How to Make Money on YouTube: 10 Popular Strategies

Are you an avid fan of creators on YouTube? You’re probably wondering how you can get a slice of that lifestyle and use the platform to bring in some money for yourself.

In this guide, we’ll cover 10 ways to make money on YouTube through its official monetization options and without them, plus how much money you can make, how to get started if you haven’t set up a channel yet and how to grow your audience through savvy marketing.

In This Guide: Six Main Things to Know

First: Benefits of Making Money on YouTube

Monetizing a YouTube channel is a way for creators, entrepreneurs, freelancers and educators to build an audience and a brand, and create new income streams.

Residual income is a great thing about making money from YouTube videos. You can put in the effort to gain traction with a YouTube channel for a brief period and continue to generate (a little or a lot of) income for years to follow, even if you don’t post new videos as actively.

Starting a YouTube channel is also a great way to turn your hobbies or interests into income.

You can create content and build an audience on just about any subject — from travel to web design to toy reviews — and monetize it creatively. It could be a way to fund your trips, attract new clients or get free products.

Second: How to Make Money on YouTube Through the Partner Program

YouTube offers monetization features built into the platform for creators who meet requirements through its partner program.

What Is the YouTube Partner Program?

For many YouTubers, ad revenue through the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) is the first step to making money on the platform.

YPP lets creators earn money by sharing a piece of the revenue generated from ads running on their videos. YouTube can run ads on any content posted to its platform, but you can only earn money from those ads if you’re in the program.

To be eligible for the YouTube Partner Program, your channel must:

  • Have more than 4,000 watch hours (total time spent watching any of your videos) in the past 12 months.
  • Have more than 1,000 subscribers.
  • Be linked to a Google AdSense account.
  • Follow YouTube’s monetization policies, including community guidelines and AdSense program policies.

YouTube also recommends you set up two-step verification for your Google account to avoid delaying the review process.

To apply to become a YouTube partner and monetize your channel:

  • Confirm your channel meets the eligibility criteria of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours; and that none of your content violates community guidelines, which doesn’t allow things like nudity, hate speech or deceptive practices.
  • Review and sign YPP terms. You’ll find those in your YouTube Studio under Monetization.
  • Sign up for Google AdSense. You can do that through the monetization section of YouTube Studio. It gives you the option to connect an existing AdSense account or create a new one.
  • Go through the review process, which typically takes about a month. YouTube specialists and an automated program review your channel content to confirm it follows the guidelines.

If you’re approved during the review process, you’ll have access to YouTube’s built-in monetization features. Which features you’re able to turn on for your channel depend on meeting feature-specific requirements, like number of subscribers and location.

  Age Subscribers What It Is
Ad Revenue 18* 1,000 Share proceeds from ads on your videos.
Channel Memberships 18 >1,000 Charge fans for a premium monthly subscription.
Merch Shelf 18 >10,000 Promote your brand merch on your watch pages.
Super Chat and Super Stickers 18 n/a Let fans pay to have their messages highlighted during live streams.
YouTube Premium Revenue n/a n/a Share YouTube Premium membership fees when members watch your videos.

*Kids can monetize through AdSense if they have a legal guardian over 18 years old to manage the AdSense account.

1. Ad Revenue

As an approved partner, you can earn money from ads that run automatically on your YouTube videos. You split the revenue with YouTube, and ads could appear as:

  • Display: Only on desktop, these ads sit at the top right of the screen, next to your video being played and above the “up next” list of suggested videos.
  • Overlay: Also only on desktop, these ads pop up like a banner ad at the bottom 20% of a video display.
  • Video: These are video ads (super-short commercials) that play before or in the middle of your video (i.e. “pre-roll” or “mid-roll”). They can be skippable after five seconds, non-skippable and run for 15 to 20 seconds, or bumper ads that run for six seconds.

To be eligible to earn ad revenue, you have to meet YouTube’s advertiser-friendly content guidelines, which means your videos can’t include:

  • Inappropriate language
  • Violence
  • Adult content
  • Shocking content
  • Harmful or dangerous acts
  • Hateful and derogatory content
  • Recreational drugs and drug-related content
  • Firearms-related content
  • Controversial issues
  • Sensitive events
  • Incendiary and demeaning
  • Tobacco-related content
  • Adult themes in family content

YouTube explains these guidelines in more detail, including tips to help you review your own content for compliance, and it notes the importance of context — like, sex ed videos can contain some sexual content and music videos might be OK with profanity (‘cause YouTube’s more like your cool aunt than your strict father).

Note that advertising guidelines — designed to protect advertisers from shilling their products alongside problematic content — are different from community guidelines. Community guidelines are designed to protect viewers from problematic content, and your videos need to meet those standards to be published on YouTube at all.

2. Channel Memberships

You could sell channel memberships to your loyal fans if your channel has more than 1,000 subscribers and your channel isn’t set as “made for kids.”

