5 ways to save $500 or more for the holidays

saving money for the holidays; tips to save money for the holidaysNeed some quick cash for the holidays? As the holiday season rapidly approaches, here are five easy things you can do to save more than $500 and get into the gift- giving spirit:

Boost your take home pay
Savings: $91.34
Did you know that three out of four taxpayers got a tax refund last year? And that the average refund was nearly $2,900? This means that we're having too much withheld from our paychecks. It's better to get the money as you earn it than to give the government an interest-free loan. Here's an example: say you're single, made $30,000 last year and got a $1,000 refund. You may deserve two extra allowances, and if you claim them, you would boost your take-home pay by $91.34/month. See the benefits of adjusting your tax withholding by using Kiplinger's handy online calculator.

Curb your impulse buys
Savings: $108
A new survey shows that 80% of consumers say they made an impulse buy over the past year. We're buying on impulse at the grocery stores, at department stores, and online (Those 24-48 hour flash sales and social buying sites are a breeding ground for impulse shoppers!). And while 42% of consumers say they're buying on impulse because the prices are too good to pass up, the average cost of an impulse buy, according to Consumer Reports, is $108! Just say "no." You'll avoid buyer's remorse and that $108 is yours.

Shop strategically at the supermarket
Savings: $150
Admittedly, between all the coupon clipping, rewards programs, monitoring sales, etc. saving at the supermarket has gotten a bit overwhelming. But the good news is that is doesn't have to be. Start by cutting back on the number of trips you take to the grocery store. About half of all shoppers go to the store three or four times a week, and a whopping 60% to 70% of supermarket purchases are unplanned.

Taking into consideration that a family of four spends about $764 a month on food (about $9,200/year), to save $150 a month, just reduce the number of trips you take (just go once a week), plan more efficiently (have your weekly menus laid out), and do more cooking at home (make double-triple batches and freeze the rest!).

Be more accountable
Savings: $60
There's quite a bit of "mystery spending" going on. A Visa survey found that consumers cannot account for an average of $21 per week. That's $84 a month and over $1,000 a year! This is cash that has "disappeared." Be more accountable: take $2 out of your wallet every day and set it aside. At the end of the month, you'll have $60.

Avoid retail rip-offs
Savings: $100
Even though just about everything is on sale today, there are still a lot of retail ripoffs out there. Movie theater popcorn, for example, is marked up 1,300%; wine you buy at restaurants is marked up 100% to 200%-plus on bottles; 300% to 400% if you buy it by glass (and yes, the highest markups are on the lowest-priced wines); coffee is marked up 300%; brand name drugs are marked up an average 200% to 3,000% (some brand name drugs are marked up 600,000% when compared to the cost of active ingredients); pre-cut veggies and fruits cost 25% to 30% more than buying them whole. Avoid just one or two of these retail "rip-offs" and you'll easily save over $1,200 a year, or about $100 a month.
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