12 ways to save $500 for the holidays

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Act now to keep Christmas jolly.

The holidays may seem a ways off, but with Labor Day past, summer vacations behind us and autumn activities beckoning, the urgency grows.

Saving just a dollar a day could make you $100 richer by Christmas.

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Saving up an extra $500 will add to your festivities while keeping holiday debt hangover at bay.

Put $35 a week away now and you'll have $525 by Christmas, just 15 weeks away. If you stash $50 a week, you'll have $550 by Black Friday, a mere 11 weeks away.

By contrast, if you charge $500 in holiday purchases on a credit card with a typical 15 percent interest rate, and pay only a minimum of $20 a month, it will take you two years and seven months to be rid of this year's holiday debt, according to online payment calculators. By then, you will have repaid more than $600, including more than $100 in interest that could have been used instead to invest.

We think you'll agree that saving ahead of time is a better choice. Here are 12 ways to make it happen:

How to save hundreds for the holidays:

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12 ways to save hundreds for the holidays
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12 ways to save hundreds for the holidays

1. Check your everyday spending

“The first step to savings is understanding where your money is going,” says Todd Pietzsch, spokesman for BECU, Washington state’s largest credit union. You can track you spending with a free service, such as PowerWallet, a partner of MoneyTalksNews. BECU offers its own, called MoneyManager. Some apps focus on different needs, such as monitoring investments or optimizing credit card rewards. Either way, seeing where your money goes will help you find places to save.

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2. Declutter for dollars

Sell that stuff you don’t use anymore and is just taking up room in your home, garage or, worse, in a rented storage unit. Clear a room every week, your basement, attic and garage, and you might make enough to pay for all your holiday shopping. When the holidays roll around, you’ll also have a tidier home.

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Have a garage sale or sell your goods online. While eBay, Amazon and Craigslist are a few of the larger marketplaces for online sales, they aren’t your only options. For example, check out Swappa for electronics, CarDaddy for cars, boats and RVs, or the new, free mobile app, Letgo, which says it is for just about anything.

You may also want to seek a local consignment shop to sell your goods for you. While many consignment stores specialize in clothes, some focus on antiques, baby items or furniture.

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3. Pocket insurance savings

Increasing your deductibles from $250 to $1,000 could put a couple hundred bucks in your pocket. A deductible is the amount of money you pay on an insurance claim before your coverage kicks in.

Savings vary by state and depend on how much you raise the deductible.

On car insurance, raising your deductible could lower your premiums by 7 to 16 percent, says a report from InsuranceQuotes.com.

For homeowners, raising your homeowners insurance deductible from $250 to $1,000 could slash your premium by 10 to 30 percent, experts say.

Check out quotes from our Money Talks News insurance tool to see if you can get a cheaper policy on home or vehicle insurance.

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4. Pare monthly payments

Drop a gym membership and instead get cheap workout equipment or just walk, bike or jog your way to fitness. Curtail your cable bill by cutting out premium channels or cutting the cord altogether. In the age of smartphones, see if losing your landline will save you money. And look at that smartphone plan again, are you overpaying? You may be buying more minutes or data than you use.

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5. Withhold less

Do you get a big income tax refund every April? If so, you’re overwithholding, letting Uncle Sam hold on to more of your paycheck — interest free — than you need to. You can file a new W-4 with your employer so the company will withhold less each pay period, letting you save more sooner.

The IRS, TurboTax, H&R Block and others offer free tax-withholding calculators.

You might put to good use now money you normally wouldn’t see until next spring.

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6. Bank your savings

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Make a goal, like totaling how much in total you want to spend for each person on your gift list — then divide figure that by the number of weeks left to save (like 11 weeks until Black Friday), and deposit that amount weekly into a savings account set up just for the holidays. Some banks and credit unions let you set up a sub-account in your regular savings account to accumulate your holiday cash. This is almost like your grandmother’s Christmas Club account, which was based on making small deposits all year long.

You might also boost your automatic payroll deductions at work and have them sent directly to the savings account, or have your bank automatically transfer a set amount weekly from your checking account to your savings account.

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7. Get crafty

Cash in on the handmade gifts craze by selling your creations. From yard sales and local holiday craft fairs to selling online to a global audience, opportunities abound.

Etsy remains the biggest online crafts marketplace, but don’t overlook Fulfillment by Amazon or these specialty sites:

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8. Get a gig

Let a new revenue stream flow your way by taking advantage of the gig economy, which affords you great flexibility.

Rent out a room through Airbnb. Drive a car for Uber or Lyft. Walk dogs, babysit pets or pick up after them. Bid for a freelance virtual assistant job on Upwork. Offer to design logos on Fiverr.

And gigs aren’t just for millennials.

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Kara Oh, 67, of Santa Barbara, California, told AARP that her Uber job gives her money and flexibility, plus some fun.

“I love to drive, I enjoy meeting new people, and I also like that I’m possibly getting drinkers off the road,” Oh said.

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9. Get a seasonal job

Major retailers nationwide including Kohl’s, Macy’s, Walmart and Amazon are among many companies already advertising for a wide range of seasonal workers. They include many salespeople in the stores and many warehouse workers to fulfill orders. But they also seek loss-prevention specialists, merchandisers, customer service reps, equipment operators and delivery people.

Temporary and part-time jobs that let you work from home or offer other flexible arrangements are available too, says Flexjobs, a subscription-based jobs service.

Also, look for signs in stores around your town. Holiday festivities spark the need for cafes and pizza shops to staff up, as well as hire more people to deliver pizzas as well as take-out menus and fliers.

Check out: “11 Tips to Get Hired for the Holidays

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10. Take online surveys

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Companies looking for feedback are willing to pay for your thoughts in online surveys. Some companies, including CashbackResearch and MySurvey, offer surveys and pay in reward points, gift cards and money.

11. Watch TV

You can get paid to watch TV. RewardTV, run by the Nielsen Co. of TV ratings fame, pays you to log onto its website and answer trivia questions about your favorite shows. You earn participation rewards and entries into drawings for prizes that range from three years of free gas to $10,000 in cash.

Sofa sitting alone likely won’t get you to $500 by Christmas, but every little bit helps.

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12. Dine in

Restaurant prices are rising while grocery store prices are falling, especially for beef, veal, poultry and eggs, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So why not let your wallet get fat while you make your own dinners? And don’t forget lunches — brown bagging could save you about $5 a day. And while you may not have to forgo all your tall Pumpkin Spice Lattes, each time you make coffee at home instead of stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks or Timmy’s means you could instead put about $4 in the bank. Brown bagging and latte skipping a few days a week can easily yield you the $35 to $50 a week savings you need to help reach your Christmas gift shopping goal.

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