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/

Cooking Holiday Meals on the Cheap


mealsThe following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Laurie Blank.  Laurie is a wife, mother to 4 and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

It’s that time of the year again. The food and wine are flowing and people everywhere are gathering for merriment and gift-giving. The holidays can be a real budget-crusher if you let them. There are gift lists, holiday clothes shopping and of course, parties to be given.

If you’re one that likes to host holiday gatherings you might be freaking out about what your entertaining expenses are going to do to your budget, but there are ways to entertain frugally. Check out these tips.

 

Keep Alcohol Purchases to a Minimum

Alcohol costs are a huge part of holiday entertainment costs and the expenses can add up quickly. You can save on alcohol costs for holiday meals a couple of ways.

The first choice is to throw a BYOB meal and provide only soda and mixers for guests. The second option is to have only a few bottles of inexpensive wines and/or beers served at your holiday party. Beer and wine vendors often promote specials on prices during the holiday season, and there are many small-time beer and wine producers that have great products but charge lower prices due to the fact that they’re still so little-known. By looking for that diamond in the rough you can get a good wine or beer for cheap.

 

Allow Your Guests to Share in the Meal Choices

Guests love being able to contribute to meals at parties and family gatherings. Simply write “bring your favorite appetizer/side dish/dessert to share” on invitations and let everyone have a hand in creating a bountiful holiday feast.  If you’re not comfortable requiring guests to share in the meal prep, be sure to say “yes” to anyone who asks you if they can bring anything.

 

Avoid Expensive Menu Items

Don’t serve prime rib roast for $10 a pound when you can serve turkey or ham for a buck a pound. Don’t buy a cake from the high-priced bakery down the road when the warehouse clubs have them for half the price. With a little creativity, you can put together a wonderful meal without spending too much.

 

Shop the Sales

There are a number of food products that always go on sale during the holiday season. Some include:


  • Meats such as ham, turkey and prime rib roast
  • Baking items such as flour, sugar and butter
  • Side dish items such as potatoes, rolls and breads, vegetables and canned pie filling

If you’re serving a holiday meal, make your menu plan early and start checking your local grocer ads in the first week of October, buying early when possible if you can get something on sale. Remember that canned goods and other processed foods last for many months, and that many other items such as meats and breads can often be frozen for later use.

Also, don’t be afraid to go generic. Many generic items are simply name-brand items repackaged in different packaging, but you might want to do a trial taste-test run if you’re concerned about quality and/or taste.

For instance, Aldi sells a variety cracker pack that tastes nearly identical to the similar name-brand pack, but there are other generic items we won’t touch – such as generic macaroni and cheese – because the quality sacrifice just isn’t worth it.

When you’re shopping for list items, pay attention to the sales and the generic brands and save money when it doesn’t sacrifice quality.

 

Cook From Scratch

There is SO much money to be saved when cooking from scratch instead of buying menu items already prepared. Look online or ask friends for recipes for desserts and appetizers. Make your own stuffing and homemade mashed potatoes instead of using the boxed stuff. Put together your own cheese/cracker/meat trays and your own veggie trays instead of buying the pre-prepared ones from the store deli. Your meal will taste better, be healthier and you’ll save money in the process.

 

Decorate Thoughtfully

Decorating for holiday parties can be a huge expense if you’re not careful. Instead of decking the house out with oodles of flower arrangements and other expensive décor, simply use a few well-placed decorations to make the house feel special. Here are some ideas:

  • Find décor at shops such as Michael’s and Joann Etc., but be sure to use their 40-50% off coupons
  • Focus on decorating the tables with colored napkins and homemade place cards
  • Get one or two silk flower arrangements to brighten up the dining or buffet table and the great room, provided you can find a great sale or find them for sale on eBay or Craigslist
  • Add small, inexpensive touches such as themed salt and pepper shakers from Walmart

With a little forethought and planning, hosting a holiday meal can be an awesome experience that doesn’t break the bank.

How about you all? What is your favorite frugal holiday meal hosting tip?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/55935853@N00/5882056608/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/

Financial Planning for the Holiday Season

There is a chill in the air these days and in some parts of the country, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and the holiday season! Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and before you know it, we’ll be decorating our Christmas trees, lighting our Menorahs, and spreading holiday cheer in general.

With the holiday season comes a lot of extra spending that we just don’t see during other parts of the year.  From heading out of town to see the in-laws (or to get away from them??) to planning and executing the perfect family Christmas dinner, budging for these extra expenses will go a long way in securing your financial health and keeping you sane during an otherwise stressful time of year.

Planning for Holiday Vacations

A lot of people travel over the holidays.  Going to Grandma’s house to be with the entire family this year?  Maybe you’re headed some place tropical to get away from the cold and blustery snow of home. Regardless of where you go, there is a lot that you need to plan in advance so you’re not seeing red on your credit card by the end of the year.

