5 Tips for Saving Before the Holidays

By Lila Quintiliani, AFC®

Military Saves Assistant Coordinator

The holidays are getting closer, we just spent a fortune at the garage, and we are about to have some work done on our roof.  Money is tight, so I am trying to save everywhere I can.  Here are my personal top tips for saving:

1.    Eat at Home (or Bag Your Lunch) – Yes, it’s a pain to plan meals, to cook them and then clean them up, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, Americans, on average, spent over $2600 a year on eating out.  And a survey of American workers found that half of Americans buy coffee every day, spending an average of $1092 per year (over $5 a day!).  A full two thirds buy lunch every day, spending over $1900 per year on lunches out.  A bonus is that preparing your own food is generally healthier (you control the salts and oil) and you know exactly what’s in it.
2.    Delay Gratification – My daughter really wanted an iPod Touch.  So she saved her allowance, her birthday gift cards, and even the money that the tooth fairy gave her.  When she had saved up enough, we ordered it from the Apple store. I’m doing the same thing…saving up so that I can buy a gadget as a gift for my husband.  (I won’t mention what it is, because he does read this column occasionally!)  I could just put it on a credit card and be done with it, but I would prefer to pay for it in full rather than face a huge post-holiday credit card bill.
3.    Don’t Replace or Buy New Unless You Absolutely Have To – I have a toaster oven that I don’t really like, but it works.  It’s fully functional, so even though I have thought about getting a shiny new toaster, I have managed to talk myself out of it for almost two years.  The movers dropped it and dented it, and I sort of thought (hoped) that might affect its performance, but it took the proverbial licking and kept on ticking.  So I will have this toaster until it dies a natural death.  Yes, to replace that toaster would only be $50 or so, but if I did this with all the other contraptions that have annoyed me recently (a coffee pot and vacuum come to mind), I would have spent an additional, and unnecessary, $90 and $200 respectively.  Add that together and I would have most of a $500-$1000 emergency fund.
4.    Practice “Selective Deprivation” – My hair should have been cut a couple of weeks ago, but haircuts are expensive, so I have purposely dragged my feet getting it done.  I’m out of the fancy organic body butter I like, but I found a bottle of lotion under the sink that I will make do with for the time being.  I bought the brand of ground coffee that was on sale rather than the much more expensive brand I usually like.  No, I’m not giving up any of these things permanently, but it won’t hurt me to do without for a bit.  And I find I actually end up appreciating the “good stuff” more if I haven’t had it in a while.
5.    Don’t Shop if You Aren’t Planning on Buying – Window shopping is a bad past time if you are trying to save money.   I don’t wander the mall, and I try to go to the big box retailers with a specific shopping list in hand.  One place I really need to watch myself, though, is online.  Retailers that I have bought from in the past will often send me coupons or emails with specials that are very tempting.  So I try to resist a deal, even if it’s a really good deal, if I don’t need something.  Oh, and the free shipping when you spend a certain amount deals is a way for the retailers to get you to tack on items to your order.  See if you can get an item shipped to store or wait for truly free shipping (many stores have “Free Shipping Day” on December 17).

By following these practices, I’m hoping to save some cash and make my holidays less stressful.  Take the Military Saves Pledge today and get even more tips and strategies for saving!

For more information:
Savings Tips (Military Saves)
Saving on a Tight Budget (Military Saves)
Savings Tips (Feedthepig.org)