Financial experts, and for that matter, fitness gurus, tell you to pace yourself when it comes to setting goals. When you choose an attainable milestone, it's easier to stick to your plan.
So let's say you need $500 for a vacation with friends or to pay for holiday gifts for your extended family. We consulted some frugal living experts, and came away with these seven suggestions that can help you reach that goal in three months -- just in time for holiday shopping.
1. Do one thing every day to save. Skipping the designer coffee or packing your lunch are the simplest ways to cut back on your spending, says Clare Levison, author of "Frugal Isn't Cheap." To get to $500 in three months means not spending just $5.56 a day.
2. Switch to generic brands. "The average family of four that buys only brand-name grocery items could save about $200 per month simply by switching to store brands and generic versions of those grocery items whenever possible," says Jeff Yeager, AARP's savings expert and author of four books about frugal living, including his most recent, "How to Retire the Cheapskate Way."
3. Reconfigure your bundle. Leah Ingram, a frugal living expert who blogs at SuddenlyFrugal.com, says you should check to see if unbundling your TV, Internet, and phone can save you money. Sometimes you can save by cancelling your landline phone entirely, but if you have a package deal with the same provider, it may be better to ask for a usage review and find a less costly deal. "Even if you only save $30 per month, that's $90 of your $500 goal in three months, and $360 in savings in a year," says Ingram.
4. Take on some odd jobs. Levison says you should look into income-production as well as cost-cutting measures. Mowing lawns, shoveling snow, providing child care, or pet-sitting can bring in extra cash to stash in your savings account.
5. Temporarily minimize your cable bill. You can cancel your cable for a few months and save about $300, says Levison. Or slash the service to the basic level to save $25 to $30 per month.
7. Review your insurance policies. Depending on your circumstances, you can save money on your auto and home insurance policies by bundling policies with one company, requesting other discounts, and raising your deductibles. Just make sure you can comfortably cover that deductible if you need to make a claim.
"If you're retired, consider canceling any disability and/or life insurance you might be paying for," says Yeager. "While everyone's situation is different, for many retirees these insurance policies are unnecessary, as they're intended primarily to replace lost income, which is no longer a factor once you stop working." This move could reap a potential savings of $2,000 or more per year, or $500 in three months, Yeager says.
Whether you want to do one big thing such as walking or carpooling instead of driving or take a series of small savings steps, you can reach your goal within three months by sticking to your plan.
Michele Lerner is a Motley Fool contributing writer.