How to Pay for Christmas When You Don't Have the Budget for it

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Don't have any money to spare come the holidays? DON'T WORRY! There is a way you can still make it work! While Christmas is certainly a great time to count your blessings of what really matters, it is still nice to be able to give something to those we love. The earlier you start and the more consistent you are, the more money you have to spend come Christmas- it's up to you how much you want to earn. And while some gifts are still great to give, read what your children need even more.


Top 10 Ways to Earn Real Money for Christmas

1. Swagbucks

Swagbucks is by far and away my favorite way to earn gift cards in time for Christmas. I've been using it for years. Basically, you earn points called SB and redeem them for prizes including gift cards. Target and Amazon gift cards are great since they are only 500 points for a $5 gift card, however, you can redeem your points for a plethora of other items too. You don't have to be overzealous to get points but do try to get at least 1 gift card a month (it's easy to get more if you are up for it).

Join Swagbucks!

You get points by doing searches (set your default search engine to Swagbucks), taking polls and surveys, shopping through their site, watching videos, using printable coupons, and a whole lot more. They even have bonus codes throughout the day and special events. There is such a wide range of ways to earn points, you are bound to find something that works for you. My favorite ways are searches, coupons, and the Swagbucks toolbar. The points adds up fast. We paid for diapers this way for years and now it's how we pay for Christmas. If you print coupons, do it through Swagbucks and earn 10 points for each one you use.

2. Ibotta

Ibotta is a great free mobile app. You earn money back on select products at certain stores (lots of great stores are included like Target, King Soopers, and even Walmart). Buy things you normally would then do the Ibotta activities to earn money back on products (takes all of a minute). To get your rebate you have to scan the product's UPC and take a picture of your receipt. Within 24 hours you have your money back. Ibotta has several different ways you can cash out- PayPal, gift cards, etc. The gift card option is great if you need to give a present to someone. You can just email the gift card code and instructions. Or instead of buying toys for your children, get a gift card to the movie theatre or a restaurant and get more money back when you use more rebates on Ibotta. I recommend checking Ibotta before heading to the store so you know which brands and products agree with your list.


Ibotta often has some great bonus deals and promos. When you use my referral link, you have the chance to earn an extra $2 the first few weeks you use it. Last September, Ibotta had an amazing Labor Day deal where I got diapers, wipes, paper towels, toilet paper, and more for free after Ibotta and coupons. It certainly frees up some money in other areas.  Find out about those kinds of great deals on Hip2Save.  Remember though, only buy things you will use or you really aren't saving money. 

3. Jingit

The best thing about this free site is that it works with real money not points so you know exactly where you stand. Jingit is a mix of Ibotta, Shopkick, and Swagbucks TV. You earn money by watching videos, scanning products at a store, and buying products to receive a rebate. Jingit is much more specific with which stores you can buy which products but their payout seems to be higher than others. Pay attention to Blitz Bonuses- that's where you can really make some great money! You can use Jingit online or as an app.

4. Shopkick

A mobile app that gives you points for going into stores and scanning products. You can also earn a few for going through their look books or watching videos at home (I hand my phone over to my kids to go through the look books- they love collecting all the bonus points). Shopkick also has special coupons for some stores which is a nice incentive. If you have problems with Shopkick's GPS check to see their tips on checking-in because sometimes you have to go to a specific spot of the store for it to register. You can  redeem points for gift cards which are loaded in the app immediately.  

For instance, you can earn 50 points for walking into Target then its 500 points for a $2 Target gift card on Shopkick. You can only check-in so many times a week but there are also scans throughout the store that will give you more points. If you only check in when you normally go it takes about a month or two to get a card but if you scan and are more conscious of check-ins, it's faster (and keep a look out for those high point special check-in days). You can also connect a credit or debit card to earn points on everything you purchase at certain stores.


5. Saving Star

Get more money back on your groceries with this app and website. There are select stores that Saving Star works with, however, they are continually opening up more opportunities. All you have to do is load offers to your shoppers card before you go shopping. It's basically a coupon but rebate style. If your store doesn't have a shopper's card, you can now scan your receipt to get the rebate. It takes a little bit for the money to load to your account but you really don't have to worry about anything if you just upload the offers to your card. You can request your money or get it through PayPal or Amazon cards. Again, just spend your normal grocery budget and use this money for gifts. You can get emails when the new coupons come out and add whichever ones you think you'll use then forget about it. You can also shop online through Saving Star to really add up your savings. Pay addition to each Friday's new upload. You can get 100% back on an item each week and the produce items change weekly.

