Tuesday, December 08, 2009

101 Ways to Save Money this December

The month of December comes with holiday expenses, a looming new tax year, and high heating bills. With all of the holiday cheer, it can be easy to spend more than you can afford. Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of ways you can save money this month. To help out my readers looking to keep costs down, I have compiled the following list of my favorite 101 tips to save money in December.

Send me a message on FaceBook, or an @ Reply on Twitter if you have a tip that you do not see on my list!

1. Make a winter budget that lists all of the expenses you anticipate this month. Then, stick to your budget and refer to it for all major purchases.

2. Before you buy any expensive presents for the holidays, make sure to look online to see if you can find a cheaper price than you would at a local store. Just be sure to order with enough time for shipping!

3. Instead of throwing away aluminum cans or plastic bottles, take them to a local recycling center to get a little spare cash.

4. Make a donation to your favorite charity and keep the receipt. You may be able to deduct this amount from your taxable income for the year, which may increase your income tax refund.

5. Avoid malls! In addition to their inflated prices, I find it almost impossible to go into a mall without buying dozens of items I did not intend to purchase. Instead, do your shopping online.

6. Make your own Christmas wreath. Instead of buying an expensive one, stop by your local craft store and you can easily put together a festive wreath for under $20.

7. Bundle up. By convincing everyone in the household to wear warmer attire, you can turn down the heat and save on your energy bill.

8. Love to read books by the fire during the winter? After finishing a book, take it to a used bookstore where you can put the credit towards a new book to read.

9. If you love to put up Christmas lights but always forget to turn them off, then consider investing in a light timer. It will reduce your energy bill this year, and can turn into a long-term investment if you put up lights every December.

10. Instead of buying expensive wrapping paper you could make your own from cheap shipping paper decorated with paint and stickers.

11. Although we usually think of buying loved ones presents, Kwanzaa traditionally encourages people to give gifts that are handmade and heartfelt. Get into the spirit of Kwanzaa and make a handful of presents this year to save extra cash!

12. Go with the generic option. Brand name household items, such as soap and shampoo, are often double the price of the generic brand and usually have the exact same main ingredients.

13. If you are a big soda drinker then be sure to shop the sales. Stores often have huge discounts on soda and by stocking up when it is on sale you can save quite a bit on your grocery bills. Or just give up the habit and start drinking water or low-cost tea.

14. Book all flights and hotel reservations for holiday travels in advance. If you buy a plane ticket later in the month then you are going to pay an inflated fare.

15. Everyone is busy in December. Instead of eating out more often, try setting up a crock-pot meal that can cook while you’re away. That way you will have a fresh and affordable—not to mention delicious—meal waiting for you when you return.

16. Save on your energy bill by placing a towel at the foot of any doors with a draft.

17. Drive the speed limit! It is always a good idea to drive more cautiously in winter weather, but going the speed limit can also help improve your gas mileage.

18. Know someone with a young child? Consider giving them a coupon for a free night of babysitting as a gift this holiday season.

19. Instead of just buying pricey chicken breasts, go for the whole bird. You can remove the breasts and use the rest of the meat as well. You could even use the extra meat and bones to brew your own chicken broth.

20. Visit Starbucks often? Well, quit the habit. Granted, their holiday cups are cute and their latte’s are addictive. However, by brewing your own coffee you can save quite a bit of money.

21. You can save even more on your energy bill by letting in natural light through the windows, and turning off lights whenever you do not absolutely need them.

22. Coupons are a great way to save, but the trick is to only use them for things that you were going to buy already.

23. Take advantage of free gift-wrapping if you purchase an item in a store that offers it. Remember, every little bit you save helps!

24. Create your own Christmas decorations. In addition to making your own wreath, you could also save by gathering pinecones and making your own festive decorations.

25. Buy batteries when you see them on a good sale. You never know when you are going to need batteries so it is a good idea to purchase them in advance.

26. If you are worried about buying gifts for all of your coworkers and friends, then you might want to suggest going the “Secret Santa” route. It is cheaper, and also adds an element of mystery to the season.

27. If you receive a lot of holiday cards in the mail, then you could save by reusing them the next year. Just cut off the message and use the picture as a post card. Though make sure that you do not send it to the same person who sent it to you last year!

28. If you have Christmas or Chanukah cards from last year, and do not want to reuse them as postcards, then you can use them for seasonal gift tags.

29. Re-gift a favorite book that is in good condition. This will save you cash, and free up some room on the bookshelf. You could even write a personalized message on the inside of the cover.

