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Debt Snowflaking – 25 Ways to Find Extra Money and Pay Down Debt

By Melissa Batai

snowflaking debtIf you have debt, you may feel a sense of desperation and a desire to eliminate it as soon as possible. Reducing your monthly expenses and developing an aggressive debt repayment plan is a great start. Depending on the severity of your situation, you may want to stop using credit cards during this time as well.

Even if you aren’t creating additional debt, you may still feel discouraged by how long it will take to rid yourself of your existing debt. Fortunately, you’re far from helpless. To accelerate your debt repayment, consider snowflaking.

Snowflaking is the process of using extra money gained here and there to pay down your debt above and beyond your planned monthly payment. Ideally, when snowflaking, you immediately apply any extra money to your debt as soon as you make it. Thereby, you can lower your balances and interest you owe, which can decrease your debt exponentially, especially if you pay a high interest rate.

There are a number of ways to create extra revenue that can be applied to paying off your debt. Use one or several of these techniques, and you may find yourself paying off your debt far sooner than expected.

Get a Second Job

One of the quickest ways to accelerate your debt repayment is to find a second job. If you are not interested in getting another job, however, find out if you can work overtime. If not, consider the following:

1. Become a Virtual Assistant

An increasing amount of businesses have an online presence, and they need employees to assist as they expand into this realm. Virtual assistants work from the comfort of home and perform a variety of tasks, from clerical to administrative duties, and are paid on an hourly basis or by the project.

There are several ways to start in this field, but a common method is to go to a site like Elance or oDesk and bid on a job. These types of sites usually offer low pay. However, if you do a good job, you can use the few jobs you complete successfully there as a springboard to more lucrative virtual assistant work – similar to why many people volunteer their time and work for free.

Pay range for a virtual assistant varies for task completed and your level of experience. Seasoned virtual assistants can earn up to $30 to $40 an hour, while new ones with less experience typically average $7 to $10 an hour.

If you are looking for a flexible schedule and like to work from home, this may be an ideal job for you.

2. Become a Referee

As a referee, you will work primarily nights and weekends, which can be quite convenient. The husband of a friend of mine worked as a referee at the sub-varsity level and earned $30 to $40 a night; as a varsity ref, he earned $80 to $200 per game, depending on the school’s size and popularity.

To get started, contact your local chapter of the association of the particular sport you would like to referee. Most associations require 15 to 40 hours of training, and you will need to take a test for certification at the end of the class. No prior experience is required. The best candidate for this job is someone who can handle criticism and make decisions quickly.

3. Get a Holiday Job

During the holiday season, many retailers are looking for extra help with shelf stocking, customer service, and cash register duties. If you work for two months or so, you will likely end up with a few extra hundred dollars to snowflake on your debt. Most retail jobs don’t require experience, and you can expect to make $8 to $10 an hour.

Some also offer an employee discount on merchandise, which could help you buy your holiday gifts for less. If you are a “people person,” you will be well suited to work in retail during the holiday season.

holiday retail job

4. Mow Lawns

There may be people in your neighborhood who would like someone to mow their lawn but don’t want to hire an expensive lawn care service. In general, expect to make at least $10 to $20 an hour, depending on your location.

If you own your own lawn mower and have the means to transport it, you may be able to charge more. If you enjoy working outdoors and seeing the immediate results of your work, this would make a good job for you.

5. Become a Dog Walker

If you have a flexible schedule and live in an urban area, you could make money as a dog walker. You can find a job online using Craigslist, and in large cities, dog walkers can expect to earn $10 to $15 per half-hour walk.

In addition to being comfortable around dogs, a good dog walker is punctual and willing to work in any weather. An extra perk is that you earn money while exercising.

6. Sell Your Talent

Have a unique skill? Advertise it on a site like Fiverr where you can make $5 in just a few minutes time. Fiverr.com is a website where people share things they are willing to do for $5.

A sampling of jobs includes a professional actress who will shoot a 15-second commercial for $5, a person who will send your child a letter from Santa for $5, and a person who will dress up in a hot dog costume and dance to the song of your choice for two minutes. Another person is willing to pretend to be your girlfriend on social media sites to make your ex jealous. To make money on this site, all you need is creativity and a marketable talent.

7. Babysit

If you are good with children, consider becoming a babysitter. If you have a flexible schedule, you could get a regular gig driving kids to school in the morning or watching them in the afternoon before their parents return home from work. Depending on where you live (urban or suburban) and the number of kids per family, you can expect to make $10 to $15 per hour.

To make yourself more marketable, you may want to take a certified CPR course. Good references are also important.

babysitting

Earn Money Unconventionally

If you are willing to think beyond conventional money-making methods, you will find that there are plenty of alternative ways to earn extra cash.

