The American Research Group estimates that the average American shopper will shell out around $882 this holiday season showering their loved ones and friends with gifts and goodies. That amount of spending will likely put a big strain on many household budgets so we reached out to our team of Motley Fool contributors and asked them to share an interesting idea that can help our readers shave a few extra dollars from their budgets.
Read below to see if their suggestions can help your wallet survive this holiday season.
Dan Caplinger: One way to save that many people have increasingly looked at is medical tourism. The cost of healthcare in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years, but you can get high-quality medical services in many foreign countries for a fraction of the cost of similar procedures domestically. Some countries are well-known for having a wealth of dental surgeons and mouth-restoration experts, while others have numerous specialists that focus on medical procedures like hip or knee replacements, chemotherapy, or even heart-valve replacements.
It's important to understand that U.S.-based health insurance policies or Medicare won't always cover expenses you incur overseas. However, the cost advantages are often substantial enough that even taking the lack of coverage into account, you can still save by going abroad for your medical care. You also have the option of obtaining specialized insurance coverage that will protect you against adverse outcomes from the medical care you've gotten overseas, with payments that will allow you to get remedial care if a procedure turns out badly and you end up needing more care to fix a subsequent problem. Such coverage can reduce your risk even further and make you feel more comfortable that no matter what happens, you'll end up having gotten the medical care you need at a price you can afford much more easily.
Brian Feroldi: Recurring spending categories are great places to look for opportunities to save as if you can find them they will pay off month after month. One recurring spending category that often gets overlooked for ways to save is our cell phone bill, but with a little bit of work up front you can likely reap substantial long-term savings.
The simplest way to do so is to call your current provider and ask them for ways to lower your bill. They are likely to suggest downgrading your current data plan or switching to a prepaid option. While those ideas are great, I'd like to suggest that you dump your major cell phone provider altogether and consider making the switch to a discount operator as doing so could bank you huge monthly savings.
Two of my favorites discount cell phone providers are Republic Wireless and Ting as switching to either of these companies is likely to come with a huge monthly savings. I personally switched my cell phone provider to Ting earlier this year as their service allowed me to keep my iPhone and I have saved myself at least $40 each month since I made the switch. As an added bonus I've found that Ting offers much better customer service than my old carrier did as their 800 number is answered by a live person each time I call it for help -- no phone tree to deal with!
Before you switch carriers you should make sure that the coverage in your area is just as high quality as your current carrier, but if it is and you are looking for a way to save money I think this is a great option.
Matt Frankel: A few years ago, going without cable or satellite TV would be considered a crazy idea, but more and more people are becoming cord-cutters these days. If you want to save some money, it could be worth considering -- especially with the plethora of streaming services to choose from.
Sure, you'll be giving up some luxuries, but not as much as you may think. Netflix offers thousands of movies and some of the best original TV shows for just $9.99 per month in high definition. Amazon Prime offers plenty of free movies and shows, and also offers a pay-per-view movie service. Not only is the $99/year ($8.25 per month) charge worth it on its own, but you'll also get free two-day shipping on all Prime-eligible Amazon purchases.
Additionally, Hulu Plus is unmatched when it comes to recent episodes of popular TV shows such as Family Guy and Gotham, and costs just $7.99 monthly. Finally, for $20 per month, Sling allows you to stream live TV channels and you can even add on premium options such as HBO for $15, or a package of popular sports channels for $5 per month.
Even if you subscribe to all four services, this comes to a grand total of $46.23 per month. Considering that many cable/satellite bills are upwards of $100 per month, deciding to ditch your cable company can mean more than $600 per year in savings.
Jason Hall: For decades, the average American family has needed two cars. After all, with two parents working and a growing list of extracurricular activities for kids, having a single car just wouldn't work. That's not the case so much anymore.
While Uber and Lyft are getting much of the attention, these services are only the surface of a major shift in technology-enabled services.
To start, car-sharing services like ZipCar are great for families who only need that second car a few times per month, especially when paired with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
Need to get the kids to piano lessons or soccer practice? Services like Shuddle, HopSkipDrive, and others are focused on making sure children are safely transported by qualified drivers who are often full-time teachers or work with kids at their "day jobs" already.
The average new car payment is more than $450 per month, the average household spends $1,200 per year on gasoline and the average insurance cost is $800 per car per year. Add it up and that's $6,800 per year spent on average, per car. And that's not even including maintenance costs.
Put it all together, and the services described above could easily replace that second car for a lot of families, and result in thousands of dollars in savings per year.
Selena Maranjian: Here's a trick you can try when you're out shopping: Give yourself a time limit. If you're making a quick trip to the grocery store, for example, set an alarm on your smartphone for, say, 10 minutes, and walk to the cashiers when it goes off. You don't need to give yourself only 10 minutes for a big weekly food-shopping foray, but don't give yourself a generous amount of time. Similarly, if you're headed for the mall to pick up a thing or two, respect your shopping list and give yourself a short time allowance to get it done.
Unlimited time in a store or mall can lead us to wander around, encountering lots of things we will buy on impulse. Once you get used to shorter shopping trips, you might make a game of it and see how short you can get them. Another trick is to leave your credit cards at home and do all your shopping with cash. That has been proven to lead us to spend less.
Brian Stoffel: I'll be the first to admit that using a Health Savings Account to save money might not be for everyone. But if you're in good health, have some extra cash to put away, and have a health insurance plan (with a high-deductible) that allows for it, an HSA could be a huge boon.
Unlike their Flex-spending brethren, money you put into an HSA doesn't disappear at the end of the year; you get to keep it until you use it. Not only that, but you can invest the money in your HSA through various mutual funds or ETFs.
But by far the biggest advantage of an HSA is that it is triple tax-advantaged: the money you put in (up to $3,350 for individuals, $6,750 for families, and an extra $1,000 for those 55 and older) is tax-deductible, the growth that accumulates via your investments face no capital gains, and -- as long as you withdraw money to pay for or reimburse yourself for qualified medical expenses -- all deductions are tax free as well.
You'd be hard-pressed to find another type of account with those kinds of advantages. And with many soon-to-be retirees worried about healthcare expenses in old age, an HSA could be a great way to save money on taxes now, and pay for future trips to the hospital -- all in one fell swoop.
Sean Williams: Sometimes the easiest way to save money is to spend a little in the process. I'll get to how that's possible in a minute, but first let me offer my suggestion to boost the amount of cash in your wallet: have a yard sale.
According to Signs.com, in 2013 there were 165,000 yard sales conducted each week, with some 690,000 consumers finding a treasure to take home. For the full-year, yard sales generated around $220 million in extra cash for homeowners, while also cleaning up garages and adding some extra space. Of course, yard sales are particularly competitive during the spring and summer months, so ensure that you do what you can to get the word out by using social media, suggesting family and friends spread the word, and making sure that everything is presented in a clear, concise, and clean manner. It should help your yard sale generate the most amount of cash possible.
However, there's another side to this coin. If you decide to become a garage sale connoisseur you may be able to turn your hobby into a money-making business. Signs.com notes that consumers who buy items at a yard sale and then turnaround to sell those items online typically net a markup of 462% over what they paid.