5 Ways to Earn Extra Money Fast for the Holidays

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Chonce. You can read more articles by Chonce over at her personal blog, My Debt Epiphany. Enjoy! 

The holiday season is winding down. While the holiday time is an exciting time to relax and spend time with family, it can also be quite stressful on your finances due to all the costs associated with the holidays.

Many people spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on purchasing holiday gifts, decorations, hosting and attending parties and events, and so on.

Nothing stings more than getting into debt this time of year. One thing you can do to avoid spending more than you earn over the next few weeks is to find ways to earn more money to cover the increased expenses over the past few months.

Here are 5 ways to earn extra money fast to either prepare for or recover from the holiday season.

 

  1. Get a Seasonal Job

 

Earning extra money through a seasonal job is a good idea if you are worried about stretching your budget for the holidays.

Seasonal jobs tend to provide a consistent income (even though it’s temporary) because business usually picks up during the fall and holiday seasons.

Many businesses like Amazon.com will be looking for online customer service reps this holiday season to assist shoppers and answer questions about purchases, shipping inquiries, and more.

This positions with Amazon range from $12 – $15 per hour on average and can last up to 6 months or longer if you leave a lasting impression and they need to take on a regular employee.

You can also try working as a seasonal associate at busy stores like Target, Walmart, K-Mart etc. Or, try getting holiday-themed gigs like doing photography at the mall or decorating store fronts.

 

  1. Test Websites

If you’re looking to earn some extra money from home, you can test out websites during your spare time and offer your honest feedback.

UserTesting is a popular website that pays people to review other websites and blogs.

Testers get paid $10 for each 20-minute review and they just answer simple questions and record their first impressions and experience navigating through the website.

It’s not a ton of money, but it will add up once all those unexpected holiday expenses start trickling in.

 

  1. Sell Items Online

If you’re buying new gifts for people in your family, it’s the perfect time to clean out your home by selling items you no longer use.

You can sell items online via Amazon, Ebay, or Craigslist, or you can sell them directly to buy-back consignment shops.

If you have old clothes, movies, furniture, children’s toys etc. there are many small stores that may buy them back from you if they are in good condition. Plato’s Closet, Once Upon a Child, Clothes Mentor, and Disc Replay are all national chains and there are plenty other options depending on where you live.

If you don’t have many consignment shops in your area, stick to selling your items online for better results.

 

  1. Become an Uber or Lyft Driver

My husband recently started driving for Uber and he loves it. His car is older (a 2006 I believe) and we live in the suburbs but he still gets a decent amount of trips and his side income is currently helping him be able to afford holiday expenses this year.

Uber also pays drivers every week, so if you get started now, you can get paid a few times before Christmas.

One of my friends recently quit a job he didn’t like to drive for Uber and Lyft. Lyft drivers also get paid weekly and Lyft allows drivers to receive tips. According to Lyft, around 60% of passengers tip.

No matter which rideshare option you choose, you can enjoy flexible work and drive to earn money whenever it’s convenient for you.

 

  1. Babysit

If you have friends, family, and neighbors who may be busier over these next few weeks, consider offering to babysit for them. Couples love date nights and since daycares aren’t open in the evening, you can market your services better around that time.

Making a profile on Care.com or Sittercity.com will also help you land clients.

If you can’t or don’t want to watch kids, consider babysitting pets by walking dogs or keeping an eye on them when their owners are out of town.

You can advertise your services in your neighborhood and I always recommend Rover.com which is a site that connects pet sitters and dog walkers with owners who are in need of the service.

If you need extra money to recover from the holidays, you can earn money quickly by trying any of these ideas.

The key is to get started so you know how much you need to earn.

How about you all? How are you earning extra money to recover from the holidays?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/7027602839/in/

Five Steps to Recover from Holiday (Financial) Overindulgence

christmas-spending-my-personal-finance-journeyThe following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, CJ, who blogs at thesingledollar.com about personal finance, budgeting, frugality, and debt repayment.

I don’t know about you, but I woke up on December 26 to a budget bursting at the seams. At Christmas 2014 I was finishing up a year of debt payoff and I was very strict about buying presents, going out to brunch, and so on. But I got a little too relaxed this year; I bought gifts for more people, went out several times with friends, and generally had a hard time saying “no” to myself.

