The holidays are coming, and that means one thing: Millions of Americans risk racking up debt, or making other destructive financial moves, in an effort to shower loved ones with gifts, travel to see family, and adorn their homes with festive decor.
It's estimated that 58% of U.S. adults have less than $1,000 in savings, so it stands to reason that a large number can't afford to celebrate the holidays the way they want to. But rather than cut back, many consumers would rather stretch themselves financially and suffer the consequences after the fact.
If you're short on funds for the holidays, don't despair. But also don't do something crazy, like raid your retirement fund or build up an enormous credit card balance. Instead, use the tactics below to scrounge up extra cash right in time.
1. Cut back on nonessentials for a month
You probably spend money on things you don't need on a regular basis, and while eliminating those luxuries permanently would no doubt make for a less pleasant existence, cutting them out for a single month is far more doable. Take a look at your budget and identify nonessential expenses you can do without between now and late December. Those could include things like restaurant meals, rideshares, and streaming services, to name a few. You may be surprised at how much money you free up by being temporarily frugal.
2. Get a seasonal job
Local businesses and major retailers alike tend to experience an uptick in hiring around the holidays. And while having to commit to a second job may not appeal to you for the long haul, putting in some time over the next six weeks or so could help you eke out more money for holiday spending purposes. But don't wait -- many businesses line up seasonal employees well in advance of the holidays, so apply quickly if you want a shot at snagging a temporary position.
3. Find side work you can do independently
Maybe your job schedule is too demanding to allow for shift work at a seasonal gig. If that's the case, carve out a side hustle you can do on your own terms. Find a blog you can get paid to contribute to, sell homemade crafts online, or use your skills to design and update websites. And who knows? If you like your side gig enough, you may choose to continue doing it in the new year.
4. Sell your stuff
We all have things taking up space in our closets, basements, or garages that we rarely use or wouldn't miss if they were to disappear. Rather than let your rarely touched clothing, electronics, and furniture items collect dust, try selling them. You can do so online, which works especially well for smaller gadgets, accessories, and clothing -- items that are fairly easy to ship.
You can also see about unloading some items for cash at local consignment shops. Keep in mind that some of these stores don't give you money up front -- rather, they give you a cut of the proceeds once items sell. But some consignment shops do offer a set price up front to take unwanted items off your hands, so do your research to find the right ones. Not only might you score some cash, but you'll also free up valuable storage space for the new gifts you're bound to receive this year.
5. Cash in old gift cards
If you have gift cards sitting around that you've yet to use, why not trade them in for cash? A quick Google search will yield a number of sites that allow you to do so. And while you will take a hit on your gift cards' face value, you're better off having $80 to spend as you need than you would be with $100 in store credit at retailers you rarely visit.
6. Ask for an advance on your year-end bonus
Many companies give out cash bonuses at or near the end of the year. If you're entitled to one, and you're willing to be a little bold, you can ask your employer about possibly collecting that money in late November or early December, instead of having to wait a few weeks longer to get it. Snagging that cash just a bit earlier could help you avoid short-term credit card debt, and when you explain that to your employer, you may get what you want.
The last thing you want to do is land in debt this holiday season. Find creative ways to round up more money, and you won't have to.