Channel memberships let fans pay a monthly fee to access perks like emoji, badges; and exclusive content like Community posts, videos and live streams.

Badges are a way for fans to show off their loyalty to your brand — they’ll display how many months someone’s been a member. Custom emoji let viewers react to your videos during live chats.

To start selling channel memberships, your channel has to have a Community tab, which is like a mini social media feed inside your main YouTube page where you can post and invite comments from fans.

Two women film as they show off clothes for clients to buy in their warehouse.

3. Merch Shelf

Design merchandise, like T-shirts, coffee mugs, hand towels or whatever you fancy, to let your biggest fans show off your brand.

With more than 10,000 subscribers to your channel, you could use this feature to facilitate merchandise sales directly from YouTube.

To sell merch through YouTube, you have to set items up with a supported retailer first. That includes sites like Design by Humans, Fanfiber and Merchbar. You’ll turn on merch features and connect your retailer through the monetization section in YouTube Studio.

You can display your merch shelf for your entire channel or turn it on and off for individual videos. You can also add a Store tab to your channel’s home page, pin an item to a live stream or feature merch on video end screens.

4. Super Chat and Super Stickers

Anyone can start a YouTube live stream to connect with viewers in real time for an event or class. Live chat is automatically available for viewers to comment during any live stream.

Viewers can purchase a Super Chat or Super Stickers during a live stream to stand out in the live chat stream. Super Chat lets them have their messages highlighted, and Super Stickers let them send animated messages that pop up in the feed.

If you have a super engaged audience with fans who are eager to get your attention — and stand out among other fans — Super Chat and Super Stickers could help them get their message across.


5. YouTube Premium Revenue

YouTube Premium is YouTube’s paid subscription streaming service for users. It lets users pay a monthly fee to watch videos without ads and access perks like YouTube original content, downloads and background play.

As a YouTube partner, you can earn a cut of the revenue when a YouTube Premium member watches your videos (since, you know, they’re not watching ads on your videos). Premium payments are dolled out based on how much members watch your videos.

Third: How to Make Money on YouTube Without the Partner Program

You don’t have to monetize your videos on YouTube to earn money from YouTube content. Creators have found lots of innovative ways to get paid for the content they create and the audiences they build through YouTube.

These strategies could be good options for big channels or those with less than 1,000 subscribers who aren’t eligible to monetize through YPP.

6. Fan Funding

A popular option for online content creators in any genre, paid membership programs like Patreon, Tipeee and Buy Me a Coffee let creators build and monetize a community.

You can publish your YouTube videos without monetizing through the partner program and instead invite your fans to send you a tip or subscribe for a paid membership through a third-party site.

Here’s how they work:

  • Patreon: Set monthly membership levels — like $3, $6 and $12 — with varying access to perks like exclusive videos, audio or newsletters. Members subscribe and access content through the Patreon platform, and Patreon keeps 5% to 12% of fees depending on the service plan you choose.
  • Tipeee: Make a creator page, and invite fans to tip any amount they want one time or as a recurring contribution. You can include perks for tippers to choose, but those aren’t tied to contribution amounts.
  • Buy Me a Coffee: Create a simple way for supporters to tip you for your creations through PayPal or a credit card. You can also add on a monthly membership option with exclusive perks at a price you set. For pages with a membership option, you can create posts (similar to Patreon); for support-only pages, your page just shows a feed of supporters.

7. Influencer Marketing

If you’ve got an audience that looks to you for recommendations on products, brands, events, activities or anything else, you could get paid by brands to create sponsored content.

You don’t have to have an enormous audience to make money through influencer marketing, but you should have a loyal, engaged audience. How big it needs to be for you to make money depends on the size and focus of your niche — a YouTube channel about using Google Sheets could monetize a much smaller audience than one about video games.

Depending on what you’re promoting, sponsored content is usually a review, how-to, overview or story about a product, service or brand.

It helps introduce your viewers to something a company wants to sell, but without the hard sell of a commercial or ad. Brands work with you because your audience trusts you and naturally wants your recommendations.

You can connect with brands by getting noticed through relevant hashtags, reaching out directly or connecting through an influencer marketplace like:

  • Grapevine Logic: Sign up with a minimum of 10,000 YouTube subscribers to develop marketing campaigns with support from Grapevine Logic staff.
  • YouTube BrandConnect: YouTube is rolling out its native influencer marketing program to select channels to help creators connect with brands. To be eligible, you have to be part of the YouTube partner program.
  • Channel Pages: Add your channel details to this network to help brands find you through search results. Brands search the network and reach out to you if your channel looks like a fit for their campaigns.
A woma applies makeup in a makeup tutorial for Youtube.

8. License Your Content to Media Outlets

If a video on your channel gets a lot of traction or  🙌 🙌 🙌  goes viral — or just contains content other outlets might find valuable — you could earn money selling media outlets the right to publish it on their own channels.

