13 Last-Minute Ways To Save Money Before The Holidays
With the holidays coming up, you may be looking for last-minute ways to save money, whether you want to spend it on gifts, traveling home, traveling someplace, you name it. After all, now’s the time of year that you probably overspend more than you usually would, so it makes sense to save money before the holidays.
A recent Bank of America survey of customers’ spending behavior figured looked at data from more than 50 million active credit and debit cards and found that consumers who made a retail purchase last holiday season spent $1,143 on average. Millennials averaged $1,058 whereas Gen Xers averaged $1,307. Baby boomers spent in between those amounts, $1,125, but Gen Z spent less than everybody, averaging $512. The survey also found that consumers spent more at electronics and clothing stores, $306 apiece, versus department stores, where they averaged $196.
So, if you still have more gifts to buy or travel to book, what do you do? “Most people would benefit from boosting their budget by making some extra cash this holiday season instead of taking on credit card debt to cover holiday-related expenses,” Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert, writer, and TV personality, tells Bustle. She says this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give up nights and weekends to a part-time retail or restaurant job. “There are plenty of hassle-free ways to make money, and it’s never too late to get started,” she says. “Remember, every little bit counts!”
Below, money experts share some last-minute ways to save money before the holidays.
1. Get A Side Hustle
Although you can get a side job at a department store that needs seasonal help, you can also find a side hustle that may accommodate your current schedule better.
“For instance, you can dog sit at your home and make up to an extra $1,000 a month,” Woroch says. “Connect with pet parents looking for extra care during the busy holiday season via sites like Rover.com.” Or, you can rent out your car via HyreCar — whether you’re out of town traveling or just decide to use public transportation more in the meantime. “This site allows people to earn up to $1,000 extra per month just by renting out their personal cars to Uber and Lyft Drivers — since 40 percent of those who apply to drive for these rideshare companies don’t have a car that qualifies,” Woroch says.
Of course, there are plenty of other websites, too, where you can find a last-minute side hustle, such as TaskRabbit, where you can do “tasks” such as run someone’s errands (like Christmas shopping), or becoming an Uber or Lyft driver.
2. Airbnb Your Bedroom Or Entire Place
Another easy way to make last-minute cash before the holidays — or even during the holidays — is to Airbnb your bedroom or entire apartment/house. You can always go stay with a friend, family member, or your partner for a set period of time. If you have a roommate, see if they’d be willing to do the same so that you can rent out your whole place, then split the profit. Tourists may be looking for a place to stay, and your place could be perfect. Of course, first make sure that you’re legally allowed to Airbnb, and if so, it’s a great way to make some extra money.
3. Eliminate Unnecessary Autopays
Remember the time when you signed up for a free week of a premium network so you could watch every season of a new show — which you did in a weekend — but then forgot to cancel it? David Bakke, personal finance expert at Money Crashers, tells Bustle that if you cut costs like these, you’ll immediately have more money in your bank account.
“One great way to save money is to investigate all of your monthly bills and research the Internet for ways to cut all of these costs,” he says.
4. Stop — Or Lessen — Eating Out
Think about what you spend on eating out each week. Better yet, go through your bank statement and see what you’ve spent on eating out the last week or two. Instead, you can put this money toward the holidays. “A great way to save money in time for the holidays is to eliminate eating out,” Bakke says. “You can pack up some of last night’s leftovers for your lunch break at work, and cook at home instead of going to restaurants.”
5. Comparison Shop
Woroch says that an easy way to save money is by tricking yourself into saving it. “For instance, always look for a coupon (on sites like CouponCause.com) or compare prices before buying anything so you don’t leave money on the table,” she says. “You can also set sale alerts at the Amazon price tracker site, RankTracer.com.”
Then, whenever you save money, transfer the amount you saved into a separate holiday fund, such as a high-yield savings account, to boost your savings faster. “This way, you have extra cash to cover those last-minute gifts and other items throughout December, or have money to pay your credit card bill that arrives in January,” Woroch says. “Remember, what’s out of sight is out of mind. Otherwise, you’d be surprised how easy it is to blow those savings on unnecessary items.”
6. Sell Your Stuff
These days, there are many ways you can sell items or clothes you’re not using. “The holidays are a good time to unload your unwanted items, since many people may be looking to save on second-hand decorations or even gifts,” Woroch says. “You can sell items easily by using Facebook Marketplace to deal with local community members and avoid the hassle of shipping and extra fees.” She says you can also check out sites like thredUP.com, which will send you a free, postage-paid “clean out” bag that you can load with gently used women’s and kid’s clothing that they sell for you.
Bakke agrees that selling your stuff is a simple way to make last-minute money. “Amazon and eBay are solid options, but so are mobile apps like OfferUp and Letgo, where you might be able to sell your stuff faster,” he says.
