Save $750 in the 100 days leading up to the holidays - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

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Save $750 in the 100 days leading up to the holidays

Source: istockphoto.com Source: istockphoto.com

By Andrew Housser

NATIONAL - Labor Day is not the first day of fall on the calendar, but in many people's minds, early September marks back-to-school time and a turn toward home and family.

We also are about to begin an annual countdown: Just about 100 shopping days remain until the winter gift-giving holidays. If you've been crunched by the economy -- and who hasn't? -- resolve now not to go into debt for your holiday gifts, whether celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and/or the New Year.

Here are some seasonal ideas to save now, before you spend for holiday giving. 

1. Budget

Before employing any other savings tactics, create a holiday budget. Calculate how much you can and want to spend for holiday festivities. Make sure to include everyone you'll give a gift to; cards and postage; decorations; entertaining, year-end tips for service providers; and travel costs.

2. Break up with the barista

Common knowledge tells us that over the past two years of recession, people have bought fewer expensive coffee drinks. Yet Starbucks' revenues are rebounding, an indicator that people might be ordering again. If you break a twice-a-week latte habit until the holidays, you could save $120 by year-end.

3. Eat in or bring a meal

Make lunch or dinner at home instead of "grabbing a quick bite." Saving at least $15 per week by cutting out a restaurant meal or two could add up to $225 by New Year's.

4. Use cash or a debit card

Studies have found that people spend around 15 percent more on purchases paid with a credit card. If your holiday spending plans come close to last year's average planned spending of $830, you could reduce that by $125 by not using credit.

5. Redeem credit card rewards

Check your credit card statements to see how many rewards "points" you have. Then visit the rewards Web site to find out if you can convert the rewards into cash or gift cards. If you can swap for one gift card, you might save $50.

6. Make a list now

List your gift recipients and begin thinking of what you might like to give them. If you want to make gifts, great news: you still have time. Or you could still learn to knit a scarf or make a personalized scrapbook before the holidays.

7. Get gifts together

For recipients like teachers, bosses and coaches, arrange to give a group gift. If everyone pitches in a small amount, you can offer a quality thank-you gift. And you might save $15 per person.

8. Keep the change

Save all the change you receive (or find under sofa cushions) every day in a jar. Turn the coins in at the bank or a coin-counting machine. Either use the payback to buy holiday gifts or, if the machine offers gift cards instead of receiving cash, use those for holiday shopping. If you save $1 a day, it will add up to $105.

9. Don't buy for yourself

Last year, shoppers reported that they planned to take advantage of holiday sales to spend $120 on themselves. Resist and be $120 richer.

All of those savings efforts add up to a grand total of more than $750 -- almost enough to pay for holiday shopping in its entirety, based on last year's average planned spending amount. Those savings make fall the perfect season to begin planning for a happy holiday -- and a healthy financial picture for the holidays.

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