensure they receive the appropriate dose.

The pump system may also include information on average drug concentrations and dosing units. As a result, it can double-check with health care workers to ensure an unusual dosage is correct, potentially preventing medication errors. 

Smart Device Scanners

Manufacturers will often use laser marking to create a unique device identifier (UDI) codes on the surface of connected medical devices like orthopedic implants and medical instruments. They provide a wealth of information about the marked device — including the specific version or model number.

Under current regulations, the manufacturer must provide this code in plain language and a machine-readable format.

Smart medical scanners can read the second version of the UDI instantly, draw on relevant information from cloud-based databases and update records. This makes them a powerful tool for conducting inventory, determining an instrument’s specific model or lot number, and verifying the plain-language portion of a UDI.

These devices are connected to the internet, so they can also be used to update cloud-based records as they scan automatically. For example, hospitals that maintain an online database of critical medical instruments can use a smart scanner to update it with new products.

In practice, these scanners can also make it much easier for health care organizations to comply with traceability requirements. For example, clinicians can use information from the UDI to quickly verify the model number, expiration date, and recall status of a medical instrument or device before it is used.

Clinicians that locate faulty or expired equipment can quickly remove it, ensuring it won’t be used for a procedure. 

Smart Pills, Capsules and Medications

New smart pills and capsules can help patients take their medications regularly. They are outfitted with special sensors that activate when they hit the acid in a patient’s stomach. They then communicate with a wearable medical device — like a patch on someone’s chest — signaling that the pill has been taken. 

The wearable device that receives the signal can automatically generate a log or report showing the medication was taken successfully. 

The connected medical device can also track other information — like the patient’s activity and rest times.

The first smart pill approved by the FDA was Abilify Mycite, which contains aripiprazole, an antipsychotic used to treat conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Patients with these conditions may struggle to remember if they’ve taken their medicine, but missing a dose can cause adverse reactions — including nausea, lightheadedness, anxiety, and a return of symptoms associated with the mental health condition the aripiprazole is meant to treat. 

The smart system can help patients track their medication adherence and review patterns when they take their medicine.

Smart pills are not widely used yet, but they may soon help patients and health care providers improve medication adherence and track home-usage. 

Future smart pills may also provide additional functionality. For example, those containing onboard sensors could help doctors track a patient’s core temperature, detect intestinal bleeding, or keep tabs on gut health. Many of these pills already exist in an experimental capacity and may become commercially viable by the end of the decade.

The Future of Connected Medical Devices and IoT in Health Care

Connected medical devices can make providing effective health treatment much easier. The right one can streamline care, reduce error risk, and simplify record-keeping.

IoT in health care is growing fast over the next few years. According to Fortune Business Insights, the market may be worth as much as $187.6 billion by 2028, up from just $41 billion in 2020. As a result, new applications of smart medical technology may become widely available.

For example, it may also become standard for health care facilities to adopt connected robots, like those used in Italian hospitals during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently used IoMT devices — from smart monitors to smart pills — will likely become much more common over the next few years as the market expands and health care facilities look to adopt devices that make daily work easier.

Image Credit: Provided by the Author; National Cancer Institute; Unsplash; Thank you!

Emily Newton

Emily Newton is a technical and industrial journalist. She regularly covers stories about how technology is changing the industrial sector.

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How to Stop Inflation from Deflating Your Savings



Free Your Money: Strategies for Keeping Your Money In The Best Place Possible - ReadWrite

No, you aren’t imagining things. Everything costs more than it did before, and these higher prices make it hard to balance the budget while saving and thinking about retirement. But you can stop inflation from deflating your savings!

In April, the Bureau of Labor released the latest data from the Consumer Price Index (CPI), revealing inflation’s steady creep upward hasn’t stopped yet. The rate of U.S. inflation climbed to a whopping 8.5% in March, marking this spike as the most significant increase in the cost of living in 4 decades.

You aren’t alone if you’re struggling to handle prices at their 40-year high. Nearly half of Americans (45%) polled by Gallup last year admitted inflation caused financial hardship at a time when the CPI was just 6.8%. Moreover, of those that reported facing difficulties, 10% revealed their challenges impacted their standard of living.

While the Federal Reserve claims inflation’s bubble will pop soon, experts anticipate the CPI won’t fall below 4% by the year’s end. That means you can expect another year of high inflation bumping up prices.

Is your budget ready? If not, don’t panic. Instead, keep reading to understand more about inflation and what you can do to protect your savings.

Inflation: An Overview

Inflation is not a product of the pandemic, although it may initially seem that way. On the contrary, between lockdowns and labor shortages — and now the Russia-Ukraine crisis — the past 3 years have kept inflation well-fed.

