Saving money for the holidays doesn’t have to be difficult, but you’ll want to start now to maximize your bank balance. Start with these simple steps today, and you could be as much as $1,000 richer before the end of the year.
1. Wipe out bank fees
Many banks charge you $10 to $12 a month just to keep a checking account. If you’re paying a similar amount, give yourself an instant bonus by changing to a bank that charges no monthly fee. It would be like pocketing $30 or more after three months. That may not make you rich, but it would get you started on saving.
Add to your stocking: $30
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2. Sign up for a bonus
Some banks and credit unions offer sign-up bonuses of up to $300 for new customers. If you’re seeking a new checking account — maybe because of Step 1 — look for an institution that offers a cash incentive for opening an account.
To qualify for a bonus, you probably will need to sign up for direct deposit or make a minimum number of transactions. At TD Bank, for example, you’ll need to receive direct deposits of at least $2,500 to qualify for the maximum $300 bonus, though it offers smaller bonuses with easier requirements.
Before you switch, be sure to read the institution’s disclosures on fees. You don’t want to offset your bonus over the next year by paying high monthly fees or overdraft penalties. The bonus generally is paid after you’ve kept the account open and in good standing for about three months.
Add to your stocking: $300
3. Use a savings app
Automate your savings by linking an existing bank account to a mobile savings app that will stash away your extra change. Apps such as Acorns and Qapital track your everyday transactions and round them up to the nearest dollar, putting the difference in a special savings or investment account. A few transactions each day, to buy a cup of coffee in the morning and a snack in the afternoon, for example, can add up. Even if the app helps you squirrel away just $10 a week, you’d save more than $120 before the end of the year.
Add to your stocking: $120
4. Cash in rewards
Have you joined a loyalty program with your local supermarket or clothing retailer? Are you earning points or miles on a credit card? Check with the retailers you’ve done business with recently to see if you’re enrolled in their frequent shopper programs. You may already have a treasure-trove of points that you can redeem for gift cards, just in time for the holidays. If you don’t, you can start now by joining any programs offered by your favorite merchants.
The value of some credit card rewards can easily add up to $400 a year, depending on the amount of spending on the card. (See our credit card rewards calculator.) You may not have had a full 12 months to rack up benefits, but earning a quarter of that rewards amount still can give your holiday budget a boost.
Add to your stocking: $100
5. Set it and forget it
If your employer offers direct deposit, sign up for it. Then, set aside a portion of your paycheck to go directly into a special savings account for holiday spending. (Some banks let you open multiple savings accounts for targeted goals.) There’s a good chance you won’t miss the money if it’s not in your main account.
Say you get paid every two weeks and transfer $75 to a savings account each payday. Think that’s a stretch? Consider this: The average American household spends about $250 a month eating out at restaurants. If you fall into this category but decide to prepare a few more meals at home instead, there’s a good chance you’ll spend around $75 less than usual every couple of weeks. So you wouldn’t miss the money automatically deposited into savings. Even better, your savings would build to about $450 by the time the holidays come around, and you’d be earning interest on the balance.
If you don’t have direct deposit, you can set up an automated transfer from your checking account to savings, timed with each pay period.
Add to your stocking: $450
By following these simple strategies, you can boost your holiday budget. Act now to avoid running out of cash over the holidays or, even worse, racking up credit card debt for the new year.
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