Americans spent an average of $646 on Christmas gifts last year, according to a study by the American Research Group But this year’s season of giving doesn’t have to break the bank.
With some careful preparation, you could get a jump on that holiday cash now. In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson shares six ways to save $500 by Christmas and take a sizable chunk out of holiday spending without having to make major sacrifices in the process. Check it out and then read on for 24 more ways you can save.
Now, I’ll hash out the details on Stacy’s ways to save and give you a whole bunch more…
1. Lower your cell phone plan
Most cell phone plans break down into wireless minutes, data, and texting. If you’re not using all of your minutes every month, or surfing the Web that often, call up your wireless provider and lower your plan. That could save you $20 or more every month, or $60 by Christmas.
2. Cut the landline
If you have a cell phone and a landline, you’re paying for two services that do the same thing. And most wireless plans offer free long-distance and unlimited night and weekend minutes, something not all landline providers offer. Cancel your landline and save $25 to $50 every month, or $75 to $150 by Christmas.
3. Drop the gym membership
I was one of those people who paid $24.99 for a gym membership every month and made it in about twice a week. Last year, I canceled my membership. Now I run with my dog and lift free weights at home. I’m still in shape, and I’m $24.99 richer every month. Cancel your gym membership and you could save $20 to $35 a month, or $60 to $105 by Christmas.
4. Raise your deductibles
Raising your deductibles won’t change your quality of life, but may have a big impact on your savings. Going from a $250 deductible to $1,000 on your car and home policies could mean savings of 10 percent or more. Think about how much of a loss you’re willing to self-insure and call your insurance agent.
Your potential Christmas savings: $250 or more.
5. Cancel the premium channels
Premium cable channels cost about $12 a month and mostly run old movies and documentaries you didn’t have any real interest in watching anyway. So why keep them? Cancel all three subscriptions and you’ll save $36 a month or $108 by Christmas.
And if you’re saying to yourself, “But I need True Blood,” just do what I do. Find a friend who still has their costly cable package and watch it at their house.
Want to save a lot more? Stop paying for cable entirely.
6. Sell your stuff
Once a year, I take inventory of my stuff, toss everything I don’t use in a pile, and sell it. Last year, I made $475, mostly on stuff I didn’t even remember I had.
Odds are, you’ve got something of value lying around the house. Throw a garage sale or sell it online on sites like eBay and Craigslist, and you could earn enough to buy a few Christmas presents. Check out 13 Tips for a Super Yard Sale and 5 Best Websites for Turning Junk Into Cash for tips on maximizing your profits.
7. Save on food
The Internet is full of tips to help you save money on your grocery bills. Some may be obvious – like using coupons, buying on sale, or choosing generic – but some might surprise you. For example, did you know you could save up to 50 percent by buying dented cans at a salvage grocery store? Check out 30 Tips to Save on Food for more ideas.
Cut your food bill and you could save $300 or more by Christmas.
Ask and you may receive – lower prices, that is. A study by Consumer Reports found that those who asked for a discount got it up to 83 percent of the time. You can haggle your way into a better deal on everything from your wireless bill to a hotel room. Start negotiating, and you could save $500 or more by Christmas.
Not sure how to haggle? Check out Confessions of a Serial Haggler for help.
9. Give the plastic a rest
Try keeping your credit cards at home and paying for everything with cash. Cash helps you save in two ways – first, it’s psychologically harder to spend, and second, it limits your ability to indulge in impulse buys. It might even help your diet. Check out Fast Way to Lose Weight? Lighten up on Credit Cards.
How much you’ll save will depend on how much you typically spend, but you could save $250 or more by Christmas.
10. Skip the ATM fees
In my area, using an out-of-network ATM costs about $3. Then my bank adds a $2.50 “convenience fee.” If I did that once a week, I’d spend $22 a month on ATM fees alone.
If you can’t make it to a free ATM, use your debit card at a store and get no-fee cash back. Potential savings: $22 a month, or $66 by Christmas.
11. Cut out texting fees
If you don’t text often, make sure you’re not being charged a monthly fee for bundled or unlimited texting. If you’re paying $10 a month for unlimited texting and don’t need it, cancel it and save $30 by Christmas. However, if you do text a lot, make sure you have a plan to cover it. It can cost $0.40 or more per message if it’s not included in your plan.
12. Use discounted gift cards
If you’re buying something for yourself – or starting your Christmas shopping early – use discounted gift cards. You can buy them online and automatically save on anything you buy. Check out these sites for gift card deals:
- Plastic Jungle
Your potential savings: $35 and up.
13. Stop buying bottled water
ABC’s 20/20 asked scientists to analyze five different brands of bottled water. The scientists found no difference between what was in the bottle and what came out of the tap in New York. Buying bottled water is a waste of money. If you usually buy five bottles a week at $1 a bottle, you could save $20 a month, or $60 by Christmas.
14. Drop the lottery ticket habit
If you’re buying lottery tickets hoping to win big bucks by Christmas, the odds aren’t in your favor. You’re better off cutting out the lottery tickets and saving that money instead.
15. Close the book on hardcovers
After comparing a few recent releases on Amazon.com, I found that the hardcover edition is about $9 more than the paperback. If you typically buy two hardcover books a month, you could save $18 by switching to paperback. By Christmas, you’d save $54.
Better yet, stop buying books altogether. Join a library, or swap books you no longer want for ones you do on book swapping sites. Check out the 4 Best Sites for Trading in Your Old Books for a list.
