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It seems odd talking about Christmas when the ocean temps off New Jersey are in the 70’s. But it’s really just around the corner. There’s something about the holidays that seems to put everyone in a better mood. To me, it’s time off to spend with family. Or just time off. Seeing kids get excited as the holiday approaches. The food, the Christmas ales.
The only downside I can think of is that sometimes we overextend ourselves financially. We get that January and February hangover when bills start coming in and we realize that we’ll be paying off credit cards for months.
Obviously, a better way is to only spend cash. But if money’s a little tight, there’s still a way to put away a little nest egg so you won’t be stuck paying bills until next summer. But only if you give yourself a few months to do it.
When I say “save $1000 by Christmas” it may help to have a frame of reference. At the time of this writing, it’s the last week in July, so there are about five months until Christmas. Now, if you’re trying to have money for the holiday, it wouldn’t be much help to earn it in the last few days. You’d want it hopefully a few weeks before that. So, I’ll estimate you’d want to earn $250 per month over the next four months.
So how will we earn it?
When I looked into this topic, I found a LOT of other “Christmas savings plans”. Most of them have nice organized charts showing how much you’d need to deposit each week for about six months. Usually, anywhere from $25 to $50 each week for half the year.
But what if you don’t have the extra $25 to $50 each week? What if the reason you’re looking for a way to accumulate money by Christmas is that you’re barely scraping by as it is?
Usually, to accumulate more money it’s either from getting a raise, working more hours or working a second job. But there are other ways to fatten your wallet without trading more hours for it.
Well first, by finding value around us that we can turn into cash. And also by squeezing more money out of the things we do every day. You’d be surprised at how much money we let slip through our fingers each month!
Here are some areas where you should be able to accumulate $1000 over the next four months.
Find Value That’s Already Around You – and Monetize it
If you’ve been living in the same place for a number of years, or if you have kids, there are probably things around your home that together, are worth hundreds of dollars right now.
Kids outgrow sports equipment very fast. It’ll sit in the garage, the basement or a closet because “someone might use it”. And there it’ll stay, probably until you’re ready to move. By then it has little value, you won’t have time to sell it, and it just adds to the mountain of stuff you’ll need to worry about.
Think of a young couple trying to afford athletic equipment for their kids.
Metal baseball bats are $150 and up. Things like helmets, lacrosse equipment, hockey pads, skates, skis, boots, snowboards, golf clubs, martial arts equipment, kayaks are all expensive. And they’re all things parents would love to buy at a discount.
A few years ago, I bought a great pair of skis with bindings, poles and a bag, all in almost new condition for $80 at a garage sale. A new set would have easily cost $500-$600 in a store. Have anything like that in your closets?
I have a pretty expensive treadmill that I’ve used about twice in the past year.
One thing that’s particularly valuable is Lennox China. I had some place settings and a few serving bowls collecting dust in my attic. Someone suggested we take them to the Lennox factory warehouse near our home. They were all in the original boxes. We were shocked when they totaled the items up at just over $500!
Did your kids watch Disney videos? If they did, and you have a box of them sitting in a closet, you may be sitting on a bundle of cash. VHS tapes from the Disney “Black Diamond” series may be worth hundreds or even several thousand dollars. Right now, I see I see the Aladdin VHS tape selling for $2174.44 on eBay! I see Mulan selling for $300 and Snow White selling for $1000! So, check your closets! Or if you see these at a garage sale check ’em out.
While you’re checking your closets, look for any cell phones, tablets, video game consoles, video tapes, CDs, DVDs and even books. Here’s the easiest way I’ve found to get rid of a pile of it all at once:
First get your things together. Then install the free Decluttr app on your iPhone or Android. Use Decluttr’s scanning feature to scan the bar code on each item and it’ll give you an instant price. No haggling, no bidding, and no worrying whether the buyer will pay you.
Once you have a total, Decluttr will generate a free shipping label for you to print. Then just put everything into one box and drop it off. Done! The money will be in your account the day after they receive it.
Now mind you, the prices won’t knock your socks off. You may have paid $12 for a DVD seven years ago which they may offer you forty five cents for. But what would you have done with it otherwise? Right now it’s clutter, it’s taking up space, and it could contribute to your bank account.
Another option for your books, especially textbooks, is Bookscouter. I had three IT related books right in my bedroom that totaled almost $60 on Bookscouter.
Kids tend to outgrow many things within a few years. Instead of waiting until they’re worth nothing and tossing them in the garbage you may as well get some value for them. Because we both know, you’ll probably use this money to get them something else.
How about furniture?
