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Many people are familiar with the “debt snowball” method of getting out of debt (if not, read about it here!). If you don’t have large sums of money to throw at your debt, which, in effect, “snowballs” as you pay off the debt faster and faster, you don’t have to give up on becoming debt free! Try the snowflake method – this is just a play on the debt snowball that involves finding little “snowflakes” of extra money floating around.
A snowflake doesn’t amount to much on its own, and if you don’t do anything with it, it melts quickly. But let a bunch of snowflakes pile up, and it becomes a large amount of snow. It’s the same with these loose change “snowflakes” – a few cents here, a couple dollars there, and suddenly you’ve amassed a quantity of money that actually can make a huge impact on your life!
When is the last time you got a few dollars in change and blew it on something meaningless? Ran through the drive-thru and spent $2.25 on an iced tea instead of making your own? Bought coffee away from home? Threw away your aluminum cans instead of turning them in for a deposit (if your state does this)? Donated a bag of kids’ clothes instead of consigning them because you didn’t want to spend the extra time? Most of us could be a little more deliberate about how we spend our money, and if you are wanting to tighten up your budget and find a few extra dollars each month, this is a great way to do it.
Snowflaking isn’t about getting a work-at-home job or delivering pizzas at night (although that can be a big boost to income!). You can find ways to snowflakes at home and with your kids in tow,
While a lot of people use the snowflake method to pay extra on their debt, you can use it for anything – a Christmas savings account, a vacation fund, or a home improvement project. It’s totally up to you what you use it for, but have a goal! Otherwise, you’ll find your snowflakes melting, disguised as impulse purchases.
Where Should I Keep my Snowflake Money?
I highly recommend not keeping the snowflake money sitting around for long. There is something really satisfying and motivating about having a jar stuffed with coins and dollar bills! There is also a huge temptation to grab money in a pinch, especially $5s and $10s.
For non-cash snowflakes, most banks will let you open up a separate, attached checking account for free. When you have snowflake money in your bank account, transfer it immediately (that day if possible!) to the “snowflake account”. If you are working through debt payoff, once a week, clean out the snowflake account by putting money onto your smallest debt. Otherwise, let the money in the snowflake account accrue until you’ve hit your goal!
(A bank we’ve been really happy with is Capital One 360 – you can connect your regular bank account to it as an external account, and transfers are SO easy! There is also an option to set up automatic savings. You can open multiple accounts for multiple family members, including kids, and keep track of everyone’s accounts on the same screen. You can also open multiple accounts with nicknames for different savings goals – a “Christmas” account, a “vacation” fund, a “car replacement” fund, etc. and you can transfer funds between accounts instantly. If you use my referral link, you get a $25 bonus for opening up an account, and I get a small bonus as well.)
Here are 19 places to find snowflake money. Every single one of these things I have done at some point over the past decade, and they can and do add up quickly!
- Start a blog. It is possible to blog and make a full-time income! However, even a small hobby blog just posting about a topic you are passionate about can bring in a few bucks a month. If you sign up with Bluehost through my link, you can create a blog for as low as $3.45/mo with a free domain name. Install Google Adsense and maybe even become an Amazon Affiliate. You might only make a couple dollars a month starting out, but it’s a couple dollars more than you had before, it can be a great creative outlet, and it really has to potential to grow to huge numbers!
- Open an Etsy shop. Are you crafty and creative? Digital invitations, clipart, crocheted bunnies, handmade blankets – if you love to make any of these things, you can open an Etsy shop for free and start selling your goods! You probably won’t make enough on Etsy to cover all your bills (although some people do), but even a few bucks a month can go a long way towards creating a giant snowflake! I made $105 from my Etsy shop in August.
- Use Ibotta. Ibotta is an app you can download on your phone that gives you cash rebates on items you are already purchasing. Often the rebates will be for a specific brand, like Hungry Jack Pancake Mix, but every week there are loads of generic rebates, too, good for any brand, even on things like milk and produce. I made a quick grocery run for just a few items today and got rebates for cereal, shredded cheese, and bread. A while back I went to JCPenney to buy a couple dress shirts for my husband and was able to redeem a $5 rebate. It’s SO easy – you just select the items you purchased on your shopping trip to “unlock” the rebate, take a picture of your receipt and upload it, and the money is credited to your account within 48 hours.