This is different from a site’s ability to embed your YouTube video in their content or share it on social media — you get credit for all those views and potential ad revenue.

Licensing your content lets those sites republish the content natively, within the limits of the license.

If a video goes viral, you could have media contacting you for the rights to use it. If you want to be proactive about licensing your content, you can list your videos through sites like Jukin Media and ViralHog to connect with outlets and get help managing your licensing deals.

9. Promote Your Products or Services

Sharing free content and growing a community through YouTube is a great way to establish your expertise and grow a business selling things like coaching, courses or freelance services.

For example, if you’re a website designer who specializes in Squarespace sites, you could host a channel of how-to videos showing viewers how to use various functions of Squarespace.

Your videos would show up when users search for Squarespace related questions on YouTube and Google, and you could build a community of people who trust your expertise and come to you first when they need to hire web design help.

Get creative to apply this strategy to your business — you have tons of options. Here are a few ideas:

  • Demonstrate your expertise. Create how-to and explanatory videos that address common questions your target customers have about the kind of service you offer. Optimize them for search to help people find them when they have questions.
  • Showcase your brand. Record yourself answering viewer questions or preaching your philosophy to help potential customers get to know what you’re about.
  • Network and spread your influence. Interview experts for a talk show or video podcast to get to know important people in your industry and get yourself in front of their audiences.
  • Promote your projects. Use your YouTube channel to showcase your upcoming projects and garner support from fans. For example, share movie trailers, book cover reveals, or customer testimonials for your services or programs.

10. Affiliate Marketing

You can earn money by promoting other companies’ products or services without creating sponsored content. If you naturally mention products or brands in your content, join affiliate programs and share your links in the video description.

When viewers click on your link, buy the product or sign up for someone’s email list, you get paid.

Affiliate marketing is an especially good fit for instructional videos. As you teach viewers how to do things (like use Squarespace, as I mentioned above), you’ll naturally mention brands and tools you love and recommend. Affiliate marketing lets you get paid when viewers follow your recommendations.

If you’ve got a large following online, you might be able to connect with companies directly to strike affiliate deals. But most affiliate marketers use affiliate networks to benefit from deals companies are offering any creators who meet their qualifications.

You can find affiliate opportunities through networks including:

Fourth: How Much Money Can You Make on YouTube?

How much you can earn from YouTube videos depends on a lot of factors. The most obvious is how many video views you get — but even the question of how much you’ll get paid for those views is an elusive one.

The share of revenue you earn per ad view depends on the terms of your partner program terms agreement with YouTube. That share can vary by creator, and the amount can vary per ad.

Most reports say creators earn around $18 per 1,000 ad views, which works out to around $3 to $5 per 1,000 video views.

But there’s no perfect data on what YouTubers are actually earning, just a lot of individual anecdotes mixed up with headline-grabbing earnings reports from YouTube stars.

Examples of Successful YouTubers

To give us an idea of what kind of content pops on YouTube, Forbes has been tracking the estimated earnings of YouTube stars for the past few years. Here are the top earners Forbes reported for 2020.

Name What They Do Earnings 6/1/19 - 6/1/20 Views 6/1/19 -6/1/20 Subscribers as of Dec. 2020
Ryan Kaji Children's unboxing videos $29.5 million 12.2 billion 41.7 million
MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson) Stunts and humor $24 million 3 billion 47.8 million
Dude Perfect Sports and comedy $23 million 2.77 billion 57.5 million
Rhett and Link Sketch comedy $20 million 1.9 billion 41.8 million
Markiplier (Mark Fischbach) Video game breakdowns $19.5 million 3.1 billion 27.8 million
Preston Arsement Minecraft and other gaming videos $19 million 3.3 billion 33.4 million
Nastya (Anastasia Radzinskaya) Children's vlog $18.5 million 39 billion 190.6 million

Of course, you don’t need to earn tens of millions of dollars to be considered successful in any job, especially if you’re just looking for a side gig.

Here are a few other folks who’ve found more attainable success on YouTube over the years:

  • Gabby Wallace, who teaches English as a second language through her channel Go Natural English, told The Penny Hoarder she earned $120,000 in one year through YouTube ad revenue, sponsorships and selling courses with about 100,000 subscribers on YouTube. That was a few years ago — Wallace has more than 2 million subscribers now!
  • Franchesca Ramsey, a.k.a. Chescaleigh had been steadily building her following and side income on YouTube before her viral video, “Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls,” pulled her into the spotlight in 2012. She was hired by MTV to do the web series “Decoded” a couple years after that, then became a writer on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore,” and she published a book about her experience in 2018.
  • Entrepreneur Marie Forleo has been hosting her YouTube show for entrepreneurs and creatives, MarieTV, for a decade. She started with a webcam at her kitchen table and has built a following of more than 700,000 subscribers. She doesn’t monetize directly on YouTube and instead uses the platform to build an audience and sell her online programs, including B-School, which has had more than 64,000 students since its launch in 2010.
A boy dances with his grandma while filming it for a video.

