The holidays can put a real strain on an already tight budget, but with a little creative thinking and some strategic planning, they don’t have to turn you into a Scrooge.
Before you start chipping away at your gift list, check out these 10 practical ways to increase your holiday coffers without cutting into your household budget:
- Set up an Online Shop.
Are you one of those gifted people who likes to create things — you know, those things your friends and family keep begging you to make for them and saying you should be selling? Well the holidays are a great time to set up shop.
Sites like Etsy and eBay offer the opportunity to share your unique, handmade gifts and clever inventions with people who are willing to pay you money for them. These sites do charge a small fee to maintain your shop, but being connected with them gives you a built-in advertising benefit you won’t get with an independent web site.
- Sell Stuff You Don’t Need Any More.
If you’re not one of those crafty people or you don’t want the hassle of an online store, don’t fret. There are still opportunities out there for you to sell your items. An online marketplace like eBay also has individual accounts that will allow you to sell just about anything, new or used.
Remember though, these items will have to be shipped to your buyer, so if you want to sell larger items, like furniture, you may want to check out Craigslist. There are no fees for selling on Craigslist, and you are usually dealing with local buyers who will pick up your items.
- Get a Part Time Job.
During the holidays, a lot of retail stores look for extra help. If you have the time and a flexible schedule, working part time this season can bring in a good chunk of cash. October is a good time to start your job search, but even if you missed that window, don’t give up. There is always someone who decides retail isn’t for them, and stores will need to find a replacement quickly. Get an application in, and a part time holiday job can still be in the cards for you.
- Rent Yourself Out.
If you don’t like working a rigid schedule but you have free time you can devote to part time work, you can hire yourself out for odd jobs, honey-dos or holiday decorating through sites like Craigslist and TaskRabbit. With Craigslist, you can set up or answer an ad and possibly be working the same day. TaskRabbit is only available in certain cities and requires an application, so it may take you some time to get established. Be sure to take these things into consideration when planning your holiday budget.
- Become a Virtual Assistant.
If you have writing, organizational, accounting, investing or other administrative skills but can’t or don’t want to work outside of the home, consider becoming a virtual assistant or virtual concierge. This is not something that happens overnight, so you may want to start building a client base before the holidays arrive. However, if you have the skills and self-discipline required, a virtual assistant position can be a rewarding job and might just lead to something more permanent.
- Take Surveys Online.
There are several online companies that really do pay you to take online surveys. However, you should be aware of a couple things before you sign up. First, you have to qualify for a survey in order to get credit, and that doesn’t happen every time. Also, most of them work on a points system, and you have to earn a minimum number of points before you can cash in. This can take a while, so if you want to earn extra holiday cash, you might want to start the year before and get some points racked up.
There are also sites that provide a variety of ways to earn points, including reading emails, surveys and purchasing online products. These sites may offer gift certificates in lieu of cash rewards, but because of the diverse opportunities offered, you can accumulate points more quickly.
- Rent out a Spare Room.
A lot of people travel to visit relatives during the holidays. If you like meeting new people and are not averse to temporarily sharing your home with them, renting out a spare room could give you a huge jump toward fulfilling your gift list. Airbnb offers services to help you find people who are looking for hotel alternatives in your area. There is no cost to list your room, but they do charge a service fee whenever someone rents from you.
- Take Care of Houses and Pets.
Most people don’t need a full-time house sitter while they are away for the holidays, but they might want someone to pick up newspapers and mail, feed pets and just keep a general eye on their home. Put out the word to co-workers, friends and family that you are available during the holidays. This kind of gig takes little time and can pay quite well, depending on your location.
The holidays bring obligations that may not be part of our normal lives. Holiday parties, gift shopping and even volunteering can take folks away from family and home at times. If they don’t have a regular babysitter, they may find themselves at a loss or need someone last minute. This could include elderly or disabled relatives who can’t be left alone, as well as children.
You can sign up with sites like Care.com for a steady stream of clients or just spread the word through mom groups, daycare or school, friends and neighbors to let them know you’re available and there for them if they need you.
- Pay Yourself.
You may be scratching your head a little with this one, but it’s really quite simple. Do you spend $5 every morning for a coffee shop latte? Why not make your own coffee in the morning for one month, or better yet, start your day with a healthy smoothie straight from your kitchen? Take that extra money and put it in a holiday fund jar.
How often do you go out to eat? That can be a whopping $25 to $50 a pop at a mid-range restaurant for just two people. Even fast food on the way home from soccer every night quickly adds up.
Cutting out some unnecessary expenses for a month or two prior to the holidays can add considerable cash to strained finances.
These are just a few ways to find extra money for the holidays. Always remember, busy people are stretched extra thin during this time of year, and chances are they are willing to pay someone to make their life easier. If you find a way to become that someone, you are well on your way to expressing your inner Santa without depressing your family budget.