13 Ways to Avoid Being Broke at Christmas

I spent a lot of money on stupid crap last year. You did, too.

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Not enough money for Christmas presents? Yeah, I thought so. That’s because you spent too much money in 2013 on frivolous things. Well, that ship has sailed. But you don’t have to make the same mistake again. Here are a few tips for saving a few bucks in 2014 so you’ve got enough left over to actually buy your friends a few decent gifts next year.

Don’t buy that Megabus ticket to New York

Sure, the ticket was only $20 but I waited in the rain for 45 minutes outside 30th Street station and sat next to an Asian woman with a live, caged chicken on her lap. OK, not that bad, but taking the Megabus is being forced to spend 2-3 hours (assuming there’s no traffic) with college students, socialists and the rest of the 99 percent. These are not the people you want to hobnob with. You want to network with the Wall Streeters and lawyers on the Acela. OK, it may cost 10 times as much as much but you’ve got to spend a little to make a little. Invest in yourself. Raise your social status.

Avoid that next dinner at any Jose Garces restaurant

First of all, the food is delicious and artfully presented. His restaurants are beautiful. And packed, so he’s doing something right. But c’mon, you just want… more! A dinner for 2 at Amada set me back $150 and I still had room for a Big Mac afterwards. I’m just not a fancy restaurant guy, particularly when I can get a delicious steak, salad, fries and a Foster’s at any Outback for less than $40. You’ll have to knock over a few kids to get to your table but the savings are worth it.

Never forget that July 31, 2013 Phillies game

Were you there? I was. The Phils lost 9-2. Kendrick gave up more runs than outs. The “Fightin’s” made 2 errors. What a night! I spent $223 (3 tickets at $45 per, $67.00 for overrated crab fries, a steak sandwich, drinks and ribs at the Bulls BBQ, $15 for parking, and $8 for a much needed shot of Jack Daniels at Harry the K’s. You know the feeling. You wasted good money on this team too, didn’t you? Don’t make that mistake again in 2014. Good luck Ruben.

Your Comcast bill

If you’re like most people I know, then all of your inbound and outbound communications are essentially controlled by the same company. We paid $294.47 last month to them, what with our cable, phone, Internet and other unregulated purchases for my kids (OK, who in this family spent $5.99 for The Internship? You are dead!). If we were all just a little smarter, we would kill the cable and replace it with Hulu, Netflix and MLB.com. And get rid of the house phone, because it’s just annoying already. I’d also get some Internet service comparisons from Verizon. So let’s go! Wait… you’re a little scared of the Roberts family, too? Yeah, they just seem a little… well… too nice. And why have we never actually heard them speak? And why do they only seem to come out at night? For personal safety reasons, let’s just stick with Comcast. So hello Michael, Ron and Leslie. I’m still with you.

That time you parked at 17th and Market Street

A few weeks ago I made the mistake of parking my car at this garage for a mere two hours. It cost me $32. I get it: that’s what the market bears and good luck finding a spot on the street in the middle of a workday downtown. But I’m not going to make this mistake again. And neither should you. In 2014 let’s resolve to get off our lazy asses, park our cars at that lot down on 23rd and Arch where the cost is half as much and walk a few blocks.

Re-visit your Kindle

It’s an awesome little device. And so is the iPad app. But remember those days when we went to libraries and spent nothing on books? Now I’m buying just about everything… and paying through the nose. What other reason would a middle aged white guy be reading Mike Tyson’s autobiography? Who even knew he could write? (For the record, it was ghost written and actually quite good.) Next year we should make more use of our library’s e-book lending programs. It’s free and let’s face it: You’re not going to get your $8.59 back after you discover that even though it won the Man Booker prize The Luminaries is pretty damn dull.

Let’s also resolve to do the following in 2014:

  • Avoid premium gas because it’s a scam and our cars aren’t premium cars.
  • Avoid buying anything more than a simple cup of coffee at Starbucks because it’s cheap, non-caloric and you’re holding up the line with your ridiculously complicated order.
  • Don’t give in to the airlines’ $25 bag fee and instead just bring all your stupid stuff on board in an oversized wheelie bag that you can’t even lift and to hell with the inconvenience you’re imposing on other fliers and flight attendants.
  • Cancel your Sirius XM subscription because, other than Howard Stern, you can stream all the content you want for free (or $10/month on Spotify) through your phone.
  • Boycott any restaurant that charges $16 for a glass of wine smaller than the last urine specimen your grandfather produced – yeah, it’s that little.
  • Limit your movie-going to once a quarter — it’s a fortune, most movies aren’t worth it, and even though it was released yesterday you can probably find it somewhere online and just watch on your TV.
  • And stop saying yes to those dollar donations at the check-out line… do we really know where it’s all going?

OK, you’re broke. You didn’t have enough money to buy those gifts that you really wanted to buy. But cheer up. Next year will be different. The economy’s on the mend. And now you’ll be spending less, too. Just don’t mess with the Roberts family. Those guys are ruthless.

Follow @GeneMarks on Twitter.