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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Bob Niedt, Online Editor
| August 29, 2016
Labor Day hasn’t even arrived, but it’s already time to start thinking about the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday, the traditional launch of the holiday shopping season, is just three months away. Have you set aside enough money to cover your purchases?
Holiday expenditures can add up fast. According to the American Research Group, the average shopper planned to spend $882 on gifts alone last year. Throw in decorations, postage, flowers, food and more, and you could easily be looking at spending $1,000 this holiday season.
The key to readying your wallet for holiday spending is starting early. We came up with seven ways to pull together $1,000 (or more) by Black Friday. It’ll be tough to get to four figures in three months by relying on any single strategy, but you’ll be on schedule to hit the $1k mark on time if you combine some of our money-generating suggestions. Take a look at all seven, and decide for yourself.
But before you do, let me be the first to say it: Happy holidays!
If you got a big tax refund this year, you’re not alone. The IRS issued more than 102 million refunds, as of May 13, with the average refund totaling $2,732. But why wait until next spring to get the money you really need now? If you’re a taxpayer who typically receives a refund, and little has changed in terms of your income and write-offs, then you’ve probably already overpaid your taxes via your paycheck deductions so far in 2016.
There’s a simple way to put a chunk of that refund in your pocket now. Go to your company’s payroll office and fill out a new W-4 form to claim extra allowances. Once you do, your take-home pay should rise on your next payday. To figure out how many allowances you should claim, try our easy-to-use tax withholding calculator.
Total savings by Black Friday: $683, based on an extra $52.53 you could receive in each weekly paycheck by adjusting your tax withholding (assuming an average refund of $2,732).
SEE ALSO: The Most Overlooked Tax Deductions
You can cash in on our right to vote on Election Day (and it should be a very interesting one in 2016). Many localities need election officers, especially those who are bilingual. And while the hours may be long – in some cases stretching from 6 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. – the pay isn’t bad for a day’s work.
For example, in Fairfax County, Va., which needs to fill 3,500 positions, election officers are paid $175 for a full day. In Monterey County, Calif., election officers are paid $135 (for clerks) to $185 (for inspectors).
Generally, to qualify, you must be at least 18 years of age and a registered voter in your state, be a U.S. citizen, read and write English, and have transportation to the polling place. You'll likely also have to devote time to attend a training class.
Total savings by Black Friday: $135-$185.
SEE ALSO: 9 Jobs You Won’t Believe You Can Get Paid to Do
Are you overpaying for your auto insurance? It’s easy to find out. Head over to a comparison website such as Insurance.com or Nerdwallet.com. I checked monthly rates for my 2009 Honda Accord, registered in Virginia, and they ranged from $103 to $153 on Nerdwallet. The $50 difference between the cheapest and priciest policies adds up to $600 over the course of a year. If you’d prefer to have an independent insurance agent track down the best rate for you, look for one in your area at TrustedChoice.com.
There are other tactics you could deploy to save. Some insurance companies will offer you discounts for insuring multiple vehicles or bundling your homeowners’ insurance with them. Good drivers get good discounts, too, but you may have to prove it first. Progressive’s Snapshot program tracks your driving habits via a small device that plugs into your car’s diagnostic port below the steering wheel. Allstate’s Drivewise program relies on an app on your smartphone.
Total savings by Black Friday: $150 for me, for example, by switching to a cheaper auto policy
SEE ALSO: 3 Simple Steps to Reshop Your Car insurance
If you have a special skill – whether it’s the ability to play an instrument well, paint like Picasso or explain calculus in a way anyone can understand – you may be able to make money sharing it with others. For example, you could earn $15 to $60 an hour tutoring individual kids or college students if you speak a second language or have great math, science or writing skills.
Advertise your services on school, campus and community bulletin boards, or tutoring web sites such as Wyzant.com and Tutor.com. And take advantage of social media sites, such as Facebook, to let people know about the lessons you’re able to teach.
Total savings by Black Friday: $390, assuming you tutor twice a week for 13 weeks at the low end of the pay range.
SEE ALSO: 10 Ways Teachers Can Earn Extra Cash
As empty-nesters, my wife and I tend to go out to dinner at least twice a week. We’re not alone. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumers spend an average of just under $2,800 a year on dining away from home. That’s about $233 each month.
How to cut back is no mystery, but it does take discipline. Start by becoming a brown-bagger at work. Think about how much you’re spending on lunches and coffee every day. Also help out at home in the kitchen, even if you’re not the main cook. If you plan meals for the week and cook ahead, you’ll have more incentive to stay home rather than dine out.
Total savings by Black Friday: $699, based on the monthly average of $233 spent eating away from home.
SEE ALSO: Why Blue Apron Was a Bust in My Marriage
Hey, as long as you’re cutting back on going out to dinner, you might as well make some money doing it while allowing stressed-out parents to get some alone time.
In big cities such as New York and Washington, expect to earn up to $20 an hour as a babysitter. The going rate is closer to $7 to $10 an hour in smaller cities. Advertise your services in your free community newsletter, on community bulletin boards, at the public library or at houses of worship. Let your social media contacts know, too. You can also place a listing or search for jobs on websites such as Care.com and Sittercity.com.
Total savings by Black Friday: $182-$520, based on two hours of babysitting per week for 13 weeks at the low end ($7) and high end ($20) of the hourly pay range.
SEE ALSO: 10 Best Jobs for the Future
Many colleges and universities are always on the lookout for adjunct professors. Some may require a master’s degree; others just a college degree and professional experience to share with students. I taught visual and print journalism at two esteemed schools – one required a master’s degree, which I have – for a number of years while holding down a full-time job. The gigs added several thousand dollars to my annual income. Check nearby schools, especially community colleges, for openings.
Prefer younger students? Grade schools and high schools nationwide are looking for people to substitute teach – and some have outsourced the hiring process. Source4Teachers, a Cherry Hill, N.J.-based K-12 educational staffing firm, works with more than 220 school systems across the Northeast to fill substitute teacher and other staffing positions.
It varies by state and school district, but some don’t require substitutes to have teaching certification. Pennsylvania, for example, allows people with a bachelor’s degree to apply for one-year emergency certification to substitute. Pay varies, too, but substitute teachers can make between $90 and $120 per day. Teaching-certified substitutes make about $20 more per day than non-certified subs, says Owen Murphy of Source4Teachers.
Total savings by Black Friday: $540-$720, based on substitute-teaching six times over three months.
SEE ALSO: 30 Ways to Earn Extra Cash