Luckily, I have a plan for what to do next. Just like after you eat too many Christmas cookies (I may have done that too this week, not saying!), recovery and restabilization is key.

Assess the Situation

Just how bad is it? Did you go into debt, or did you just spend all your “slush” money? This isn’t the time for regrets; even if you bought too many presents for your kids, or spent $30 on a meal out that wasn’t delicious, you can’t undo it now. Just make a list of any debts you have to pay off (credit card balances, money you borrowed from relatives or friends…) and prioritize them. If you don’t have debt, heave a sigh of relief and list your upcoming expenses.

Raise Cash/Store Credit

You’ll need to find some spare cash. You may have received gift cards or cash, or you can do some quick freelance work at sites like Swagbucks, Fiverr, or Usertesting. But one of my favorite ways to get back on track is to return unwise purchases to stores. If you bought presents for yourself (guilty!), do you still have the receipt and is the item unworn/unopened? Go get that money back! If you were given gifts that you won’t use, that can also be helpful. If you can tell where it came from (for example, a sweater from a specific retailer) then you can often take it back for store credit which you can use for things you really need. It’s nice if this is Target or Walmart so you can use the store credit for groceries.

Slim Down (Your Budget)

If you overindulged at Christmas, you’ll have to spend the next month or two tightening your belt. Look for places that you can cut back. The easiest way for me to do this is to cut down on food purchases: either I don’t go out as much, or I focus on making very cheap meals at home. If your family eats a lot of meat normally, try eating more pasta, rice, and beans. Or skip going to the movies and watch DVDs you already have. There are lots of places you can cut back a little for a month or two.

Follow Through

This step is simple: take the money you recoup from steps #2 and #3, and use it for the priorities you came up with in step #1. Pay off debts in order of importance, and pay necessary bills. Cross each item off your list as you pay it, as a great motivational tactic. When everything is crossed off, you’re back on your feet.

Plan For Next Year

Once you and your bank accounts are back on your feet, make sure you don’t make the same mistake again. Open a sub-account or a new line in your budget and name it “holiday.” Then set aside a pre-determined amount every month — say, $25 or $50. When December comes again, you’ll be able to have a good time without the yearly regret-filled reckoning.

How about you all? How did you do financially over the holidays? Any good tips for pulling yourself back together?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy https://pixabay.com/en/savings-bank-christmas-savings-pig-919859/

5 Ways To Stay Organized This Holiday Season

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Shondell of Call Me What You Want, Even Cheap. She blogs about her recent car loan and mortgage pay off and a whole bunch more. Check out her blog right here.

In a perfect world, the holiday season should be filled with moments of sheer joy, unmatched happiness, and complete relaxation!

In the real world, it often becomes a source of stress especially because of all the shopping that needs to be done and all the preparations you need to take care of.

The key to a successful stress-free holiday season is planning, and here are 5 ways to make that happen:

 

1. Always know exactly what you are going to buy before leaving your house

A big mistake that almost everyone makes during the holiday season is leaving the home without any plan whatsoever. Many times, they don’t even know where they’ll be shopping not to mention having a list of things to buy and a well defined budget.

It’s hard to expect a relaxing holiday season if you are shopping for whatever looks more attractive with no concern to what you can really afford? The hole in your finances will be difficult to cover if you have no idea what you are going to buy.

Make detailed lists with the gifts you want to buy and the persons who will get the gifts. Include groceries, decorations, clothing, and everything else you need this holiday season in your list. Adjust the list to your budget by cutting here and there. Most importantly, make sure you stick to your lists.

 

2. Leave the kids at home

We all love our kids, but they are not the best partners when shopping. They have a way of seeing the most useless and expensive little things that they simply must have.

They have a way of asking for it that it makes it impossible for you to even try to say no. No matter how much you would like to make your kids happy, you need to stay organized and make sure you respect your budget. The holiday season should be more about the time you get to spend together than the gifts you are purchasing.

 

3. Only bring the cash you are going to need, and leave the credit cards at home

Credit cards are really dangerous items when it comes to Christmas shopping.

When you are surrounded by so many wonderful things, it is almost impossible to resist temptation, especially when you know you can always use your credit cards even if the cash you have on you is not enough. Credit cards make it harder for you to stick to your budget and the amount that you can truly afford to spend over the holiday season. It is easy to pay with your credit cards but remember that there comes a time when you have to pay it all back plus interest. If you don’t bring them with you, you can’t use them.

