6 Doable Ways to Get Christmas Cash Fast

Aak! it’s already November and if your social media is full of moms bragging about their Christmas shopping escapades while you’re still wondering how you’re going to avoid Christmas debt, you might be feeling a little discouraged.  No worries!  Here are 6 ways to get Christmas money fast that will have you singing “Joy to the World” in no time.

  1. Donate Plasma to get paid and save a life at the same time. Plasma is the clear portion of the blood and is used for preemie babies, burn victims, hemophiliacs and other cool medical rescues.  Since they separate the blood and give you back your red blood cells, it is safe to donate twice a week.  Most centers pay on a reloadable visa card and pay more for the 2nd visit per week than the first to encourage you to keep coming back.  My husband and I both donated when we had an income crisis a few years ago and together earned $450 a month for a few hours a week of our time.  They had free wifi for us while we were there and I enjoyed some downtime surfing Pinterest or watching a movie. If you try it, you’ll need to call or go on their website to schedule your first appointment since it takes a bit longer for the full health screening.  Always take a blanket and a stress ball to squeeze with you (it helps the blood flow faster and those places are COLD.)   And have something to drink and a snack in the car for your drive home. (Our center wouldn’t allow us to bring food or drink into the building.)   The center will guide you on your eligibility to donate. Some medications, health conditions, recent tattoos or piercings or trips outside the country will disqualify donors.

2. Host a Mom’s Night Out. Plan some easy kid’s crafts, homemade pizza, games, and a movie for a whole pile of kids and announce you are open for business among your social circle for date night drop offs.  Charge what you like, but you might consider $15 per child for a 3 hour window.  If you want to give multi-child discounts, it’s totally up to you.

3. Clear out some Clutter. Before the season brings a whole host of new things into your home, clear out what’s not useful to you anymore. Craigslist is still a great option for selling your stuff, but there’s also OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace.   Beyond furniture, people also use them to buy household items like linens and decor, clothing, baby gear, and household items.  Some people are even selling their extreme coupon hauls there.

4. Hire out for No Judgement Emergency Cleaning. Most charge around $20 an hour and work fast. You could even have an option for the jobs most people hate:  bathroom cleaning and kitchen floor mopping.  I’ve hired people before and I became frustrated if my helper wasn’t self-directed.  If you hire out, bring your own supplies and have a checklist for yourself, so you know exactly what to do without being told.  You can present the checklist ahead of time so your client knows what to expect.

5. If you have at least a bachelor’s degree you can teach English to Chinese students online.  The pay is between $14 and $22 an hour, but requires a 6 month minimum commitment.  You can find out more here.  I have a personal friend who is doing this right now and LOVES IT. She offered to help guide you through the process.  Shoot me an email at angela@groceryshrink.com and I can forward it on to her.

6. Monetize your skills.  Do you crochet? Sew? Paint? Bake? Decorate? Organize? Extreme Coupon? Style hair or apply makeup? Write in cool fonts? What do people constantly ask you about for advice? Offer group classes and make sure to charge enough to cover supplies plus your time.

The ideal way to plan for Christmas, is to set aside a little bit every month.  We take ours out in cash on pay day and put it in an envelope.  If you set aside $50 a month, by the end of the year you’ll have around $600 for gifts in a sinking fund.   Need more?  Saving $75 a month will get you $900 and $100 a month builds up to $1200.  When budgeting for Christmas, I often think about the gifts and forget to plan for sending cards, special foods and clothing. The sinking fund should be large enough to cover all those things.  How much should your Christmas budget be anyway?  Find out more here and here.

 

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole reminds me of Christmas morning or a celebration brunch, but it’s easy enough to have any time.  I love that it can serve a crowd without having to stand over a hot griddle cooking a few slices of bread at a time.  The pumpkin flavor and pecan butterscotch topping, makes this dish especially festive.

You can bake it in a 9×13 casserole dish, muffin tins, a Bundt pan, or even a slow cooker.  It makes a great freezer meal, or a prep the night before dish. I’ll give instructions for each variation at the end.

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

1 loaf, 20 oz of bread.  We like Saralee Artisan Golden Wheat Bread

Read more

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts, No Special Pan Needed

These sweet and tender Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts are as easy to make as biscuits.  Brandon helped make our first batch at 2 years old.  He’s 10 now–eeek!  When I look back on these old pictures I wish I had taken a lot more.

We like this recipe because it doesn’t take any special pans or a donut maker which makes it accessible to every kitchen.  It’s easily made dairy free. Just sub coconut oil for the butter and almond milk for the dairy milk.  And dust with powdered sugar instead of yogurt glaze. We’re still perfecting a gluten free recipe so you have that to look forward to that later.