You can get a payout through PayPal once you hit $20, or redeem it for gift cards to dozens of different stores and restaurants. If you sign up through my Ibotta link, you automatically get $10 added to your account once you redeem your first rebate! Halfway to a payout! It is such an easy way to earn a little extra money on things you are already purchasing, and a lot of people are earning several dollars a week or more. My current Ibotta earnings: $12.45.
- Do Online Surveys. There are dozens of survey sites that pay you to answer questions about yourself and what you’re interested in. Making Sense of Cents has a great, comprehensive post about the best survey sites.
Swagbucks is probably the most well-known survey-type site to earn extra money – not only are there daily surveys to earn points, but you can use their web search function instead of Google or Bing and earn Swagbacks that way. Once you earn a certain amount, you can redeem your points for gift cards. Sign up for a free bonus!
An alternative to surveys is MyPoints – watch videos and read emails to rack up points for gift cards.
NOTE: If you use a site that rewards you in gift cards rather than cash, you can still turn it into cash as a snowflake. Choose a gas or grocery gift card and deduct the amount of the gift card from your monthly budget – so if you earn a $25 Walmart gift card and your usual grocery budget is $500, only spend $475 + the gift card this month and put the extra $25 in savings.
- Do Online Shopping through Ebates. Ebates is a portal through which you can access almost any online shopping site around – Carters, Macy’s, Lands End, Groupon – and you get a % back of what you spend, often 5% or more! They also have extra coupon codes available if you shop through them. It’s super simple – sign up, and then go to Ebates.com first whenever you want to shop online. Find the store you want to shop, and click on it. Ebates will redirect you to their site and use a cookie to keep track of what you spend. The Ebate rebate will show up in your account within a few days. Use this link to get a $5 bonus, and right now they are running a promotion where if you refer 3 of your own friends, you get $60!
- Redeem credit card points. This is a little controversial because a lot of debt-free advocates are strongly anti-credit card. However, if you do choose to use them (and pay off the balance each month), most of them come with some kind of cash rewards. Cash out and put the extra in your snowflake account.
A lot of debit cards are now offering cash back rewards, too – this is the way to go! Even if you use cash envelopes for most of your expenses, chances are you use your debit card for gas and online purchases. You won’t miss those few dollars a month you earn if you don’t spend them; just snowflake it.
- Sell on Craigslist. Baby outgrown his 6mo clothing and you’re downsizing your “keep” pile? List the clothes on Craigslist (or eBay) as a group or “lot”. Take good photos and come up with a reasonable price (usually .50-$1 per item). It’s a little more work than dropping them off at Salvation Army, but you can make some great snowflake money!
- Have a garage sale. This is a slightly more elaborate version of the last one. If you’re in the middle of several decluttering projects, having a garage sale is a great way to get rid of excess stuff while make some cash. Find out when your neighborhood/city garage sale is and try to time yours to coincide with it. Post an ad on your city garage sale page or Craigslist to get more exposure. At our last garage sale, we made around $250 just selling random stuff from around our house!
- Sell books on Amazon. Old college textbooks lying around? Books that you inherited when your parents downsized but you know you’ll never read? List them for sale on Amazon, the world’s biggest online marketplace, and make money while decluttering.
- Flip on Amazon and eBay. So you’ve sold through all the books and clothes you don’t want anymore – now what? Have you ever noticed that thrift stores carry great, brand-name clothing, and loads of 50c books that can be resold online for 100%-500%+ profit? Kids’ clothing sells especially well – look for brands like Gymboree, Janie & Jack, and Lands End, and make “lots” to list on eBay. For books, download the Amazon Seller App, scan the cover with their nifty scanner (you don’t even need a barcode!), and it will tell you how much the books are selling for on Amazon. You could turn 50 cents into $24.99, like my husband did with this book he found at Goodwill.
- Return unopened items. I usually have a Target or Old Navy bag sitting in my car for weeks, with items I’ve been meaning to return that just didn’t work for us. Since usually the money I spent is from a previous pay period’s budget, I don’t have that money earmarked for anything anymore and it is perfect to add to the snowflake account! I don’t even miss it.