30. Empty boxes or picture frames wrapped to look like presents make for cute, low-cost holiday decorations.

31. While family members may require more thought, mass producing a standard gift—like a recipe jar—for a handful of coworkers or friends can save you lots.

32. If you are not a fan of “Secret Santa”, then try a white elephant gift exchange. In addition to saving on gifts, the game can also help you save on entertainment expenses.

33. Be sure to close the fireplace flue when leaving home for long periods of time. Otherwise, your warm indoor air will go right out the chimney and your heating bill will skyrocket.

34. Make a grocery list and stick to it. It is also a good idea to always go grocery shopping on a full stomach, that way you can avoid those impulse purchases.

35. Clean out your freezer and remove any items that you do not intend to use. It takes double the energy to keep a full freezer cold, so by cleaning it out you can save on your electric bill.

36. A subscription to your favorite magazine could make for an excellent gift. Additionally, publications usually offer screaming discounts during the holidays.

37. Spinning the Chanukah dreidel is an annual tradition, but to cut costs try using candy instead of cash while betting.

38. Use the Kwanzaa colors (black, green, and red) in your house to save big on decorations. Other traditional low cost decorations include corn and straw.

39. Weather-stripping doors and windows where needed may cost a little now, but will save you money on your energy bill for years to come.

40. To avoid expensive, last minute spending, start shopping for gifts early. Then you can avoid busy stores all together later in the month.

41. Get your children involved! If you have kids then you could set aside time to do some holiday crafts with them. You can make season gifts and also enjoy extra time with your family.

42. Do all of your shopping in one trip. Instead of driving to the mall dozens of times this month and wasting gas in traffic, brainstorm on a list and make only a few trips.

43. Lots of places offer free, or cheap ice-skating during the holidays. Instead of spending tons of money to see a movie this December, you could spend the evening ice-skating.

44. If you enjoy updating your winter wardrobe every year, then you might want to sell old ones to a consignment store for spare cash. Alternatively, you could donate them to a “coats for kids” charity drive.

45. When the weather is cold, remove window air conditioner units to save on your heating bill.

46. Any plain glass hurricane or candleholder can instantly be transformed into holiday decor with some simple holiday ribbon or candy.

47. Leave your credit cards at home! If you make a list and can estimate how much money you will need for your shopping trip, then just bring enough cash with you to cover your purchase. By leaving extra money and credit cards at home you can make sure you stick to your list.

48. Give to your talent. If you enjoy painting, or singing, etc., then try coming up with a gift that uses your talent. You could paint a picture for a friend, or even record a CD for a family member.

49. If you can, try to gather your own firewood instead of buying at a local home improvement store.

50. If you enjoy renting a cabin for the holidays, start checking prices now. Get several estimates, and make a list of attendees in advance to save.

51. Providing alcohol at a holiday party is always going to be expensive. First, consider having all attendees bring their own alcohol. However if you must host, then go to BevMo or a bulk store for prices lower than you would find at the local liquor store.

52. Instead of buying a new Christmas stocking you could modify your old one with some glitter and a few ribbons.

53. Another great way to save on your heating bill is to wash your clothes in cold water, unless you have a stained item you need to use hot water to treat.

54. If you are looking for ways to reduce your grocery bill then try cutting meat out of a few meals. A few garden salads, or cucumber sandwiches will help you save money while improving your health!

55. Instead of giving your kids money to buy gifts for their friends, you can schedule a family craft day when you can make dozens of presents to give out.

56. If you are lucky enough to live near an outlet mall then be sure that you stop by! Outlet stores sell high-end overstocked items for much less than a department store.

57. Save on hiring a landscaper to shovel snow or trim hedges by enlisting a friend or neighbor to help out. You could make an exchange and help them with their own yard work too.

58. Creating gift price limits with family and friends will help everyone save money this year.

59. If you have a lot of tile in your home, try putting down a few rugs to keep your feet warm instead of turning up the heat.

60. There has never been a better time to quit smoking than the present. Tobacco taxes are always on the rise, and by making the cut you can save hundreds of dollars per year. And thousands of dollars down the road in higher health insurance and medical bills.

61. Have your children help make baked goods for gifts or entertaining. This keeps them busy, and helps get the job done quickly.