 

4. Try online shopping for decorations and Christmas gifts

Going to the malls during the holiday season feels like heaven if you have a fortune to spend.

However, very few people can afford to spend a considerable amount of money on holiday gifts and decorations. As you pass through the store, it becomes more and more difficult to stick to your budget and only buy the things you actually need to buy. A safe way to buy decorations and Christmas gifts and save money and time at the same time is shopping online. There are a lot of venues that you can visit online. Comparing prices is also a lot easier.

 

5. Take a day off work to get everything done

The best way to handle all of your Christmas shopping this season is to do it all in one day. If you carefully plan everything and you know what you need to buy and which stores you need to visit it shouldn’t be difficult to get everything done in one day. You should avoid the wonderful days of Sunday and Saturday and take a weekday off to handle all of your shopping needs. Stores are less packed with people, streets are less packed with cars and you are more likely to see clearly the things that you need to buy. When you’re relaxed and you know you have the whole day at your disposal to shop in an organized fashion it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Organizing your Christmas shopping and all the preparations that come with this wonderful holiday offer you the opportunity to enjoy more of the Christmas spirit rather than get annoyed and stressed out because of the Christmas spirit. Planning doesn’t mean that you don’t know how to have fun; on the contrary, it means that you know the secret to gaining the time and money to have fun during the Christmas season and after.

How about you all? How do you stay organized around Christmas time?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of Picture by Tom Saunders

6 Tips to Avoid Crazy Holiday Spending This Year and Next

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Catherine Alford. Cat is a freelance personal finance writer who blogs at www.BudgetBlonde.com

Wow, I forgot how crazy the holidays get here in the States! Why were there three Christmas aisles at every store in October? It’s so overwhelming to me, and I feel like I have some fresh perspective on the American holiday season having been out of the country for two years.

If there’s one thing I learned from living in the Caribbean for so long, it’s that we just don’t need a lot to be a happy. We don’t need a lot of Christmas junk. We don’t need 5,000 decorations, and we don’t need to go wild at a Black Friday sale. In fact, you couldn’t pay me to go to a Black Friday sale (okay, okay, if somehow my baby cribs go on sale for $50 a piece, I will go. It’s very unlikely, but hey, I have to buy two cribs since I’m having twins, so have mercy on me!)

All that said, there are a lot of ways that we can avoid crazy holiday spending this year AND next year! Here’s how:

This Year

 

1.      Only Buy For Your Family and Your Best Friend

Holiday gift giving is so awkward. Inadvertently, someone will send you a Christmas gift, only to find out that you didn’t have one already purchased for them. To those people, just simply say thank you. I know it’s hard but you don’t need to waste money on a pile of “just in case” gifts to give to people. Just say, “Thanks! That’s so thoughtful!” and send them a thank you note. Remember, most gifts are quickly forgotten as the months go by. Plus your coworkers already have 42 scarves each, so buy gifts for the people closest to you and don’t fret about the rest!

 

2.      Bake Your Heart Out

One inexpensive way to get through the holiday season and send some awesome gifts out into the world is to bake! Most people would absolutely love a loaf of homemade bread or Christmas cookies. This is great for aunts and uncles, grandparents, and other people who already have more material items than they could possibly need!

 

3.      Give the Gift of Experience

One thoughtful gift you could give is a card that has a completely written out plan for how you’re going to spend the day together with someone. So, if you wanted to spend more time with your sister, you could give her a card that says, “Eligible for one girls night sleepover just like when we were kids.” Then, make sure to actually pencil it in your calendar! I feel like so many people give the gift of “coupons” for a date night and things like that but never use them! So, give the gift of thoughtfulness and actually follow through!

 

Next Year

 

4.      Save As You Go

It would be hard to save up for Christmas for this year, so let’s start fresh for next year. If you know that you spend a certain amount on the holidays, go ahead and start putting aside that money every month. It will feel so great to be proactive and have a nice savings account ready to go. This will stop you from overspending and it will also prevent you from going into credit card debt just because society tells us it’s the season of giving.

