This is How to Make a Last-Minute $200 Before Christmas

A father lifting his son to put the star on the Christmas tree
PeopleImages/Getty Images

This year’s holiday spending is expected to top last year’s by 3% or 4% — pretty hefty, considering the average American was expected to spend more than $900 on holiday gifts last year.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually have a spare $900. If you want to go all out this holiday season, how do you plan to pay for it?

No worries if you haven’t been stashing money all year — most of us probably didn’t either. Now the holiday season is nearly upon us, so it’s time to start thinking about building that stash.

Here are ten ways to bolster your holiday shopping fund by making and saving money over the next few months — without trying.

Make a little time each week until Christmas to focus on at least one of these. Do all of them, and you can easily build a shopping fund that’ll help you check off everything on your list!

1. Open a Separate Savings Account

When I was growing up, my mom’s strategy for saving for Christmas was simple: Part of her paycheck automatically went into a special bank account she couldn’t touch until the holidays.

I don’t celebrate Christmas with gifts as an adult, but I still use my mom’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind method to build my savings for other things.

You can open a savings account at your local bank branch, but my suggestion is to go with an online bank — you’ll be less likely to withdraw the money.

Open an online savings or checking account and deposit $5. Heck, roll your quarters if you have to.

There are a bunch of great online bank accounts, but one of our favorites is the Aspiration Summit Checking account because right now it's offering an interest rate around 100 times what a normal bank offers — and there's no monthly fees.

Here’s why we prefer it to a traditional checking or savings account:

– It’s online only, so you don't have to leave home to handle your finances.

– It offers 1% APY on a balance of $2,500 or more. If your balance is less, it offers 0.25% APY. That’s more than the average savings account interest rate of 0.06%.

– It’s free — no mandatory monthly minimums or fees.

– It comes with a debit card, which can be used at any ATM in the world for free.

Plus, 10% of the company’s revenue goes to charity!

You can open a savings account at your local bank, but my suggestion is to go with an online bank — you’ll be less likely to withdraw the money.

2. Stop Deleting Your Emails

Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images
Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you serious money. Intrigued?

One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It's free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund anytime there’s a price drop.

Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get money back for what you paid for shipping.

3. Make Money While You Watch ‘A Christmas Story’

JOANY is a health care concierge service. It helps people find and compare plans, seek out doctors and navigate complicated medical bills.

In order to best cater to customers, it needs you to answer some survey questions. It takes less than 10 minutes, with fewer than 50 questions. In return, you’ll pocket a free $25.

In order to participate, you’ll need to meet these qualifications:

  • You purchased health insurance for 2017 through your state exchange,, a broker or a plan, such as Oscar or Aetna.
  • You don’t receive health insurance through your employer or school.
  • You aren’t on Medicaid, Medicare or VA health insurance.

JOANY promises fewer than 50 questions and less than 10 minutes of your time. Most questions are multiple choice, making answering easy. Your answers are private and protected under federal law.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $25

4. Earn Cash Back for Your Everyday Purchases

This one is set-it and forget-it. Dosh automatically gives you cash back for making purchases at more than 100,000 hotels, online stores and restaurants — including Starwood Properties, Marriott, Cost Plus World Market, Nike, Target, Chuck E. Cheese’s and many more.

Just follow these steps to start earning:

  1. Download the app and sign up.
  2. Securely connect a debit or credit card.
  3. Live your life, and watch the cash roll in. The app will automatically watch your purchases and reward you with cash back as you shop.

You can also collect a $25 bonus for booking your first hotel through the app, as well bonuses for referring friends and local businesses.

Bonus: Even if you don't buy anything, you could earn money toward gift cards by simply walking into your go-to retailer or scanning barcodes.

Enter Shopkick, the app pays you in “kicks” for walking into certain stores (including Walmart, Target, TJMaxx and more). These can be redeemed for gift cards to a number of retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Sephora and Best Buy.

It pays you even more “kicks” for photos of receipts that include qualifying items you purchased in-store with a connected credit or debit card. You can also earn kicks for online purchases. Bonus: You don’t have to do anything; your linked cards will automatically apply your kicks.

We’ve got an ultimate guide to using the app here.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $25-plus

5. Get Cash Back on Your Thanksgiving Meal

Did you know you can get cash back on your groceries just for taking a picture of your receipt?

Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up for Ibotta here with your name and email address.

2. Before your next trip to the grocery store, browse the app's cash-back offers. They change every week, so check each time you shop.

For example, we've seen recent deals for 50 cents back on a gallon of milk (regardless of brand) and a $1 for graham crackers. Sounds like an afternoon snack!

3. When you earn at least $20 cash back, you can request payment via PayPal or Venmo. And right now, Ibotta is giving new users a $10 sign-up bonus for redeeming their first receipt — so that first $20 won't be hard to hit!

Don't get caught up buying a bunch of junk that wasn't already on your grocery list. This can be an easy way to get a little cash back for the things you already buy.

Plus, you can still use manufacturer and store coupons on the items you're buying, so this is a nifty way to stack your savings to knock down the price of an item.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $20

6. Sell Last Year’s Secret Santa Disaster

selimaksan/Getty Images
selimaksan/Getty Images

Still holding onto last year’s uninspired Secret Santa gift from Susan? (For crying out loud, Susan, you could muster a little creativity.)

Sell it. She’ll never know

You can list just about anything on Letgo, a peer-to-peer marketplace app.

Just snap a flattering photo of whatever you want to sell, and spend less than a minute creating your listing. In no time, it’ll become someone else’s treasure!

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: Depends on what you sell! Aim for $50.

7. Roll Your (Digital) Change

When I wanted to start saving money, I knew I needed to try Acorns. It connects to your bank account, plus credit and debit cards, to invest your spare digital change.

I spent about 10 minutes setting it up, and I saved $116 in three months without even realizing it.

At that rate, you could easily save $420 this year without even noticing a change in your budget. Plus, you’ll get a free $10 when you make your first investment.

That’s enough to cover one Insta-worthy road trip this year.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $35 (It depends on how much you spend!)

8. Harness Your Online Snooping Skills

make extra money
vlado85rs/Getty Images

A simple side gig you can do on your own time from home is a great way to bank extra bucks — especially if you’re busy with a day job and those kids whose presents you’re trying to save money for.

We love this gig, because it lets your inner nerd shine.

Wonder is an online company that helps customers by providing research and resources to answer a variety of questions. That’s where you come in.

The company is recruiting web researchers. You would get to set your own schedule and choose which projects you want to work on. Then, you get to indulge your enjoyment of internet rabbit holes and deep dive into subjects to find the answers and resources customers need.

Pay is per project, and Wonder advertises top researchers can earn $15 to $25 an hour. Someone with experience as a Wonder researcher, however, told us $13 an hour is a more realistic expectation, based on the time you’ll put into each project.

Bonus: You’re going to crush it on trivia night.

Learn more about the gig and how to apply here.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping if you take one project per week: $52

9Make Saving Money Kind Of, Sort Of Fun

Saving and fun don’t typically mesh, but Qapital is an automated savings app that makes the process, well, fun.

And mindless.

First, you’ll determine what you’re saving for. In this case, it’ll be Christmas presents. But you could also opt for something like next month’s rent, a vacation or a new phone. Then set some rules. When they’re triggered, money will transfer into your Qapital account.

For example, set your purchases to round up to the nearest dollar. Or set it so if you meet your daily step goal, you’ll bank $2.

One Penny Hoarder used the free app to save toward a trip and was able to put away $700 in five months — without really thinking.

10. Swipe Cash Back on All Your Purchases

If you’re looking for a passive way to earn some money throughout the year, a cash-back credit card is perhaps one of the easiest methods.

You just have to be sure you don’t get too carried away with those purchases — and that the card is paid off at the end of each billing period.

Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Its claim to fame? You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card (hi, groceries), you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.

There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire. We checked Credible’s annual rewards calculator, and it estimates $417 in annual rewards based on our spending habits.* (You can enter your unique spending habits and see what you’d earn, too.)

Get signed up — and 0% intro APR for 15 months — here.

Dana Sitar ([email protected]) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.

*Chase Disclaimer

Annual Rewards amounts will change based on the amounts you enter. The monthly spending category names and definitions may vary among issuers, and categories may not align one-to-one.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has been collected independently by The Penny Hoarder. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. The Penny Hoarder is a partner of Credible.

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