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Lots of us make it our New Year’s Resolution to save money. But why wait? Start now with these 14 ways to save $1K a month.
It’s Not Crazy
It might seem crazy to try to save money just as we’re coming into the holiday season. How can we save money when we have to travel, buy gifts, throw and attend parties, cook huge feasts? It can be done though.
We will show you 14 ways to save $100 by December 31 that include holiday saving ideas and ideas you can use to save money any time of year.
Sound good? Great, let’s get saving.
1. The Usual Suspect
You spend too much on food. I know you do because everyone does. I spend a fortune on it partly because I live in one of the world’s great food cities and partly because I eat Paleo which is not exactly the cheapest diet. I can’t rely on those cheap fillers like pasta, rice, and beans.
You might spend too much on food for the same reasons or maybe you hate to cook so eat out a lot, or never get up in time to pack a lunch or buy food that you don’t eat before it goes bad and has to be thrown away.
Whatever the reason, we spend too much on food. When people find out what I do for a living, they often ask me what is the easiest way to save money and my answer is always “Look at your food budget.” Food is a necessity so a lot of people don’t pay attention to how much they’re spending. They’ve got to eat so they’ve got to spend money on food.
Declare a moratorium on going out to dinner for the month of November, bring your lunch, even if it’s a hastily assembled peanut butter sandwich, take advantage of all the free food at parties in the month of December.
2. Never Pay Full Price
At Frugal For Less, we know you almost never have to pay full price. We also know that some people are nearly impossible to buy presents for. That’s why gift cards are such a great present and why buying them at Cardpool or Raise is such a great idea.
Those sites sell gift cards from hundreds of stores, restaurants, and online shopping sites so you can find something for everyone. They also sell those gift cards at a discount. Never pay full price!
If you get some gift cards you don’t want or just need some quick cash, you can sell them on those sites too.
3. Never Pay Full Price Part II
Whatever you need to buy that isn’t an everyday thing like groceries or drugstore items (you can save on those with couponing Apps we’ll mention below), try to find a coupon or coupon code for it. It’s easy and takes no time at all.
Just enter the name of the item you want to buy or the store you want to buy it from into Google followed by the word “Coupon,” “Coupon Code,” or “Discount.” You’ll be amazed at what you find and how much doing this will save you. Stores and manufacturers are always offering discounts so again, never pay full price!
4. Use a Portal
Not only will you be able to shop from the comfort of your own home while saving money, but you can have the gifts send directly to the recipient (if you trust them not to open them early) and not have to drag them along on your holiday travels or worse, stand on line at the Post Office to ship them yourself.
5. Use the Right Card
If you use the right credit card, you can make life a little cheaper. If you don’t have one (and don’t have a problem using credit cards in a responsible way) go to Credit Sesame and see what cash back credit cards are out there.
Some let you save a flat percentage on any spending and some have revolving categories meaning you save a certain percentage (usually higher than the percentage you can save with a flat percentage cash back card) on specific categories each quarter.
Based on your credit score (which you can get for free) Credit Karma will show you which cards you’re likely to be approved for.
6. Book Early, But Not Too Early
Traveling during the holidays is stressful and expensive. And for the same reason, because everyone else is traveling at the same time. We can’t do much to help you with the crowds but we can help you with the expense!
There are all kinds of theories about when is best to book air travel; Tuesdays at midnight, when the moon is in the seventh house, when Mercury is in retrograde. But a theory that most experts agree on is to book your plane tickets six weeks before your travel date.
That doesn’t give you much time to book for Thanksgiving travel and a few weeks to book those Christmas flights.
My favorite tool to browse flights is Google Flights. It’s especially useful for those who have some flexibility on their travel dates because it shows flight prices on the dates you selected and the dates close to it which are cheaper.
7. Don’t Wait Until the Zero Hour
When you wait to the last minute to do something, it usually ends up costing you more money. I recently learned this the hard way. I knew full well my Passport was expiring in April 2018 but I didn’t have any plans to travel internationally until maybe the summer 0f 2019 so I didn’t bother to renew it.
Then a friend invited me to attend a conference with her in Cannes so we could make a trip out of it and go to Paris and Nice too. Whoo! I was so excited. The problem was, I got this glorious opportunity five weeks before we were leaving.
That means I was already going to have to pay extra to expedite my Passport renewal but it was so close that I was too nervous to go directly through the regular channel. So I ended up paying a bloody fortune to a Passport expediting service to make sure I have the thing in time.
Don’t wait until the last minute to start your holiday shopping. There is still plenty of time to chase down good bargains, on December 24th, not so much. If you do most of your shopping online, you still have plenty of time for the gifts to be shipped and arrive on time without paying extra.
And sometimes paying extra for last minute shipping doesn’t even work. Last year there were a lot of disappointed families who had paid extra but the delivery companies were simply overwhelmed by the volume and didn’t hire enough temporary help to accommodate the deluge.
8. No Gifts for Grown Ups
Do you really want another coffee mug, Christmas tree ornament, or a pair of ugly pajamas? Of course, you don’t. Neither do any of your friends or family members. Agree among yourselves not to exchange gifts this year.
Christmas is for kids and you’ll have a riot on your hands if the kids don’t get gifts but the adults don’t care.
9. Pare It Down
Some people approach the holidays like “Go big or go home!” Elaborate decorations, huge dinners, tons of gifts for everyone. If you’re all about the holidays and you eagerly await this time of year precisely so you can go all out, we don’t want to put a damper on your fun but going all in costs a lot of money.
