There’s nothing like the feeling of starting off a new year with a clean slate and hopeful outlook. Unfortunately, for many, October kicks off a string of major holidays that will ultimately lead them toward a wall of debt in 2017.
The best way to ensure you kick off January debt-free is to be proactive — start saving now so you don’t have huge credit card bills to deal with once the holiday celebrations are over. Of course, it’s going to take serious budget cuts and commitment to reach a comfortable $1,000 buffer. So what can you do to save big besides giving up your morning latte and brown-bagging lunch?
1. Get rid of your cable already.
Ever wonder how you can pay for so many channels and yet there’s never anything good to watch? It’s because there really is nothing good to watch. If you can find the strength, dive into a good financial book to read and skip the cable, save your money.
Get rid of your cable television to save hundreds of dollars, hours of free time and probably a few brain cells before the end of the year. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the urge to binge on episodes of Real Housewives disappears.
2. Cook your meals, Dumb the Fast Food.
Fast food, while delicious, is a budget item that’s equally expensive as it is unnecessary. Although some will argue the benefits of a daily quick meal saving time. Generally, fast food does very little to improve your health or bottom line.
If you’re serious about saving money, skipping the fast food for a month or longer is an effective way to uncover extra funds. And if you think over eating during the holiday season is nothing short of ludicrous, you’re correct. Remember that there’s no harm if someone else happens to buy you a quick meal. Take it slow a skip a few meals while your save your money.
3. Have a bill haggle day.
The bill haggle day is a day dedicated to calling utility companies and negotiating lower rates. Though you would probably rather eat cardboard than spend hours on the phone with customer service representatives, just remind yourself it’s one day of work that will continue to pay off every month.
4. Go on a fiscal fast.
A “fiscal fast” is a week during which you do not spend any money. Not a dime.
On the surface, fasting prompts you to use up what you have in your pantry, find free sources of entertainment and get creative about transportation. At its core, the fiscal fast forces you to reflect on your relationship with money and learn how to be satisfied with less. But even if you fail to come away with any larger, philosophic realizations about your finances, you will at the very least save an entire week’s worth of expenses.
5. Delay Christmas gifts.
Finally, if you are truly serious about making it through the holiday season debt-free, consider delaying the holidays altogether. But that doesn’t mean you have to play the role of the Grinch in December; simply trick your friends and kids.
“I give kids a home-made gift certificate for admission to an amusement park of their choice,” explained Holly Wolf, Chief Marketing Officer for Conestoga Bank. “Of course, the parks are closed in the winter, so you have until spring to get the money together … [plus] when you give it to them in the spring, it’s like another gift and they love it.”
Above all, the key ingredient to successfully saving $1,000 by the end of the year is commitment. If you tell yourself you’re going to “try” and save $1,000, it’s not going to happen. Be committed and hold yourself accountable. You’ll be happy you sacrificed three short months to set yourself up for a year of financial success.