The holidays are always a very stressful time for me. I don't really do a lot of Christmas shopping, but my wife does. I watch as she goes out to the mall and returns with many, many shopping bags. Yes, she does get very good deals when she shops, but spending a lot of money during this time of the year goes against my frugal habits during the rest of the year. I'd rather stick all of that money in the bank.

Still, I count myself lucky that we can actually afford Christmas gifts. There was a time when we couldn't. I'll never forget our first Christmas together as a married couple. We had $20 each to spend on each other. We drove to the local K-Mart and we each purchased one gift for each other. We have come a long way since then. However, this is going to be a rough Christmas for a lot of people, and we are cutting back this year ourselves. So, if you need quick holiday cash, how do you get it? The Today Show actually has some ideas.

1. Open a bank account. Banks might be in trouble these days, but they also want your business, paying bonuses to people who open new accounts.

2. Take a survey. Yes, I've tried those survey sights that pay you one or two dollars per survey. Blech. The Today Show recommends, which hooks people up with surveys that pay from $5 to $75 per hour.

3. Focus groups. These work a lot like the surveys. Check out

4. Test drive a car. Many dealerships are offering incentives just to come and take a car for a spin.

5. Moving pictures. There are companies that will pay you to turn your car into a rolling billboard. I actually tried to sign up for this once, but never got called. I guess I don't drive around enough.

I have a few ideas of my own that I will throw in here, mainly because I think they are more realistic and doable:

1. eBay, baby. I have earned a lot of Christmas cash over the years by selling the stuff I didn't want anymore. Your castaways are someone else's Christmas gift.

2. Craig's List. Don't overlook Craig's List, another good place to sell your stuff.

3. Roll up your sleeve. I know it seems tacky, but there are many plasma companies that will pay you up to $200 a month for you to donate some plasma. Not only are you getting some cash, but you're helping to save a life, too. Isn't that what Christmas is all about?

4. Grab a shovel. If you live in an area that gets socked with snow, offer to shovel the walkways of the folks who don't want to, or can't, clear their own driveways and sidewalks. Clear the walkways a few homes and you could get some quick cash.

5. Freelance. Do some freelance work on the side. It could even lead to a whole new career path for you. Check out sites like oDesk.

Don't forget: the best Christmas gifts are those that come from the heart. Some of the best Christmas gifts I have ever received have been works of art created by my kids, or a blanket knitted by my grandmother. They spent their time and effort to make those gifts for me. It really is the thought that counts.


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