Find extra cash for Christmas easily with these ten tips and avoid the Christmas debt hangover.
There was once a young couple named Della and Jim. It was the day before Christmas, and they had no money to buy each other a Christmas present.
Della looked at herself in the mirror and sighed, wondering what she could give her beloved husband. And then she had a brilliant idea. She could sell her long, beautiful hair – hair that shone bronze in the sunlight and reached below her knees – and use the proceeds to buy Jim the best Christmas gift ever.
As she wandered around the streets, she found the perfect gift for Jim – a silver chain from which to hang his one prized possession: his grandfather’s gold watch.
You may have heard this story before. It’s The Gift of the Magi, by O Henry and it’s one of my favourites. If you haven’t heard it, you may guess where the story leads.
Imagine getting the perfect gift for Christmas. You just love it!
Now imagine the person who gave it to you put themselves into financial hardship to buy it.
It sounds extreme and yet that’s exactly what many, many of us do to ourselves each year! We extend ourselves financially and then live with the pain later. In fact, many Australians still have Christmas debt hanging over them at Easter!
We take it for granted that Christmas will be a big credit card blow out and we’ll wake up in January with a big debt hangover.
When Jim got home that night he was shocked to see Della’s hair shorn short.
‘It’s just hair,’ Della reassured him, ‘it will grow back! I sold my hair to buy you the perfect Christmas gift. I love you so much, I wanted to give you something special.’
Jim sank onto the couch looking bewildered. Della couldn’t understand Jim’s reaction.
‘Merry Christmas, Della. Open my present first and you will understand why I’m a little in shock.’
Della opened the gift and there were the most beautiful set of shell combs she had ever seen – just the right colour to match the long hair that she no longer had.
‘Never mind, Jim. It will grow back. Open your gift.’
Jim opened his gift and nearly cried. There was the beautiful silver chain, perfect for his heirloom watch.
‘Oh Dell,’ Jim sighed. ‘I sold the watch to buy you those combs!’”
We all want to be generous at Christmas time. That generosity of spirit is something beautiful to be cherished. But we have to ask ourselves whether we should be putting ourselves in debt over giving. It’s about finding the balance.
Ideally, you started your Christmas fund at the beginning of the year. If you did, then the Christmas season will be much easier.
But what if you don’t have a Christmas fund?
10 Ways to Find Extra Cash For Christmas
Below are ten ways to find some spare cash to make this Christmas a debt-free Christmas.
But before you begin, set a budget for Christmas so you have something to aim for. Saving will be easier if you intentionally keep costs low.
Before you Save…Budget
How much money do you need to save for Christmas?
To work out your Christmas budget, write a list of all the people you want to give a gift to and how much you want to spend on each person.
Then include a food budget and money for extras like wrapping paper, travel if you are travelling to visit relatives, Christmas decorations, your work’s Christmas party and secret Santa.
Add it all up and you’ve got your Christmas budget.
Does that amount look impossible to reach? Next look at ways to enjoy Christmas on a tight budget.
Christmas on a Budget
How are you going to get that perfect gift on a budget? Here are some ideas for Christmas on a budget:
- Make Christmas about family and friends and focus on the fun things you’re going to do together rather than the gifts
- Be choosy about which Christmas functions you attend. You don’t have to attend them all
- Stick to one gift for adults and a few gifts for kids.
- Keep an eye out for sales
- Shop online (and have your gift arrive on time)
- Consider and scout around for second-hand gifts
- Start handmade gifts
- Entertain on a budget
- Decorate on a budget
Write a list of gift ideas that are within your budget, for each person you’re buying. Don’t leave Christmas shopping until the last minute, when it will be more expensive and more stressful.
1. Save Your Savings
The following ideas won’t add up to Christmas cash if you don’t save your savings. That means having a separate bank account for your Christmas savings and transferring your savings every day.
Did you take lunch to work today instead of buying it? Transfer the savings to your Christmas fun.
Did you say no to coffee? Transfer your savings straight away.
Do you have spare change lying around the house? It’s amazing how quickly that silver can add up! Bank it.
2. Have a No-Spend Month
A no-spend month can be a great way to find some extra cash fast.
