By Angela Colley

NEW YORK (MoneyTalksNews) — The holidays are an expensive time of the year. According to the American Research Group, Americans spent an average $646 on holiday gifts last year. Add parties, travel and decorations to the mix and it’s easy to bust the budget.

It would be nice to have a little extra money set aside to relieve the financial strain. If you do, good for you. But if you don’t, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson shares six ways to save $500 by Christmas in the video below. Check it out and then read on for lots more.

Now, let’s flesh out Stacy’s ideas and add a bunch more …

1. Make your own Halloween costume

Halloween is just around the corner. The average American will spend $26.52 on a costume. But with a little creativity, you could save that money and make your own costume free at home. Here are a few ideas almost anyone can pull together using what they already own:

2. Brew your own coffee

In my area, a grande cup of fancy coffee at Starbucks costs about $3.50. If you’re in the habit of stopping by every day before work, you’ll spend $17.50 a week. Start making your coffee at home and you’ll save more than 50%, even if you load up on creamer.

Potential savings by Christmas: $65.

3. Wash your car at home

Express car washes cost an average $6.50 each. If you have your car professionally washed, you could spend $20 or more. Do that twice a month, and you’ll spend $13 to $40 a month keeping your car clean. Instead, wash your car at home and save $39 to $120 by Christmas.

4. Cancel the cleaning service

A friend of mine has his house professionally cleaned once a week because he swears he doesn’t have the time to do it himself. I have even less free time than he does, and I still manage to clean my house myself. I’ve found I actually enjoy cleaning, and I save $90 a month compared with his costs.

Cancel the cleaning service and you’ll save $270 or more by the holidays.

5. Curb laundry costs

Laundry detergent costs about 20 cents per load. Considering that the California Energy Commission says the average American family does about 400 loads of laundry a year, you spend about $6.60 a month – just on soap. If you really wanted to save money on laundry detergent, you could start making your own.

It will save you up to 90%, and we’ve got the recipe in Make Your Own Detergent and 20 Other Tips to Save on Laundry.

6. Buy cheap beer

Where I live, you’ll pay about $8.99 for a decent domestic six-pack. Buy one a week and you’ll spend $35.96 a month on beer (obviously, a lot more if you stop by a bar for your spirits). But you can cut your costs by going online. Sites such as help you find cheap beer in your area.

Check out 5 Tips to Save on Beer for more.

If you cut your monthly $35.96 spending by 25%, you’d save $8.99 a month, or $26.97 by Christmas.

7. Be your own handyman

Everyone I know has some home improvement job on their to-do list. If you plan to finish one of yours by the holidays, you’ll save a ton doing it yourself. For example, a contractor recently offered to strip the wallpaper in three rooms of my friend’s house for $200. She did it herself free. Even if you’re not that handy, the Internet can teach you how to do just about anything. Check out:

Then read 23 Ways to Lower the Cost of Home Improvement for even more savings tips.

8. Dine out on a discount

You don’t have to give up dining out to save money for Christmas, but don’t go out without a coupon, special deal or cheap gift certificate in hand. We give you a bunch of ways to eat for less in 15 Ways to Save on Eating Out, including:

  • Pick up $25 gift certificates for $10 on
  • Become Facebook friends with restaurants to see special deals
  • Snag coupons through sites like Groupon and LivingSocial

9. Buy generic

In 7 Things You Should Always Buy Generic, Stacy found generic versions are often 50% less than their name-brand counterparts. If you usually spend $45 a month on household necessities, you could save $22.50 a month by switching to the generic brand. By Christmas, you’d have an extra $67.50.

10. Make your own cleaning products

A bottle of all-purpose cleaner can cost anywhere from $3.50 to $6 depending on the brand you buy. Go through one bottle a month, and you’d spend $10.50 to $18 by Christmas.

Or you could start making your own all-purpose cleaner and save more than 90%. Just pick up a bottle of white vinegar (about $1.50 for a half-gallon in my area), and mix it in a spray bottle with some water. You’ve got an instant cleaner that works anywhere in your house.

11. Save on smokes

If you’re still smoking, now is probably a good time to quit, but you can at least save some money on the cigarettes you do buy between now and the holiday season. We’ve got tips to help you do so in 6 Ways to Save on Cigarettes, including:

  • Buy cartons for an average discount of $15 on 10 packs
  • Buy on Indian reservations for tax-free savings
  • Stock up on two-pack discounts

For 19 more money-saving suggestions. click here.