Fifth: Brand New to YouTube? Here’s How to Get Started

In case you’re drooling over the possibilities but haven’t even started a YouTube channel, here’s a quick guide to getting started as a YouTube creator.

  • Choose your niche. What kind of content do you want to create? Funny, educational, thought-provoking or instructional. The possibilities are limited only by YouTube’s guidelines, which basically say you can’t post pornography or anything super offensive. Your subject can also help you determine your channel’s name (if you don’t use your own name).
  • Set up your production. You’ll need a camera, obviously. You can shoot a YouTube video on something as simple as a smartphone or webcam, or go for a full studio set up with a camera, lights and microphones. Our recommendation? Start small and simple, and build as you need to.
  • Create a channel. You have to have a Google account to be active on YouTube (assuming you’ve already got that part covered). Then you can create a channel just by signing into YouTube and clicking “create a channel” under your profile picture.
  • Verify your channel. Enter your phone number to get a verification code to let YouTube know you’re real. You can upload videos limited to 15 minutes long without getting verified — but this step is super easy and comes with perks, so we recommend it.
  • Upload videos! That’s all it takes. You’ll upload videos and see analytics for your channel via YouTube Studio, right in your YouTube account.

Once you’re set up, your biggest challenge to monetizing is going to be growing your audience — so brush up on some YouTube marketing basics.

Sixth: YouTube Marketing Basics to Grow Your Audience (and Income)

YouTube’s Creator Academy is a comprehensive resource for best practices and tips to polish your content, grow your audience and keep viewers engaged. Peruse tons of free lessons to learn how to grow your channel and make money on YouTube.

Here are a few basics every creator should know:

Learn YouTube SEO

Part of the Google (Alphabet) family, YouTube is as much a search-based platform as a social one. Tons of generally unknown creators get millions of views and earn significant revenue on YouTube because viewers find their videos through Google or YouTube search.

You can learn endless tips and tricks to optimize YouTube videos for search, but here’s what every creator should keep in mind from the beginning:

  • Video content: If it’s a fit for your niche, create videos around what your target audience wants to know. Take frequently asked questions, and turn your answers into content.
  • Video title: Write clear, descriptive titles that make people want to click to learn more. Do a little research to choose keywords relevant to your video, and put a strong one in the title.
  • Video descriptions: Include keywords and a good overview of the video in the video description to help YouTube’s algorithm know what the video’s about.

Keep Posting New Videos

YouTube likes fresh content and active channels, so posting new videos regularly can help your content show up in searches and suggested videos.

Older videos with lots of views and engagement might continue to get search traffic and generate passive income for you, which is great. You can supercharge your income by keeping your channel active and giving YouTube plenty of fresh content to recommend to viewers.

Create Engaging Content

What YouTube loves more than anything is content that viewers click on, share, like, comment on and follow to another video. Engaging content keeps viewers on the platform, so the algorithm rewards it.

It’s also good for your viewers and your brand!

Think of your audience with everything you create. Even if your content is a vlog about your life, think about what they’ll get out of each video before you record it, and work to produce a video that’ll achieve that end.

Ask questions to invite comments, and encourage viewers to seek out your other videos and subscribe to your channel.

Ready to Make Money on YouTube?

Starting a YouTube channel can be a smart step toward creating a side hustle to generate extra income — or, eventually, a new full-time job — for yourself.

Few successful creators make the bulk of their money through the YouTube partner program, but signing up and taking advantage of some of the monetization options could be a simple way to get started.

As your audience and business grows, you can diversify your income by adding sponsored content and affiliate marketing, licensing your content or promoting your business’s core products and services.

Like any other side hustle or business, YouTube isn’t a way to make money fast, but it can be a fun way to get creative, connect with an audience and boost your income.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Paid Sleep Studies Guide: How One Woman Made $12,000

Several million people in the United States regularly suffer through sleepless nights, which many researchers agree greatly affects overall health. Numerous hospitals dedicate entire divisions to studying sleep — and they’re willing to pay you several thousand dollars just to watch you nap.

Most studies want healthy adults with consistent sleep patterns. I checked both boxes, and earned $12,000 participating in two studies at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s hospital..

Here’s what I learned in the process, and how you, too, can get paid to sleep.

How to Qualify to Make Money While You Sleep

Some cities have a higher concentration of facilities that pay sleep-study participants, but it’s easy to find facilities in your area.

When you find a sleep center near you, you’ll usually see multiple studies running simultaneously. You won’t qualify for all of them, but you may qualify for more than you think.

