Okay, we know it's still a few weeks away from Halloween but bear with us. Let’s time travel into your future.
It’s the second week of December and you’re cozied up on the couch waiting for your favorite Christmas movie to start. You’re packing on pounds just smelling the "real butter flavor" Orville Redenbacher loaded into your microwave popcorn. And you’re trying to keep your normally well-behaved dog from eating the entire bag while your head is turned.
Basically, everything is perfect.
Here’s what you’re not doing: You’re not stressed about how you’re going to pay for Christmas. Because you already saved up for the potlucks, the presents, and a few extra trips to the movie theatre.
This relaxing scenario could be a part of your holiday future. All it takes is a little planning. Save the cash you need for Christmas with these eight easy money tips. The sooner you start, the sooner you can dive into that popcorn.
1. Seal up budget leaks.
Even if you’ve been budgeting for a while, try an online tool like EveryDollar to make sure you are actually budgeting down to zero (it does the math for you!). Then be sure you’re actually sticking to your budget by tracking your spending all month long. When you know where your money is going, you’ll find that way less of it slips away!
2. Temporarily freeze your spending.
We spend a lot of money "here and there" on nonessentials like impulse Ben and Jerry’s or a new pair of Beats headphones. Instead of spending $100 on random stuff, try a spending freeze. That means you don’t buy any nonessential items for a whole week, month, etc. Simply raid your pantry or fridge for dessert ideas, avoid Target and Costco like the plague, and wait on whatever you need. Not spending money is the best way to save it.
3. Fire up the Crock-Pot.
Heading out to a restaurant with your entire gang (plus tax and tip) can cost $50 in a hurry. Replace one restaurant outing a week with your slow cooker and you’ll easily save $200. Just think: You’ll be enjoying tons of amazing holiday meals in the next few months, so it’s not that big of sacrifice. Plus, Crock-Pot cooking is a win-win because there’s just one pot to clean up and your food is ready and waiting when you are.
4. Buy more generics.
Most of us buy some generics, but why not make the shift to buy mostly generics? See how much you can save, especially when it comes to paper towels, cleaners, pantry staples and certain medicines. According to Consumer Reports, buying generic over-the-counter drugs can save you up to 72% per purchase. Worth it.
5. Pack your lunch.
Eating out for lunch costs Americans roughly $35 per week, according to an Accounting Principals survey. Believe it or not, packing a lunch takes way less effort than calling your order in, driving there, waiting, paying, picking it up, and driving back. And you could save $140 a month in the process. That’s our idea of super-saving.
6. Brew your own coffee.
Your daily drive-thru coffee is probably costing you somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 each month. Instead of paying a friendly barista to fill up a giant paper cup for you, grab some high-quality beans and a nice travel mug. Then, turn on the coffeepot and sip away the savings.
7. Switch insurance.
Yes, now! If you’re looking to save hundreds on your insurance costs, consider purchasing your coverage through an independent agent. That way, the agent’s loyalty is to you, the customer, not to a specific insurance provider. If a company’s policy isn’t a good fit, they won’t try to get you to buy it just for the commission. Their top priority is finding you a deal!
8. Sell stuff online.
We all have stuff we could sell, but we just don’t take the time to actually do it. Pick a date on your calendar to devote yourself to a what-can-I-sell? scavenger hunt. Get the whole family involved if you want. Then give yourself a few hours to search, a few hours to shine up your stuff, and a few hours to post it all. Six hours could land you a nice wad of cash.
Christmas doesn’t have to be full of money stress. In fact, we think it should be full of laughter, joy and celebration. Make your family’s future brighter this year by saving money for Christmas before you spend it. Then you can sit back, relax and enjoy the show!
Creating and sticking to a budget is one of the best ways to figure out where your money is going—and control where it goes in the future! Check out EveryDollar, our free budget tool that can help you budget at home and on the go.