Warning: There are only nine weeks left of the Christmas shopping season. That's not a lot of time to raise the funds, make the purchases, and find the room for all the new knick-knacks that will be under your tree. Why wait until the pumpkins on your porch have turned to puree? Start preparing for the holidays now!

If you're like most Americans (and if you're not, watch out -- John Ashcroft is watching!), your house is full of hundreds of handy-dandy, practical, and hassle-free items that you never use. Why let those toe-hair curlers, vegetable slashers, and teenagers sit around collecting dust when you can sell them for warm, soft cash?

Plus, there's the added bonus of less clutter... and more room for the new wave of neck-hair rollers, fruit evisceraters, and teenagers you'll receive this Christmas.

Here's what you can do:

  • Have a yard sale: Go through every nook and cranny to find treasures that have lost their luster -- in your eyes, at least. Rule: If you haven't used it in a year, you probably don't need it. (Adjust for item: If you bought a coffin during a going-out-of-business sale, and you haven't used it, don't worry -- you will.) If you're not sure you want to get rid of something, put a price on it that'll make the parting worthwhile. Otherwise, price everything to sell. Those of you in the colder climes better do this soon -- yard-sale season is almost over.

  • Use the Internet: Check out sites such as eBay, Half.com, Amazon.com marketplace, and Yahoo! Auctions for places to sell your books, music, or general stuff. Consider more specialized sites for big-ticket and rare items. Review the Internet Auction List for a directory of sites.

  • Set up shop at the flea market: If you have a lot of stuff -- items that are better sold in person than over the Internet -- rent a booth at a flea market. It'll cost you a couple hundred bucks, but think of the all-day access to corn dogs!

  • Donate the stuff: Perhaps you're more interested in helping others than helping yourself. But there's another benefit besides good karma: If you itemize your taxes, you can deduct the value of charitable contributions. Just make sure to keep receipts.

  • Re-gift: We know it's tacky, but someone on your Christmas list might appreciate a gift you received but don't use. Note: If you re-gift, make sure to remove the card with your name on it, as my sister forgot to do -- though I appreciate the waffle iron nonetheless.