Last holiday season, the average amount spent on gifts was $682.74 per household. In the midst of a struggling economy and record unemployment, many of us are worried about where we can find this extra $700 to keep our tree from looking bare. We’ve come up with a few strategies to help you save this Christmas, in the few months left before the holidays.
Lay Off the Starbucks = $160 savings over next few months
A tall coffee at Starbucks approaches $2.00. If you drink one of those every weekday, you’re spending $10 a week, $40 per month and roughly $520 per year. (And this is one of the cheapest items at Starbucks!)
If you absolutely need a caffeine fix every day, consider making your own coffee. After about $15 to buy the coffee maker and the filters, a bag of coffee only costs $8 and will keep you awake for weeks.
If you’re not a coffee drinker, see what other “daily luxuries” you may enjoy. Whether it’s micro-brewed beer, gourmet chocolates or a Ben & Jerry’s addiction, cutting back — or substituting a cheaper alternative — can easily buy a few gifts for the family.
Bottled Water = $78 savings over the next few months
Water is one of those things that you should try not to pay for. With 2/3 of the world covered in water and filters that convert “tap water” to filtered water (such as a Brita) for about $20, you should stick to filling up a water bottle rather than shelling out $1-2 for bottled water. If you buy bottled water a few times a week, you can save over $200 a year and about $80 by the time Christmas rolls around.
Gas = $87 savings over the next few months
BillShrink.com found that gas prices vary as much $.50 per gallon in the same neighborhood. This means that by simply driving to a nearby gas station, you can save $260 a year. Use BillShrink’s gas comparison tool to find the cheapest gas on your commute for the next 4 months and you could be looking at an extra $87 bucks in your pocket.
Ease Up on Eating Out = $520 savings over the next few months
Eating at home is not only healthier, but it is also much cheaper. When you eat out, you are paying a mark-up for not only your meal and drinks, but also for the service that comes with it. Try staying in two nights a week and save about $30 a person. If you continue this until the holidays, you’ll have saved $520 – enough to treat the whole family to a nice Christmas dinner.
If cutting out dinner is too hard, try packing your lunch rather than going out and dropping $6 during work. This will also save you about $30 a week and by combining the two, you’ll double your savings and have some delicious leftovers to bring for lunch the next day.
Quit Smoking = $347 savings over next few months
The cost of smoking is not getting any cheaper with an average pack costing between $4-6. If you smoke four packs a week, you’ll pay over $1000 a year. Since quitting smoking is easier said than done, it may be worth it use some of those savings on nicotine patches or gum to help you quit.
The caveat of this strategy is that you’ve got to want to quit smoking in order for this to work. While you can save some money doing this, you’re not going to be able to use that as motivation alone. You’ll need to weigh the other benefits of quitting as well and determine the reason why it’s time for you to quite now.
Turn Down the Monthly Fixed Costs = ~$200 savings over few months
According to BillShrink, most people are overpaying for their cell phone plan. By simply visiting BillShrink or other comparison sites, you can quickly analyze your wireless, credit card and cable plan. If you’re paying for more cell minutes or texts than you need, you could be losing $420 a year and the same goes for the cash-back rewards you could be missing out on from your credit card and the extra channels you pay for that you never watch on your TV. By only paying for what you use, you could save nearly $200 over four months.
If you already have the best plans for you, feel free to call up your phone or cable provider and try to negotiate a better price. Since it is cheaper for them to retain current customers than get new ones, they want to keep you from leaving and keep you happy. See if they have any specials that will entice you to stay.
And if you still find yourself short of Christmas cash, just remember: you can always sell things on eBay. After all, getting rid of old stuff is the best way to prepare for this year’s new stuff.