Read more

Pumpkin Muffin or Cookies Jar Mix

This mix contains the epitome of autumn flavors with the butterscotch chips, pumpkin spice and pecans.  It has has been a family favorite for years and fits prettily in a quart jar and makes a nice appreciation gift or a welcome to the neighborhood gift.  This is another original recipe you won’t find anywhere else.

Pumpkin Jar Mix

1 1/2 cups All-purpose Flour

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

1 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Spice

1/2 cup Rolled Oats

3/4 cup Sugar*

1/2 cup Butterscotch Chips

1/2 cup Chopped Pecans

Layer in a quart jar

*If you are baking right away, brown sugar tastes better.  If it is a mix for storage then white sugar is best.  Brown sugar will dry out next to the flour and get hard and impossible to mix into the recipe.  Sucanat or coconut sugar would work in either situation.

For cookies: Mix 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/2 t maple flavoring, 1 cup of pumpkin puree and 1 egg. Add pumpkin mix, and mix just until combined. Drop by spoonful onto greased cookie sheets.  Optional, decorate before baking by pressing a pecan half into the top. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

For muffins:

Mix together 1/4 C butter or yogurt, 2 eggs, 1/2 t maple flavoring, and 1 cup of pumpkin puree. Add pumpkin mix alternating with 1 C milk. Fill greased muffin cups nearly full and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes. Or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Makes 15-18 muffins.

P.S.  Did you know that parmesan jar lids fit quart jars?

This is day 12 of 31 Days of Pumpkin Recipes

1 Pumpkin spice mix

2 Homemade pumpkin puree

3 Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

4 Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

5 Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

6 Pumpkin Bagels

7 Butternut Chicken Stew

8 Healthy Pumpkin Pecan Scones

9 Pumpkin Waffles

10 Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

11 Butternut Squash Chili

12 Pumpkin Jar Mix

13 Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

14 Easy Pumpkin Cake

15 Pumpkin Dump Cake

16 Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

17 Pumpkin Mousse

18 Pumpkin Cheesecake

19 Pumpkin Latte

20 Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

21 Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

22 Pumpkin Biscuits

23 Maple Pumpkin Butter

24 Stuffed Sugar Baby Pumpkins

25 Pumpkin Pancakes

26 Pumpkin English Muffins

27 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

28 Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

29 Pumpkin Biscotti

30 Pumpkin Caramel Monkey Bread

31 Impossible Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

These Pumpkin Snickerdoodles have a thin crispy outside with a soft inside.  Not too cake-like and just enough spice.  I ate 4 just to make sure they were perfect and could have gone for another if I weren’t on a diet.  Self-control has to begin somewhere, bwa ha ha ha.

Read more

How to make pumpkin puree

 

Photo credit: Tim Mossholder

While canned pumpkin is really delicious, it’s super easy to make homemade pumpkin puree to use in all your fantastic recipes.  Homemade puree freezes really well for year long stockpiling. Even though pumpkin pie, bread, doughnuts, pancakes, cookies, muffins…..dot our winter menus long after October, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas, the time to grab your pumpkins is now. Tourism pumpkin patches will till their pumpkins under the day after Halloween and it will be terribly hard to find one anywhere.  If you buy them now, stored properly, they will keep long into the winter.

Any pumpkins will work, but the tiny ones have the sweetest most pumpkiny flavor. And the gray pumpkins have the darkest flesh.  This one even had a sweet melon smell.  And it doesn’t have to be pumpkin, butternut squash is in the same family and makes an even thicker, rosier puree.

Read more

One thing to do Before the New Year

The Christmas tree is still up and sparkling a cheerful greeting today.  My organized friends are already put away for the New Year, but I’m letting the 12 days of Christmas linger on.  It’s not our usual thing, but we’ve been working in extra doctor visits this week which included a 6 hour trip to see a specialist in the next state over.  Times like these call for grace.

I know you’ll understand, when I say it was an accomplishment to just get the dishes washed and find clean underwear.

This week between Christmas and New Year’s, when you still have some lingering memories of Christmas and how you felt about everything, is the perfect time to make your life better next year. Were you joyful? Disappointed? Super Organized? Stressed?  While you can still remember what went right and what went wrong, write a note.  I have an excel document that I add a new tab to every year for gift budget planning.  That way I can easily reflect on past year’s happenings and improve my plans for the next year.

At the end of the year, I write a few lines under the budget about things that I want to remember.  (And trust me, we won’t remember if we don’t write it down.)  For example, one year my daughter had a meltdown about not having a cute outfit to wear to our family gathering where her really trendy cousin would be. It’s not a big deal in the scheme of things, but it sure disrupted the happiness at our house. I made a note to work with her at the beginning of the season so that she’ll have a good option and then this year she surprised me by not caring anymore.