 

5.      Buy Throughout the Year

I am always thinking ahead for Christmas and birthday gifts. If I see something I think my sister would like and it’s a good price, I will go ahead and buy it for my sister, my two sisters-in-law and maybe even my mom and mother in law too. In the past, I’ve given the women in the family jewelry, organizers, monogrammed towels, lotions, etc. and I’ve thought about most of them way ahead of time. It just makes things much less stressful when you have it all planned out.

 

6.      Adopt the “4 Gift Rule” for Kids

It might be hard for kids to adjust to fewer gifts at first, but if they are awesome gifts, I bet they won’t care. I love the “4 Gift Rule” which stands for “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” Come on; you know your kids are going to get a million gifts from their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, so don’t spoil them too much at home!

Of course, these aren’t the only ways to beat the crazy holiday spending this year and next so I want to hear from you!

How about you all? Do you always have a big Christmas celebration or a small one? Do you buy lots of gifts to family and friends or make them yourself? Would your kids be upset at only getting 4 gifts?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bethcanphoto/3065695690/sizes/m

Working Off Your Holiday Debt Overhang

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The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.

The holiday season ended just a few weeks ago, but if you are like most people, the memory still lingers on – and you have the credit card bills to prove it. The holiday season, and in particular Christmas, can create large expenses that just beg for at least an occasional swipe of plastic.

By now, the bills are in and you’re in an excellent position to fully assess the holiday damage. If you spent a little too much and ran your credit cards up higher than you’re comfortable with, now is the time to do something about it.

The risk of letting your debt roll into next year

Big debts always start out as small ones, and the small ones often originate at the holidays. It’s easy to do – the holidays can leave you inundated with expenses. Not only are there gifts to buy, but there are also decorations, special dinners to plan and prepare, extra restaurant meals and, very often, holiday related travel. The cost for all this can run well into the thousands, and it can be a real cash flow killer. Credit cards can seem like the logical solution.

Using credit cards to deal with a rash of unusual expenses isn’t bad advice in of itself. Where the problem comes is when those debts are just rolled forward, rather than immediately paid off. Once you get comfortable with even a small level of debt, larger levels are more than possible.

Perhaps the best way to use credit cards responsibly is to get into the habit of paying them off immediately. The last thing you want to do is to face next holiday season while still carrying debt from the last one. You can take care of that problem by paying those debts off now.

Time to go on a spending diet

If you spent too much money during the holiday season, you can balance that out by cutting back on your spending now. One of the advantages to doing that early in the year is that there are no major holidays, nor is this a traditional time of the year for travel and vacations. The lower expenses should enable you to direct extra cash flow into debt payoff.

You may even consider using the early part of the year as good time to go on a spending diet. Good financial habits are best established early in the year, that way you can carry them forward through the rest of the year. Seize the opportunity in this the quietest time of the year to cut back on any unnecessary spending, and free up money for other purposes.

Fast forward debt payoff

If you can find or create extra room in your budget, do your best to direct it into payoff of your holiday related debts, and any other debts that you’re carrying. This is an excellent time of the year to clear the decks for other money moves.

Paying off debt is always a worthy effort because the elimination of any debt will also remove a monthly payment from your budget. The more of those you can clear out, the more money you will have for everything else that you want to do.

At a minimum, you should want to payoff your holiday related debts so that they are not still hanging around when the new holiday season comes.

Start savings for next holiday season

Here’s a novel idea: instead of relying on credit cards next holiday season, plan now for cash on the barrel. You can do that by paying off your current debts, and then once you do, to begin saving money for next season.

Banks used to offer “Christmas club accounts” specifically for this purpose, and many employers would allow you to direct deposit money into such an account. While those accounts are probably still out there at certain banks, they don’t get the publicity they once did. Perhaps this is because customers are more interested in chasing yield on their savings, rather than on keeping their money safe for a dedicated purpose.

But you don’t need a special account, you can establish your own Christmas club account in any way that works for you. This could be a matter of setting up a dedicated savings account at a local bank, or even quite literally putting cash in a cookie jar each week. Whatever allows you to accumulate the amount of money you will need for the holidays will work.

The payoff is that when next holiday season comes, not only will you not have last year’s debt, but you’ll also have a reserve of cash that will make facing the holidays so much more pleasant. You will be able to buy what you need, when you need it, without having to worry about carrying fresh debt into the new year.
Now is the time to make that happen!

How about you all? Do you make it a habit to save money specifically for the holidays?
 
Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/22338369@N07/6602762571/