8. Sell Your Hair

If you have more than 10 inches of hair that hasn’t been chemically treated, you can sell it. There is actually a thriving market on eBay for human hair; many crafters use it for their dolls. Human hair is also needed for hair extensions and weaves.

Uncommon natural colors, such as red and strawberry blonde, usually sell for a higher price. Auctions on eBay are for the entire length of hair and can earn $10 to $100 depending on the length, quantity, and color.

9. Use Swagbucks

If you use Swagbucks as your search engine online, you could easily earn 400 to 500 Swagbucks per month. 700 Swagbucks can be redeemed for a $5 PayPal payment. You could earn at least $30 to $50 to snowflake your debt over the course of a year just by using Swagbucks and redeeming the points for PayPal deposits.

10. Cash in Reward Cards Through Your Credit Cards

Does your credit card offer rewards? Consider redeeming them. For instance, I can take some of the rewards points I have accrued and apply them as cash onto my credit card balance. I earn one point per dollar spent on the card and need 5,000 points to apply $50 on my credit card balance.

Check out some of the best cash back credit cards and the best travel rewards credit cards. However, it’s important that you pay off your balance in full each month so that you don’t accrue additional debt.

11. Become a Mystery Shopper

You won’t make a ton of money doing this, but you will frequently get to keep the things you acquire while mystery shopping. There are other money-saving benefits as well. For instance, a friend of mine has a steady gig at an oil change shop and gets all of her oil changes done for free as a mystery shopper.

A good mystery shopping site to use is Jobslinger.com. Apply the money you save by getting the freebies from your mystery shopping and utilize these extra dollars to snowflake on your debt.

be a mystery shopper

Sell Your Stuff

Take a critical look at your house and surroundings to determine what you could part with to make extra money. Need help? Consider the following:

12. Sell Items on Craigslist

For larger more valuable items, consider selling on Craigslist. You may be pleasantly surprised by the amount you can earn. For instance, I had 45 plastic storage tubs around my house, and I sold them on Craigslist for $75. Who knew?

Craigslist is free to use, charging no fees, so all the money you make is yours to keep. However, you may want to price your item with room to negotiate, as people who search Craigslist are always searching for a lower price.

13. Sell Your Daily Deal Site Vouchers

Did you purchase a voucher from a daily deal site, but have found that you have no use for it? Don’t consider the money lost – sell it and earn some of your cash back. Sites like Lifesta offer a place for people to sell some of their daily deal vouchers they won’t use.

In fact, some people even buy popular, expensive deals from daily deal sites and resell them on Lifesta or similar sites for a higher price than they were originally sold for (though I wouldn’t recommend reselling if you are trying to get out of debt, as it may backfire on you if you can’t flip the item).

14. Redeem Gift Cards

Do you have unused gift cards? Trade them in for cash. A good place to start is Plastic Jungle, where you can expect to make approximately 80% of the retail value of the card.

15. Have a Garage Sale

Have a garage sale to clear out your clutter and you could make up to a few hundred dollars. To have a successful garage sale, make sure to have all of your items neatly displayed on tables and marked with prices – sales that require people to dig through boxes to find items are usually not successful.

Also, be sure to advertise utilizing free advertising venues such as Craigslist and Garage Sales Tracker. The classified section in your local newspaper may cost $15 to $20, but it will send you traffic and will likely prove to be a worthwhile investment. Place large, legible signs at the nearest busy intersection as well.

If you hold your sale during a weekend, mark everything half off during the afternoon of the final day to clear out as much inventory as possible. Or, consider having a “fill a bag sale” to get rid of remaining items.

garage sale

Find Money Around the House

Even if you feel you have no extra money to spare, you can likely find money – or ways to make money – at home.

16. Turn Change Into Bills

Chances are you can find a decent amount of loose change floating around the house. You may even have a jar or small piggy bank that has been collecting loose change for months or years.

Find that money and redeem it, and you may be pleasantly surprised. My husband and I put money in a jar for a little more than a year. We recently redeemed it and were shocked by the total: $201.94! That’s a big snowflake.

17. Return Unused Items With Receipts

If you made a recent purchase of an item you’ve not yet used, return it and put the refund amount toward your credit card balance. There is usually a 60- to 90-day limit following the date of purchase to return items, so act sooner rather than later if you intend to make a return.

18. Rent Out a Room

You need to exercise extreme caution if you utilize this method to earn extra cash, but if you have extra space in your house, consider renting out a room for a couple hundred dollars a month.

Since you may be sharing common living space, such as the kitchen and living room, make sure you either know the person well or have done a thorough background check. Also, keep in mind that if the renter does not pay rent in a timely manner, you may be in for a lengthy legal process to get them evicted from your home.