16. Ditch DVDs
At one time I owned more than 500 DVDs. They mostly just took up space in my house and made my wallet lighter. I haven’t bought a new DVD in years. I stream all of my content now.
If you’re still buying DVDs, even one a month can cost $18. Cut them out until the holiday season, and you’ll save $54 by Christmas. In the meantime, check out these sites for free movies you can watch online:
- YouTube – has a section of free movie rentals
17. Do your own manicures
My mom spends $50 a month having her nails professionally manicured. Sure, they look a little better than mine, but I save $50 a month doing my own manicures at home. Cancel the manicure appointments, and you could save $150 by Christmas.
18. Pack your lunch
A survey by the placement firm Accounting Principals found that 66 percent of American workers spend an average of $167 a month on restaurant lunches. Start brown-bagging everyday and you could easily slash your lunch bill by 50 percent, saving $83.50 a month, or $250.50 by Christmas.
Check out The $200,000 Lunch for tips on packing a cheap meal, along with some incentive to get you started.
19. Send e-cards
I’m a little horrified by the cost of greeting cards. The last three I bought cost $3.50 a piece (and they were the cheaper ones). If you buy three greeting cards a month, you’ll spend $10.50. Make your own, or send e-cards instead, and you could save $31.50 by Christmas. Check out these sites for free e-cards:
- Blue Mountain
20. Make your own Halloween costume
Halloween is just around the corner. The average American will spend $26.52 on a costume. But with a little creativity, you could save that money and make your own costume free at home. Here are a few ideas almost anyone can pull together using what they already own:
- Hot Air Ballooner
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Evil Queen
21. Brew your own coffee
In my area, a Grande cup of fancy coffee at Starbucks costs about $3.50. If you’re in the habit of stopping by every day before work, you’ll spend $17.50 a week. Start making your coffee at home and you’ll save more than 50 percent, even if you load up on creamer.
Potential savings by Christmas: $65
22. Wash your car at home
Express car washes cost an average of $6.50 each. If you have your car professionally washed, you could spend $20 or more. Do that twice a month, and you’ll spend $13 to $40 a month keeping your car clean.
Instead, wash your car at home and save $39 to $120 by Christmas.
23. Cancel the cleaning service
A friend of mine has his house professionally cleaned once a week because he swears he doesn’t have the time to do it himself. I have even less free time than he does, and I still manage to clean my house myself. I’ve found I actually enjoy cleaning, and I save $90 a month compared to his costs.
Cancel the cleaning service, and you’ll save $270 or more by Christmas.
24. Curb laundry costs
Laundry detergent costs about $0.20 per load. Considering that the California Energy Commission says the average American family does about 400 loads of laundry a year, you spend about $6.60 a month – just on soap.
If you really wanted to save money on laundry detergent, you could start making your own. It will save you up to 90 percent and we’ve got the recipe in Make Your Own Detergent and 20 Other Tips to Save on Laundry.
25. Buy cheap beer
Where I live, you’ll pay about $8.99 for a decent domestic six-pack. Buy one a week, and you’ll spend $35.96 a month on beer (obviously, a lot more if you stop by a bar for your spirits). But you can cut your costs by going online. Sites like Saveonbrew.com help you find cheap beer in your area. Check out 5 Tips to Save on Beer for more.
If you cut your monthly $35.96 spending by 25 percent, you’d save $8.99 a month, or $26.97 by Christmas.
26. Be your own handyman
Everyone I know has some home improvement job on their to-do list. If you plan to finish one of yours by the holidays, you’ll save a ton doing it yourself. For example, a contractor recently offered to strip the wallpaper in three rooms of my friend’s house for $200. She did it herself free.
Even if you’re not that handy, the Internet can teach you how to do just about anything. Check out:
- The Home Depot Project How-To
- Lowe’s How-To Projects
- This Old House
Then read 23 Ways to Lower the Cost of Home Improvement for even more savings tips.
27. Dine out on a discount
You don’t have to give up dining out to save money for Christmas, but don’t go out without a coupon, special deal, or cheap gift certificate in hand. We give you a bunch of ways to eat for less in 15 Ways to Save on Eating Out, like:
- Pick up $25 gift certificates for $10 on Restaurant.com
- Become Facebook friends with restaurants to see special deals
- Snag coupons through sites like Groupon and LivingSocial
28. Buy generic
In 7 Things You Should Always Buy Generic, Stacy found generic versions are often 50 percent less than their name-brand counterparts. If you usually spend $45 a month on household necessities, you could save $22.50 a month by switching to the generic brand. By Christmas, you’d have an extra $67.50.
29. Make your own cleaning products
A bottle of all-purpose cleaner can cost anywhere from $3.50 to $6 depending on the brand you buy. Go through one bottle a month, and you’d spend $10.50 to $18 by Christmas.
Or you could start making your own all-purpose cleaner and save more than 90 percent. Just pick up a bottle of white vinegar (about $1.50 for a half gallon in my area), and mix it in a spray bottle with some water. You’ve got an instant cleaner that works anywhere in your house.
30. Save on smokes
If you’re still smoking, now is probably a good time to quit, but you can at least save some money on the cigarettes you do buy between now and the holiday season. We’ve got tips to help you do so in 6 Ways to Save on Cigarettes, like:
- Buy cartons for an average discount of $15 on 10 packs
- Buy on Indian reservations for tax-free savings
- Stock up on two-pack discounts
Those 30 tips will easily net you at least $500 by Christmas. Have any of your own ways to add? Sound off on our Facebook page and let us know.