If you want to save $1000 by December 31, you’ll need to pare it down. Decorate your heart out, but use the decorations you already have (and we know you have a ton!), no adding to your collection no matter how funny that inflatable Santa poking his head out the door of an outhouse decoration is. (This actually exists, I have a picture of it should you require proof).
Have a dinner but don’t cook 37 dishes, no one can eat that much food even if they only have a spoonful of each dish. If guests offer to bring a dish, let them!
Giving presents is fun, especially giving gifts to kids. But you know that a lot of those gifts, especially the toys, will be forgotten in the bottom of the toy box after just a few weeks. If you just love the idea of a huge pile of gifts under the tree, buy two or three “bigger” gifts and a lot of little gifts from the Dollar Store, thrift store, or a yard sale.
10. You Could Use a Trim
As a personal finance writer, I have used and reviewed a lot of sites and Apps that claim to save you money. Some of them are better than others and some aren’t worth the hassle. But my all-time favorite money-saving app is Trim.
Trim goes through your banking and credit card transactions and looks for recurring monthly charges, things like subscription boxes and services like Spotify and Audible. When it spots such a charge, Trim will send you a message asking if you want to cancel that service.
Why would you want to? Well, maybe you forgot you had signed up, maybe you don’t use it enough to make it worth your money, or maybe you’re just looking to save some money.
Whatever the reason, if you want to cancel, Trim will take care of it for you. Even better, the service is free! Give Trim a try, you’re sure to love it too.
11. Get a Better Deal
You could probably get a better price on things like your auto, home owner’s, and renter’s insurance, cable, and cell phone bills. The companies that provide these services have a lot of competition and because of that, they’re always running offers to woo one another’s customers away.
Take a look at some comparison sites and see what deals are out there. Armed with that information, call up your providers and tell them you want them to give you a better deal or you’ll jump ship.
I did this last year with my cell phone company and got my bill reduced by about $20 a month.
12. Nuclear Budgeting
There isn’t a budgeting system out there you haven’t tried, Mint, You Need a Budget, Personal Capital. And despite the fact that those are all great budgeting tools, they have one thing in common, they can’t stop you from spending money.
You can see that you’re close to being over your Entertainment budget for the month but it’s not like Mint freezes your debit and credit cards once you reach it.
If that sounds familiar, you can use the nuclear budgeting method, the envelope system. It works like this, you set a dollar limit for each of your discretionary spending categories, “Food,” “Entertainment,” “Clothing,” etc. You take out enough money, cash money, to cover the budgeted amount for each and put it inside a regular old white envelope with the category marked on the front.
When an envelope is empty, you’re done spending in that category for the month, whether it’s the 2nd or the 30th.
Well, what’s to stop you from just taking out more cash or charging stuff on your credit cards. Nothing really but the envelope method has an important psychological component. To our lizard brains, swiping a card doesn’t really register as spending money the same way handing over cash does. You see the supply in each envelope dwindling and it helps you control your spending.
If that still doesn’t work, hand your cards over to a trusted friend or family member.
I don’t love the envelope method as a long-term solution. There are certain protections you have when you spend money on a credit card and even a debit card that you don’t have when you spend cash. And if you were to lose an envelope or it was to be stolen, that cash is gone and you have no recourse unlike losing or having a debit or credit card stolen.
But the envelope method works and can train you to stay on budget. Once you stop overspending, you can ditch the envelopes.
13. Leave Home Without It
Almost every time you leave your house, you spend money. Don’t believe me? Monitor it. On the way home from work you passed the supermarket and remembered you needed to buy bread so you went in and of course, came out with a lot more than just some bread.
You’re out for a walk and pass by a new coffee shop. You want to support a new, local business so you pop in for a coffee and a pastry while you’re at it. You’re at the gym so why not compound your healthy behavior by drinking an $8 freshly pressed juice?
If you’re going out and not for a specific money spending purpose like going food shopping or to pick up your dry cleaning, leave your debit and credit cards at home.
What? That’s crazy! What if you have an emergency?
You won’t. And if you do, surely you can call someone to bring you your wallet or read your credit card number to you over the phone or you can borrow $20 from a coworker.
I’m not saying take a 200-mile road trip with no way to pay for anything. That would be crazy and dangerous but if you’re just going to work or out and about locally, leave your money at home and see how much you save for the rest of the year.
14. Make it Automatic
Some of us have a tendency to spend whatever extra money we have. Sometimes it’s a little, sometimes it’s a lot (relatively), but whatever is there, it’s burning a hole in our pockets. So take it out of your pocket.
Rather than just saving whatever happens to be leftover at the end of the month, save it from the start. Set up an automatic transfer from each paycheck into your savings account the day your paycheck hits your checking account. That way, the money is out of sight and therefore out of mind before you get a chance to blow it.
How much is up to you. I don’t think it would be a hardship for most of us to save $50 from each paycheck towards our goal of saving $1000 by December 31st.
Just the Beginning
You did it, it’s December 31 and you saved $1000! Well done. And it wasn’t really that hard, was it? So why don’t you keep it up? If you saved $1000 in a couple of months, imagine how much you can save in a whole year!
Because saving money isn’t something you should just try to do around the holidays, it should be a 365 day a year goal. Happy saving!