These special circumstances allowed inflation to grow to dizzying heights, but it’s been around a lot longer than COVID.

Have you ever heard your dad tell you a story about buying a bag of candy for a nickel, only for your grandfather to chime in to say he bought the same thing for a penny? They aren’t just yearning for the good old days of their youth. That’s inflation at work.

Inflation is an economic principle describing how the prices of goods and services generally increase over time. Another way to think of it is how your money — or what’s called your purchasing power — decreases in value as time goes on.

Usually, inflation only increases by around 2% each year. And if you’re lucky, your employer matches this increase with an equivalent raise. This zero-sum game means a lot of people may not notice inflation. Sure, things cost more, but you also earn more, so it all evens out.

The problem with today’s record-breaking inflation rate is that prices are climbing far too fast for wages to keep up. While employers have been handing out raises, a survey shows they averaged 3.4% in 2021, less than half of today’s current inflation rate.

With inflation and wages out of balance, you may notice how your dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it used to before the pandemic. Each expense takes up more of your very finite budget as a result.

Americans Are Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Now that everything costs more, many Americans are feeling the financial crunch. According to CNBC, nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) live paycheck to paycheck today. This isn’t necessarily new. In fact, survey after survey has revealed people have been living this way for nearly a decade.

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, most, if not all, of your monthly income goes towards making ends meet. With your income tied up with bills, you may have practically no cash for anything else.

Your Paycheck May Not Go As Far — But Don’t Deflate Your Savings

It’s hard to keep up with your savings goals when you live like this. You might even hit pause on savings altogether. And without contributing to savings, Americans increasingly turn to credit cards and short-term personal loans for help in an emergency.

CNBC reports that 56% of Americans could not handle an unexpected $1,000 expense with savings. Most of those without savings would charge credit cards or ask a loved one for some help. But others would go into debt and borrow money online via short-term personal loans to cover unexpected expenses.

While credit cards and short-term personal loans function as emergency backups in unexpected cash crunches, they’re meant as temporary stopgaps for singular expenses. Moreover, borrowing money won’t solve the issue that high inflation is an ongoing problem that will long outlast most cash advances and personal loan terms.

More still, debt can add to your money troubles. If you’re already living paycheck to paycheck, you may not have the cash available to repay your personal loan on time. Late fines and extra interest are soon to follow.

Updating Your Budget with Inflation in Mind

Americans point to high costs preventing them from saving as much as they want, regardless of whether they rely on credit cards or short-term personal loans as crutches.

Unfortunately, there’s no telling just how long high inflation will hang around. Still, one thing is for sure: a higher-than-normal inflation rate will affect prices for the foreseeable future.

Higher prices are the new normal, so it’s time to tweak your budget, updating it for another expensive year. Let’s dive into how you can do that.

1. Make a List of Priorities

When things are tight, you need a plan of action to understand your next move. So sit down and write out your list of priorities. These expenses are the absolute essentials you need to pay each month to keep a roof over your head and food on the table.

Besides housing costs and groceries, this list may include insurance payments, utilities, basic household items, and toiletries. In addition, the minimum payments for personal loans, cash advances, and lines of credit also belong on this list. These minimum payments will help you avoid late fines, extra interest, and credit damage.

This list shows the bare minimum for what you need each month. It serves as a good reminder of what you need to pay first before moving on to other things.

2. Cut Discretionary Expenses

As judge, jury, and executioner of expenses, you should be looking to slash non-essential spending until you have more wiggle room in your budget. Then, the unnecessary expenses (i.e., those you don’t need to lead a safe or comfortable life) should be on the chopping block.

Which expenses didn’t make it on your list of priorities? It can be daunting to say goodbye to the fun things in life, but it’s easier to let go knowing it won’t be forever. You can reintroduce the non-essentials when you start to feel less pressure.

To help you get started, here are some discretionary expenses you can cut:

  • Streaming services: If you have multiple streaming subscriptions, pare them down to the one you use most often.
  • Subscription boxes: While the average subscription box doesn’t cost a lot, it may be too much if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Put them on pause until you have more wiggle room in your budget.
  • Gym memberships: The average gym membership costs about $600 a year. You can pocket that change by switching to a free at-home workout.
  • Takeout: According to The Fool, the average American spends $2,375 on takeout a year. If you eat out multiple times a week, you stand to save a lot by eating at home.
  • Alcohol: Happy hours after work and wine with dinner add up. Going dry can help you free up more cash for bills.

Finding it hard to say no when you’re out and about? Apply the 30-day rule. In other words, wait for 30 days before you commit to the purchase. A month is long enough to take the wind out of your sails, revealing the splurge for what it is: a waste of money.

3. Automate Savings

Even at this time, savings are an essential part of your budget. It can help you weather unexpected emergencies, reducing how often you tap into credit cards and short-term personal loans.

