December has long been known as a budget-wrecking month, but Christmas isn’t the only time families could use a little extra cash. Vacations, graduation season, back-to-school expenses — the crunches come year round.Here are a few ways you can find quick cash to cover life’s bills:
Cash out credit card points: Many credit card programs dangle rewards that include cash kickback options. Discover, of course, is famous for this but Mastercard and VISA both have programs as well. Yes, they try to steer you toward doubling your value by buying merchandise instead — turning $25 into $50 at Omaha Steaks for example — but beef won’t exactly get you out of a jam. Insist on cash value either in the form of a check or applied directly to your credit card bill. Your latest statement should list how much cash you have banked to date.
Most programs also increase the cash reward percentage when you whip out your card for specific categories throughout the year. For example, Discover is crediting your account with 5% of your purchase total when you use it at department stores and online venues this quarter. Earlier in 2012, the company doled out extra rewards for gas, restaurant, movie and museum purchases.
American Express’s Small Business Saturday: On November 24, use your Amex card to purchase from a small business owner and receive a $25 credit on your statement. This is only good once, and you must register your card for the promotion beginning November 18. Last year, the company filled its quota of cardholders before Small Business Saturday, so put this on your to-do list now. In 2012, this promotion allowed me to buy the candy-striped warm-up pants my favorite college student was coveting, because it dropped the store’s price to my budget level.
Sell your stuff. Half Price Books will make you a cash offer on books, CDs and some collectibles. You can also sell books and other items on Amazon. Local consignment stores will buy clothing in good condition, and many offer two options: You can wait to see if an item sells — for a higher percentage of the price — or, you can accept a lower percentage and walk away with the dollar bills in your hand.
Sell your leftovers. If your overage is in a niche area — for example, I have lots of paper craft tools I no longer need, or paper I won’t use from theme packs — look for niche communities online with selling boards. Two Peas in a Bucket and The Scrap Yard Facebook page are two communities where I can post my unwanted treasures and make a quick buck via Paypal. And finding like-minded groups ensures a faster sale and typically fewer hassles than listing with a general public site like Craigslist.
Add up the change: Most families have a jar of coins somewhere in a cupboard or shelf. Haul that metal to the closest Coinstar machine, dump it in and take the receipt it spits out to the store’s customer service desk for redemption. The company will charge 9.8 cents per dollar as a handling fee, but that amount is worth the hassle it takes you to count, roll and redeem those puppies at a bank yourself. As with the credit cards, Coinstar will try to talk you into trading your coins for merchandise at the onset of the process; however, applying the amount to a store purchase could be in your favor.
Share ways you’ve found money in your daily life.
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