11 Ways to Save $500 for the Holidays

A little scrimping here, a little extra gig there, and you'll soon have the money to buy gifts for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa without stress or credit card debt.

Act now to build your gift reserves and slide into the winter holiday season with ease and confidence.

With Labor Day past, summer vacations behind us and autumn activities beckoning, it’s reality: Christmas is just a little more than 15 weeks away. Hanukkah begins Dec. 12 this year, running through the 20th, and Kwanzaa runs Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.

Saving up an extra $500 will add to your festivities while keeping holiday debt hangover at bay.

It doesn’t have to be painful. Put $35 a week away now, and you’ll have $525 by Christmas. If you stash $50 a week, you’ll have $550 by Black Friday (Nov. 24) a mere 11 weeks away.

By contrast, if you charge $500 in holiday purchases on a credit card with a typical 15 percent interest rate, and pay only a minimum of $20 a month, it will take you two years and seven months to be rid of this year’s holiday debt, according to online payment calculators. By then, you will have repaid more than $600, including more than $100 in interest that could have been invested instead.

We think you’ll agree that saving ahead of time is a better choice. Here are 11 ways to make it happen:

1. Check your everyday spending

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“The first step to savings is understanding where your money is going,” says Todd Pietzsch, spokesman for BECU, Washington state’s largest credit union. You can track you spending with a free service, such as PowerWallet, a partner of Money Talks News. BECU offers its own, called MoneyManager. Some apps focus on different needs, such as monitoring investments or optimizing credit card rewards. Either way, seeing where your money goes will help you find places to save.

2. Declutter for dollars

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Sell that stuff you don’t use anymore and is just taking up room in your home, garage or, worse, in a rented storage unit. Clear a room every week, your basement, attic and garage, and you might make enough to pay for all your holiday shopping. When the holidays roll around, you’ll also have a tidier home.

Have a garage sale or sell your goods online. While eBay, Amazon and Craigslist are a few of the larger marketplaces for online sales, they aren’t your only options. For example, check out Swappa for electronics, CarDaddy for cars, boats and RVs, or the free mobile app, Letgo, which says it is for just about anything.

You may also want to seek a local consignment shop to sell your goods for you. While many consignment stores specialize in clothes, some focus on antiques, baby items or furniture.

3. Pocket insurance savings

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Increasing your insurance deductibles from $250 to $1,000 could put a couple hundred bucks in your pocket. A deductible is the amount of money you pay on an insurance claim before your coverage kicks in.

Savings vary by state and depend on how much you raise the deductible.

On car insurance, raising your deductible could lower your premiums in the range of 7 to 16 percent, according to a report from InsuranceQuotes.com.

For homeowners, raising your homeowners insurance deductible from $250 to $1,000 could slash your premium by 10 to 30 percent, experts say.

4. Pare monthly payments

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Drop a gym membership and instead get cheap workout equipment or just walk, bike or jog your way to fitness. Curtail your cable bill by cutting out premium channels or cutting the cord altogether. In the age of smartphones, see if losing your landline will save you money. And look at that smartphone plan again; are you overpaying?

5. Withhold less

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Do you get a big income tax refund every April? If so, you’re letting Uncle Sam hold on to more of your paycheck — interest free — than you need to. You can file a new W-4 with your employer so the company will withhold less each pay period, letting you save more sooner.

The IRS, TurboTax, H&R Block and others offer free tax-withholding calculators.

You might put to good use money you normally wouldn’t see until next spring.

6. Bank your savings

pogonici / Shutterstock.compogonici / Shutterstock.com

Make a goal, like figuring out how much in total you want to spend for each person on your gift list — then divide that figure by the number of weeks left to save (like 11 weeks until Black Friday), and deposit that amount weekly into a savings account set up just for the holidays. Some banks and credit unions let you set up a sub-account in your regular savings account to accumulate your holiday cash. This is almost like your grandmother’s Christmas Club account, which was based on making small deposits all year long.

You might also boost your automatic payroll deductions at work and have them sent directly to the savings account, or have your bank automatically transfer a set amount weekly from your checking account to your savings account.

7. Get crafty

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Cash in on the handmade gifts craze by selling your creations. From yard sales and local holiday craft fairs to selling online to a global audience, opportunities abound.

Etsy remains the biggest online crafts marketplace, but don’t overlook Fulfillment by Amazon or these specialty sites:

8. Get a gig

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Let a new revenue stream flow your way by taking advantage of the gig economy, which affords you great flexibility.

Rent out a room through Airbnb. Drive a car for Uber or Lyft. Walk dogs, baby-sit pets or pick up after them. Bid for a freelance virtual-assistant job on Upwork. Offer to design logos on Fiverr.

And gigs aren’t just for millennials.

Kara Oh, 67, of Santa Barbara, California, told AARP that her Uber job gives her money and flexibility, plus some fun.

“I love to drive, I enjoy meeting new people, and I also like that I’m possibly getting drinkers off the road,” Oh said.

9. Get a seasonal job

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Major retailers are already advertising for seasonal workers — including Kohl’s, Nordstrom, L.L. Bean, Build-a-Bear, Michaels and Amazon, to name just a few that come up on a quick search of the job site, Indeed.com. These jobs typically include many salespeople in the stores and many warehouse workers to fulfill orders. But they also may need loss-prevention specialists, merchandisers, customer service reps, equipment operators and delivery people.

Temporary and part-time jobs that let you work from home or offer other flexible arrangements are available year-round through other sites such as Flexjobs, a subscription-based jobs service.

Also, look for signs in stores around your town. Holiday festivities mean cafes and pizza shops will need to staff up, as well as hire more people to deliver pizzas and hand out take-out menus and fliers.

Check out: “11 Tips to Get Hired for the Holidays

10. Take online surveys

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Companies looking for feedback are willing to pay for your thoughts in online surveys. Some companies, including CashbackResearch and MySurvey, offer surveys and pay in reward points, gift cards and money.

For much more on that topic, read: “Earn Up to $2,700 a Year Watching Videos, Taking Surveys.”

11. Dine in

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“Food-at-home prices and food-away-from-home prices have recently diverged,” says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In other words, what you save by cooking at home instead of going out has been increasing. So why not let your wallet get fat while you make your own dinners? And don’t forget lunches — brown bagging could save you about $5 a day. And while you may not have to forgo all your tall Pumpkin Spice Lattes, each time you make coffee at home instead of ordering from your favorite barista means you could instead put about $4 in the bank. Brown bagging and latte skipping a few days a week can easily yield you the savings of $35 to $50 a week you need to help reach your Christmas gift shopping goal.

Share your holiday savings ideas with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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