Before you head out anywhere, you’ll need to budget and allocate your finances appropriately.  How are you getting there?  Are you flying? Think about how much it will cost to park at the airport or take a shuttle or taxi in (as well as to your destination). How much will the flights cost? If you’re not staying with friends or family, you’ll need to factor in hotel, food, and entertainment costs. Even if you don’t have a solid itinerary, you still know you need to sleep somewhere and eat three times per day, so make some good estimates.

If you have been using a Discover it Miles card and earning 1.5x Miles for every dollar you spent, you can use those towards your holiday travel purchases to help with the cost.

Hosting Holiday Meals

Maybe you’re staying at home this year and everyone is coming to visit you! Now you don’t have to worry about flights, hotels, and other travel expenses, but now you have a new list of items to take into account.  What are you planning to cook over the holidays?  Plan your meals and use the ingredient list from the recipes to calculate how much it will cost for you to cook for whoever is coming to town to visit. Don’t forget about the wine or other adult beverages if you or your family enjoy such things. These items can add up, so try to find deals on multiple packs or bottles and try to pick brands that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

One way to save a little bit of money here would be to offer to “co-host” the holiday meals with another friend or family member.  Maybe one of you can purchase the food, while the other purchases the beverages.  Alternatively, if you have a lot of people coming from in town, consider hosting a potluck-style dinner where you provide the main dish while everyone else brings their favorite side dish and/or bottle of wine.


Budgeting for Gifts

Of course, what’s the holiday season without gifts? The more people you have in your family and close circle of friends, the more expensive gifts can become.  One way to avoid spending too much on gifts is to limit the amount that you spend per person.  Set a strict limit of $10-$20 (or more or less, depending upon your own financial abilities) per person, and do not go over that limit when purchasing gifts for each person.  Alternatively, if you have family or friends who are couples, consider purchasing just one gift for the two of them to share.

Holidays should be about more than just material gifts, so don’t feel obligated to “go all out” and buy everyone you know the most expensive thing you can find.

Check Your Credit History

Finally, with all these extra purchases this holiday season, you’re going to want to stay on top of your credit and make sure your credit history doesn’t take a big hit.  You want to budget all of your holiday spending appropriately so that you’re able to stay on top of paying your bills, and to make sure your credit score does not suffer.

Thankfully, the folks at Discover offer your FICO® Credit Score for free  on all monthly statements..

The most important thing this holiday season is to give thanks for all that you have, all your friends, family, and loved ones. It’s the company of friends and family that matter most, and everything else is just not worth hurting your credit score and sending you into debt.  Budget your holiday finances appropriately, and stay on top of your FICO® Credit Score  by checking it on your monthly statement or online.

Happy Holidays, all!

Disclosure: I am a paid brand Blogger for Discover Financial Services My views are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Discover Financial Services and its affiliates.

How To Afford Holiday Gifts For The Kids

The following post is by Kevin Fullerton. Enjoy! 

With utility bills, car repairs, and other unexpected payments, it’s hard to save up during the year to get your kids their holiday gifts. The below six ideas are ways you can afford the holiday gift items they want.

Work Part Time at a Retail Store

Just about every retailer will need holiday help. Be prepared to take on the grunt work though, as you’ll more than likely have the hours current clerks do not want such as closing or weekend hours. However, since it’s the holidays, there are plenty of hours available to work and in less than a months’ time you may find yourself with a considerable amount of holiday shopping money.

Become a Direct Sales Representative

Avon, Amway, Thirty-One, Scentsy, Origami Owl, and Sass N Frass are all direct sale companies actively recruiting representatives. It’s an easy way to start your own side business selling popular items from home or online.

The startup fees are low, and in some cases free to join. Your sales commissions can be 25% or higher. Some companies offer a stellar referral fee if you recruit a direct sales representative under you. The payout could be daily, weekly, or monthly. If you start now, you can rack up some money to afford the gifts for your little ones and possibly discounts with the products you also sell. That’s an additional bonus for you!

Complete Gigs on Online Job Sites

If you’re looking for a side gig, but can’t afford to hire a sitter, there are many online job sites you can sign up for and complete side gigs while at home. So if you are an expert writer, excel in website design, or have advice for business owners, you’ll do well bringing in extra holiday income. Check out the following sites to get started:

  • Behance.net
  • Guru.com
  • Elance.com
  • Fiverr.com
  • Bloggingpro.com
  • Craigslist.com

Sell Your Old Items

Since you’re looking to purchase new items, make room for them by selling your old items. You’ll kill two birds with one stone by freeing up space and bringing in money for those holiday gifts your child wants. Take great photos and upload them to sites such as EBay or Craigslist to sell them online. You could also take them to consignment stores and see what they offer you. Finally, have a garage sale and get rid of everything in one day. Your kids can even help out.

 

Clean for the Holidays

During the holidays, many families get together for dinner and visits. One thing the host may not have time for is cleaning their home. That’s where you can step in and offer your cleaning service. Just a few homes could bring in the cash you need. This opportunity also gives you the flexibility to create your own working hours. If it’s a good friend of yours, you may be able to bring your kids with you and avoid babysitting fees as well.