I recently sold the original bedroom set that both my kids used for several years each. Two dressers and a crib were just what a young couple was looking for. They didn’t want to spend a few thousand but were thrilled to buy mine for $150.
Do you have a couch, any chairs, or rockers that aren’t being used? New furniture is expensive and if yours is in good condition you can declutter your house and sell it on Craigslist. Make some money and make someone else’s day.
If you’re considering selling a piece of furniture, I’d suggest taking a few photos of it before you move it out to the garage. It’ll photograph much better in a nice bright room than on a concrete floor surrounded by shovels and rakes.
And if you’re deciding between a garage sale and Craigslist, it depends on what you’re selling. You might go with a garage sale if you have a lot of things you want to clear away and you’ll be satisfied with $75-$100 for the day. People are looking for dirt cheap items at a garage sale.
But if you have a specific piece of furniture, a costly treadmill or something else of value, you may want to go with a targeted ad on Craigslist, eBay or Decluttr for your electronics, where you get an instant price and can ship it all in one box.
Once you make a sweep through your home, document everything of value and start selling it, you’ll see your PayPal account starting to grow. And as a bonus, your space will be less cluttered!
Earn Money Through Cash Back Apps
In addition to selling things that have value, another way to add to your PayPal account is by taking advantage of free apps that basically hand you money.
If you shop online, try Ebates. It’s an app that’s free to signup, costs nothing to be a member and couldn’t be simpler to use.
Here’s how you’d use it: Let’s say you were going to shop online at Target. All you’d do is sign in to Ebates, type “Target” into their search bar and you’d be brought to Target’s website.
Buy whatever you need, and then a percentage of the cost is deposited into your PayPal account. It’s that easy, and there’s no extra charge added on to the product. Ebates is partnered with over 2000 stores and they make their money by bringing customers to those stores. So, they share that with you.
By the way, Target does free shipping on orders of $35 or more, or if you do store pickup, which sometimes can be done on the same day.
Plugging the leaks in your food budget
Do you plan your meals each week? When I first heard of planning meals it seemed as crazy as planning my socks out for the next week. Why would I waste time doing that?
Then I found out how not planning some meals each week probably costs me an extra $150 each month. What if you could save even $100 per month on food over the next four months?
Here are two ways you’d save by planning some of your meals:
You know those extra trips you make to the grocery store for things you need at the last minute? The ones where you go in for two things and come out spending $30? I used to do that several times a month. It’s wasted money and wasted time.
Another way you overspend if you don’t plan meals is from buying take-out food several times a month because there’s “nothing to make”. You’re hungry. And you want something like now. Even two nights of that per month is an easy $50.
Planning a week of meals doesn’t have to be a sixty-minute project. Have you tried $5 Meal Plan? When I first heard of it I thought, “why would I spend an additional $5 every month?” Isn’t that contrary to my aim of saving money?
Here’s how it saves you money: You select the number of days you need meals for and it’ll suggest complete meals. You’ll have the directions and a shopping list of ingredients. So, after you shop for groceries once, there won’t be another minute during the next week that you’ll waste time thinking about what to make.
It’s all planned. And you’ll know you have the ingredients. Those last- minute trips to the store on the way home – the ones where you just need two things and spend $30 – are done.
And the three or four nights of take-out food because you forgot to plan something – those are done too.
I’m not suggesting never going out to eat. But if you can cut out the times you’re doing it out of necessity rather than a planned night out, you’ll save hundreds of dollars.
While we’re on the subject of food, here’s another way you can accumulate money every time you food shop.
If couponing isn’t your thing, there’s another way you can get food discounts every week just by checking an app on your phone.
Are you using Ibotta? If not, you’re leaving money on the table. This is a free app where they publish new discounts on certain products each week. And a lot of them aren’t brand specific. They may say, “save $0.50 on any brand of bread”.
Once you have your shopping list ready, before you go out, check Ibotta. See what products they’re offering a rebate on for this week and just tap the ones you plan to buy. Then once you get home with your groceries, use the app to scan those products you’ve purchased that match the rebates. Take a picture of your receipt and hit send. Done! The rebates are now sent right to your PayPal account.
So, those are two ways to save on food shopping that will contribute to your savings plan. For Ibotta, you’ll have money deposited directly into your PayPal account. And if you use $5 Meal Plan, you’ll eliminate extra trips to the store, emergency take-out runs, and time figuring out what to make.
RELATED POST – 12 Keys to Drastically Reducing Your Grocery Budget
Saving money on things we buy
Take a closer look at the money you spend on monthly bills. Are you still paying for cable? If you are, there’s been some recent updates to some of the popular streaming services – especially Hulu – that really make it worthwhile to consider finally ditching cable. Until recently, streaming services couldn’t deliver local network channels. And their cable news stations weren’t the same cable news you may have been used to.
