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I suppose I’m OK with this time of year! It’s cold, but I’ll give that a pass since it’s getting close to Christmas. And because it’s that time of year, seems like people are a bit more “jolly.” And of course, it’s shopping season which is many people’s favorite.

This is also the time of year 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 ideas to stash some cash away for some special holiday gifts.

1. Brown Bag it. Did you know it is estimated you can save an average of $70 a month bringing lunch to work rather than eating out. The numbers show a bagged lunch costs an average of only $3 day, compared to the $7 plus it costs to go out and eat. Instead, try bringing your lunch to work as much as possible and put away what you “don’t” spend on food and set it aside.

2. Cash only. OK, time to simply put away the plastic and start taking out only greenbacks, dollar bills. You may have more control over how much money you spend when you are handing over those dollars. 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.

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. OK, now it’s time to maybe get a bit more painful (for at least some of you). 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. Over $50, $100, $200 a month, for some even more. Instead, make coffee at home, invest in a to-go mug and save some dough.

5. Write your financial goals down in writing. When you do, you will 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, 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 with new debt for this years’ gifts.

Easy Tricks to Build a Spending Fund

Easy Tricks to Build a Spending Fund