The holidays are right around the corner, which is exciting but may also make you nervous, at least financially speaking. Though you may be looking forward to spending time with family and friends during the holidays, as well as having time off, it may also cost you — monetarily. However, within the next few weeks, there are some easy ways you can save money for holiday gifts.
After all, a lot of us end up spending more than we anticipated. Bank of America survey of customers’ spending behavior looked at data from more than 50 million active credit and debit cards. They found that consumers who made a retail purchase last holiday season spent an average of $1,143.
If you find yourself in need of some quick cash for holiday spending and didn’t save up as much as you’d hoped, it’s not too late. “Most people would benefit from boosting their budget by making some extra cash this holiday season,” 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 and get 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!”
Woroch also says that another way to save when it comes to holiday gifts is to rethink what you’re gifting. “People often feel they have to give the biggest, most expensive gifts during the holidays, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give a meaningful gift,” she says. An easy way to spend less, she says, is by thinking beyond store-bought gifts and getting creative by making or baking something.
Below, Woroch and other money experts share some easy ways to save up some last-minute cash before the holidays.
1. Put Holiday Money Into A Separate Account
Just like you probably had a piggy bank as a child to save up for something special, a great way to save for last-minute expenses is by having a separate bank account — or even a jar at your house. Robyn Goldfarb, founder of personal finance blog ADimeSaved.com, tells Bustle that you can also use an envelope as your piggy bank. “Take saved money and put it into your envelope immediately so it doesn’t accidentally get spent,” she says.
If you are going the savings account route, that works, too. “Create a separate savings account for holiday-related expenses, like travel and gifts,” Emily G. Stroud, financial planner, entrepreneur, and author, tells Bustle. “Then, add a certain amount to the savings account on a regular basis.” Some people who put their spare change or dollars into a jar every night after work. And, as Woroch says above, every little bit counts.
2. Look At Your Bank Statement And Money Apps
Regularly look at your bank statement and money apps, like Mint, to see where your money’s going. See where most of your money went last month (entertainment? food? shopping?) and then, from now until the holidays, make an effort to eliminate or greatly reduce spending in those categories and put that same amount of money into your holiday fund instead.
3. Only Carry Cash
From today on, try using only cash when you go out, whether it’s to buy groceries or a last-minute gift for someone. That way, if you take out a set amount from the ATM, you'll only use that. You’ll quickly get an idea of what kinds of things you may be overspending on and may decide not to purchase it after all. Then put that extra money into your holiday fund.
Credit Karma’s financial expert, Maizie Simpson, recommends using cash-only, 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 doing this may make you think twice before making purchases.
4. Sell Some Of Your Things
You probably have some things you no longer need, like heavy winter sweaters if you now live in L.A. or a juicer you’ve only used once. These days, it’s so easy to sell things instantaneously via various websites and apps, and the money can go toward your holiday fund.
“Get organized and sell what you don’t need,” Kevin Gallegos, consumer finance expert and senior vice president of client enrollment for Freedom Debt Relief, tells Bustle. “Clean out the garage, attic, basement, closets, and drawers, and then go to work on eBay or Craigslist, or hold a yard sale.”
Woroch also suggests selling items using Facebook Marketplace. “You can deal with local community members and avoid the hassle of shipping and extra fees,” she says. In addition, she says you can use 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/or kids’ clothing that they sell for you.
5. Drink In, Instead Of Out
One quick way to have more money in your wallet is by not drinking when you go out. Honestly, no one will know the difference if you’re sipping on a tonic water or vodka tonic, and the former is much cheaper, of course. Or, you can just drink water (which is free!).
Bakke says a spin on this is having friends come over to watch a movie or sporting event and drinking at home. “Have a few [drinks] there instead of wasting money at bars,” he says.
6. Don’t Eat Out (Until After The Holidays)
“[E]liminate eating out,” Bakke says. “You can pack up some of last night’s leftovers for your lunch break at work, and cook at home on the weekends instead of going to restaurants.”
Adrian Nazari, personal finance expert and CEO/founder of Credit Sesame, agrees. “Skip eating out at restaurants or ordering takeout — you can save $20 or more each time you do,” he tells Bustle. “Also, commit to making your coffee at home until after the holidays — you’ll be shocked to see how much of your paycheck was going towards your morning lattes each week.”
When you think about it, the above ideas can save you a lot of money this next month, since every $10-15 lunch and more-than-$10-15 dinner adds up! Instead, put this money into your holiday fund every day and you’ll see it grow in no time.
“Eating in isn’t fresh and new advice, but given the financial upside, it bears repeating,” Gallegos says. “In just one month, spending $60 a week on dining out adds up to $240.”
7. Be More Mindful When Grocery Shopping
From now until the holidays, you can also curb what you buy at the grocery store. “Cut back on small, everyday expenses that add up quickly,” Nazari says. “[T]ry to avoid buying non-essential items.” He also suggests trying to cut your grocery bill by a set amount each trip, such as $20-30 (or whatever works best for you).
In addition, you can try switching up the store you go to. Then, you can compare your new grocery store bill to your past ones (i.e., check your bank or credit card statement) and put the money you saved into your holiday fund.
Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet, tells Bustle that you can also use a cash back card. “That way, you are earning at least one percent on all of your purchases and it can help stretch your budget.”
8. Use Money Apps And Websites When Shopping
9. Set Up An Autopay
Setting up automatic transfers these next few weeks before the holidays can help you save, too. Plus, you can automatically transfer some of the money from above— i.e., if you were spending $200 on takeout a week, don’t — instead, autopay yourself from your checking to your savings. If you do that for other things, too, like drinks with friends, you’ll have plenty of extra money come the holidays.
“Set up automatic transfers from your checking account,” Nazari. “Treat savings like a bill to pay — the difference between this bill and any other is that when you save, you’re actually paying your future self.”
10. Cut Back On A Vice
To save more money until the holidays, Gallegos suggests cutting back on a vice (or two). “Get a head start on New Year’s resolutions,” he says. “One restaurant cocktail can run $10 or more, cigarettes cost about $7.25 a pack, a latte can run $5 at a café, and other vice prices vary, but you get the idea.”
11. Before You Buy Something, Consider If You Can Make It
Sometimes, you may be able to make your own version of a gift you see in a store. For instance, gift baskets are often a popular holiday present, but you may be able to create your own. “They can get expensive when you buy pre-assembled options from retailers,” Woroch says. “Instead, make your own by picking up an inexpensive basket from a dollar store and fill it with your loved one’s favorite little treats.” She suggests shopping the dollar bins at Target and Michaels to find cute crafts and stationery, and shopping a discount retailer like Home Goods or TJ Maxx to pick up gourmet treats, candles, or lotions.
As you can see, you still have time to try out the money-saving-for-holidays ways above. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be so impressed with how much you save that you’ll make a financial New Year’s resolution to continue the above money-saving habits.