Read the specifics of each study carefully so you only apply to ones you qualify for. You’ll often need to take a survey, sharing your personal information and confirming you understand the study’s goals and compensation. For example, the questionnaires I filled out included:

  • An age window: Most studies look for volunteers in a specific age range.
  • Length of in-hospital time: Whether it’s a few hours or several nights, make sure you know what you’re signing up for.
  • Payment: You’ll want to make sure a study is worth your time and effort before joining.
  • Specific lifestyle or medical requirements for study: Some studies look for volunteers with specific needs or qualifications, such as people with sleep apnea or those who work shifts outside the traditional 9-to-5.
  • Comfort with the study methods: Recruiters want to make sure you’re up for the challenge. While the questionnaire won’t tell you everything about the study to make sure you don’t tailor your answers to what you think the recruiters want to hear, they want you to know what they’re aiming to observe.

Don’t fudge your answers. Being honest is the only way to successfully get through this process — and to contribute to the collection of accurate scientific data!

What Happens After You’re Accepted to a Sleep Study

Once you’re accepted, you’ll find you have just become the recruiter’s best friend! She’ll want to talk to you and see you all the time.

Next, you’ll go to the hospital for a series of briefings and tests. You’ll likely meet the doctor conducting the research, who will give you a thorough explanation of the study and its processes.

At this point, you’ll likely take two exams:

  • A psychological exam: The goal is to make sure you can handle isolation and a hospital environment in general.
  • A physical exam: Like a standard physical, a nurse will weigh you, take a small blood sample, ask you to pee in a cup, etc.

The best part? This is paid time. If you get cold feet and decide to quit at this point, you’ll still make money for the parts of the process you completed.

Compensation varies, but most researchers want to dangle a carrot so you’ll keep going. Most of the time you can expect a $25-$100 payment for each step you complete.

Most facilities are really good about explaining the payout, but if yours doesn’t explain it at the beginning, ask. This is also your opportunity to discuss when and how you’ll be paid, as well as how your payment will be taxed.

After your exams, you’ll meet the recruiter who you will call every day for the duration of the study. At this point, I actually stopped calling her my BFF and started calling her “my mother.” She gave me a special watch to monitor my light and activity patterns, keeping an eye on what I was doing.

You’ll also keep a physical sleep log documenting your progress as you wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. To help ensure accuracy, you’ll call your new “mom” as you’re doing this.

That said, Mom has faith in you. She wants you to succeed, and if you blow curfew a few nights, you probably won’t be kicked out of the study.

What to Expect When You’re… Sleeping

No, it’s not all comfy pillows and sweet dreams; researchers pay participants because these studies have a few downsides.

In my experience, they sound worse than they actually are. Here’s what you should be ready for:


You will likely be completely cut off from the outside world during the study’s observation period. You usually won’t have any time cues, meaning you’ll be without  a clock, a computer and a phone. You also won’t have any windows to observe light patterns. While you’re in the study, the doctor determines night and day, which can be a bit unsettling.

I’ve taken part in studies as short as four days (for which I earned $4,000) and have seen others as long as 31 days (typically paying $10,000). Start small and work your way up once you’ve tried it once or twice.

Unusual Positions or Challenges

You may have to maintain a “constant posture” for part of the study. In some cases you may have to sit in the same position for six hours, or you may be kept awake at a 45-degree angle in low light for two days. It depends on the study. Be sure you’ll be able to manage it before you sign up.

And no, I’m not kidding about the “constant” part — you don’t get to get up or change positions to use the restroom, so you might need to use a bedpan. That was the most difficult part of the studies I did!

Needles and Other Medical Devices

During at least part of the study you may have to endure an IV, a rectal thermometer and electrodes attached to your head.

Did you just say rectal thermometer?! Why yes, I did. There’s a reason these studies pay the big bucks.

The technicians and researchers make all of these procedures and measurements as easy as possible. The thermometer helps them make sure you’re maintaining a normal body temperature, and it’s not as big of a deal as it sounds.

Sempijja Stuart
Passive Income Strategies

The Rewards of Participating in Sleep Studies

No, it’s not all easy — but the rewards are great. I earned $4,000 for a four-day study and $8,000 for a seven-day study.

Plus, when you’re not giving blood or following instructions, you can do pretty much whatever you want outside of activities that would raise your heart rate.

If you want to relax, simply hang out in your comfiest clothes and listen to music, write letters, draw or paint. I finished several books that had been collecting dust on my shelves.

Or, put your time to work. A technician told me another participant worked on his architecture senior thesis during his time in the study!

You’ll enjoy a complete technology cleanse, you’ll interact with interesting technicians and researchers, you’re contributing to science, and best of all, you’ll get a big fat check. Not bad for a few nights’ work!

Jillian Shea is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Our Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Holiday Budget

Overspending to make the seasons merry can lead to major post-holiday regrets.

Retail experts predict the average consumer will spend $997.73 this year on gifts, food, decor and more, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey on holiday spending. Is an extra thousand dollars in your budget?

