Friday, October 29, 2010

20 Ways to Scrape Together Christmas Money (Guest Post)

Have you heard about Free Shipping Day? This year the annual "shopping holiday" falls on Friday, December 17. So far they've got 468 participating merchants, and the organizers are estimating that by the time the big day arrives, as many as 1000 merchants will be participating.

In anticipation of the event (it's only about 50 days away!), the folks at Free Shipping Day have shared this list of 20 Ways to Scrape Together Christmas Money.  I think many of us are already doing some of these things, but I hope you can pick up a new idea or two!
Free Shipping Day

Unless you started stashing gift money away last January, you're no doubt like the majority of Americans facing a tight holiday budget this year. It's not too late to develop spending guidelines for Christmas money. It'll just take some careful planning and -- here comes that ugly phrase -- belt tightening. Read on for 20 truly feasible strategies to scrape together Christmas cash.

1. Buy Gifts With Coupons
Stores are trying to lure shoppers in early, so start making your gift list now and looking for matching coupons from major merchants. For example, Kohls coupons have already offered $10 off every $50 you spent. Sports Authority coupon codes provided the same deal. And Barnes and Nobles printable coupons offered 30-percent off some of the hottest best-sellers in early October, a deal they'll likely repeat. In other words, buy early while there's plenty of selection and coupons.

2. Eat Cheap
You know you're going to splurge on restaurants and entertainment expenses during the holidays, so tighten your belt now -- both to save cash and lose weight before packing on holiday poundage. Reassign the money you'd normally spend on prepared foods, snacks, and eating out to the gift-giving budget.

3. Eat From Your Pantry
Dig deep into the staples in your pantry and freezer and start using up your stockpiles. With careful planning, you can skip at least one trip to the grocery store.

4. Do the Daily Coupon Dance
Don't forget to use coupons for your everyday needs, as well. There are coupons for everything from apples to Zyrtec, so clip, clip, clip...or use mobile or online coupons.

5. Pay Cash
Now's a good time to ditch the credit and debit cards and pay with cash for in-person purchases. You'll be more reluctant to spend if you can't just present a piece of plastic, plus you'll avoid those nasty fees and interest payments.

6. Create a Coin Stash
Now that you're paying with cash, you'll also have more coinage. Round up all that spare change from pockets, purses, and couch cushions and corral them into one big container. Keep adding at every opportunity, then hit your bank's change machine when it's time to go gift shopping.

7. Eliminate Your Land Line
You'll save an average of $50 in two months by turning off that unused land line. Many of us hang onto our home phones because we fear losing the 911 function, but the fact is most of us still reach for our cell phones in an emergency. Of course, if there are little ones around the house, a home phone is still a good idea. According to the Federal Communication System, all wireless providers must transmit 911 calls to a Public Safety Answering Point and include location information, accurate within 50 to 300 meters. By 2012, the FCC will require providers to include even more specific location information.

8. Adjust Your Tax Withholding
The average tax refund this year was nearly $2,900. If you received a refund, you were paying Uncle Sam to store your cash -- interest free. File a new W-4 form with your employer's human resources department and start receiving more money on your next paycheck. To find out how many withholdings you should claim, use Kiplinger's online calculator.

9. Auction Your Extra Stuff on eBay
The online auction house is a good outlet for selling lighter items you can pack in a box and take to the post office without risking a hernia. Its vast reach exposes your sale to millions of buyers, but it's important to understand the process and how best to market your items. To judge the worth and marketability of your item, search for similar products at eBay's "Completed Listings" list under "Advanced Search". You must register first, but there's no charge to do so. Before you post your listing, read through eBay's seller's recommendation guide. You'll pay roughly 10 percent of the money you earn back to eBay, including fees for posting your listing, completing a sale, and receiving payment through PayPal.

10. Sell Your Lower-End Stuff on Craigslist
One man's junk is another man's treasure. While not all of your stuff may qualify at the eBay auction level, it could be just the ticket for other online deal hunters. If you've never sold items on Craiglist before, check the various guidelines at the bottom left of their homepage.

11. Buy Budget Gift Cards
Did you ever think about buying gift cards to purchase daily staples? Let's say you buy $100 worth of food with a $90 grocery gift card. You've saved $10. That's huge. Combine it with a few judiciously used grocery coupons and one trip to the supermarket can save enough for a decent gift.

12. Pick Up Holiday Cleaning Jobs
Cleaning houses is an odious way to make money, but certainly the quickest picker-upper for short-term cash. It requires no specialized training, just a lot of elbow grease and a good work ethic. Even in this economy, people willing to pay someone else to perform this ugly chore. Check Craigslist under "services" and "household" for holiday cleaning jobs. Grab your bucket and prepare to work your fanny off. In six hours, at $20 per hour, you can earn $120 of Christmas cash. (Figure it should take five hours to do a basic clean on a two-story, three-bedroom house, if it's not filthy at the start.)

13. Be a Short-Term Lab Rat
There are facilities throughout the country that offer paid compensation in exchange for your participation in clinical pharmaceutical research studies. If you're lucky (or maybe not), you'll find a short-term study that you can easily complete. For full details, read an expert's advice on

14. Make a List
This refers to both shopping for groceries with a list (which helps you stay on target and save more money) and creating a gift wish list of goals you can work towards. When shopping for groceries, stop for 10 seconds and think before popping something into your cart that's not on your list. Why are you buying it? Do you really need it? If not, put it back. For Christmas gifts, write each recipient's name on an envelope, along with the gifts you intend to purchase and how much they'll cost. Then start stashing the cash inside each envelope. Prioritize the money distribution and make purchases as the cash becomes available.

15. Increase Your Auto Insurance Deductibles
In just two months you can save an average of $100 by increasing the deductibles on comprehensive and collision coverage from $500 to $1,000, or even $2,500. This will reduce your monthly premium by roughly 15 percent. You'll want to drive more carefully during this period, of course.

16. Amazon Sales
Amazon allows you to sell all kinds of products, not just books. You pay fees to Amazon only if your item sells. Commissions range from 6 to 15 percent of the sale price, depending on the product. Amazon also charges 99 cents for each transaction and levies a closing fee that varies by item.

17. Consignment Shops
These retail stores resell your merchandise and keep a percentage of the final sale price. Check out various shops to determine which suit your needs, get the best prices, and will showcase your consignment items best. Prep your products before bringing them to the store, as many owners will reject items that need more work than they're worth.

18. Trade Out Babysitting
Holiday events mean more babysitting bills. Since many of your friends with families are in the same situation, consider arranging a cooperative arrangement, whereby you watch each other's kids on select days or evenings. It'll take some careful calendar coordination, but it can be a win/win situation if everyone plays fair.

19. Win McDonald's 2010 Monopoly Game
Granted, the odds are very, very, very long, but explains a few tips to help you win anywhere from a lowly $5 to nearly $1 million in cash prizes.

20. Take Advantage of Free Stuff...
Use,, and Mr.Freestuff to find hundreds of freebies ranging from toothpaste to granola bar samples.

I'm linking up!


  1. These are great tips, thanks for sharing them. I am a bit behind this year.

    JR FrugalMom from
    Fantastic Frugal Fridays.

  2. These are great tips, there were a few I don't already do.

    JRFrugalMom from

    Fantastic Frugal Fridays

  3. Nice list Melissa. Like the calculator, very convenient!

  4. Those are great tips and I especially liked the one about winning the McDonald Monopoly LOL I think they are great tips for any time of the year though especially since we do not normally do a lot of spending at Christmas.


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