6. Ipoll

Ipoll has been around for a while as a survey site. Surveys can be a good way to earn money if you don't get tired or frustrated. I prefer Ipoll's mobile app. The Ipoll mobile app gives you missions to do in store. In one day I earned $45 by completing 2 missions! That's pretty amazing. The GPS sometimes gives me problems but just walk around the store until you find a good spot. It helps if you have a store with good Wi-Fi. Beginning missions are just basic questions but then you can get missions that have you go over to the yogurt section for example and take a picture of it or type what you noticed first. The point is, it's not that hard but you do have to be in the store- and it's easier without kids. Some missions will ask if you are willing to buy a product and review it for additional money opportunity. The product may be about $2 and the payout another $15 so it's still worth your while. On a mission that you end up buying something; it's the second survey that gives you the big payout. Start the survey sooner rather than later as they can fill up. Don't use the product until it says so in the survey too! You can also get a $5 bonus for signing up.

7. Receipt Hog

Make your receipts work for you and not just the trash can. After Ibotta, Saving Star, Swagbuck coupons, and Jingit use Receipt Hog next. All you have to do is take a picture of any grocery receipt (pet store, dollar store, and some others) in the free mobile app. Receipts earn you coins depending on how much you spend. Each week you submit a receipt you get one spin on the pig slots that can earn you extra coins or even some cash. If you submit receipts for 5 weeks in a row, you get a spin for each receipt your submit. This program takes a little longer to earn money but it's a great way to really stretch your receipts! Sometimes you can also scan products or take surveys about your receipts for extra coins. Its 1800 coins for a $10 cash payout or Amazon card- the bigger payouts are a better value. Use code damp1717 when signing up and earn more. 

8. Viggle

If you are going to watch TV, get paid for it! The free mobile app lets you check-in to different TV shows. You get 1 point for every minute you watch TV. There are lots of chances to earn bonus points and its pretty easy to earn 40 points a day without even watching TV. You can earn Redbox codes, digital movies, gift cards to places like Old Navy or JCPenney's, movie tickets, Hulu Plus subscriptions, etc. It takes a little longer to earn the rewards but its money for watching TV! Who else gives you money for watching TV? Redbox codes are great to give away in a stocking or to teachers, neighbors, etc. with a bag of popcorn for Christmas. I recommend Viggling the shows with bonus points at check-ins and those that let you play live for extra points. They are great way to rack up the points. I don't have cable but I do get all the local stations and it works great. You can also now Viggle music for points too. 

9. Catalinas 

Catalinas are cash back coupons you receive on grocery trips. Again, buy what you normally would but if you notice a sale tag that says if you buy 4 you'll get $3 off your next order, then stock up a little. With a little planning you can really stock up then use all your catalinas to get items for free. Think stocking stuffers here- chapstick, bubble bath, little toys, movies, etc. You can use multiple catalinas in a transaction to get all your stocking stuffers for free. If you want to use this money at a different store, simply put the money you saved from the catalina in your Christmas fund account. Catalinas are often promoted in the weekly grocery circulars or your local coupon deal site. There is usually a limit to how many catalinas you can earn so be sure to pay attention to the rules. They also expire like a coupon so don't let them go to waste!

10. Target

There is a reason we all like Target. You can get SO MANY great deals when you shop there. One easy way is to pay attention to all their Gift Card back deals. They often have them with high pricing items but you can also find a $5 gift card back deal in groceries. Target just had a coupon last week where if you spent $50 on grocery, you got a $10 gift card. If you match that up with other deals and coupons, you can really score some amazing deals (again I rely on Hip2Save to point most of these great deals out). When you see a product that you would normally buy that offers gift cards back- buy it! Save ALL your gift cards to spend at Christmas. Since they come in $5 increments most of the time, you can give them out as teacher gifts, put them in stockings, stuff them in Christmas cards or just go shopping. The gift cards are great because they never expire. Keep a pen or sharpie in your purse and write how much each is worth on the back right away to save you some time in the future. 

Save more at Target by using their Cartwheel app (pay attention to the high % off ones as they only last a day or 2), online coupons to print, and mobile coupons (text OFFERS to 827438). You can stack manufacturer coupons with Target coupons and use your gift cards for all kinds of great savings. Save EVEN MORE with a Target Redcard. Every single time you use a Target Redcard you earn an extra 5% off of everything (plus give 1% to your school). Use it when you buy all those groceries and you'll save and earn gift cards. You can hook up your Red Card to your checking account, use it as a credit card, OR buy a Reloadable Red Card. If you are really budget conscious, a Reloadable Red Card is the way to go. You can put your budget on it every month so you save 5% but still stay within your means.

A lot of these ways may seem like such small things like earning $5 at a time but it really adds up. It is a HUGE stress reliever to spend all your gift cards and cash from all your apps come Christmas instead of reaching into an empty pocket. Be smart and start early- you and your family can do it together- each of you take one or two ways to earn so it's not so daunting. Come October and November, my husband and I up our game and spend a little more time doing bonus activities to earn points but otherwise it's not a big stress throughout the year. I made over $150 in 6 months last year with Ibotta which as those with no budget for Christmas know, is a huge help. Remember to pay attention, be smart and you'll be fine. 

Your Turn- What's your favorite way to save for Christmas? What are you saving up for this year?