As you start your holiday shopping, it’s essential to figure out how much money you can spend before figuring out what you want to spend your money on. That means creating a budget.

If you set aside an hour to review your numbers and create a holiday budget, you’ll be able to sustain that holiday cheer (and a little more cash) long into the new year.

How to Make a Holiday Budget

Feel free to create your holiday budget using your preferred method, whether it’s an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet, pen-and-paper budget or budgeting app.

Whichever you choose, having the info at your fingertips will help you stick to your spending limit and avoid impulse buying.

1. Analyze Your Current Debt

It may not be pleasant, but it’s necessary: Before you do anything else, take a good look at your debt — specifically, your credit card debt.

If you have more on your credit cards than you can pay off this month, we urge you to reconsider participating in the holiday shopping frenzy. A much better use of your hard-earned money would be to pay down your credit card balance.

Pro Tip

We have plenty of methods to help you start paying off debt, including a snowflake, snowball or avalanche.

Skipping expensive gifts doesn’t mean you can’t shower your friends and family with love. You can make gifts by hand (here are some affordable gift ideas), or give them service coupons for favors — like cleaning their house or making them dinner.

After all, a gift from the heart often means more than something that will be out of style next year.

2. Project Your Total Holiday Income

Credit cards in the clear? Time to estimate the total amount you’re going to earn over the holiday season.

If you get the same paycheck every two weeks, this will be easy — double your paycheck for your monthly income.

Pro Tip

Think outside the paycheck for your holiday savings stash: Do you have old gift cards you can use to purchase gifts (or give as gifts)?

If your pay is irregular, figuring your income will take a little more effort. One option is to look at your pay stubs or bank accounts from this time last year. (Check out this guide to budgeting if your income changes from month to month.)

If your job — or pay — has changed since last year, you can average the amount you earned over the last three months. (If you have a particularly high month, throw it out; it’s better to err on the lower side.)

Remember to also include money from side gigs and seasonal jobs.

3. Make a List of Expenses

Once you know how much you’ll earn during the holiday season, it’s time to calculate your expenses.

Before determining how much to allot for holiday expenses, review your monthly budget to determine what extra money you have — or expenses you can cut — to accommodate the extra spending.

Pro Tip

If you don’t already have a monthly budget, stop what you’re doing and read these tips for how to make a budget that actually works.

Subtract your regular expenses — like rent or your mortgage, utility bills, groceries and gas — from your projected income to figure out how much money you have in your budget for the holidays.

Also, check your calendar: If the deadline for annual payments like car registration or HOA fees fall within the holiday season, be sure to include them in your expenses.

4. Assign Categories for Holiday Spending

Now it’s time to figure out how to get your holiday expenses to fit within your budget.

Start by estimating your expected holiday expenses by category, excluding gifts. Some expense that might be on your list:

  • Travel.
  • Decorations.
  • Gift-wrapping supplies.
  • Holiday meals.
  • Holiday parties.
  • Holiday clothes.
  • Holiday cards.
  • Donations.
  • Professional holiday photos.

After you figure out these expenses, subtract this amount from your holiday budget. Now you have your shopping budget.

Is the amount smaller than you might like? Consider making cuts from other categories if gift-giving is your priority.

5. Create a Shopping List

All right, Santa, who’s on your list?

It would be easy to overspend if you stopped at compiling the things you want to buy. Instead, create a holiday budgeting worksheet with the following info:

  • Name
  • Budgeted amount
  • Gift idea
  • Where to purchase
  • Sales, coupons and rebates (and deadlines or expiration dates)
  • Shipping costs

Keeping your list within your budget may require a little give-and-take. If you have your heart set on buying mom that $300 mixer but you only have $500 total to spend, can you come up with inexpensive gifts for the remainder of your list?

6. Start Tracking Prices

One of the keys to smart holiday shopping is patience. Well, patience and research.

Before making any purchases, check prices at multiple stores. Price-tracking and price-comparison tools abound.

BuyHatke is a useful browser extension that compares and tracks prices. When you shop on Amazon, it also displays price-history graphs, so you can see if the current price is really a bargain. Or try the SlickDeals app, which alerts you when prices drop in certain categories or at your favorite stores.

Or try money-saving Chrome extensions that do that work for you — we have 15 that can help you save money.

7. Stick to It!

This step may be last, but it’s one of the most important (and definitely the hardest to follow).

Sticking to your budget is the only way to avoid a holiday hangover — at least financially. It’ll take some willpower, but it’s worth it.

To help, create a holiday expense category with an all-in-one tool like Mint (check out our Mint review).

Pro Tip

Want to put an end to the endless (and pricy) pile of presents? Try creating a new holiday tradition: the four-gift rule.

If you prefer something more tactile, withdraw your holiday shopping budget in cash and keep it in a jar.

