It’s the beginning of November, and you know what that means. The Holidays are just around the corner. Hopefully, you’ve been saving throughout the year just so you’d be able to dish out a little extra this time around. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, Americans spent around $830 on average for various holiday-related purposes. These numbers went up considerably from the previous year’s average of just $720, a 15% increase. This statistic was at its highest ever since 2007, when the average holiday spending of Americans was $866. As of now, one in five Americans intend to spend between $500 and $999, whereas the average spending of American adults on Christmas would register an all-time high of around $908. Starting a savings plan early on gives you plenty of wiggle room and time to boost your budget. Just in case you haven’t been saving those pennies, we have a few suggestions for you.
1. Increase your automated savings.
If you’re in the habit of automatically moving a little bit of money to savings right after payday, then you’re already ahead of the game. For the holidays, increase the amount you automatically save – even if it’s only 10-15%. After a few months, it will add up.
2. Bring your lunch to work.
According to the American Enterprise Institute, Americans are increasing the amount of money they spend at restaurants. In 1992, a Retail Trade and Food Services report found that Americans spent around $162 at the grocery store for every $100 they spent at restaurants. However, in January 2015, for the first time ever, sales at restaurants ($50.475 billion) surpassed those at grocery stores ($50.466 billion.) A new report from the Wall Street Journal notes that Americans are spending more on dining out and according to Business Insider, millennials eat out more often than Gen X or Baby Boomers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate that Americans spend an average of about $250 in eating out each month. Bringing your lunch to work an extra one or two days a week can save you a minimum of $30 a week.
3. Look for sales, everywhere.
Most department stores and online retail marketplaces have year-long and seasonal sales. Don’t wait until the Christmas lights come out to start shopping for gifts. Keep an eye out for good deals now. Also, subscribing to online flash sites such as Groupon, Gilt, Rue La La, or Zulily is a good way to keep your head above water. Flash sales can be a great way to save money on luxury items.
4. Get cash back rewards.
Cash-back credit cards, such as the Citi Double Cash Card, American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card, Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card, and Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card —allow users to earn money on every dollar spent.
The Citi Double Cash Card (no annual fee) offers cash back rewards in that you earn cash back not once, but twice on every purchase. You get 1% cash back when you buy, plus another 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases. No need to wait until you pay off a purchase to earn the additional cash back — you’ll get it whether you can pay in full or over time, as long as you pay at least the minimum amount due. Unlike many other cards, the Double Cash card has no category restrictions, no enrollments in rotating categories, and no limits on the amount of cash back that you earn. There is no annual fee.
The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express ($95 annual fee) offers the highest cash back you can get for groceries. Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases), 3% at U.S. gas stations, and 1% on other purchases. There is currently a special offer where you can earn 10% cash back on purchases at Amazon.com in your first 6 months, up to $200, if you apply by 1/11/2017. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card (no annual fee) will get you unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. There is no limit to the amount of cash you can earn, and no minimums to redeem the cash back. The cash back doesn’t expire, either! You can get cash back in the form of an account credit, check, or gift card. Plus, every 10th Uber ride is free (up to $15) when you pay with this card through March 31, 2017.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card (no annual fee) is one of the newest cash back credit cards on the block, offering unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase – it’s automatic! Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. The cash back does not expire and can be requested at any time with no minimum requirements.
5. Cut your cable, painlessly.
According to the Leichtman Research Group, the average cost of cable TV is $103/month. Fortunately, you don’t have to pay for cable anymore to watch your favorite shows. Many networks share full episodes on their sites and apps for free. Consider subscribing to a streaming service, like Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus or Netflix, for $6 to $12 a month. Sling TV also allows you to watch more than 20 channels, including AMC, the Disney Channel and ESPN, live or on demand for just $20 a month. Also, look into Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV, or Android TV. There are undoubtedly many alternatives on the market today.