Holiday spending can dramatically hurt your wallet and boost your credit card debt if you aren't careful. Now is the perfect time to save up for the holidays by cutting your budget in half — you'll have to ease up on the reveling in the coming months, but you'll be happy to enter the new year without that financial burden or excess debt.
Plan Out How Much You Need for Holiday Costs
The best way to beat overspending this season is to go in with a plan; calculate exactly how much you'll need to spend during the holidays. Give yourself a budget for gifts, food, clothing, cards, gift wrap, décor and unexpected expenses. Whatever the cost is, that's what you will need to cut from your budget temporarily.
Cut Out All the Extras
Take a look at your weekly spending and identify all of the expenditures you don't need. Don't consider any expense too small to cut out. Here are just a few ideas on extras you can cut out of your budget this month to enjoy extra savings:
- Forgo your morning coffee or weekly latte.
- Say no to fast food until after the holidays.
- Don't get your hair or nails done.
- Drive less.
- Do errands just once a week to save even more on gas.
- Unplug all of your appliances when not in use.
- Turn down the heat and use blankets and warm clothes instead.
- Be more diligent in turning off lights that are not in use to save on electricity.
- Check which services you can put on hold, such as gym membership, cable or streaming programs like Netflix.
Make a Few Calls
Take an hour and make a list of every company you pay bills to regularly. Call and ask if there are any promotions going on or if there's any way to save money. Your call might end up being useless, but every once in a while you'll be surprised to cut a quick $5 to $15 off your monthly bill.
Have you been unhappy about any of your services lately? For example, perhaps you had trouble with your cable due to a bad connection. Letting the company know that you've been dissatisfied of late can result in a refund or discount on your next bill.
Call your car insurance and make sure all the possible discounts are being applied. Sometimes, just switching drivers can result in savings — it's worth asking about. Finally, call all your debt accounts to see if you can extend the payment deadline or decrease the amount due temporarily due to financial constraints.
Establish a No-Spend Month
The quickest way to cut your spending in half is to establish a no-spend month. A no-spend month means staying away from the stores, saying no to eating out and avoiding social activities that will cost money. In short, it calls for a lot of creativity. Before you run to the grocery store, try using up what's in the pantry, fridge or freezer. This might mean that you have to have pancakes and eggs for dinner or beans and rice for lunch. Remember: This is just a temporary challenge to cut your budget.
Sell What You Can
When you can't cut back any more expenses, look around for what you can sell. You'll be amazed by how much extra junk you have lying around your house that can fetch you a few bucks. Big things, such as furniture, bicycles, exercise equipment and baby paraphernalia, are quick and easy to list on Craigslist. EBay is great for selling unused technology and easy-to-ship items. If your item will at least get $5, plus shipping, then it's worth listing online.
For everything else, start a garage sale pile. Garage sales are a little hard to have at this time of year, because the weather is unpredictable; however, if there's a good Saturday morning coming up, you can expect to make a quick $50 to 200 depending on your garage sale traffic and what you have to sell.
Discounted Gift Cards for More Savings
Another way to stretch your holiday budget even further is to buy discounted gift cards. If you already know that you are going to be doing a majority of your shopping at a specific store, try to find discounted gift cards to that retailer. Many times, individuals will list their gift cards or merchandise return cards on eBay, allowing you to save a quick $10 to $20 on your shopping trip. Stack that gift card with coupons and other promotions to save even more.
Stores like Costco and Sam's Club also carry discounted gift cards, such as four $25 Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf gift cards for $79.99. Either give these cards as gifts or buy multiple gifts with the cards; either way, you are making your holiday budget go further.
This article was contributed by Ashley Eneriz of GOBankingRates.com, a leading portal for personal finance news and features, offering visitors the latest information on everything from strategies on saving money to getting out of debt.