If you buy anything online or with a credit card, take that amount out of the jar and put it into a separate envelope, which you can later re-deposit into your checking account. Once that jar’s empty, so is your holiday budget.

Susan Shain is a contributing writer to The Penny Hoarder. 

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

These 14 Subscription Gifts Are Perfect for Any Occasion

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Everyone loves getting presents, but most gifts can only be opened once.

Want a way to keep the thrill alive? Try giving subscription gifts or a specialty membership.

The subscriber — your giftee — will open a new package every month or two, extending their celebration all year.

Plus, if funds are tight, you’ll benefit from spending a little bit over the course of multiple months.

We found 14 reasonably priced subscription gifts we think just about anyone would love to get.

14 of the Best Subscription Gifts for Everyone on Your List

We’ve compiled this list of 14 smart subscription boxes for any personality on your shopping list — even those who are hard to buy for.

The Health Nut

Know someone who’s really health conscious? The vegan, gluten-free, organic, no-GMO type?

Your friend is probably spending tons of cash shopping at specialty grocery stores that sell those items.

With a Thrive Market membership, they can get all the goodies that usually pile into their cart delivered to their door — for just a fraction of the price.

Because Thrive Market’s organic goodies are 25-50% off retail price, they cost about the same as their conventional counterparts. A one-year membership is just $59.95 — less than $5 a month.

Plus, rather than receiving a monthly box of surprise goodies, the recipient does all their own shopping, so you know they’ll use everything!

The “OMG, Shoes!” Friend

Tired of being yanked into the nearest shoe store every time you go shopping with that one friend?

Surprise her with a VIP Membership to ShoeDazzle.

She’ll take a style quiz — then a stylist will put together a personalized showroom of shoes she can choose from to purchase each month.

The monthly fee is $39.95, which she can either use toward her next purchase or save if nothing catches her eye (unlikely).

Plus, there’s an option to skip any month as long as she logs in before the 6th of the month.

The Sommelier in Training

Mmm, wine.

We love wine so much. Robust reds, crisp whites, perfect-by-the-poolside dry rosé…

What were we talking about?

Oh, right! You probably know a wine lover too. Want a gift that’ll make her happier than a bottle of the good stuff?

Try three bottles delivered monthly and hand-picked to suit her tastes.

Winc starts at $39 plus $9 shipping for a monthly box of three wines. Plus, members get access to other steeply discounted bottles whenever they want — with free shipping on boxes of three or more.

If the savings mean bottles start stacking up, skipping a month is easy.

The Girl Who Wears Yoga Pants to the Office — and Pulls It Off

Do you know one of these women? Are you able to get over your (understandable) envy enough to buy her a gift?

Consider the FabFitFun subscription box. It comes filled with health, beauty and fitness products for the Instagram queen on your list.

It’s pricier at $49.99 per delivery, but only ships once per season. Because each box contains $200 worth of products, at four deliveries per year, you’re basically buying one box and getting three free!

The Coffee Snob

Remember when your uncle scoffed at the bag of ground Dunkin’ Donuts coffee you picked up at the grocery store while he was in town for Thanksgiving?

Whatever, man — you just need a way to get through the morning.

But your uncle might really enjoy a gift subscription to BeanBox, a gourmet coffee subscription that delivers fresh-roasted, whole bean Seattle coffee monthly.

And when I say “fresh,” I mean most beans are shipped within 48 hours of roasting. You can be sure there’ll be no scoffing at this gift.

Plus, it’s only $20 a month — even less if you buy a six-month or one-year package!

The Token Tea Drinker

A woman dips a bag of tea in and out of the hot, steaming water inside her cup.

The tea folk among us need their fix, too.

Tea Sparrow delivers a box of hand-picked, loose leaf teas from across the globe every month.

It’s just $20 per month and easy to stop and start. You can choose one-month, three-month or six-month options, or an ongoing subscription. Shipping’s also included for those in Canada or the continental U.S.

The Mom with Ambition — or the Kid Who Keeps Taking Stuff Apart

Know a mom who keeps talking about how her kid’s definitely going to be an astronaut — before they even hit kindergarten?

Check out subscription boxes from Kiwi Crate. There’s an option for kids ages 3-16 — or even older. They range in activities from art to engineering. Most subscriptions start at $19.95 per month and can last for three, six or twelve months. Shipping is free in the U.S.

The Wanderluster

One of the best-loved parts of traveling is trying exotic foreign foods. If you know someone who’s equal part foodie and footloose, keep reading.

Try the World will deliver a box filled with goodies from different countries every month. You’ll get to discover and appreciate exotic new cuisines. There is also an option for a snacks box instead of cooking ingredients.

Bonus: It features free shipping, and it’s easy to pause or cancel at any time.

Pay $39 for a month, or save by paying for three, six or 12 months at a time.

