How to Save Up $300 in time for the Holidays

By Mike Peterson
In October 26, 2012

I know, I know:  It’s October.  It’s not even Halloween yet, and I’m rolling out the holiday topics.  But the thing is, it’s almost November.  Pretty soon, malls will start putting up Christmas decorations.  Department stores will start offering crazy “early bird” sales that start at five a.m.  Your kids will start dropping hints about this year’s “must-have” toys.

Before you know it, the holiday season will be in full swing – and if you want to make it to 2013 without blowing your budget or racking up mounds of credit card debt, now is a great time to start looking for little ways to save money.  By making a few small changes and giving up a couple of tiny luxuries, you can save up to $300 by December 1st:

Here are a few ways you can start saving today:

 

1.  Cut your cell phone plan.  When was the last time you really looked at your phone bill?  I mean, really looked at it?  If you’re like most people, you probably end up with unused minutes, data, and texting at the end of every month.  Look into switching to a slightly lower plan and you could save a nice chunk of change next month.

 

Potential savings:  $10 to $20

 

2.  Give up $20 to $30 worth of “little luxuries.” Maybe you like to treat yourself to a manicure once or twice a month. Or perhaps you enjoy running through the car wash on Saturday mornings.  You might have a weakness for grabbing a magazine at the grocery checkout or a couple of scratch-off lottery tickets at the gas station.  In the month before the big holiday rush, cut out these little splurges (or at least, pare them down considerably).  Instead of spending $20 at the nail salon, do your own nails.  Instead of blowing $5 to $7 at the car wash, get out a bucket and a hose and wash the car in the driveway.

 

Potential savings:  around $20 to $30

 

3.  Skip the fancy coffee.  You know that supersized triple-decaf-soy-vanilla espresso that you buy every morning on the way to the office?  Chances are, you’re paying around $5 every time you swing by the coffee shop – which translates to about $20-$25 a week, or $80 to $100 a month (and that’s without a tip for your friendly barista).  Instead of hitting up the drive-thru every morning, go to the grocery store and buy a nice bag of coffee.  For around $10 or less, you can get a pound of ground or whole-bean coffee in a wide range of flavors.

 

Potential savings:  $70 to $80

 

4.  Tighten your entertainment budget.  Entertainment – whether it’s “date nights”, trips to the bookstore, the latest DVDs or video games – can get expensive.  I’m not saying that you need to cut out the fun completely, but you can work on curbing your entertainment expenses.  Instead of dinner and a movie, opt for a home-cooked meal and basic cable.  Borrow books from the public library instead of buying them (some libraries have movies and games, too).

 

Potential savings:  $20 to $30

 

5.  Cut down on cable TV.  If you currently subscribe to premium cable channels, consider downgrading to a cheaper plan.  Most basic cable packages come with a ton of channels to keep you entertained – and really, how often do you sit down and watch the pricy extra channels?

If you’re not that much of a TV-watcher, consider cutting off your cable altogether.  You can still catch your must-see shows on Netflix or online.

 

Potential savings:  Varies.  For the purpose of this exercise, let’s say $20 to $30.

 

6.  Brown-bag it to work.  The average fast food lunch costs $7.  If you choose to run to the corner burger or burrito joint every day, you’re spending around $35 a week (or $140 a month) on food that isn’t that great to begin with.  For close to the same price as a fast-food value meal, you can buy bread, lunchmeat, cheese, and fruit or crackers – enough for a week of meals.

 

Potential savings:  around $100

 

If you stick to these tips for a month, you’ll have around $250 to $300 – a pretty nice head start to your holiday shopping.  And for more savvy shopping and saving tips, check out my “Debt-Free Holidays Handbook” – it’s filled with tips, worksheets, and savings strategies that can help you get through the holiday season without getting into debt.

 

Happy holiday saving!

 

Mike Peterson

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.