You can also list on vacation rental sites like Airbnb, especially if you live near a popular destination.

19. Sell Your Space

Do you live near a university football stadium or other public entertainment venue? Charge people $20 to park on your lawn on the day of a big game, show, or concert. Do you live in a large city? Could you rent out your parking space? Depending on your location, you could make $50 to $400 monthly for your parking space.

20. Cash in Investments

If you have a non-retirement brokerage account that isn’t returning at least the amount of interest you’re paying on your debt, consider cashing in your investments. It’s best to do this with investments that you’ve held for at least a year, as any gains you’ve had in the account will be considered long-term capital gains and will be taxed at a rate lower than your income tax rate.

21. Grow a Garden

After you invest the initial expense to start a home vegetable garden, keep track of the veggies it produces and apply the savings to your debt. The garden doesn’t have to be large, and for an apartment dweller, you could be simply grow a few herbs and vegetables in pots on your counter or near a window. Every little bit you save helps.

gardening

Cut Your Monthly Expenses

If you cut your monthly expenses, you can turn the savings into snowflakes to accelerate debt repayment.

22. Request Lower Interest Rates on Your Credit Cards

You won’t always be successful when you request lower credit card interest rates, but if you are, you can free up more of your money to apply to the balance of your card. Simply call up the company, tell them how long you have been a customer, and request a rate reduction. If the first person you speak to refuses, ask to speak to the supervisor. I recently did this and the supervisor not only lowered my interest rate by 2%, but he also put enough points in my account to cover the cost of my annual fee.

You could also transfer your balance to one of the best low APR credit cards, as long as you qualify for the new card.

23. Ask Your Bank to Waive Your Monthly Fees, or Switch to a No-Fee Bank

You shouldn’t have to pay your bank, especially considering the stiff competition banks face from one another. Call your bank and ask them to waive the monthly fees; you may be pleasantly surprised. If they will not, switch banks and snowflake the monthly fee you used to pay each month.

Popular banking options with no fees including Ally Bank and ING Direct.

24. Call for Insurance Quotes

People often become complacent regarding their insurance premiums. Take the time to call around and evaluate different providers for auto insurance and homeowners insurance, keeping in mind that you will get a discount for having all of your insurance needs covered by the same provider. Try at least four to five different insurance companies to see who can offer the best rates.

25. Use an FSA

A flexible spending account allows you to set aside pretax dollars to pay for insurance co-payments, child and dependent care expenses, and medical payments not covered by insurance, such as deductibles. An FSA isn’t available to everyone – it is offered via employers, and some do not offer it.

If your employer does offer an FSA, it may benefit you to sign up for it. Just be advised that money in the FSA that isn’t used by the end of the year is forfeited.

Final Word

If you are anxious to pay off your debt, there are plenty of ways to make extra money with which to pay it down more quickly. With a little creativity and ambition, you will find many extra cash sources available.

As you snowflake money on your debt, you will build confidence and momentum, which will help you create a positive financial outlook. As you gain confidence in your ability to pay down the debt, you will in turn find new ways to make and save money, continuing an ongoing pattern of healthy financial decisions and money management.

What additional methods can you suggest to snowflake debt?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Melissa Batai
Melissa is a former college instructor who recently quit her job to be a stay home mom with her three children ages 7, 2 and 1. She is a personal finance writer for several online publications, and she blogs at her own blog, Mom's Plans, where she documents her family's journey to live a fulfilling life on less and Dining Out Challenge, where the motto is, "Never pay full price to dine out again." She enjoys cooking, writing, reading, and watching movies.

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  • MoneySavingEnthusiast

    I hear so many blogs talk about being a virtual assistant. I would love to do that. Sign me up.;0) I’m going to look into that. I always redeem my gift cards right away. I’m too afraid I will lose them. I love the sell your space advice.That’s very creative.

  • Melissa

    Working as a virtual assistant is a great way to make money while working from home. Plus, it offers a flexible schedule, and you get to avoid commuting costs. I highly recommend it. If you can make your first few clients happy, you should get more work through their referrals.

  • Mike Young

    It is amazing how your insurance premiums creep up when you’re not paying attention. Getting new quotes is a great idea. I have found going through an independent broker versus one of the major companies will get you the best deal!

    • Melissa

      Great idea, Mike. I recently checked and found that the company I am with has the best rates, but maybe I should try an independent broker and see if I get the same results. Thanks for the tip.

  • http://www.pennysaverblog.com/ Pam

    Good tips. Thanks for compiling this list. It never occurred to me that people would want to buy human hair. Very interesting.

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