Do rising expenses keep you up at night?
Are you nervous about a long holiday shopping list?
Aside from getting lucky and winning the lottery, it’s becoming harder to grow emergency, rainy day funds and savings for the future.
Thankfully, it’s not impossible.
With a little willpower and effort, you can balance your budget and build up some savings in time for the upcoming shopping season. There also are some strategies to save on these purchases.
In honor of National Savings Day, which is Friday, and to start preparing for holiday shopping, I bring you my top savings tips.
Pick and choose which strategies work best for you and have fun. It might seem like work at first, but as you watch the savings add up some of my favorite strategies could become addictive.
Earn cash back: The easiest way I save is by earning cash back on both my online and in-store shopping. Online, my first stop is to a cashback website such as Ebates.com or TopCashback.com or using a browser extension such as RetailMeNot.com Genie. To earn cash back when shopping in-store with Ebates, you need to add a Visa or American Express card to your account and then select cashback offers to link to your card. I also use an assortment of smartphone apps such as Ibotta, Shopkick, Drop and rebate apps such as SavingStar, Checkout 51, Fetch Rewards and Coupons.com which give me rebates on specific groceries.
Reward programs: Just about every major retailer and restaurant has a reward program. Some smaller, local businesses also have loyalty programs. Sign up for these programs to earn money off purchases, get birthday freebies and sign-up bonuses. Some of my favorite store programs include Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, Best Buy, Sears and Kmart’s Shop Your Way Rewards program. To save on coffee, I regularly use Starbucks Rewards, Dunkin’s DD Perks and Wawa Rewards. Free up room on your smartphone and find the programs that fit your tastes and needs.
Gas savings: Smartphone apps, branded credit cards and wholesale clubs make it possible to stealthily beat the prices posted at the pump. I’m using “Pay with GasBuddy,” a payment card connected to my checking account that offers automatic cents off for every gallon or discounts with Sears and Kmart’s Shop Your Way rewards program. Other programs to consider include: app-based program GetUpside, Cumberland Farms’ SmartPay, Shell’s Fuel Rewards and Speedway Speedy Rewards.
More: Combat rising gas prices with smartphone apps and loyalty programs
Use the library: Hold off on buying the newest bestseller and see if it’s available at your local library. More libraries nationwide offer free e-books, audiobooks and you can even flip through magazines on your tablet. A growing number of libraries also offer free music and streaming videos.
Pick the right card: Analyze your spending patterns and see what the best rewards credit card is for your needs. Also weigh the costs of an annual fee for certain cards offering generous benefits.
More: Capital One introduces new rewards card for foodies, but how does it compare?
Clip coupons: Being a coupon clipper isn’t for everyone, and honestly, it can be a lot of work. But the savings add up when using coupons from Sunday newspapers as well as printable, mobile and digital coupons. Save coupons to use for good sales and stock up. However, don’t fall into the trap of buying items you’ll never use just because the price is right unless you plan on donating them. When I shop online, popular savings website and app, RetailMeNot, is my go-to source for coupon codes. I also Google for codes.
More apps: To save on hundreds of items each day at Target, I use Target Cartwheel, which is available on the Target smartphone app. When shopping at Walmart, use Savings Catcher available on the Walmart smartphone app which compares prices of eligible items to the advertised prices in local competitors’ weekly ads. If it finds a price lower than what you paid for the same exact item, you’ll get back the difference on a store e-gift card. Savings Catcher also stores a digital copy of your receipt, which can make it easier to return an item if you misplace your original receipt. Currently, Savings Catcher allows users to scan the paper receipts within the app or on the desktop site. But come Oct. 29, Walmart Pay, the retailer’s mobile payment program, will be the only way to submit receipts to Savings Catcher.
Cutting the cord: It’s becoming easier and more popular to ditch cable and satellite providers or at least switch to a less expensive programming package. I’m a big fan of binge watching shows on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu and my Amazon Fire TV Stick is my favorite device.
More: Cutting the cord may not save you money, but it is a way better TV experience
Class-action lawsuits: Signing up and submitting claims for class action lawsuits that you are eligible for can add hundreds to thousands of dollars to your savings. It’s easy but can take several months to years to get a check.
More: Want free money? Sign up for class action lawsuit settlements
Stack strategies: The best savings come when using cashback apps, a store-specific or rewards card and coupons together. On a recent Target trip, I used Cartwheel, newspaper coupons and earned cash back with three different apps plus saved 5 percent with my Target REDcard.
Sock it away: I often take my earnings from the above strategies and make a deposit into my savings account. For direction on how much to save, come Jan. 1, consider joining the 52 Week Money Challenge. The concept is simple. Deposit $1 on the first week of the year, $2 the second week, $3 the third week and so on and in a year, you’ll end up with $1,378. Because the end of the year is tighter with holiday shopping, I think it makes more sense to do the challenge in reverse and start the year putting aside $52, then $51 the second week and $50 the third week.
More: Best October deals: Bargainista’s guide to the month’s freebies and savings
More: Black Friday: Home Depot, Lowe’s and Sam’s Club among stores staying closed Thanksgiving
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Kelly Tyko is a consumer columnist and retail reporter for Treasure Coast Newspapers and TCPalm.com, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Read her Bargainista tips at TCPalm.com/Bargainista, follow her on Twitter @KellyTyko and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for her weekly newsletter at www.tcpalm.com/newsletters.