The Do-Gooder

Your friend who’s always too busy at the soup kitchen to hang out on weekends will really love this snack subscription box from Love With Food.

Subscriptions start at $7.99 a month, and boxes include food from around the world made with “real ingredients.” Every time a snack box is delivered, Love With Food donates a meal to feed a hungry child.

Talk about a feel-good gift!

Your recipient can buy any of their favorite snacks through Love With Food’s online portal.

The Busy Professional

Do you know someone who loves to make healthy, home-cooked meals — but spends too much time at the office (or freelancing or chauffeuring the kids from school to soccer to sleepovers) to hit the store, read the recipe and get dinner on the table before 8 p.m.?

Enter meal subscription plans like Plated, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron.

All of these services operate on a similar model. They put together healthy, delicious recipes and deliver the ingredients in exactly the correct amounts, as well as the instructions to subscribers’ homes.

This gift will save them time running to the store.

Plus, they’ll get to learn a new recipe to add to their repertoire.

Pricing for these services varies The services offer diet-friendly menus and the ability to swap meals based on taste preferences.

The Outdoor Adventurer

Got a friend who brings her hiking gear to work on Friday so she can get the earliest possible start on her weekend camping trip?

She might be an awesome candidate for a subscription to the Cairn box. 

It’s $29.95 per month (different payment plans are available) and includes a variety of gear like compasses, cookware, portable foods, apparel like beanies and gloves and skin care/first aid products.

You’ll get the added satisfaction of knowing you’re helping your friend stay safe and comfortable out there in the wild.


The Pet Parent Who Never Shuts Up About Spot or Fluffy

Check out BarkBox (starting at $22 per month) for your dog-lover friends — or KitNipBox for the resident cat lady (no judgments, only purrs!).

The lucky recipient (and their furry friend) will receive a monthly box of treats and toys. BarkBox starts at $22 per month. KitNipBox starts at $19.99 per month for a single cat and $29.99 per month for multiple cats.

The Geek

Your favorite nerd — whether they be a gamer, anime fan, or pop culture lover — will enjoy a subscription to Loot Crate — a monthly delivery of four to eight geeky goods and collectables. Prices for different crate themes vary. You can choose to gift a single crate or pay for six crates over six months or 12 crates over 12 months.

Literally Anyone

Pretty much everyone shaves some of their hair.

Help someone save a ton of pennies with a subscription to Dollar Shave Club.

That’s right — this super-simple subscription service isn’t just for guys.

It’s easy to upgrade or downgrade your package. You can even request shipments more slowly if you don’t use your blades in time.

Choose from three razor packages that range from $4-$10 per month. Shipping is free.

Jamie Cattanach is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

6 Places to Get Low-Cost or Free Mammograms (Without Insurance)

One of the best ways to stop breast cancer in its tracks is early detection (it works).

Though every woman should do breast self-exams each month, women over 40 should also consider getting a mammogram — an X-ray that examines breast tissue — every one to two years. (Here are specific guidelines.)

If you’re younger than 40 but have risk factors for breast cancer, you might need a mammogram, too; ask for your doctor’s recommendation.

But whatever your age, don’t avoid mammograms because of their cost.

6 Places That Offer Low-Cost or Free Mammograms

Women today have a bounty of ways to get free and low-cost mammograms. Here are six options.

1. Your Doctor

If you’re 50 or older, the Affordable Care Act requires your insurer to cover screening mammograms every two years with no co-payment. More information is available here.

Medicare and Medicaid also cover the cost of mammograms.

2. The National Breast Cancer Foundation

The National Breast Cancer Foundation partners “with medical facilities across the country to provide free mammograms and diagnostic breast care services to underserved women.”

Click here to search for a location near you.

3. The Susan G. Komen Foundation

This breast cancer organization has affiliates in 120 American cities.

According to its website, its affiliate network “is the nation’s largest private funder of community-based breast health education and breast cancer screening and treatment programs.”

To learn what resources are available in your area, search for your local affiliate here. Prefer to speak to someone? Call the organization’s breast care helpline at 1-877-GO-KOMEN (1-877-465-6636), and the representatives will help you find low-cost options in your area.

4. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program

The CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program “provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to low-income, uninsured and underinsured women across the United States.”

To qualify for this screening, you should be between the ages of 40 and 64, have no insurance or insurance that fails to cover screening exams, and live at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.

You can find out more information about your state or territory here.

5. The YWCA

Some YWCA chapters provide breast cancer screening and education to women who have no insurance or who are underinsured.

Contact your local YWCA to see if it offers affordable mammograms.

6. Your Local Imaging Center

According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, many imaging centers offer reduced rates during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is in October.

You can search for a local mammography center on the FDA website.

To learn more about mammograms — including how they work and how to prepare — check out this PDF from the Komen Foundation.

Whatever you do, don’t wait!

Susan Shain is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Former SEO analyst Jacquelyn Pica assisted with research.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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