Admittedly, saving through high inflation is challenging, so you might want to ignore the usual advice to save 3 to 6 months. But, that’s a goal for another day.

For now, save as much as you can to get started, even if it’s just $10 a month at first. Financial advisor David Ramsey suggests lowering your goal to $1,000 when you’re first starting out.

4. Tweak Your Phone and Internet Package

Having a phone and access to the Internet is as close to essentials as possible nowadays. You might need them for work, or it may be the only way you can contact the outside world. So cutting these expenses for the sake of saving money just doesn’t make sense.

If you’re on an unlimited plan, consider downsizing to a cheaper plan with strict data and talk limits. Be careful not to exceed these limits to ensure you aren’t penalized. You stand to save even more each month if you can stomach a prepaid contract.

5. Update Your Insurance

Like your phone and Internet packages, insurance is another essential with some wiggle room. But first, you’ll want to do some research. Go online to compare other insurance companies to see what they offer. Then, when talking to your current provider, you can leverage this info to know if they’re willing to match the competition.

Another thing you can leverage is your loyalty. If you’ve been with the company for a long time, bring this history up while talking to your provider. They might be willing to cut you a better deal knowing you’re thinking about jumping ship.

You may also get a better deal if you’re willing to bundle your life, home, and auto insurance under one company.

6. Eat Better for Less

Putting food on the table has never been more expensive. But, unfortunately, you can’t precisely cut groceries from your budget!

Meat and dairy have been some of the hardest-hit items in the grocery stores, with bacon, eggs, and beef taking most of the brunt. Now that bacon is 26% more expensive per pound than last year, you might think twice about including it on your breakfast plate.

Plant-based eating promises some financial savings at the grocery store, especially if you stay away from costly prepared meat replacements. Instead, focus on tried-and-true cheap ingredients like lentils and rice.

Following a meal plan is also another great way to keep your spending in check at the supermarket. Make a list of meals you want to eat every week, adjusting your plan for weekly flyers and coupons.

7. Use Less Energy

Your utility bills are taking a bigger bite of your budget, like electricity, water, and gas cost more. According to the Guardian, utility prices in the U.S. rose by 33% last year.

Reducing energy consumption across these utilities can help you control runaway expenses.

One of the biggest things you can do to save is set your thermostat according to the Department of Energy’s recommendations. These tips can help you save as much as 10% of your annual heating and cooling costs.

Summer: If you have an air conditioner running, set it to 78°F when you’re at home. Try increasing the temperature as high as you feel comfortable when you’re out.

Winter: During the cooler months, try to keep your thermostat to 68°F while you’re at home, reducing it even lower when you’re at work or in bed.

8. Reduce Your Fuelling Costs

Between inflation and the Russia-Ukraine crisis squeezing the American fuel supply, drivers can expect to spend more at the pumps. If you can’t reduce how often you’re behind the wheel, you should download an app like GasBuddy to find the lowest gas prices in your area.

More often than not, this ends up being Costco, but they don’t get a membership just to qualify for their gas. So you probably won’t save more at their pumps than what it costs to become an annual member.

Another way to keep your driving costs low is by using gas station loyalty cards so that you can redeem points as often as possible. You can also consider carpooling with local friends and colleagues to share the burden of driving.

9. Learn How to Negotiate

The art of negotiation is a hard-earned skill that can do wonders for your budget. Depending on your strategy and your creditor’s policies, you can push out due dates to take the pressure off your budget and reduce what you owe.

If you aren’t sure how to persuade big companies, check out this script for guidance. When it comes to medical expenses specifically, ask if they offer a financial plan that offsets your costs. In many cases, healthcare businesses are willing to give you a discount if you offer to pay the reduced amount in full immediately.

10. Investigate Financial Assistance

Let’s face it — juggling all your bills as inflation nudges them higher, and higher is hard. Sometimes, not even your best attempts at negotiating bills and saving money at the grocery store will be enough to help you balance your budget.

Reach out to a free credit counseling organization for advice. They can provide more significant insights into how to shrink your budget. But more importantly, they can direct you towards government assistance programs that help you offset the burden of your living expenses.

The Takeaway for :

Although inflation is beyond your control, there are ways you can get back in the financial driver’s seat. As prices continue to rise, your budget is your most crucial resource throughout it all. You can refer to this spending plan to understand your priorities and focus on areas of your spending that need work.

You can reduce your monthly spending and save more, whether it’s unnecessary splurges or excessive fuel spending. Keep these tips in mind for the rest of the year.

But more importantly, know that you aren’t alone in facing these prices. There are resources you can fall back on for more guidance if you can’t balance the budget, no matter how hard you try.

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