Skip the movie and the manicure to start a cash* shopping fund
Every January radio stations give away thousands of dollars for lucky winners to use to make a dent in the credit card debt they they racked up during the holidays. It's probably a given that most of use will use plastic to pay for some of our shopping and celebrating. But there is such a thing as cash and if we make a concentrated effort to use it, our January credit card bills won't weigh more than that bird seed-filled neck warmer you gave your Grammie.
Andrea Woroch, a national expert on consumer spending and saving money, gave me some ideas on ways to use cash and divert money you spend on usual expenses to help cover extra costs of the Christmas.
"Instead of going out to dinner and the movies, have a movie night in and order a pizza," she said in a recent interview. "Then take the money you would have spent and spend it on a gift." She suggested keeping a jar or envelope to collect the money you "save."
If you normally eat lunch out three times a week, make an effort to do it just once then put $20 in the gift fund. Avoid the double-mocha-mocha-gingerbread-latte-mocha three days a week and put $15 in the fund. Skip the manicure (bring back the long glove trend at your big Christmas party) and put $25 in the fund.
Look at that, you just made $60 and took a fashion risk.
Woroch had some deal going with Coinstar, the machines that turn your change into bills, so she suggested gathering up all the change in your house, converting it paper and using that to buy one gift.. A Coinstar survey found that 87 percent of respondents had $29 in spare change around their house.
That is not the case in my abode. Anytime I am scrounging for change under the seat cushions and in the junk drawer to tip the pizza guy I'm lucky if I come up with $4, three Legos and two Popcickle sticks coated in the white hair of our Basset Hound Delbert who died several years ago.
I find it easier to believe Coinstar's report that 37 percent of people surveyed have unused gift cards in their wallet. These also can be turned into cash at Coinstar machines, which are often at Walmart and Winn-Dixie.
Of course, the age old advice for avoiding over spending at the holidays is to stick to a gift list and don't buy more than what you plan. If you see something that your boyfriend or daughter or sister has to have and you already bought them something, get the great gift and then RETURN the one you already bought. No, don't keep it as a present you will give to yourself for your birthday in April. RETURN IT.
You'll be glad in January.
*Cash: money in coins or notes, as distinct from credit