If you long to be a generous gift giver, but your wallet is short on cash, try these easy tips to help you save extra money in time for your holiday get-togethers.
1. Before buying anything, look online for a coupon code. Don't just search for the item, search for stores that you know carry the item. You can do an Internet search such as “electric pressure cooker coupon code,” “electric pressure cooker discount” or “sears coupon codes.”
2. Plan your meals around what's on sale at the grocery store and not what you're craving. Sales fliers rotate, so you'll likely never get sick of eating only on-sale items. Be creative. If ground beef is on sale, look for other sale items that could make a meal, such as tortilla shells and lettuce for tacos or canned tomatoes for chili.
3. If you do dine out, buying an Entertainment book can save you tons of money throughout the year. Also, be sure to check sites such as Groupon and Living Social for savings at area eateries. You can also take advantage of holiday specials at many restaurants – we recently purchased a $50 gift card at a restaurant that came with five $10 off coupons for future dining. It's like spending $50 and getting $100 back.
4. Make it a habit to only order water with your meals out. We always order ice water with lime. Squeezing the lime into the chilled water makes for a super refreshing (and low-calorie) drink. If you really can't be without a sweet drink during a meal, order water with lemon, then use the sugar at your table to make your own lemonade.
5. Just because you want something doesn't mean you have to pay sticker price for it. Search your newspaper classifieds for a used version of what you need and don't hesitate to post a “wanted” ad, either. You may just find a match with a seller wanting to unload the item you need.
6. Cancel your cable or satellite television subscription and use and antenna and streaming services instead. With a cheap indoor antenna, you likely can pull in ABC, FOX, PBS and other free stations in our area. A roof-mounted antenna will pull in even more. If that's not enough, you can add CBS streaming for $6 a month or services such as Netflix, Hulu or Sling TV.
7. Shop around for better rates on your car and homeowners insurance. Do this often. You'll be surprised at how much you can save by periodically switching.
8. Don't leave the water faucet running while you're brushing your teeth or doing dishes. Only turn it on to rinse the dishes or rinse your toothbrush.
9. Keep closet doors shut during the heating season so you aren't heating unoccupied space.
10. If you're taking a trip, consider staying at a home or apartment using websites such as Airbnb or VRBO. You can often find lodging for less than hotel rates and as an added bonus, you'll likely have a kitchen so you can save money by cooking in instead of dining out.
11. Speaking of Airbnb and VRBO, if your municipality allows it, you can make some extra cash by renting a room or renting your home out while you're away. Be sure to check with your township, village or city office to see what the rules are in your neighborhood.
12. Brew your coffee at home instead of buying it while you're out. A $10 bag of coffee goes a long way when a cup of fancy coffee can cost $3 or more.
13. Reduce your cell phone minutes to the lowest amount possible. Check your billing cycle and remind yourself on your calendar to check your usage four days before you bill is do so you can up your plan if you happened to go over for the month.
14. If your car is out of warranty and needs repair, remember that a dealership is not the only option. Many local repair shops do quality work for less money. Ask for recommendations from friends or co-workers to find a reputable repair shop.
15. Learn patience. Sure it's fun to take the whole family to the movie theater, but instead of viewing first-run flicks, wait until they come out at the cheap theaters, or better yet, on streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon.
16. Consider buying used. Do you need a brand new item or can you shop garage sales, consignment shops or your local classifieds? You can pick up brand name clothes, electronics and household goods for a fraction of the price. A couple of years ago I scored on a robot vacuum cleaner – $10 at a Spring Lake garage sale. I cleaned it up and it still works like a charm. If you're looking to launch a home project, don't forget to check out area Habitat for Humanity Restores.
17. You'll probably be doing more driving than normal this holiday season, so make y our gas money count. Some stations offer discounted gas for enrolling in their free programs. You can get as much as 10 cents off per gallon on every fill-up and up to 25 cents per gallon if you buy a car wash.