Staying afloat financially can be difficult—especially with the holidays coming up. So, how do you gather some extra funds for the festivities? Other blogs tout extensive lists of minor savings, taking frugality to the extreme and suggesting you should re-use paper towels or make your own dish soap. These methods are too much work for how little they reward you; your time is valuable and you should use it wisely! I’m going to show you how financial awareness and smarter shopping can be just as valuable as 100 different “frugal” tips.

Find Your App and Check it Twice

You’d be surprised how carried away you can get if you’re not paying attention to your spending. Months ago, I took a good look at my monthly transactions and I realized why I was always short on money—I never paid attention to what I spent in a day. And that unchecked spending led to $300 in restaurant charges for just one month!

Online banking is an easy way to track your transactions. Utilize this simple platform to set up alerts, and you’ll know exactly when you’re going a little overboard. This is also a great time to set up an automatic transfer to put away some additional funds in your holiday savings account—you can’t overspend your money if you’ve hidden it from yourself!

Many money tracking apps also allow you to set goals, categorize your spending, and view easy-to-read charts that help in visualizing exactly how you spend each month. You can’t aim for lower expenses if you don’t know your current expenses, so take a look at least once a week and see where you can cut corners and save!


Don’t Let Food Eat Up Your Savings

In addition to my $300 a month restaurant habit, I found myself spending close to $30 a week on small transactions at convenience stores or the office vending machine. So, I took action and IMMEDIATELY cut these costs in half. Here’s what I did.

  • Prepare for sales. Signing up for e-coupons from your grocery store or specific brands will keep you alert to great prices on items you buy frequently—be sure to stock up when they’re on sale!
  • Those chips, granola bars, and drinks you buy on break at work? They need to go. If you stock up on these at the grocery store, they’ll cost you less than half the price. This is the time to stop those impulse buys in your daily life.
  • Fewer restaurant trips! Just keeping tabs on my spending made me think twice about eating out. I made sure to have a few frozen meals on hand at all times, just in case time isn’t on my side and I need something quick. Those will cut cost of last-minute dining out expenses from $15-20, to under $5.


Earn Your Spot on the Nice List!

If you stick to these tips—keeping an eye on your purchases, and buying food differently—you will feel a significant change in how you spend, and it will be reflected in your bank balance. There’s no need to work yourself up with extreme, all-out frugal or “cheapskate” methods; just be aware of your spending and use a little bit of strategy, and you’ll find yourself with plenty of extra cash for the holidays!