8 Minute Read
Did you know there are plenty of ways to find extra money for Christmas? You just need to know where to look! You’re not splurging on luxury cars or flashy diamonds—but if you’re like most Americans, you may be losing a small fortune each year on relatively minor indulgences.
Ways to Cut Back
Contrary to what TV commercials, department stores, and social media posts will tell you—celebrating Christmas doesn’t have to be an over-the-top extravaganza that cost an arm and a leg. There are plenty of ways to have a merry and budget-friendly Christmas. Instead of letting your money run wild, decide how to start saving for Christmas by revising your budget in these everyday areas:
You had great intentions. You were finally going to start bringing a lunch to work. But then someone invited you to that awesome hot chicken place down the street. After that, you got a serious craving for some Tex-Mex. And then someone mentioned doughnuts. Fast-forward a few weeks, and you’re picking up lunch more than packing it. So what’s the big deal?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found Americans spent over $3,000 on food away from home in 2016.(1) That’s more than $250 a month just on restaurants and fast food! If that seems high, think of it as a few lunches out, some coffee to go, and a pizza here and there. Sound familiar?
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If you cut your restaurant budget down to nothing except splurging for some pizzas ($30 or $40), you could save a whopping $200 for Christmas presents and festivities in just one month’s time! Sure, you’ll miss the convenience of dining out—but being able to give the gifts you want to this year will more than make up for it.
While you’re probably already doing a great job of keeping your grocery bill in check, there are always ways to shorten your receipt. Visit a cheaper grocery store and buy everything generic. Do your grocery shopping online so you aren’t tempted to roam the aisles of the store and pick up things not on your list. Start meal planning and looking for ways you can get multiple meals out of the same items. Go vegetarian twice a week and incorporate grains to bulk up and stretch out your leftovers. And stop buying sodas or juice and stick with milk or water.
Make it your goal to shave at least $25–35 off each week’s grocery tab for the next four to five weeks. By the end, you’ll have an extra $100–175 for your Christmas gift account! And here’s a bonus tip: Don’t wait until the last minute for your Christmas dinner shopping. Buy what you need for your holiday meals well in advance. It will save you money and stress in the long run.
Premium Cable Packages
Be honest: How many of the hundreds of cable channels do you regularly watch? Ten? Maybe 15? Why shell out money for a ton of unused channels when, for a fraction of the cost, you can fulfill all your binge-watching needs with online streaming or other cable alternatives? Plus, you don’t need cable to watch all your favorite classic Christmas movies. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon have plenty of Christmas flicks for you to choose from this holiday season.
Are you just keeping your pricey cable package for the sports channels? If the big game is really that important to you, just downgrade to basic cable and a sports-only package. Or go to a friend’s house with a big bag of chips and a slow cooker full of cheese dip. Because no self-respecting sports fan can turn down queso.
Americans spent more than $11 billion at the box office last year.(2) That’s a lot of laughs (or screams or gasps). Add in the popcorn, candy and sodas, and a couple trips to the movies can set your family back $100 or more. Still having fun?
Budget for a weekend matinee and eat before you go to avoid the temptation of the snack bar. Fill the rest of your entertainment schedule with free festivals, holiday concerts, and DVDs from Redbox or the library. You could easily save $100 for the month. Now that’s something to smile about.
Cold weather makes us want to bundle up in new scarves, boots and sweaters. Unfortunately, that isn’t cheap. Especially if you have a family of four (or more) you need to keep warm. Can we get real here? It’s going to be cold outside—nobody cares what you’re wearing. Most of the time your outfit of the day is going to be covered up by multiple layers of warmth. Don’t break the bank for a new winter wardrobe. Instead, focus on the practical items your family needs to stay warm!
So how can you do that and save money? Simple—wear the same coats you did last year. Unless your coat is falling apart, you really don’t need a new one. If the kids have outgrown their coats from last year, hit up a consignment store to hunt for some great deals! Let’s say your monthly clothing budget is $250; if you cut it back by 50% for the month, you could save $125 right there!
Unused Gym Memberships
After a stressful day of 4-year-old tantrums, holiday traffic, or never-ending meetings, hitting the gym can give your body and mind a much needed break. That means you have to change clothes, get in your car, drive to the gym, and then try to outrun some teen on the treadmill next to you. Or, you could just eat a jar of Christmas cookies. Decisions, decisions.
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The average monthly gym cost is more than $50.(3) You’d have over $100 extra to your name if you paused or canceled it until after the holidays! If cooking dinner, giving the kids a bath, and reading five bedtime stories is your reality, it could make more sense to run around the block instead of hitting the gym. Do what works best for you.
Regular Coffee Trips
Coffee is a necessity for many of us. It’s like air. The National Coffee Association found 62% of Americans now drink coffee on a daily basis.(4) Look, we know the talented barista down at Jittery Java handcrafts your pumpkin spice, peppermint mocha with love each morning, but let’s get real: Spending just $5 a day on coffee can add up to more than $1,000 a year. If you buy some decent coffee beans, syrups and creams and brew at home, you could cut that coffee cost in half without having to cut out the coffee.
Ways to Save Money Fast
Forgo Your Fun Money
This is an important part of your budget. Your fun money keeps you on track in your other spending categories. And with the stress of the holidays, we all need a little personal cash to spend on chamomile tea and soothing iTunes downloads.
But what if you reduced your fun money by half? If you and your spouse each get $50 in fun money, cut it down to $25 each and add an easy $50 to your gift fund. If you’re willing to sacrifice a little more, consider using your entire allotment of fun money to go toward Christmas savings. It’s only for a season, after all.
Bring in More Money
The holidays are a perfect time to take on a seasonal job! Nearly every store you can think of will be looking for extra workers to combat the Christmastime rush. The need for seasonal hires are everywhere—department stores, retail stores at the mall, grocery stores, and even your favorite boutiques! And you might get a store discount too. Merry Christmas to you!
Of course, there’s always the old standby way of making some dough quickly—sell stuff! Have a garage sale or list items on eBay and Craigslist. This can help generate some quick cash and get the clutter out of your house. Now you’ll have more room for all those Christmas decorations!
Imagine the extra cash you could pocket if you did simple things like stashing every $5 bill you receive or squirreling away all single dollar bills and loose change at the end of the day. It might not add up to a fortune, but it can help fill in the gaps of your Christmas budget. With just a few changes in your everyday life, you’ll find extra money for Christmas like extra treats in your stocking. No Kris Kringle necessary.
Treat yourself to an early Christmas present by entering to win an all-expenses paid trip to Boston for you and a guest—including VIP passes to Dave Ramsey’s life-changing Smart Conference! You never know, Santa might just select you as the winner!