Until recently, streaming services couldn’t deliver local network channels like CBS, NBC, and ABC. And their cable news stations weren’t the same cable news you may have been used to. It was mostly pre-recorded interviews and clips.
That’s changed just in the last few months. Now certain streaming services, Like Hulu can provide local channels and cable news.
If you still pay for cable you’d be surprised how much money you waste just on hardware rental fees every month. Check out my post here that shows how we’re saving over $100 per month now from what we were paying for cable. And seeing the same content.
Take a look at your daily schedule
Are you buying lunch every work day? If you’re trying to save $1000 over the next four months that’s probably at least $100 per month right there. If you decide to go with $5 Meal Plan, they can suggest healthy lunches that you can brown bag. Or another way is to set your meal plan to have some leftovers each night
How far do you commute? If it’s more than a few miles, are you using Gas Buddy? It’s a free app that’ll tell you where the cheapest gas is anywhere. So, if you’re filling up a few times a week, Gas Buddy could be saving you at least 10-15% of what you might normally pay. If you’re spending $50 per week on gas, you could be keeping $30 per month more in your pocket.
Get Paid for Your Opinion
Here’s another way to put $75-$100 more in your pocket each month. When you have a few minutes, fill out a few surveys where they’ll pay you for your opinion.
I know some people laugh when you mention ‘spare time’. But most people have a few times during the day when they browse the web, check Facebook or have to sit and wait for kids at practices. Those are times where, if you spend 15 minutes checking off answers to mindless questions several times a month, you could have money deposited into your account.
You don’t drive anywhere. You don’t listen to any boss. You don’t go out of your way at all. Fill a few out while you’re vegging on the couch at night. Cha-ching!
Here are some of the more popular ones that are very easy to use:
Really simple to sign up for and use, Survey Junkey has over 5 million users. For surveys you take, payments are made right to your PayPal account.
In 2016 Inbox Dollars paid out over 50 million dollars to users. One way to earn through Inbox Dollars would be to participate in surveys. But you can also play all sorts of games, like card games, word games, or strategy games and get paid while you play.
Paid Surveys at Home
Paid Surveys at Home will pay you not only for taking surveys but also for watching movie trailers (really!) or for trying new products or participating in focus groups.
One of the more flexible earning sites, Swagbucks has a lot of different ways to earn. You can take surveys but you can also watch videos and give an opinion. You can search the web and earn because Swagbucks values your search preferences. You can also earn SB points by making purchases that you’d be making anyway, and then redeem those points for gift cards to major stores like Walmart, Target, Amazon, and Starbucks.
Start a Blog
Starting a blog won’t make you rich in the next four months, but if you were ever considering starting one, you’d be amazed how far along you’d come in that time. And if you stick with it, it could outperform any of these methods.
Don’t be intimidated by the popular ones you read. They all started from zero. Every one of them knew nothing about how to blog, and many of the popular bloggers freely admit, they still don’t know much about the technical side of it.
Here’s what you’d need to do: You’d buy hosting, which is where your blog will be stored. That will cost about $59 per year. I bet you spend more than that on cups of coffee. You’d normally buy a domain name (your blog’s name), but if you host with Bluehost they give you that for free. Then you’d download WordPress onto your own computer to write your blog. WordPress is all menu driven, meaning there’s no fancy coding or anything to learn. You dive right in and start using it.
Here are the exact steps I took to get this site running. It literally took about 20 minutes:
Some more great ideas to keep more of your own money:
These have all been methods to accumulate money by squeezing value out of what you already have. Or by adjusting your habits to keep more of the money you spend.
But if you can work more hours, or if you’d like to monetize a skill you have, here are a few ways you can do that:
Or you can check out the Penny Hoarder’s huge list of entrepreneurial gigs here. It contains a ton of suggestions on how you can turn your own skills and talents into a steady income.
Remember, it’s an accumulation of small changes that make a huge difference in the amount of money you keep in your pocket. Don’t underestimate what seems like a small change. They DO add up! Look around your home objectively. Consider what you have that you haven’t used in a while that someone else may value.
If you implement these steps, you’ll not only be able to save $1000 in your account over the next four months – you’ll know for next time, how to save $1000 for any other expense.
This can be a great incentive to start the new year. You can become an expert at getting more control over food shopping, implementing a couple side hustles, or even starting a blog. You can then funnel that money into an emergency fund, a vacation fund or whatever else your family may need.
Have you been successful with your own side hustle, or have you made any adjustments that enabled you to save more? Let me know in the comments below.