It’s tough sticking to your budget any time of year, but the holiday season presents special challenges with so many unexpected expenses and temptations. If you sometimes fall prey to holiday overspending, you might want to look for year-round small spending cuts in other areas of your life that, when added together, can result in big savings.
Here are a few suggestions for your personal finances:
• If you have low-deductible homeowners, renters or auto insurance, ask how much your premiums would drop by raising the deductible to $500 or $1,000 – it could be 15 to 30 percent or more.
• Kick bad habits. Smoking one $6 pack of cigarettes a day costs about $2,200 a year, not to mention additional medical and lost-work costs.
In the home:
• By lowering your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours you can reduce your home heating bill by 10 percent or more. For a $400 monthly bill, that’s $40 in savings.
• Insulate your water heater and outgoing pipes to reduce heat loss and save 4 to 9 percent in water-heating costs. Also, try lowering the temperature to 120 degrees for additional savings.
In the car:
• Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas and can lower gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway. By driving sensibly, you could save about $1.20 for each $3.65 gallon of gas.
• Fuel economy drops rapidly at higher speeds. For each 5 mph you exceed 60 mph, it’s like paying an additional $0.29 per gallon of gas.
• Avoid keeping unnecessary heavy items in your car – each extra 100 pounds reduces your miles per gallon by up to 2 percent.
By trimming a few dollars here and there you’re suddenly saving hundreds or thousands of dollars a year – enough to tide you through the holidays and start a vacation fund for next summer.
Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs.