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Easy tricks to build a holiday spending fund

I love this time of year! The weather is cooler, people are in a jolly mood and soon Christmas music will blare pretty much anywhere. And of course, it’s shopping season and that is my favorite.

Unfortunately, this time of year is when Americans rack up massive amounts of debt, only to start the new year with an added weight on our shoulders: credit card bills. Here are a few easy tricks to stash some cash away for some special holiday gifts.

1. Brown Bag it. Bankrate.com estimates you can save an average of $70 a month bringing lunch to work than to eat out. The numbers show a bagged lunch costs an average of only $3 day, compared to the $7 it costs to go out and eat. Instead, try bringing your lunch to work as much as possible during this holiday season and put away what you “don’t” spend on food and set it aside.

2. Cash only. By putting away the plastic and taking out only greenbacks, you may have more control over how much money you spend. Say you hope to only spend $300 on Black Friday and you are brave enough to hit the stores. Carry only the cash with you to ensure you don’t spend more than what you budgeted for. Temptations with credit cards can lead you to spend more money. Using cash may also be safer than providing credit cards where your personal information may be stolen.

3. Shop with a friend. Shopping with someone that shares your money values, goals and savings ideas can help you stay accountable and not allow you to go into temptation. Another good reason not to shop alone is that many times, buying in bulk is cheaper. Think about the big warehouse stores. For example, bread may be cheaper when you buy it in larger packages but if you know you won’t use it all, split it with a friend and split the price.

4. No More Starbucks. It’s incredible how much those little white and green cups costs. Yes, it’s the packaging and brand you pay for, not the coffee. If you were to save a month’s worth of coffee shop purchases you may be surprised of some extra cash you can save for your holiday shopping. Instead, make coffee at home, invest in a to-go mug and save some dough. The same goes for other expenditures such as getting your nails done, or eating out.

5. Stay Organized. Putting your goals down in writing can help you reach it faster. Whether you prefer post-it notes on your desk or reminders on your phone, writing down how much you want to save, by when and how you will do it will make a big difference. Say your goal is to save $500 by Christmas week. Break it down in weeks and each week make a note of whether you reached your goal, how you did it, why it may have not worked and keep at it. Seeing fruition in numbers makes it all more real.

Small changes in our daily activities can truly help find extra cash here and there. If you add a few more tools to these tips you can maximize savings even more. Think about using coupons at the grocery store to bring down your bill. Take advantage of rewards from membership cards, ditch your car and ride your bike a few times a week to save on gas or simply rent a movie rather than go out to the theatre. When you hit the stores for those special gifts and you know you have saved for the money ahead of time, it will make it easier to part with your money. Plus, you won’t start the new year owing a dime for this years’ gifts.