Five Things to Do Before December 31 to Come Up with Extra Cash

Need some extra cash ahead of the holidays? Here are five easy ways to up your purchasing power before year-end.

A young woman counts cash.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Heading into the holidays, who doesn't need extra cash? As you brace yourself for the financial onslaught of holiday shopping, holiday parties, and just, the holidays, why not take a few quick steps to pull together extra spending money right now?

Here are five tips to get you through year-end with a little more purchasing power.

1. Use your rewards points

Hotel and airline rewards tend to expire after 12 to 36 months, so you may want to check how much time you have left to spend any points or miles you’ve collected. But even if your travel program or credit card rewards won’t expire soon, the end of the year is a good time to redeem them. You might offset the expenses of holiday shopping with cash back, for instance. And some of the best deals on summer flights pop up as the preceding year is ending, so your points may go a longer way if you book now rather than wait. Plus, the value of credit card rewards points tends to decline over time, so it’s wise to use them sooner rather than later.

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2. Check for unclaimed funds

An estimated $70 billion worth of unclaimed cash and property is waiting to be returned to its rightful owners, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), a coalition of state unclaimed-property programs. About one in seven people have unclaimed property being held by state treasurers, NAUPA says. The most common unclaimed property is intangible, such as a stock or an uncashed check. But unclaimed property may also be a tangible asset, such as the contents of a safe deposit box.

Visit Missing Money to see whether you have any unclaimed property; you may find that you have a checking or savings account, stocks, uncashed checks, trust distributions, utility security deposits, or annuities you didn’t know about, just to name a few.

3. Sell your unused gift cards

Instead of regifting unwanted, unused gift cards, consider swapping them out for cash with a site such as CardCash or Gift Card Granny. You’ll have to sell the gift cards at a discount, but the sites will pay you up front for them. Alternatively, you may be able to trade your gift card for a different one that you’re more likely to use (CardCash, for example, allows trades).

You can also use the sites to buy discounted gift cards. Gift cards for popular retailers typically go for anywhere from 3% to 30% off, but you may find some cards at even steeper discounts.

4. Exchange your change

Gather your loose change or bust open your piggy bank and take the proceeds to a Coinstar machine, which allows you to exchange coins for cash, gift cards or cryptocurrency — often from the convenience of a local grocery store. When you trade your coins for cash, Coinstar takes a cut of up to 12.5%, in addition to a 50-cent transaction fee. A transaction fee of 4% and an exchange fee of up to 11% applies to each crypto purchase, and additional fees may vary by location. But if you exchange your coins for a gift card, there’s no fee. You can choose from a variety of gift cards and print a voucher at the machine. Visit Coinstar to find a kiosk near you.

5. Review your subscriptions

More than 40% of consumers admit they pay for a subscription that they no longer use and forgot about, according to a 2022 study by C+R Research. Review the past year of bills and bank and credit card statements to see whether you’re subscribed to services you don’t need anymore.

Some apps can help you track your subscriptions. Free budgeting apps Mint and PocketGuard, for example, offer subscription monitoring, consolidating all of your recurring payments in one place for you to review. Other apps, such as Rocket Money and Bobby, are dedicated to monitoring subscriptions.

Note: This item first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, a monthly, trustworthy source of advice and guidance. Subscribe to help you make more money and keep more of the money you make here.

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Emma Patch
Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Emma Patch joined Kiplinger in 2020. She previously interned for Kiplinger's Retirement Report and before that, for a boutique investment firm in New York City. She served as editor-at-large and features editor for Middlebury College's student newspaper, The Campus. She specializes in travel, student debt and a number of other personal finance topics. Born in London, Emma grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Washington, D.C.