My old mountain bike on Lake Calhoun

Top Five Budget Hacks, Just in Time for the Holidays 

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Saving up for early retirement requires a good amount of effort earning extra money, while also reducing expenses. Some figure that latter part is a real drag. In truth, there’s no real sacrifice at all in terms of impact to health and happiness.

So when I say “just in time for the holidays,” I’m not implying you should take the savings laid-out below and go buy a boatload of gifts for others (or yourself.) I just wanted to be in the spirit of the season. Now, go put that money to work!

Carve out these five items before you carve that turkey:

1.) stop shopping for clothes at J.Crew, and instead, start shopping on eBay and at consignment shops ($75 -$100/month saved for 2 adults). I got a couple of really nice, (apparently never worn) Banana Republic sweaters on eBay last month for $15 each. Sure beats $80 plus each off the shelf.

2.) quit paying for crazy-ass data plans for your cell phone service. 1GB per month is more than enough. Further, make sure you’re taking advantage of your employer’s carrier discount, if available. Funny story there- I only today figured out my company has a 23% discount. Sigh. Savings: $55 -$75/month. Funnier still? We’re now on Ting and saving big-league. $40 a month for two lines, people!

3.) switch up your insurance plans (auto and home.) Geico is a good place to start, but an even better option is to find an insurance broker who can find really cheap premiums with package deals. Also make sure your deductibles are $1,000 for auto and $2,500 for home. You don’t really want to make a claim unless it’s a total or near total loss. That’s why it’s called “insurance.” Savings: $125 – $200/month (assumes two cars, one home)

4.) cut that mop of hair at home, boys! I reckon my receding hairline makes the job easier on my wife, but she does great work with that shaver. I cut my son’s hair and he still shows up handsome as heck in our iCloud albums. Savings: $30 – $50/month. We use the Wahl Color Pro – it’s cheap and works like a champ!

5.) kick Comcast and Direct TV to the curb. No one ever regrets not watching enough TV when on their deathbed, and if they thought they would, they’d watch Netflix anyhow. Buy an HD antenna and be impressed with 30 free channels. We use the Mohu Curve and mount that puppy outside the window with a flat coax cable. Better yet, start a reading habit. Savings: $20 – $80/month, depending on your package.

It all adds up!

At the low-end you’re saving about $300 a month, or $3,600 a year. That’s a nice trip to Cancun for two, if you’re inclined to work until 65. At the high-end you might be saving up to $500 a month, so let’s call that a trip to Grand Cayman. But again, you might be wiser to pay off those loans or mortgage first, and keep the option to abandon cubicle early.

There’s certainly more than five areas we can find savings from in our budgets. Challenge yourself, and see what you can reduce before you stuff yourself silly (like I plan to) on Thursday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Comments 14

  1. Great points! We’ve done 3 of them – but struggle with the insurance. We have multiple properties and kids that drive and it is actually lower price to stay put with an agent we know. We haven’t used eBay for clothes either – but something to consider for sure!

  2. I can attest to saving money on haircuts. Ms. FP has been cutting my hair for the past few years. Originally did it just to save myself time (it takes a bunch of time to go to the barber). But when I think about it, savings that 20+ dollars per month really adds up.

    1. I hadn’t thought about the time factor as much – but that does add up as well. I get a little tired sitting and waiting for my appointment having to read ESPN the magazine or watch some sports on the barber’s TV. Better to look out the kitchen window from home. Always an honor to have you visit, Financial Panther.

  3. I like the eBay idea for clothes you know how they fit. Otherwise, you’d better research the return process to make sure you won’t be wasting more money and time with that rigamarole…????

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