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

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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 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 haven’t. But December will be upon us before you know it, so now’s the time to start building that stash.

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

1. Stop Deleting Your Emails

Woman working at her computer
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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 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 when there’s a price drop.

Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.

When writer Susan Shain tried out Paribus for The Penny Hoarder, she earned $22 in refunds in just a few months. All she did was shop online like she normally would.

Depending on how much you shop online, you might earn around that much or more!

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $20

Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.

2. Make Money While You Watch the New Fall Lineup

Woman watching a show while sitting on the couch
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We’ve seen a lot of survey sites in our time, but none offer the level of tangible, achievable and useful rewards as Swagbucks.

Once you sign up, you’ll be invited to participate in surveys to earn rewards (called SBs)… sometimes up to 300 SBs for a single 20-minute questionnaire. Not bad! Every 500 SBs you earn will get you a $5 gift card to vendors like Amazon.

(Surveys are the most lucrative thing to do on the Swagbucks site, so we’re focusing on that.)

How much you earn depends on how many surveys you do, so the amount can vary widely. It’ll take some time, but if you put in half an hour a day filling out Swagbucks surveys while you’re watching TV, it can add up.

You could easily earn $30 in September, $30 in October and $30 in November if you check the website daily — all in Amazon gift cards, so you’re ready to shop online by the time December hits.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $90

3. Pocket $150, Plus Cash Back Every Time You Swipe This Card

Girls excited about Christmas shopping
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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.

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

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $150+

4. Snag a Free $10 Walmart Gift Card

Opening a gift card for Christmas
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One of our favorite ways to earn extra money is with Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something online. For example, you get 10% back on purchases at Walmart.

Plus you get a free $10 Walmart gift card for giving the site a try.

To earn your gift card:

  1. Sign up for Ebates with your email or Facebook account.
  2. Use the Ebates portal the next time you need to buy something on your list. It’s connected to thousands of stores, including Walmart, Amazon and Target.
  3. Once you spend at least $25, your account will be credited with rewards points you can cash in for your gift card.

Note: Ebates gets you cash back from thousands of online retailers, but those rewards will likely come to you after the holiday season. It pays you quarterly once your rebate money has been in your account for 60 days. So you’ll need to be patient.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $10

5. Start Saving Without Trying

A man and his wife walk hand-in-hand down the street.
Photo courtesy of Grant Gunderson

Saving money is tough. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn’t even notice?

Digit makes that possible.

This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.

Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.

Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.

If you need that money sooner than expected, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.

Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $80+

6. Roll Your (Digital) Change — and Get a $5 Bonus

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If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns. Penny Hoarders get a $5 bonus for signing up.

You can start small and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account. Then the app invests it for you.

The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, we reviewed how Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year!

That amounts to about $8 per week. Use Acorns for the next 10 weeks, and by December you could have $80 in your Acorns account — or more, depending on your spending habits.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $80

7. Start a Simple Side Gig

Woman exiting her car
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Need a fun, flexible way to earn money while also meeting lots of new people? Try driving with Lyft. You can work days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!

Demand for ride sharing is growing like crazy. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check, and own a car made in 2007 or later.

Because it’s simple to switch between apps, many Lyft drivers also often sign up with Uber.

We talked to Paul Pruce, who’s been driving full-time with Lyft for over a year. He earns $750 a week as a driver. That’s $18.75 an hour.

If you’re not interested in driving humans around, maybe you’d prefer hanging with cute pups.

On Rover you can choose to offer a variety of services, including dog walking, overnight boarding at your home or theirs, and daycare. Rover says sitters can earn as much as $1,000 a month — just for snugglin’ pups!

Set yourself a goal to work part-time and earn just $50 a week. Do it for the next eight weeks, and you’d have an extra $400 in your pocket.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $400

8. Get Cash Back on Your Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving dinner
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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!

Based on our personal experience with Ibotta, we think you could easily earn $10 cash back in September, $10 in October and $10 in November. With that, plus your $10 sign-up bonus, you’d have an extra $40 by the time December rolls around.

How much you could bank for holiday shopping: $40

9.  Sell Last Year’s Secret Santa Disaster

Woman selling things online
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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 $30.

*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.

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.