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It happened again. Your best friend's bridal shower is in a month. Your child's birthday is coming up. A holiday snuck up on you. Now you’re scrambling to figure out how you’re going to pay for all those gifts on the horizon.
Instead of freaking out or feeling guilty, we have a better idea: Bulk up your budget.
How? There are plenty of places you can cut back temporarily to multiply your money. Here are five categories to get your gift savings started on the fast track:
On average, Americans spend about $2,800 on “food away from home,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than $230 a month! If that seems high, think of it as a few lunches out, some lattes to go, and a pizza here and there. Sound familiar?
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Count Your Savings: Cut your restaurant budget to just the pizzas ($30 or $40) and you could save a whopping $200 for presents, gas money and parties in one month’s time! Sure, you’ll miss the convenience of eating out, but being able to give out all the gifts you want to will more than make up for it.
You’re probably already doing a great job of keeping your grocery bill in check. But there are always ways to shorten your receipt. For example: Visit a cheaper grocery store. Buy everything generic. Go vegetarian twice a week. Stretch your meals with a side of rice. And stop buying sodas and stick with milk or water.
Count Your Savings: 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 in your gift account.
Americans spent more than $10.4 billion at the box office last year, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s a lot of laughs (or screams or gasps). But add in popcorn, candy and sodas and even a couple trips to the movies can set your family back a hundred bucks or more. Still laughing?
Count Your Savings: Budget for a weekend matinee and eat before you go to avoid the temptation of gummy bears and Dr Pepper. 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 stuff ain’t cheap. In fact, MoneySense magazine estimates that winter coats range from $60 to $800. For a family of four, that adds up! Then, when the hot weather rolls around, we’re searching for brand new swimsuits, as if last year’s won’t work.
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Count Your Savings: Two words: gift cards. Chances are you’ll be getting tons of them for your favorite stores (put them on your wish list now!). Wait until after your birthday and the holidays to buy those new jackets and swimsuits for your brood, and you could put at least $240 toward your gift stash.
5. 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.
Count Your Savings: Reduce your fun money by half until after the event. So if you and your spouse each get $50, cut it down to $25 per person and add an easy $50 to your gift fund.
You Did It!
If you incorporate all of these suggestions and calculate your total savings, you could bank somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 for gifts in about a month’s time! No need to get a second job or swipe that hold-out credit card. Hallelujah!
And whatever amount you save, that’s it. Your gift fund is done. So budget wisely and stick to it. Trust us: Toys and tablets aren’t worth driving you and your family into debt.
Need an easy way to budget at home and on the go? Check out our free budget app EveryDollar today!