Save -- or Earn -- $1,000 by the Holidays
It's not too early to get a head start on the holidays -- saving for the holidays, that is. By making moves now to cut costs or earn extra money, you can save up to $1,000 or more over the next two months to pay for holiday gifts with cash rather than credit.
I've skipped several of the usual savings recommendations (such as dining out less) and highlighted some cost-cutting moves you might not have considered. The actual savings and earnings in the examples below will vary (especially depending on which ones you can implement). But they do show it is possible to generate an extra $1,000 over two months. Be sure to share your money-saving tips in the reader comments box below.
Ways to save
• Adjust your tax withholding. The average tax refund this year was nearly $2,805. If you got a refund, stop paying Uncle Sam too much throughout the year and keep that money for yourself (or gifts for others). You simply need to change your tax withholding by filing a new W-4 with your employer's human resources department. To find out how many exemptions you should be claiming, try our Easy-To-Use Tax Withholding Calculator. The changes will go into effect on your next paycheck.TWO MONTHS OF SAVINGS = $467.50 (based on the average refund)
• Ditch the premium cable TV package. When I canceled my expensive premium cable package and opted for the cheap, basic service, I started saving $80 a month -- more than $950 a year. See Budget-Friendly Alternatives to Cable TV for sources of free or cheap programming and movies. (Note: I kept basic cable service to score a discount on my phone and Internet services.) TWO MONTHS OF SAVINGS = $160
• Increase your auto insurance deductible. Increasing the deductibles on your comprehensive and collision coverage from $500 to $1,000, or even $2,500, can reduce your premiums by 12% to 18%. For example, boosting the deductibles from $500 to $1,000 would mean a savings of $648 per year, on average, for a family with two teenage drivers in northern California (which has a competitive auto insurance marketplace), according to the database at InsWeb, an insurance Web site. TWO MONTHS OF SAVINGS = $108
• Increase your home insurance deductible. My insurer recently sent me a letter stating that I could shave $300 off my annual premium by boosting my deductible from $1,000 to $2,000. That equates to a savings of $25 a month. TWO MONTHS OF SAVINGS = $50
• Eliminate bank fees. More and more banks are charging account holders a fee -- as much as $30 a month -- if they fail to meet deposit, balance or usage requirements. Some charge $1 to $2 to send monthly paper statements and up to $9 for interacting with a teller. To avoid bank fees, consider opening an account at USAA Federal Savings Bank, Perk Street, EverBank, Ally Bank or Zion Bank. TWO MONTHS OF SAVINGS = $60
• Drop the gym membership. Gym memberships cost an average of $30 to $70 a month, according to PriceGrabber, a price-comparison site. So if you're not locked into a long-term contract, consider dropping this expense and trying free exercise alternatives, such as running or walking outdoors, for a couple of months. TWO MONTHS OF SAVINGS = $60 (for the $30 monthly fee)
• Drop your land line. If you're paying $40 a month (AT&T's current rate for unlimited long-distance calling) for home phone service but rely mainly on your cell phone, eliminate this monthly expense. TWO MONTHS of SAVINGS = $80
• Buy regular, not premium, gas. This won't amount to big savings, but, hey, every little bit counts. A gallon of premium gasoline costs $3.85 on average (the week of September 19), while a gallon of regular costs $3.60 on average. If you filled up a 16-gallon car twice a month with regular rather than premium, you'd save $8. TWO MONTHS Of SAVINGS = $16 (for filling up twice a month)
TOTAL SAVINGS = $1,001.50
Ways to earn
• Sell sterling silver for scrap. My husband recently took a few silver pieces that we never use to a local dealer and got $30 an ounce, netting us more than $1,000. EARNINGS = $240 for an 8-ounce piece
• Sell unwanted gold jewelry. With the price of gold at about $1,700 an ounce, selling unwanted gold jewelry also is a quick way to generate some cash. For example, if you have a gold ring with a melt value (the actual value of the gold in the jewelry) of $200, expect to get paid about 70% of the melt value -- so $140. See Smart Ways to Sell Your Gold for tips on how to get a good deal. EARNINGS = $140 for jewelry with a melt value of $200.
• Sell unwanted gift cards. The average household has about $300 in unspent gift cards, according to Plastic Jungle, a Web site that lets you buy, sell, exchange or donate gift cards. With sites such as Plastic Jungle and Gift Card Granny, you can turn those cards into cash. You won't get the full value of your card (up to 92% at best). EARNINGS = $276 (based on a 92% return on $300 worth of cards)
• Get paid for your opinions. For a few hours of your time, you can get paid to participate in an in-person focus group, such as those run by Delve. EARNINGS = up to $200 per focus group
• Sell your stuff online. Kiplinger’s senior editor Jeffrey Kosnett and his wife made $200 selling flatware they no longer used through the popular online auction site eBay. Kosnett’s wife, Deborah, says the key to selling your wares on the Web is to research similar merchandise that has been sold recently through the site and price competitively. EARNINGS = $200
TOTAL EARNINGS = $1,056