Do these cold, short days have you dreaming about summer vacation?
While you read travel site reviews, compare car rentals and shop for airline tickets, start a dedicated savings account now so you can prepay part or all of your vacation costs.
Following are 16 easy ways to save $1,000 in the next four months.
1. Hold a yard sale
Make room in your closet by decluttering. No need to make it a big project. Just ask yourself as you move around your home, “Can I get rid of this?” Put several boxes in an easily accessible spot, and toss in what you find for your sale.
Here’s our post about how to hold a super sale. Let’s say you net $250.
2. Cancel your gym membership
Savings: $164 ($41 a month)
The average gym membership cost $41 a month in 2014, according to this report from the Christian Science Monitor. And that’s not counting the initiation fee. Check out cheap options at your local community center or pool. Or, for the cost of a pair of sneakers, go outdoors and walk or run.
3. Sell your old smartphone
Savings: $15 or more
While you’re decluttering, ditch your old phone. At Apple’s Reuse and Recycling Program, I found an estimated value of $15 for an old 16GB iPhone 4, locked with AT&T, in average condition. (Apple reimburses with gift cards, not cash.) Newer models will net more.
Before selling, erase all personal data from a mobile phone. Lifehacker tells how to securely wipe various types of phones.
4. Get a cheaper cell plan
Savings: $300 or more
Consumer Reports says the average customer of a “big-four” carrier (Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon Wireless) pays $90 a month for an individual cellphone plan, $111 for iPhones.
But competition among carriers is escalating, meaning potential savings for consumers. Before comparison shopping, check service maps on companies’ websites to be sure you’ll get the reception you want.
Consider a contract-free prepaid service, or one of the discounted or free cellphone service providers.
5. Trim your cellphone data use
Downscale your data service for more savings. You may find that dropping just one tier from your current plan will save $15 a month, or $60 total in four months.
6. Be a mystery shopper
At The Penny Hoarder, Kyle Taylor tells how to be a mystery shopper. He describes his experience:
I’m usually paid $8 to $25 per mystery shop, plus reimbursement for my purchases. There have been months where I earned more than $5,000, but most months I earn an extra $400 to $500 a month for mystery shopping.
Making $400 a month would net you a nice $1,600 in four months. If mystery shopping is not your thing, consider these odd and unusual ways to make extra money.
7. Raise insurance deductibles
Savings: $100 or more
If you agree to pay more out of pocket when making an insurance claim, you can save a lot on your premiums.
For example, raising your car insurance deductible to $1,000 can save you 40 percent or more on comprehensive and collision premiums, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
You can apply the same concept to your homeowners policy, increasing your savings.
8. Save your pocket change
Savings: $50 or more
You probably watched your parents do it. Now you should do it: Empty your pockets or purse every day. If you hold on to just $12 a month, you’ll have nearly $50 after four months.
9. Get a smaller cable TV package
Average cable bills now hover around $100 a month, according to a September report from the Leichtman Research Group.
Now cable companies are offering smaller packages that can save you money. Cut your bill in half, and you will save $200 over four months.
10. Cut the cable completely
Think life without cable will make you the neighborhood oddball? Guess again. People are cutting the cord in record numbers.
11. Open a bank account
Savings: $50 and higher
Banks want your business, says Money Crashers, adding that some are offering cash to entice you to open an account. Money Crashers lists signup bonuses for several new accounts, including some offering up to $300 or even more.
Read the fine print. Typically there are lots of hoops to jump through to claim your reward.
12. Quit buying bottled water
Savings: Varies, but substantial
How costly is bottled water compared to tap? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council:
In California, average tap water costs about $1.60 per thousand gallons (about one tenth of a cent per gallon), while it has been reported that average bottled water costs about $0.90 per gallon — a 560-fold difference.
13. Drink tap water at restaurants
For the four months of your savings program, order tap water in restaurants instead of other drinks. If you typically spend $20 a month in restaurant beverages, you’ll save $80 in four months.
14. Automate savings
One of the marvels of online banking is your ability to set up and change automatic savings deposits on the fly. Establish a small transfer from your checking to savings — $50 a month, for example. Break it down by smaller weekly amounts if it’s easier.
Here’s a promise: You won’t notice the money is gone.
15. Get a part-time job
Take a part-time gig to scrape up some savings. If you net $10 an hour for 20 hours a month, you’ll have $800 saved — before taxes, of course — when your four months are up.
16. Sell clothes on consignment
Savings: $60 to $80
Give closets an early spring cleaning, and take clothes in good shape to a consignment store. You probably won’t make a fortune, but $15 to $20 a month isn’t out of the question.
What are your favorite ways to save money for a special goal? Tell us by posting a comment below or on Money Talks News’ Facebook page.