5 Easy Ways to Save $1,000 by the Holidays
By Stacy Rapacon
The season of giving can take a whole lot out of your wallet. In 2014, the National Retail Federation estimates that consumers spent an average $460 just on gifts for their families. Pile on top of that all of the food, decorations, clothing and other presents most people splurge on for the holidays, and your budget is sure to get bloated.
Ideally, you'd have saved throughout the year in preparation for the pricey festivities. But even if holiday costs didn't creep into your budget until now, you still have time to tally up plenty of extra cash before Black Friday. With our suggested strategies, we figure that you can cobble together more than $1,000 in extra savings, based on average costs and listed retail prices. Of course, how much you can actually save depends on your specific situation and which moves you make. (Check out 30 Ways to Waste Your Money for even more ideas to trim your spending.) Still, our examples go to show that you can save a grand in just two months with a few simple budget adjustments -- whether you need the money for holiday spending or other financial goals.
1. Reshop your auto insurance. The cost of car insurance can vary greatly for each driver, and you're likely paying more than necessary. Make sure you're getting the best deal possible by comparing plans from different insurers using tools from Insurance.com, InsWeb or Nerdwallet. Monthly rates in New Jersey for my 2004 Honda CR-V, for example, range from $65 to $235 on NerdWallet. You can also work with a local independent insurance agent who can shop for you; find one through TrustedChoice.com. (See 3 Simple Steps to Reshop Your Car Insurance.)
You might also be able to save if you can prove you're a good driver. For example, Progressive and Allstate respectively offer trackers Snapshot and Drivewise that monitor your track record and help you save if you practice good driving habits. (Snapshot collects your driving data for 30 days before you start saving.) Progressive estimates that safe drivers can save up to 30% off their premiums. Given an average of $1,311 for car insurance costs, that can mean more than $390 in annual savings -- or about $33 each month.
Two months of savings: $340 if you switch from the priciest policy to the lowest-cost alternative.
2. Eat at home. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumers spent an average of about $2,800 on dining out in 2014 -- or $233 each month. Brown-bag your lunch and trade restaurant dinner dates for romantic nights this fall to cut those meal costs by two-thirds or more.
Planning and preparing your meals for the week ahead of time will help you resist the costly ease of eating out or ordering in. (See Money-Smart Ways to Eat Healthy and 10 Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons.)
Two months of estimated savings: $310-plus.
3. Drive less. Leave your car in the garage on workdays throughout the fall to cut daily costs on parking, gas, tolls and even the occasional ticket. If your daily commute is 10 miles round-trip and you spend $20 for daily parking (the average monthly parking rate in New York City, for example, is $445), we estimate that you can save $24.75 a day by biking instead of driving to work. Even if your savings are, say, a more modest $20 per day and if you only opt to cycle into work every other day, the savings can really add up. (Try our calculator to crunch the numbers for your own commute.) Carpooling and public transportation are other options, albeit with their own costs.
Two months of estimated savings: $200-plus via 10 car-free commutes.
4. Cut the cable cord. You don't need to pay for cable to enjoy watching television. Most of your favorite shows are likely available online or through streaming services for little to no cost. According to the Federal Communications Commission, the average price for expanded basic cable TV service is $66 a month.
But many network sites share top shows for free the day after they air. Or you can subscribe to a streaming service, such as Amazon Prime, to get access to whole libraries of shows and movies for $8 to $9 a month. If you must watch live, you can access more than 20 channels -- including AMC, the Disney channel and ESPN -- and still save by using Sling TV for $20 a month.
Two months of savings: $132.
5. Trim your cellphone bill. Leaving your mainstream wireless carrier can save you a bundle. With Straight Talk Wireless, you can get a 30-day cell-phone plan for just $45 that includes unlimited talk, texts and data. By comparison, Verizon offers no such limitless plan, but does have a 12GB data option, which the company deems suitable for what it calls "big-time data users," for $80 a month that includes unlimited talk and text. (See Best Cellphone Plans for Every Type of User.)
Two months of savings: $70.
TOTAL POTENTIAL SAVINGS: $1,052-plus.