One time, I was surprised by “family gifts” that were passed around at our white elephant gift exchange party.  I had thought we were doing the white elephant to avoid individual gifting and save budgets and stress on family members….but then I was handed a gift and had nothing to give in return, and I was the ONLY one who didn’t bring family gifts.  That felt awful.

There are a myriad of possible ways to give charitably during the season. Our church sponsors families and we have the opportunity to buy gifts for those less fortunate.  I also belong to a charitable giving group of local friends and we sponsored our local foster care system and women’s shelter this year.  It was an awesome way to show my kids the joy of helping others, except I failed to plan for it in our budget.  At the time of year when things are already tight, this had me scrambling.  I wrote a new budget line just for that for next year’s budget.

Our grandmother passed away a year ago, and several of the grandchildren gave her daughter the grandmother’s favorite Christmas candy to remember her.  It was really meaningful and I didn’t think of it, so it went into my notes.

One year I made several homemade gifts to help with our budget and improve the quality of the gifts I was able to give.  The only problem was I got both kinds of flu 2 weeks before Christmas and had to wrap unfinished gifts to take back and finish at home later.  Now I give myself a calendar notification in September to start choosing projects and a before Thanksgiving deadline to have them all done.

You see where this is going?  It could be a good thing too, like wrapping my gifts as they came (with a code number on it so I can remember what’s in it!) and putting them under the tree and there was no last minute scramble or danger of the gift being found and the surprised ruined.

While I have the excel file open, I go ahead and copy my old budget over for the new year, then tweak it.  If I have gift ideas, I add them in as well.  In 2017 I’m doubling my gift budget for my own kids.  It has been so small since they were born, that if we wanted to give them anything big, it had to be a family gift and use all the budget for all the kids–no individual gifts.  I’m ready to change that and breathe a little.  When we started out, we budgeted $20 per kid for Christmas. Then when we were debt free, doubled it to $40. For the last 4 years we raised it to $50.  Next year I’m budgeting $100.  I also raised the birthday budget to $100 per child. Since Darren’s salary didn’t go up, that means I’ll need to make up the difference. I kept the amount the same that comes from our regular household budget, and the rest I will earn extra each month to make it a reality.

This is also a great time to update the addresses in your Christmas card list.  I almost forgot about that, because we haven’t managed to mail any out for the last 3 years or even take an updated family photo.  I’ve set the bar low to improve next year, bwa ha ha.

Making the Most of Your Christmas Budget

making-the-most-of-your-christmas-budget

It’s technically still summer and autumn colors aren’t even here, but I want to talk about Christmas just a smidge.  Even though we only give 2 gifts to our kids,  Christmas stresses me out if I don’t plan ahead.  Far AHEAD.  Truthfully, sometimes I still freak out—but this helps.  It’s what I’m doing today, so I thought I’d screen capture a summary of my movements and thoughts as I plan.

I made a little video for you showing how I budget for Christmas and how I buy each item at the lowest price possible.  I hope it helps take some stress off of you this holiday season!

Here are the video notes plus some extra stuff that the video missed:

  1.  Plan to set aside money every month for Christmas Gifts, and know what your total budget will be by the end of the year.

2.  Make a list of all the people you need to buy for and put a dollar amount by each name.  This list total should equal the amount you’ve budgeted for the year.  You might want to add some extra lines for Hostess Gifts or other unexpected exchanges.

3.  Next to each name, brainstorm gift ideas.  I use color codes to tell me if it’s just an idea, or if I’ve placed the order etc.  I also write in the actual amount spent so I can track my spending and not just the budget.  If I buy more than 1 item, I add a line so each item and actual price is on it’s own line.

2016-09-14_10-30-07

4.  When shopping on Amazon, first make an account at camelcamelcamel.com.  Then copy the item URL  to camel and ask for an email alert when the price drops to your target zone.  Since you’re planning NOW you can afford to wait for a better price.  This is important because Amazon no longer offers partial refunds if the item drops in price after you purchase it.

2016-09-14_10-44-17

5.  I also belong to a discount health and wellness club that as a side benefit has a unique shopping portal.  In addition to providing more than 500 toxin free products for my home and body at great prices, they’ve partnered with hundreds of stores like Old Navy, Target, Home Depot etc.  When shopping through this portal I have access to extra coupon codes and discounts to use in the online shopping cart PLUS I get a cash back rebate in the mail, on every purchase!  It’s only $19 a year for me to be a member, but right now they are offering a $1 special for the first year.  I can’t give all the details in this post, but if you want to know more about it, you can request info here. (Your contact info goes straight to me and no one else will se it, so be sure your best email address is included.)