9 Simple Ways to Set Aside $900 for Holiday Shopping Before December

A family decorating the Christmas tree
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We Americans celebrate the holidays in style, with Christmas trees, sugar cookies… and credit cards.

The average American spends more than $900 on the holidays each year, according to the National Retail Federation.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely have hundreds of dollars to spare. If you want to go all out this holiday season, how do you plan to pay for it?

Here are nine simple ways to bolster your holiday shopping fund by making and saving money over the next couple of months:

1. Turn Those Crumpled Receipts Into Free Gift Cards

What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, they hand you a mile-long piece of paper, and you frantically stuff it in the bottom of a grocery bag. Pretty worthless.

But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn them into gift cards — perfect for your holiday shopping. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, Chipotle and dozens of other retailers.

And it’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to put a ton of work into this. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.

When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt — you’ll be well on your way to your first gift card.

Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $40

2. Add $225 to Your Wallet While Watching Movie Previews

Woman watching a show while sitting on the couch
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If we told you that you could get paid while watching videos on your computer, you’d probably laugh.

It’s too good to be true, right?

But we’re serious. By signing up for a free account with InboxDollars, you could add up to $225 a month to your pocket. They’ll send you short surveys every day, which you can fill out while you watch someone bake brownies or catch up on the latest Kardashian drama.

No, InboxDollars won’t replace your full-time job, but it’s something easy you can do while you’re already on the couch tonight, wasting time on your phone.

Unlike other sites, InboxDollars pays you in cash — no points or gift cards. It’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

Signing up takes about one minute, and you’ll immediately receive a $5 bonus to get you started.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $225

3. Earn up to 40% Cash Back While Shopping Online

Opening a gift card for Christmas

If you do a lot of your shopping online, Rakuten is a tool you need in your savings arsenal. It’s super easy to use. No points. No receipts. No surveys. No fees. Just automatic cash.

Here’s how to sign up:

  1. Download the free browser extension and create a free Rakuten account in less than two minutes.
  2. Shop online at more than 2,500 stores through the platform. You’ll find your classics — Amazon, Old Navy, Target and Walmart — but also discover some gems, like Postmates, Madewell, “The New Yorker” and Leesa.
  3. Earn cash back automatically. As long as you earn more than $5, you’ll get a check in the mail quarterly.

Qualifying for your first check is super easy. If you sign up and make your first purchase of $25 or more within 90 days, you’ll get a free $10 bonus.

We’ve talked to a lot of Rakuten users who’ve gotten paid through the platform. Colleen Rice of Denver, Colorado, for example, has earned $526.44 in cash back.

Honestly, who doesn’t love getting free money in the mail?

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $30

4. Get Paid to Drop off Starbucks

Girls excited about Christmas shopping

Your city is filled with two things: Starbucks, and people who want Starbucks.

An app called Doordash will pay you to pick up and deliver an extra latte when you’re already out and getting your caffeine fix. And it’s not just coffee. You can deliver from Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys and hundreds of other restaurants in your area.

With Doordash, you set your own hours and work as much or little as you want, meaning how much you make is up to you.

You’ll earn money for each delivery, plus tips.

The best part? No passengers — that grande, no-whip macchiato will be the only thing to hear your beautiful singing voice.

If you sign up for Doordash now, it’s possible to get your first paycheck this week.

5. Get Money Back When You Buy Stuff Online

Woman working at her computer

Pro tip: Some stores have price-drop policies to pay you back if something you buy online goes on sale after you buy it. But here’s the reality: Unless you revisit every website you ever order from, how would you know? Who has time for that?

Good news, though. Capital One has a free tool called Capital One Shopping Price Protection that knows which stores have policies like this, and it does all the tracking for you. All you have to do is sign up with your email address and keep your emailed receipts. Then Price Protection will help you get a refund when it finds a price drop on something you’ve bought.

We talked to one busy mom who has used Price Protection to save $1,315.41 in about two years. Aimee B. says to save time, she does the majority of her shopping online — her clothes and household necessities.

“It really is as simple as giving your email address,” she says. “It’s kind of a no-brainer.”

Price Protection monitors more than 25 retailers and has found more than $29 million in savings for customers.

Disclosure: Capital One Shopping Price Protection compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $30

6. Swap Books for Amazon Gift Cards

Have old college textbooks taking up valuable shelf space? You could host a garage sale or sell them on Craigslist, but one of the easiest ways to get rid of them is through Amazon.

With Amazon Trade-In, you can trade in your used textbooks, plus other items, like electronics, in exchange for an Amazon gift card.

Enter the item’s information on Amazon’s Trade-In page to see how much you could pocket. Shipping is free.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $40

7. Get a $5 Amazon Gift Card For Playing Words With Friends

Woman exiting her car

Get paid to play games on your phone? Yeah, right. We’ve all heard that before.

Here’s what that usually means: Logging dozens of hours on games you’ve never heard of, just for a few cents.

Gee, thanks.

But a free Android app called Mistplay actually pays you for playing popular games like Words With Friends 2, Yahtzee, Clash Royale, Star Wars and more.

As you play, Mistplay rewards you in points, which you can exchange for gift cards for brands like Visa, Amazon and more.

You’ll even get bonus points when you sign up and enter the code penny50.

The more you play, the more you’ll earn. Plus, Mistplay offers some bigger in-game rewards — up to $20.

It takes just a few minutes to sign up and start getting paid to play games.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $20

8. Surprise Yourself with Extra Savings

A man and his wife walk hand-in-hand down the street.

With the holidays upon us, we could all use some more money in our savings account, right? Yeah, right, you’re saying. Where am I supposed to get that kind of money?

An app called Digit finds money you didn’t even know you had — and automatically tucks it away into your savings.

Using Digit, personal finance editor Matt Wiley was able to save $1,857 in a year without even thinking about it.

“It feels weird saying I saved, because I really didn’t do anything,” he says.

Digit takes a look at your spending patterns and tells you exactly how much you can afford to put away. It knows when to save and when to slow down so your funds don’t get too low. Have rent due soon? It’ll go easy on you. Just got paid? Sweet, let’s tuck some of that away.

To start, download Digit and connect your checking account. From there, it’ll get to work. Your first 30 days are free, then it’s $5 a month. Not bad, considering how much it’ll help you save.

Now all you have to do is sit back, relax and watch that savings account grow.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $200

9. Get Paid When Your Neighbor’s Dog Spends the Night

We all want an extra paycheck, but none of us want to get a second job — we’re already exhausted from the first one. Or maybe you’re disabled, retired or a stay-at-home parent who needs a little extra money in the bank.

What if there were a way to do that and get your puppy fix at the same time?

Rover is a website that connects neighbors who need a dog sitter with people who love having an extra dog (or two) spend the night.

The average Rover sitter earns $450 a month, but we spoke with stay-at-home mom Bryn Wied, who quickly started earning upwards of $500.

“Within two months, I was turning away business,” says Wied, who dog sits in California. “Within three months, I raised my prices to what everyone else was charging.”

It’ll take a little effort upfront, though (to filter out all the Cruella de Vils). You’ll create a Rover profile where you’ll answer questions about your experience with puppers and set your availability and prices.

Dog owners will reach out to you, and before you know it, you’ll be snuggled up with all the neighborhood dogs — and making extra money.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $200

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s a parent and has so many holiday gifts to buy this year.