In the middle of holiday shopping season, you may be struggling to stay within budget. Even though the year is quickly coming to an end, there are some things you can do to maximize your income and even save a little cash before Jan. 1. Taking a closer look at your budget and making well-informed purchasing decisions can set you up for a positive financial outlook come New Year's.
Here are seven ways you can still save money before the end of the year.
1. Set a mini savings goal. Set a small daily savings goal as you count down to the new year. Saving a few dollars by bringing your own lunch or coffee to work each day might be enough to reach your mini savings goal. These efforts could easily save up to $100 or more over the few weeks leading up to the end of the year. Put what you save in an emergency savings account, or use it to pay down some holiday debt come January.
2. Cancel services you no longer use. Set yourself up for a better budget next year by doing away with any subscriptions you no longer use. Whether it's cable television, paid online services or a magazine subscription, take inventory of all automated renewals and cancel anything that doesn't contribute to your current lifestyle. This simple step could help you save a lot of cash before the year's end with very little effort.
3. Maximize holiday leftovers. Cut down on food costs through the end of the year by making the best use of holiday leftovers. Store and freeze as many items as possible, and label items with expiration dates so you can keep better track of your food. Create storage space in your refrigerator or freezer for holiday leftovers and meals, and take inventory of staple items and ingredients that you can combine with leftovers to create a whole new meal. Doing this might help you lower your grocery bill for a few weeks and reduce food waste.
4. Shop the post-Christmas sales. If you still need some winter clothing, boots, accessories or other items for your wardrobe, wait until after Christmas to make those purchases. That way, you'll save a significant amount of money on post-holiday clearance items.
5. Skip the ATM. The holiday shopping frenzy and those last-minute shopping trips might take you to the ATM for cash. Be mindful about which ATMs you use, though - it's easy to rack up ATM fees. Even if the ATM you're using doesn't charge a fee, your bank might charge you for using another bank's ATM. If you can't make it to your bank's ATM, request cash back at a store checkout when you use your debit card.
6. Save on energy costs. Keep those winter energy bills under control by checking your windows and doors for any air leaks and performing do-it-yourself projects that will improve energy-efficiency throughout your home. Make sure your water heater is working properly, and have the furnace inspected by a professional. Also, limit the number of hours per day that holiday lights stay on, and take electrical displays down shortly after the holidays are over.
7. Re-evaluate your budget. Your budget is probably the last thing you want to think about in the middle of the holiday season, but you may be able to cut out some discretionary expenses with a few adjustments to your spending habits. Consider whether you can cut any extra entertainment expenses, save on gas or scale back on grocery purchases. Make a note of how much you are saving, and put that money in a savings account so you don't accidentally spend it on something else.
Sabah Karimi writes for the consumer blog Wise Bread, where you can find holiday credit card spending tips and budgeting advice.