It's kinda crazy how, every year, many of us will tell ourselves that we won't overspend on the holidays the next year—only to turn around and rinse and repeat. Well, after a year like 2020 (whew chile), if there was ever a time when counting our pennies and making them stretch mattered, this would have to be it.
I know we're down to the wire when it comes to just how close we are to Christmas. Still, believe it or not, you can save a good little chunk of change leading into it. All you've got to do is apply at least 3-5 of the money-saving hacks that I'm about to share and you could find yourself easily pocketing $500 by December 25th. No joke.
1. Get a Side Gig
Back before Upwork decided to up and charge folks (aside from the huge percentage that they already take out of the gigs that you get on their site), I made some pretty good extra money on their site. It was cool to know that if I had a bill coming up, I could pitch my portfolio to a client who was in need of some last-minute work and get paid by the end of the week. While more times than not, the money wasn't super mind-blowing, it was steady and I could easily make $750-1000 a month. So yeah, out of all of the tips that I'm about to share on how to accumulate $500 over the next few weeks, probably the most obvious one is to consider getting a part-time job or getting in some contract work between now and ho-ho-ho day. If you need a little bit of inspiration, Millennial Money Man has 40 side hustle ideas. You can check out the list here.
I remember once reading an article that stated fewer people are budgeting, even though they know that they should. And boy oh boy, should they. When it comes to this year specifically, if you take the pandemic, job losses, evictions, food shortages and the mass amount of folks who don't have any type of health insurance, those are reasons enough to be intentional about counting every coin—about making sure that you hold every penny accountable.
Back when I didn't budget at all, man, it really was a trip, just how much money I wasted. It was nothing to go into a store, thinking that I was going to spend ten bucks, only to end up spending 75 of 'em. That's because, when you're not paying attention to how you're using your money, you really can throw a lot of it down the drain on things that are, at the end of the day, pretty inconsequential. So yeah, if you want to keep a little more money in your pocket this Christmas, the first thing you should do is put a budget together. And listen, don't think that you've got to spend every coin once you've decided where it should go either. At least until the new year rolls around, consider only getting the things that you absolutely need while putting the rest into a savings account. Trust me, the "wants" will still be there in 2021. Get them when you can better afford them. Oh, and if you'd like to check out a few budgeting apps, you can do so right here.
3. Use Your Debit Card
This money-saving hack is one that I used to really underestimate yet trust me, when you apply it, it really does work. Instead of pulling cash out from an ATM, commit to using your debit card (not your credit card; if you wanna save money, you might wanna scale back using it too) instead. The reason why I say this is because, if you pull out $20, it's a lot easier to spend all of it rather than if you use your card, so that it only takes out the exact cost of the purchase. If you apply this tip to the budget point that I just made, you can end up saving, at least a $100-200 easily each month.
4. Get Generic Brands
Did you know that you can easily save 20-30 percent of the money that you currently spend by opting to purchase generic brands of items? What are some examples? Canned foods. Cleaning products. Vitamins. Pet food. Shampoo, soap and lotion. Baby formula (lawd, baby formula is high!). Bottled water. Baking supplies. Cereal. Gas.
For instance, say that you spend $150 every week at the grocery store. If you go the generic route on everything that I just mentioned, you could easily pocket $45. 45 times 4 weeks is 180 and 180 times 2 months is 360. $360 saved. See how easy that was?
5. Nix the Netflix
Netflix is like entertainment crack for a lot of folks. And just like a crack dealer, once it had subscribers good and hooked, they decided to increase the price. From what I've read, the standard plan is now $14 a month while the premium tiers are now $18. Cutting Netflix out altogether (at least for a little while) could give you $28-36 back. Hey, it might not seem like much but that will be an extra $50-60 dollars that you'll have to play with by the end of December.
While we're on this topic, if you've got a cable plan, temporarily disconnecting it could probably get you super close to $500 in two months too. My cable/internet package is $150 before taxes; taxes puts it at around $170. $170 times 2 is $340. Trust me, I have this conversation with myself, at least once a month (le sigh).
6. Skip the Nail Salon
I know a lot of folks are out here acting like we're not still in a pandemic (we are by the way) and so they're out here wilin' on the going out tip. That said, I personally don't think that there's anything wrong with getting your hair or nails done, so long as the salon that you go to follows proper COVID-19 protocol (appointment-setting to cut down on traffic, mask-wearing, etc.). What I will personally say is used to be an avid nail salon person. I would get powder put on my natural nails and then, there's no telling what kind of design I would get, every other week. That bill would easily be somewhere between $50-80 a pop. Then, if you added my pedicure into the mix, that was another $40 (before a tip). Now, since I'm not out in these streets, I've kept my nails alone and I only get a pedicure once a month. That's $100-160 back into my pocket. You might not wanna apply this personal saving hack, but it's just something to think about (check out "Uh, About That Salon Manicure. How To Treat Your Nails While You're Stuck At Home.").
7. Use Coupons
It's when I actually use coupons that I find myself mad-and-some-more-mad that I don't use them more often. Coupons at the grocery store have easily saved me $25 or so every visit and promo codes (like the ones on RetailMeNot's website)? Whew, don't even get me started on those. I actually read that, by using coupons regularly, we save ourselves $30-50 each week. 50 times 4 is 200. 200 times 2 is 400. $400. Just sayin'.
8. Don’t Eat Out (or Order Takeout)
I don't know about y'all, but I've had my fair share of takeout during this year. Something that comes into my mind, at least every fifth order, is an article I read about the fact that the average American spends a whopping $3,000 each year on going to restaurants or ordering food delivery. Three thousand bucks, y'all.
So, you already know what I'm gonna say. If you order takeout pretty frequently, you can easily save—looka here—$250 a month but opting to cook for yourself instead. It might be less convenient, but it can sho 'nuf put some real dollars into your pocket if you do it.
9. Fast from Alcohol
I think all of us enjoy a tall glass of something, every once in a while. At the same time, trips to the liquor store ain't all that cheap either. Why the site The Thrillist decided to go with Smirnoff and Grey Goose as the bottles they wanted to share the prices for across the country is beyond me, I'll just say that in my state, a bottle of Smirnoff is reportedly $11.09 per bottle while a bottle of Grey Goose is $25.39. As you can see, drinking can pull up quite a tab. So, if you're just at the point of clearing $400-450 or so, not purchasing alcohol until New Year's Eve is another way to reach your $500 goal.
10. Don’t Forget About the Sex Jar
A couple of years ago, I wrote the article, "5 Reasons Why Every Married Couple Needs A Sex Jar" and I still firmly stand by it. If you're skimming this article and don't have time to click on links, the gist is, every time you have sex with your partner, you put money into a jar. Then, at the end of every 3, 6, 9 or 12 months (the longer you wait, the better), you count up your collection and spend it on something that you both will enjoy. The real catch about this extremely fun money-saving approach is, the amount of coins that you collect is totally up to 1) how much sex you have and 2) how much money you put in. Yet just think—if you had sex, every day, from 11/15 until 12/20 and you each put two dollars into the jar, that's $100 right there. A series of orgasms and some extra money to spend on Christmas! Just something to think about, sis. #wink
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