- Become a mystery shopper. This is for people who really enjoy shopping but also can pay attention to details and have a good memory. You are given a task – usually an item to buy and an employee to interact with – and a survey with specific questions to answer. It can be really fun, and you not only get a small commission for doing it, but you also get free stuff! You are usually required to buy an item so you seem like a real shopper, but you are reimbursed for it and get to keep it. My favorite mystery shops are restaurants, though – free food! (Some of them you can do with kids in tow – I love the Sonic shops; you don’t even have to get out of the car except to peek into the bathroom! – but some require you come alone, so be sure to read the guidelines carefully before doing your shop.) I have used and recommend Market Force and BestMark, although there are dozens of legitimate mystery shopping companies. This mystery shopper made $14,000 in one year on the side, so it can be pretty lucrative!
- Market Research with a Phone App. Field Agent is one I have used and the one I like the best; you let the app track your location and it will tell you which jobs are close to you. Once you accept a job, it gives you a set amount of time to complete it. The jobs range from things like “take a photo of a Capri Sun Display at Walmart” to “buy a Happy Meal at McDonalds.” You are often either rating customer service or making sure a store is setting up displays correctly, and you may have to take photos or upload receipts to prove you did it. They tend to pay a few dollars each, and if you’re already headed to that store anyway, why not!? My husband and I very casually made over $100 from Field Agent in 2 months of 2015.
- Babysit. You may not want to take on a full- or even part-time nanny job, especially if you have several of your own kiddos. I always valued our unstructured days and knew that I couldn’t commit to a full-time schedule due to other conflicts, but you can still offer babysitting services without long-term commitment. Word of mouth or fliers around the neighborhood is a great way to advertise that you do occasional babysitting – often parents are looking for a back-up if their regular care provider needs a day off unexpectedly. You could also sign up on Care.com if you want even more exposure. A day of babysitting could easily be an extra $30-50+ for your snowflake account, and you can set your own parameters – for instance, having the child come spend the day at your house rather than you going to his.
- Tutor or Teach Music Lessons. This requires at least basic teaching skill, plus technical skill, but you don’t have to have a college degree in whatever it is you’re teaching; plenty of parents are happy to pay $15-20/session for someone who loves kids and is willing to work with theirs on reading, math, or to give a piano lesson. Set your rate below that of a professional tutor and be honest about your skills. Personal recommendations are great for growing a small side business in this area!
- House Sit/Pet Sit. Being willing to keep an eye on your neighbor’s house, get their mail and water their flowers while they are away, or to take care of their cat is a great way to earn a little extra without much effort at all! Find out the going rate in your area – most people would be happy to pay $5/day for regular house sitting and more for pet sitting.
- MTurk. Mturk is a marketplace on Amazon that has micro jobs listed from various companies. These things range from taking surveys to transcription tasks to typing up handwritten data. They only pay a few cents per task (surveys usually pay much more), but they are quick and usually very easy. If you are looking for tasks and can’t find many good ones, I’d recommend the MTurk forum “great hits” thread. I’ve made $170.16 on MTurk, although admittedly I’ve transferred most of the money into Amazon credit rather than sending it to my bank account. 😉
- Clickworker. Clickworker is a site with micro jobs, very similar to MTurk. To get the most worthwhile jobs, complete the “Base Assessments” and then test for UHRS in “Project Assessments.” It’s not always open, but if you sign up with Clickworker, they will email you when UHRS projects open back up and you can test. It’s possible to make $6-10/hr or more doing UHRS work (sometimes even up to $20-25, depending on the type of job.) In 2015 I made 1,574.45 from Clickworker.
- Write Articles Online. This can also give your blog that you may have started in #1 some exposure, if you link it up in your bio! Dozens of sites pay for high-quality content, and hundreds more are willing to pay for quick articles about random topics (usually for affiliate marketing sites). Here is a list of a few sites that pay decently, but a Google search will find you plenty of writing opportunity.
Like I mentioned above, I have done ALL these things – some I enjoyed more than others, and some weren’t worth it to me, but I earned at least a small amount of money from each of them – money that I could have used to snowflake onto debt or put into a specific savings account. There are tons of ways to earn a few dollars, even as a stay-at-home-mom or with a disability that doesn’t allow you to hold a job. The trick isn’t in earning the money, it’s in keeping it and having a plan for it rather than piddling it away!
[Note: with almost all of these jobs, you will be required to pay self-employment tax at tax time – 15.3% that is non-negotiable FICA tax, plus your federal tax rate. This can end up being 30% or more of your final check. Just be aware of this! I will be writing more in the future about how to handle snowflake taxes and how to maximize deductions and minimize your tax bill.]