Ewing suggested nine tips that, combined, could help consumers save $750 before the holidays:
1. Budget. Before employing any other savings tactics, create a holiday budget. Calculate the amount available to spend on 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," Ewing suggested.
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. Breaking a twice-a-week latte habit until the holidays 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. For individuals whose holiday spending plans come close to last year's average planned spending of $830, not using credit could reduce that by $125.
5. Redeem credit card rewards. Check credit card statements to add up available rewards "points." Then visit the rewards Web site to convert rewards into cash or gift cards. Swapping for one gift card might save $50.
6. Make a list now. List all gift recipients and begin thinking of what to give them. For those who wish to make gifts, great news: there's still time. There is still time to 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. By pitching in, a group can offer a quality thank-you gift and save around $15 per person.
8. Keep the change. Save spare change daily. 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. Saving $1 a day will add up to $100.
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 these savings efforts add up to a grand total of more than $750.
"Those savings are almost enough to pay for holiday shopping in its entirety, based on last year’s average planned spending amount," Ewing said. "Those savings make fall the perfect season to begin planning for a happy holiday -- and a healthy financial picture for the holidays."
Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt consolidation, insurance, mortgages and other loans. Bills.com holds the No. 273 spot on the Inc. 500 list for 2009.
Bills.com and its sister companies, Freedom Debt Relief and Freedom Tax Relief, are wholly owned subsidiaries of Freedom Financial Network, LLC. The company has served more than 50,000 customers nationwide since 2002 while managing more than $1 billion in consumer debt. Its RSS feed is available here.
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