The holidays sneak up on me every single year. And as it’s already September, the countdown to Thanksgiving and Christmas is on. I’d like to say that we try to not spend too much during the holidays, because we actually do try to be mindful about spending and not just go crazy with gifts, but the fact of the matter is, the holiday season is spendy no matter what. There are big meals to prepare, there are travel expenses, gifts, holiday outfits, work gift exchanges, the list goes on. So even if you’re trying to reduce your gift spending or you’ve been saving all year, unanticipated expenses will certainly pop up.
All of this is to say, I want to encourage you to start saving some money here and there during October and November, so you can have an extra $500 in your pocket by December 1st!
The way this works is going to depend a lot on your life style. We all have areas where we can reduce spending. Because this plan is going to take place over a short period of time, we’re going to look at things that you can change quickly and somewhat temporarily (unless you decide to make these changes more of a habit!).
The savings plan takes place in 3 basic steps..
#1: Write down all of your recurring monthly expenses.
It’s hard to visualize where the bulk of your money is going every month without doing this first. A lot of the items on your list are going to be things that you can’t change, but you might actually find a little bit of wiggle room that you hadn’t seen before. Are you paying your cable company for a sports package that you aren’t using? Could you switch cell phone providers and save some money? What about little expenses? Because they add up. Think about whether or not you are going to have time to watch Netflix over the next two months, or if you really need that makeup subscription box. Take that extra money that you would have spent, and transfer it directly to a savings account.
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Example of potential savings:
Reduce your cable plan: ~$20/month
Switch cell service providers: ~$50/month (I’m being conservative here.. we actually switched recently and saved almost $100/month!)
Cancel Netflix for 2 months: ~$8/month
Cancel make-up subscription box: ~$10/month.
If you do all of these things, you’re already at $176 towards your $500 over the course of two months!
#2: Take inventory of small daily expenses.
Most of us have some sort of little vice that we spend money on regularly. Mine is coffee, but for some it’s eating lunch out every day, having happy hour with friends every week, etc. Decide what yours is, and then find a way to reduce (but not eliminate) it. The reason I don’t want you to totally eliminate this from your budget is that you probably won’t stick with it. If someone told me I had to quit coffee for the next 2 months, I would laugh at them, and then I would start crying. But I could definitely decide to only buy a coffee 2 times per week instead of 5, and make it at home the rest of the week.
If I’m spending an average of $4 per day, 5 days a week on coffee and I reduce it to 2 days per week, my spending over the course of a month goes from $80 to $32! So over the course of two months I’ve now saved $96! (Be sure to move the money you would have spent over to that savings account to make sure you don’t slip up!)
Already we’ve brought the tally for two months savings to $272! Over half way there!
#3: Be mindful about grocery shopping.
Take a look in the newspaper for coupons before you go shopping. Try to utilize the items you already have in your fridge and pantry before buying a lot at the grocery store. (Check out my post on how I stopped meal prepping and started saving money.) Buy things because they’re on sale and find the grocery store brands instead of name brand. Turn it into a game. Take your normal grocery allowance and reduce it by $25 each week. See how creative you can get!
If you make this happen, this amounts to a $200 savings by the beginning of December. Your savings account is now at $472!
How are you going to save that last $28??
#4: Say no to social events once in a while.
You don’t have to be a complete recluse to be mindful about your spending. Every now and then, decline an invitation or the temptation to go out to eat and put the money you would have just spent into your savings account. One trip out to dinner saved, and you’ve successfully reached your $500 by the first of December!
The most important thing about this plan is that you are intentional in your spending, and mindful of where your money goes. It’s crucial that you take the money you’ve saved right as you’re in the midst of saving it and put it into a savings account that isn’t easily accessible. Then try to forget it’s there until you have a Secret Santa gift to buy at work. The holidays are right around the corner, and you’ll be so relieved to have a little extra reserve set aside!
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