62. Turn down the thermostat when you are baking. The oven will usually heat up the house on its own.

63. If you get cold during the nights, try investing in an electric blanket instead of cranking up the heat.

64. After opening holiday presents be sure to keep all boxes, paper, and bows for next year.

65. Instead of buying a gift for each of your children’s teachers, buy in bulk and make the same gift for each teacher.

66. Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables from your local grocery store. They are usually cheaper, and you can even plan meals around them.

67. Start a carpool! Find out if any of your coworkers live in your area and put together a carpool system to save on gas.

68. If you want to reduce your cable or satellite bill then you could try watching movies and shows online, or start a Netflix account.

69. Before you buy your son or daughter a new puppy for Christmas, make sure that you can really afford it. Remember, vet bills and other pet expenses add up very quickly and can become a massive expense.

70. Everyone loves a big hot meal on a cold winter night. After you have had enough, make sure to save the leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

71. Encourage the whole family to keep the thermostat low by putting soft blankets or throws over chairs and couches in social areas.

73. Check your withholdings one more time to see if adjusting them before 2010 begins will benefit you financially.

74. Cooking is low-cost fun for the whole family. Homemade chocolates and baked goods also make great gifts!

75. Knitting your own scarves is a fun, easy project that can keep your warm all December.

76. If you frequent certain stores a lot, see what sort of discounts they offer loyal shoppers. You might be able to sign up for a frequent shopper card, or possibly even open up a credit card for additional discounts.

77. A good quality fake Christmas tree looks very close to the real thing, and if you find a good sale you might even get a fake tree for cheaper than a real one. Additionally, you can reuse the fake tree for years to come.

78. While shopping for loved ones, it is easy to get distracted and buy yourself a little present as well. Just be sure you plan for this and put it into your December budget.

79. If your gas bill seems a little high, have the company who provides it for you come out and service your furnace. Having leaks fixed, filters checked, and burners adjusted could save you a lot of money.

80. If you are already engaged, consider getting married this December! Wedding experts say you can find the best deals in the winter months since most couples prefer to get married in the summer.

81. If you are hosting for many, but do not have all the accommodations then consider renting tables, chairs and other necessities instead of buying.

82. If you need to do some yard work but do not have a working lawn mower or proper hedge trimmers then ask a neighbor if you can borrow theirs before making an expensive purchase.

83. Never make the mistake of turning your heat all the way off in especially cold weather, or you could freeze and burst your pipes. Turning the thermostat down is a much more practical solution to lowering your heating bill.

84. Cranberries and popcorn strung on some thread make cheap decorations for your home and tree during the holidays.

85. Leave the kids behind! When you go shopping try to have someone watch your children instead of taking him or her with you. It will help you stick to your list since you will not have anyone asking you to buy them extra presents.

86. If you like to read then why not sign up for a card at your local library instead of purchasing new books to read.

87. Skiing and snowboarding are fun, but expensive hobbies. If you visit the slopes often then you might want to buy a season pass instead of paying for admittance every time you go.

88. Instead of giving individual gifts to your family or friends, try giving one gift that everyone can utilize such as a board game.

89. The holiday season is all about family, and if your family likes to talk on their cell phones frequently then you might save by switching to a family plan.

90. Stock up on candles! Not only will they give your home that warm holiday glow, but they will also help you save on heating and electricity bills.

91. Love to cook? Type up some of your best recipes and give out a cookbook as gifts for friends and family.

92. Making your own Chanukah candles can save you money, and will also give a more personal touch to the celebration.

93. Practice layering. By wearing tank tops under long-sleeved shirts you can keep warm without turning up the heat.

94. Instead of spending money on regular holiday cards, try going the e-card route. You will save on both materials and postage.

95. Use holiday lights made out of LEDs. They use less electricity and will also last much longer than regular lights.

96. Make your own snacks. Instead of buying expensive snacks for yourself, or your child’s lunch box, try making your own. All you need is a bag of granola, some raisins, and a couple different types of nuts and you have an instant trail mix.

97. For a great low cost holiday party, try hosting a seasonal movie night. You can easily rent a movie and buy a few frozen pizzas for only a few bucks.

98. Make your own Christmas ornaments by filling or painting clear glass bulbs, wood shapes, or pinecones.

99. Save your receipts! Odds are you will not use every single decoration and present that you purchase. By keeping your receipts somewhere safe you can make returns without any hassle.

100. On December 26th stores will put everything related to Christmas on discount. Take advantage by purchasing supplies for next year in advance. You can also use some items, such as holiday colored zip lock bags throughout the year.

101. Visit your tax attorney before the years end and be sure you take advantage of every credit and deduction available to you before the New Year begins.

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