Pay off your holiday bills fast
Did you make your New Year's resolution to get out of debt and save money? All of those last-minute trips to the mall, surprise meals out with family and friends, and bargains that were too good to pass up are about to catch up with you. Expect your holiday bills to show up any day now -- and a hefty portion of your bank account will probably disappear. Here's how to beef your savings back up in a hurry.
Even if you budget carefully and buy your gifts well in advance of the holiday season, it's hard to make it though the month of December without spending a little bit more than you meant to. Whether it's a last minute gift for a new friend, an office holiday party you weren't expecting, or simply a few extra fast food meals purchased to easy your crazy schedule -- the budget was strained at best, and completely broken at worst. But don't despair. You can get back on track and replenish your savings by the end of the month if you're careful. Here are six ways to save up some cash in a hurry.
1. Clean out the closets.
Your holiday haul netting some great goods, right? So go through your home and bag up things you no longer need or want -- and sell them on Craigslist for a little profit. Think you can't get more than $10 for that old fax machine? Hey, that's $10 you didn't have before. Take a little time to write a creative ad, and list items even if you're sure no one will buy them. You'd be surprised. If you have older computers or other electronics, consider listing their individual parts, which will often net you more than the whole item.
2. Shop your pantry.
Try to make do with what you have this month. Focus on creating meals that use what you already own rather than buying more boxes of sugar cereal and frozen meals. You'll undoubtedly need a few things from the grocery store -- fresh milk and produce, for instance -- but there are ways to save on that, too.
For more tips on saving money on food, read Top 10 cooking secrets for simple family meals.
3. Transfer a prescription.
If you have medicines you take every month, transfer your prescriptions to a new pharmacy, and you may well receive a gift card of up to $30 per prescription. Do a quick Internet search for "prescription transfer coupons" and check your weekly grocery store circulars for coupons as well. Use the gift cards to cut your grocery expenses for the month.
4. Evaluate your subscriptions.
Grab your credit card bill and/or bank statement and take a close look at any recurring monthly charges. Do you really need all those cable channels? Can you switch your phone service to MagicJack or a VOIP service? A major money-sucker: your cell phone bill. Can you manage with fewer text messages or minutes each month? Do you absolutely need the Internet on your phone? Cut out anything you can -- even if only temporarily -- and transfer the extra cash into savings right away.
5. Stay home.
If you know you can't walk into Target without dropping $100, stay out of Target. Stay home whenever possible, at least for the next month. You can't spend if you're not in the shops. If you have to go out for something, figure out exactly what you need, and write it down before you leave the house. Then withdraw the cash you'll need for that purchase. When it's gone, it's gone. Speaking of cash…
6. Go cash-only.
Credit cards may be convenient -- but that convenience comes at a price. Even if you're not ready to give up your credit cards completely, take a one-month hiatus from using them. Freeze them in a block of ice, and get used to holding cash in your hands. It's a lot harder to spend, and you'll start saving right away.
Work at being thrifty in January, and you'll feel a real spring in your step when the weather turns warmer -- and your bank account bounces back.