The holidays are officially over. Your neighbors took down that ridiculous blow up Santa snow globe that was gracing their rooftop and you finally finished up your last Christmas thank you card that your mother still insists you write to all your relatives. You open up your mailbox to send the letters and BAM, your credit card bill is staring you straight in the face. Looks like you went a little overboard this holiday and will be eating ramen for the next few months. Don’t worry, we are here to help you save a little money after the holidays and ensure that you won’t have to eat too many packages of ramen noodles.
Accept That This Happened
The first step is to accept the fact that you went overboard and now have $45 dollars to your name. You can go on and on about how stupid you are and regret that you spent $150 on a New Year’s Eve bar tab, however, that is not making things any better. Accept the fact that you went a little bit overboard and have to make a few cut backs.
Though it may sound terrible and like a terrible idea, some stores offer cash returns. Others offer returns in exchange for a gift card. If you don’t totally love something you bought for yourself or received as a gift, consider returning it for store credit so you can buy something you will actually want and use or for cash to help pay off that credit card bill. Always pay attention to the store’s refund and exchange policy. Some stores need an original receipt within 30 days of purchase while others are more lenient towards returns and exchanges.
Assess Your Gift Cards
If you’re like me, you probably received a ton of gift cards to a ton of places and lost track of exactly where and what everything is for. The good news? These may be gift cards to Amazon, Target, Dunkin’ Donuts, or gas cards. Though a gift card may seem useless, chances are that you were going to buy something from that place eventually. You can get anything off of Amazon, from cleaning supplies to makeup. Consider using that gift card to buy products you eventually will need and use every day. If the place you got a gift card to really doesn’t suit your fancy, tell a friend about the gift card and if they are interested, ask them if they could trade you cash for the card. Though it may seem a bit “tacky”, why let a perfectly good gift card go to waste if you know somebody who would trade you cash for it?
At Home Cuisine
One of the biggest ways to save money after the holidays is to cut back a bit on your fast food budget. Try bringing a seltzer or soda with you to work so you don’t have to buy one out of the vending machine or packing a few snacks with you when you go out so you don’t feel the need to splurge on snacks you had at the house because you are hungry. By bringing food and drink options with you, you are saving a few dollars every time you reach towards the BYO option. Dollars add up quickly. By making most meals ahead of time and using ingredients when they are on sale, you can save even more money.
Girls Night In
Consider throwing a girls night in rather than going to the bar. It is much cheaper to have drinks at home than at the bar. A vodka cranberry at the bar costs a whopping $4-$7 on average. And how much does it cost to make a vodka cranberry at home? Probably no more than $1.50 per drink. Why pay those crazy bar prices (hello, $6 for a glass of wine when a bottle costs $8) when it’s more economical and ecological to stay home? Plus, you save the taxi fare and get to have one on one time with your crew.
Sales are fantastic. I grew up hunting sales and never paying full price for anything. If you are in love with a sweater from Forever 21, chances are that the sweater will be $5 less next week or there will be a 20% off flash sale in the near future you can take advantage of. Sales are not about settling. It’s about timing and making sure that you get the best price possible for something. It’s about not being embarrassed when you’re at Victoria’s secret paying for a $50 sweatshirt with a $25 gift card, a $10 reward card, and a $15 discount when you sign up for their Angel Card. Smile with pride as you ask about AAA discount, a student discount, or slap a coupon down on the counter. As for food, look at flyers and check for coupons. Coupons on things you were going to buy anyways can often save you $.50-1.00 per item. Look for buy one get one free and if it is a reasonable price, take advantage of it.
Consider setting up a “trading” system with your friends so you guys will feel like you have more clothes in your closet and are less inclined to spend money on new clothes. Split that water bill with a roommate, split the cost of groceries, gas on the weekend, whatever it is, don’t be afraid to split with others. Sharing can ensure that nothing goes to waste and you are not overpaying for anything.
Here we are in the nitty gritty part. Nobody wants to sacrifice too much in order to save a few dollars and I’m saying you don’t have to! Cutting back sounds scary, it really does. It’s all about balancing and realizing what you are willing to give up. Do you really need to spend $40 every week for a mani pedi or can you go biweekly or do them at home? Do you really need to drink Grey Goose vodka every time you drink or is there another low cost alternative? Lastly, is it really necessary to take hour long showers or would shorter showers reduce your bill? Make a list of everything you are spending money on. Highlight in pink the things you know you cannot cut back on and live without (such as phone bill, internet, apartment cost), in blue highlight the things you think you can save money on (such as groceries, pedicures, salon trips) while in yellow, highlight the things you think you can eliminate (such as the three trips a day to the vending machine, daily massages at the gym, or that magazine subscription that you could easily borrow from a coworker). By cutting back on things you don’t really need, you are in turn saving money.
One of the most effective ways to earn a few more bucks after the holidays is to put in a bit more effort. Picking up a few extra shifts at your job or searching for some under the table employment can help pay those bills that are stacking up. This is especially a good option for those girls who really don’t want to cut back on their manicure a week or their weekend bar crawl. By working extra hours, you may be able to pay off your bills and use the extra money you have earned for that manicure. Another option is to pick up an extra job so you can develop a savings account incase this happens again. By setting money aside you are preventing this from happening in the future and able to afford unexpected expenses that may come up.
Though it may seem like the end of the world and like you will be poor forever just because you wanted to make sure that everyone had a good holiday, you will be fine. That’s the beauty of money. It is not the end of the world. You will not be broke forever just because of one holiday where you went overboard. Develop a plan as to where you are going to come up with the money you want and need and try your best to prevent this from happening in the future.