8 Ways to Save for the Holidays in the Next 8 Weeks
Are you ready for all the expenses that come with the holidays? Let's make it a little less stressful by looking at eight ways to save in the next eight weeks.
1. Trim Your Budget
The quickest way to having more cash is to go through your budget and cut down on anything that's unnecessary. Can you give up eating out for a month or two? What about going without getting your hair done? In the spirit of giving to others, try to temporarily cut down spending on yourself.
By simply asking your service providers for less expensive options, you may secure a discount or a reduced rate. I just did this with my phone bill. I had an unlimited data plan, and I switched to 3 gigs of data and cut my bill by 40 percent. The worst that can happen is that the company representative says no -- but the best is you could save money on monthly bills just by asking.
2. Make Your Gifts
Have a Pinterest-surfing session and get on the hunt for handmade gift ideas. Do you have any artistic abilities, like painting, drawing or knitting? Put those skills to use.
If handmade gifts aren't your thing, consider making your own greeting cards. Plus, your card recipients will feel extra special after receiving such a thoughtful item in the mail or at a holiday gathering.
3. Change Your Tax Withholding
If you normally receive a tax refund, try adjusting your tax withholding at your job so that your next few paychecks are a little bigger. That will mean more money in your pocket around the holidays, but a smaller refund. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Getting money back via a tax refund means the government got an interest-free loan from you. Turn that around and enjoy that interest-free loan for yourself.
4. Strategically Plan Your Shopping
Plan when it comes to both everyday shopping and shopping for holiday gifts. Consolidate your shopping to a day or two during the week and shop at a cluster of stores if possible. That reduces both mileage, which saves gas, and time (which may save your sanity).
5. Redeem Reward Points from Credit Cards
Do you have any unused points waiting to be redeemed from your credit cards? You can redeem most points for cash back or gift cards than can be used for loved ones. Next year, don't use any of your credit card rewards until the holidays so you'll already have money saved for your holiday shopping. This is a strategy I've used for years.
6. Look for Coupons and Discounts
Search for coupons and deals on websites like RetailMeNot. Browse for discounted gifts on deal sites like Groupon or ScoutMob. Make sure you're armed with a list of gifts you want to buy first. This savings strategy can backfire if you buy things just because they're on sale, so use discipline to avoid overspending. Also, ask for price matches at stores.
7. Shop Online
We all know about Black Friday, but you can often get some of the best online deals shopping the Monday after Thanksgiving. I got a great deal on my laptop bag by buying it on Cyber Monday.
Besides saving you gas, online prices can be cheaper -- and some online retailers don't charge sales tax. Shopping on a site like Amazon (AMZN) can save you time and help you avoid the holiday rush around department stores and malls. And even traditionally brick-and-mortar businesses, like Target (TGT) and Walmart (WMT), offer exclusive online deals that you can't get in the store. For instance, Walmart is testing matching online prices.
8. No-Spend Challenge
If you're really serious about saving in these last weeks before the holidays, establish a no-spend challenge for part of the time, say weekends, every other week or all of November.
A no-spend challenge is what it sounds like: a period that you choose to not spend any (extra) money. Yes, you'll still need spend on rent, utilities, gas and groceries. The no-spend idea is for discretionary expenses, like dining out, going to an event or shopping for yourself. For an added challenge, see how many $0 days you can achieve in a row. One writer I know used this technique to help pay off her debt.
If you have a no-spend weekend, for example, cook and eat all your meals at home, plan on a family game night or take yourself on a walking tour of some part of your community. Plan on free activities or use resources you already have. Then, put the surplus your no-spend time created toward holiday expenses.
Sophia Bera is a virtual financial planner for millennials and the founder of Gen Y Planning. She is location-independent but calls Minneapolis home. She offers a free Gen Y Planning newsletter.