The days are getting darker, the leaves are falling off the trees, and all of a sudden it feels like the holidays are just around the corner. If the holidays sneak up you on every year and you end up spending January and February paying off your lingering credit card balance, it’s time to do a little prep work.
Don’t worry, it’s not too late to actually save for your holiday presents and plans. Here are six ways to help you save, starting today:
1. Keep it separate
As you’re saving up for the holidays, open a separate savings account specifically for your holiday spending. It may seem ridiculous to have a savings account dedicated just to holiday spending, but it’s not! It’s a great way to keep your money organized and keep you from starting off 2019 with a credit card hangover.
When picking a savings account make sure there are no fees and no minimum balance requirements. You want to keep every dollar that you’re working hard to save.
2. Give something up
This is by far my favorite way to save for something without it feeling like a total drag. Whenever I need to save a little extra for a short period of time, I challenge myself to give something up.
Recently, my family was heading on a big vacation and we wanted to have a little extra spending money for splurges on the trip. The month before leaving my husband and I gave ourselves the challenge of not eating out. We made it fun by trying new recipes, hosting game night, and finding new things we could make on a busy weeknight in a pinch. It was so rewarding knowing that every meal we didn’t eat out meant we could put that extra money towards our vacation.
Try giving up one thing that you regularly spend money on. You could give up eating out, you could bring your lunch to work every day, or you could cut out buying coffee. Give it up for a month (or more!) before the holidays and you might be surprised just how much extra you can save.
3. Make a little extra cash
If you’re starting to save for the holidays a little later than you had hoped, you may need to give your savings a boost by bringing in some extra cash. I know, I know. You’re already swamped. How can you possibly find the time to make a little more?
Pick one thing that you can do without a lot of heavy lifting. Try offering dog sitting services to a family who is going out of town over the holidays. Or earn a few dollars a day by filling out surveys from Survey Junkie while you’re waiting in line. You can even offer to babysit for other busy parents who are searching for childcare to help with their holiday plans.
Even just a little extra cash can help keep you from going into debt buying presents.
4. Sell things
This pre-holiday period is the perfect time to clean out some unwanted items from your home and collect a little cash in the process. Pick a few hours to tackle an area of your home that has a lot of unwanted items (think: clothes, books, and kids toys). As you’re putting things in the “to sell” pile, snap some quick photos. Then list them for sale anywhere: eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, or even Amazon.
A few months ago, my husband and I went through our apartment and made a pile of a few things to sell. We sold clothes and accessories on eBay and sold our books (including old college textbooks) on Amazon. We even sold a houseplant on Craigslist. Within a week we had gotten rid of unwanted things and made a few hundred dollars to put towards our holiday spending.
Have things that didn’t sell? You can take them down to a local charity that would love to have your items. Win-win.
5. Collect spare change
Don’t worry, it’s not time to check the couch cushions. Get a little more high-tech and try an app to help you save a little more. My absolute favorite app to use is Qapital. It lets you set different rules and then will funnel money automatically from your checking account into a savings account.
Try setting a rule that for each purchase you make with your debit card, Qapital will round-up to the nearest whole dollar and deposit that money into a savings account. Did you grab a latte for $3.10? Qapital will put $0.90 into your savings account automatically. The app is free to use and will make saving automatic and painless.
Another app that offers the roundup feature is Digit. They do charge $2.99 per month, but the first 30 days are free. Take advantage of the free trial as you save for the holidays.
6. Start again in January
If the holidays left you stretched a little thin or you would have loved to spend just a bit more on gifts for your loved ones, start your planning early. It’s easy to put off saving — the holidays won’t roll around for another 12 months, after all. But while you’re still riding high on that holiday cheer, get your savings started now. With just a little effort you could have your holiday savings for 2019 done by the time spring rolls around.