Make your holiday shopping list now, even while you plan your Labor Day weekend barbeque. The holidays take a huge bite out of many families’ budgets but they don’t have to. And they most certainly shouldn’t put you into debt. With about four months to save, now is the time to look for creative ways to set aside the spending money you’ll need. Here are a few tried and true ideas.
12 Ways to Save $1,000 Before Christmas
1. Give up paid TV service.
Millions of people have freed themselves from paid cable TV service that can easily run triple digits. There is simply nothing on cable TV that you can’t get online (although admittedly, you might have to wait a while). Dump the cable service and save at least $50 per month. You’ll never go back. Potential savings this year: $200.
2. Give up your landline.
Over 38% of American adults have given up their land-based telephone service. Are you in that group? If not, why not? Basic service costs at least $25 per month in most markets. Potential savings this year: $100.
3. Stop paying bank fees.
If you’re paying a $7.95 (or higher) per month fee for the privilege of maintaining an account, stop! Open an account at an online bank (they pay better interest rates anyway), like Ally Bank, that doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee for checking or savings accounts. Or check with a local credit union for free personal checking accounts. Some banks, like U.S. Bank, even offer free business accounts. Potential savings this year: $32.
4. Get a second job.
People who have jobs with unpredictable schedules may not be able to tackle this strategy. But if you are available, don’t waste another minute. Go out there and find a weekend job, or find something you can do as a freelancer. Eight hours a week at $8 per hour could net you $200 extra each month. Walk dogs, babysit, wash windows, mow lawns. Potential savings this year: $800.
Note about jobs: If you’re having a hard time finding a job where you live, consider moving. I’m in Massachusetts right now and it’s crazy how many “help wanted” signs I’ve seen this year! Check out this page to see which U.S. metropolitan areas are posting the most online want ads.
5. Have a yard (or eBay or Craigslist) sale.
The problem for many of us is that we can’t stand the idea of selling a killer jacket (or pair of boots or purse or some other treasured item) for $5 or $10 if we still remember shelling out $200 (or $100 or $300 or some other impressive price) for it. Listen up. Used stuff is used stuff. Put the original value out of your mind. The average price for a yard sale item is $0.85. What you paid is called “sunk cost” and what you stand to make by selling it is actual money that you’ll never set eyes on if you put the box back in your attic. Potential savings from one weekend yard sale: $100 to $400.
6. Sign up for a farm share.
Are you a busy professional who maybe eats out a little too often? A farm share unexpectedly saves me a ton of money. I signed up for a half bushel per week for about $25. Since the produce is pre-paid and I don’t want to waste it, I make extra efforts to use all of it. In addition to improving my cooking skills by experimenting with recipes, I also cut way back on restaurant spending and even grocery costs (most people spend less when they plan meals around what’s available and what’s on sale). I often feed my family of three for a week for $50 to $75. Potential savings this year: $200 to $400.
7. Bring groceries to work.
Don’t have time to make your lunch every day? Bring a loaf of bread, some peanut butter and jelly, and a few pieces of fruit and baby carrots (or whatever you like to munch on) to your office so you won’t have to. Even just cutting back on lunches out will save a ton. Potential savings this year: $300.
8. Be smart with utilities.
Turn things off. Unplug what you don’t need to power (or get a smart power strip that unplugs for you). Leaving your printer, DVD player, television and other electronics plugged in all the time might cost $20 a month. If you live in a hot place, turn up the temperature. Energy experts recommend 78 degrees! You can save as much as 3% for every one degree difference in temperature. Research the best ways to make your particular type of cooling system most efficient. Potential savings this year: $150.
9. Do a financial fast.
If you nickel-and-dime yourself to death, you need a hardcore strategy to reset your spending habits. If you feel like you don’t know where your money goes or you never get ahead, it’s time to get back in touch with your dollars and cents. Make no unnecessary spending for 21 days and avoid using credit cards. Alternatively, make one day each week a no-spend day. Potential savings this year: $100-$300
10. Quit smoking now.
This suggestion requires no explanation. Potential savings this year: $600-$800.
11. Review your bills.
Double check your cell phone bill to make sure you aren’t paying for extra services that you don’t need, like insurance on an old phone. Potential savings this year: $40.
12. Cut luxuries down.
Do you get your nails done every two weeks? Stretch it out to three. Do you buy coffee every day? Cut it down to once or twice a week. Potential savings this year: $50 to $150.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling offers excellent money-saving tips, too, like adjusting your W-4 to accurately reflect the amount of taxes your employer should withhold from your paychecks. A big fat tax refund is really just evidence that you gave Uncle Sam an interest-free loan. And anyway, tax refunds don’t come in time to fund holiday spending.
These ideas are meant for squeezing extra money from your budget now, but they only scratch the surface when it comes to living a frugal lifestyle. Managing your money well is a great source of peace and security. Wealth comes from lack of waste.
What do you do to save money?