Cut your spending to the bone and then depositing your savings into your Christmas fund. If you get into debt for Christmas, have another no-spend month to pay it off.
Here’s how to do a no-spend challenge.
3. Use Discretion When it Comes to Discretionary Expenses
Does a no-spend month seem unrealistic at this time of the year? Instead of cutting expenses to the bone, consider analysing your discretionary spending and cut out any ‘little luxuries’ for a while.
Consider cutting work lunches, coffees, takeaway, dinner out, entertainment, clothing and other discretionary expenses while you save for Christmas.
While it’s nice to enjoy these things when we don’t have other more pressing expenses, they can add up quickly and so are a good place to start saving now.
4. Famine before the Feast
If you have a full pantry or freezer, why not eat through your stash. Eating through your pantry will not only save you a packet on the groceries, but it will also free up room for Christmas food.
Alternatively, take steps to reduce your grocery budget over the next few weeks. Eat more vegetarian meals, look for budget meals made from frugal ingredients and switch to cheaper brands for a while.
Don’t forget to put your grocery savings towards your Christmas fun, or, if you are entertaining this year and need to feed a crowd, you can start buying a couple of non-perishable or freeze-able food items each shop.
5. Sell your Clutter
One of the fastest, easiest ways to raise some extra funds quickly is to sell your unwanted clutter.
For tips on how to sell your second-hand stuff, check out:
We all have clutter we can get rid of. Your clutter can be someone else’s perfect Christmas present on a budget!
6. Work Overtime
If your job offers paid overtime, this is a great way to earn a little extra over the following weeks to pay for Christmas. Put your overtime income towards your Christmas fund.
Alternately, and depending on your current working hours, you can look for a Christmas casual position in retail to make some extra cash. There are a lot of short-term casual jobs at this time of the year, which can be a great way to earn some extra cash.
7. Downgrade, Cancel, Pause, Switch and Save
The modern world is all about the subscription and the membership. How many do you have? Do you need them all? Can you downgrade your mobile phone service?
Pause your pay TV? Cancel Netflix for a few months?
Pause your gym membership?
Switch utilities for a better deal?
Pausing, cancelling, downgrading and switching your subscriptions temporarily (or permanently) can give your Christmas fund a boost.
8. Use up Old Gift Cards
Do you have gift certificates lurking in your wallet? Maybe a birthday present or even a gift certificate from last Christmas?
Now is the time to search the house for forgotten gift certificates.
It’s not the most fun way to spend your own gift cards, but if it keeps you out of debt, use them up to purchase gifts.
Starting a side hustle right before Christmas is not a realistic way to earn some extra cash, but offering to do odd jobs for others definitely is.
Do you have friends you can babysit for? There are a lot of people needing babysitting while they attend Christmas functions.
Can you put an ad in your local paper for yard work or cleaning? A lot of busy people need their house cleaned for guests and entertaining at this time of the year.
Are you good at building kid’s bikes? Or putting together Ikea stuff? Maybe you can offer your services on Airtasker and save people Christmas Eve hassle. And why not offer to store and deliver the gifts so the kids get no wind of it?
You could consider driving for UberEats for a few weeks. If you’re delivering food, you don’t need to worry about having strangers in your car.
This time of the year is super busy, so can you offer to run errands for people as a service to earn extra cash. Be a PA for a day, kind of thing. Let others avoid the Christmas shopping crowds by offering a personal shopping service. You can offer your services to friends or people at work, put an ad in the local paper or try a service like Airtasker.
10. Pay your minimum for just one month
If you already are in debt, then it’s a good idea to be paying more than the monthly minimum to get out of it! If you are paying more than the minimum repayments, hurrah! But…
…in order not to dig your debt hole any deeper, for just one month, put any extra repayments towards your Christmas fund. As soon as Christmas is over, get back on track with your debt reduction plan.
And finally, don’t forget: start a savings plan for next year
When Christmas is all over after the presents are unwrapped, the turkey is stripped clean, and the leaves on the Christmas tree have started dropping all over the carpet, then it’s the best time to start saving for next year.
If your Christmas budget is $500, then all you need to put aside is $9.60 a week to cover it. No scramble at the end of next to find some extra cash and no big debt blowout. Start the new year on the right foot, by paying cash at Christmas.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.