7. Cut Entertainment Costs
No matter how much you may love going to the movies, to save money, you may want to stop doing so until the new year. “Cut back significantly on entertainment costs,” Bakke says. “A night out at the movies could be replaced by inviting friends over to watch some of your favorite DVDs or streamed movies.” Similarly, inviting friends over to watch a sporting event on TV and drinking at home can also mean more money in your bank account, he says.
8. Spend Less On Holiday Travel
While you may be tempted to book a flight straight to your final holiday destination, you may be able to save money by not doing so. “Consider DIY flight routes,” Dom Scarlett, chief editor at TravelPirates, tells Bustle. “While a straight shot to your destination may seem like your best bet, you may be surprised to find out that it might be cheaper to create your own layovers using one-way flights.” She says that routes between select cities are always low — even around the holidays — so searching around could save you money, big-time.
Another way to spend less on holiday travel is by signing up for travel newsletters, Scarlett says. If you haven’t booked your holiday travel yet, and newsletters are one way to find a last-minute travel sale. “Airlines are constantly having flash sales and they often last mere hours (if that),” Scarlett says. “Staying in-the-know will help you snag the perfect flight for the holidays — especially if you waited too long to book your holiday flights and missed out on discounted fares over the spring and summer.”
9. Stick To A Budget
Scott and Bethany Palmer, aka The Money Couple and authors of The 5 Money Personalities, tell Bustle that it’s important to create a budget — then stick to it. “Make your Christmas shopping list and assign a budget,” they say. “Knowing exactly who you’re buying for, gift ideas, and assigning them dollar amounts in advance will help you be prepared, especially to avoid splurging come Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”
The Palmers also suggest buying in bulk to help lessen expenses and sticking to your budget. “Head to Sam’s Club or Costco to buy gift cards in bulk,” they say. “You can purchase them at a significant discount for gift giving or for your own personal shopping needs during the holiday season.”
10. Rack Up Your Credit Cards Rewards
Woroch advises using rewards to cover last-minute purchases. “Make sure you’re getting something back for your purchases by using a reward card and opt in for any bonus categories,” she says. “Earn even more rewards by offering to cover a group dinner, group gift, or pick up Uber/Lyft rides — your friends can pay you back using a payment app like Zelle, which lets people send money from bank-to-bank within minutes.” She says you can then use these rewards to cover last-minute gifts, redeem them for gift cards to give as gifts, or gift your earned miles.
11. Put Unused Points Toward Flights Or Hotels
Scarlett suggests checking your frequent flier miles, too. “Take advantage of your unused points to get flights or hotel stays for the holidays,” she says. “Some credit cards will even get you special rates on rooms and upgrades, and a points-purchased business class flight could even be a gift to yourself for the holidays.”
12. Leave Your Credit Cards At Home
You may hear about people saving money by using cash-only when they go out, and it works. Credit Karma’s financial expert, Maizie Simpson, recommends it, too. “Credit Karma found that nearly 40 percent of Americans are most likely to use credit cards to do their holiday shopping,” she tells Bustle. “To help yourself from overspending, carry only cash to spend; that way, each time you go to pay for something, you’ll have to pull out real paper money and watch it go into the register.” She says there’s something more tangible about spending with cash, and it may just make you think twice before spending.
Pamela Yellen, bestselling author, financial security expert, and founder of Bank On Yourself, agrees — but with a twist. “While some financial advisors tell you to leave your cards at home to avoid temptation, I prefer to wrap my cards in my goals,” she tells Bustle. “Every time I take a card out, I see a picture or some words that represent a goal that’s important to me, i.e., saving for ‘x.’ I get the opportunity to stop and decide whether what I’m about to purchase is more important than that goal.” She says that if it is, or it doesn’t undermine her goal, she might go ahead and buy it. “But if it isn’t, I get the satisfaction of knowing I’m a step closer to my goal because I chose to not purchase the item,” she says.
13. Use Money-Saving Apps
There are a ton of apps out there that help you budget and save money. For instance, Mint helps track your spending, as well as your earnings and savings. And the more accounts you link to Mint, the more it can help you figure out where your money’s going and tell you when you’re overspending.
Charlie is also helpful when it comes to saving and managing your money. He’s a penguin, aka AI assistant, that helps people save more money, cut bills, take control of debt, avoid fees — and he even speaks GIF. You can set savings goals, make budgets for different categories, like “eating out,” and find ways to cut down bills or cancel reoccurring fees.
As you can see, there are many last-minute ways to save money in time for the holidays. The suggestions above will probably give you even more ideas, too, and you should start seeing your savings grow in no time.