Saving money before the holidays is a great way to avoid going into debt to cover the added cost of gifts, parties and travel. But if you’ve already reduced your spending, finding extra room in your budget to set aside more cash might not be possible. Or perhaps you just don’t want to live like a pauper for the next few months to be able pay for holidays with cash.
So consider the alternative: earning more cash. There are plenty of ways to make extra money over the coming months — and some don’t even require much time. Here are five options that you should consider when saving for your Black Friday shopping trip.
1. Get a Seasonal Job or Side Gig
If you have time to work extra hours, start looking for seasonal work. Outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas expects retailers to hire 755,000 workers for the holiday season this year. You’ll likely find openings at retailers such as Amazon, Gap, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Target, which add tens of thousands of employees to their payrolls October through December.
Challenger, Gray & Christmas also recommends looking for positions at warehouses and shipping facilities, which ramp up hiring before the holidays. For example, UPS hired 95,000 seasonal workers in 2014, and FedEx hired 50,000. Restaurants, entertainment and leisure venues that see increased business during holidays also hire seasonal employees.
Another option if you can’t commit to working several hours a week is the occasional side gig. Grayson Bell, creator of the Debt Roundup blog, found quick work — such as loading a moving van, building a fence or doing yard work — through the “Gigs” section on Craigslist when he needed extra cash. “I made a few hundred dollars over one weekend full of Craigslist gigs,” he said.
2. Sell Stuff You Don’t Need
Your closet, garage or attic is likely a treasure trove of stuff that’s just taking up space and can easily be turned into cash.
Leah Ingram, founder of the Suddenly Frugal blog, recommended taking clothing that’s in good condition to a consignment store now to get a payout in time for Black Friday. When you sell clothes on consignment, you typically get 50 percent of the price at which your items sell. Ingram said she usually makes about $100 per season consigning her clothes. You also can sell clothing, shoes and accessories in good condition through a fashion resale site such as thredUP.com, which sends you pre-paid bag to ship your items.
You can make money on items around your home such as furniture, tools or music equipment by selling them on Craigslist. Jason Vitug, founder of Phroogal, said he made $3,250 selling old stuff collecting dust in his dad’s garage.
And don’t forget electronics: If you have cell phones you’re no longer using, you can get cash for them through trade-in services such as ecoATM, Gazelle, NextWorth and uSell.com. Ingram said she recently sold a broken iPhone 5 for $90 at Gazelle.
3. House or Pet Sit
You might be able to make extra cash when people travel for the holidays and need someone to watch their homes or pets while they’re gone. You can reach out to people you know by posting on Facebook or use Craigslist to advertise your services.
Alternatively, you can connect with people who need pet sitters through sites such as DogVacay.com or Rover.com. Although they will charge a 15 percent commission for jobs booked on their sites, it’s an easier way for you to find gigs. Plus, both sites claim that their sitters can earn up to $1,000 a month.
4. Be a Mystery Shopper
Yes, mystery shopper scams abound, but there are plenty of legitimate opportunities that offer a quick and easy way to earn extra cash if you’re willing to evaluate products or visit establishments and offer feedback. “Mystery shopping won’t make you rich, but you can often earn free things that you may want to gift to others, and you also may earn a little bit of side cash for the holidays,” said MakingSenseofCents.com founder Michelle Schroeder-Gardener, who has earned anywhere from $5 to $100 for mystery shopping jobs. She found all of her opportunities through BestMark.
Tai and Talaat McNeely, creators of the His and Her Money blog, made $400 in two months as mystery shoppers. They found all of their jobs through the trade association that represents mystery shopping providers, MSPA-NA. They caution that any group that tries to get you to pay to be a mystery shopper is a scam. So be sure your opportunities are legitimate.
5. Participate in Focus Groups
If you’re willing to share your opinion, you can make money participating in focus groups. For example, Jim Wang of personal finance blog Wallet Hacks said he has made $100 or more when he spent an hour to 90 minutes watching videos or answering questions as part of a focus group. He used GreenBook to find market research companies in his area looking for participants.
You also can share your opinions from the comfort of your home by taking online surveys. You can earn cash or gift cards through sites such as Harris Poll Online, SurveyClub, Global Test Market and Swagbucks. There’s no cost to sign up for these groups either.
Start Earning That Extra Cash
Taking advantage of any or all of these money-making opportunities can help you earn the extra cash you need for the holidays. Increase your income so that you won’t have to rely on credit cards for Black Friday shopping, and you won’t start the New Year in debt.