The stores have been stocking decorations for months now. Seasonal music is starting to play. Catalogs are being mailed out. There’s no escaping it: The holidays are coming, and with them, wallet-emptying events, gift purchases, and groceries.
If you’re thinking, “How am I going to afford it all?” then maybe it’s worth looking into a seasonal side hustle. These suggestions will put a bit of extra cash in your pocket — and you may even find yourself having a lot of fun along the way. (See also: 14 Best Side Jobs For Fast Cash)
1. Mall Santa (or one of his elves)
It wouldn’t be the festive season without a visit to Santa at your local mall. Almost every shopping center in the country will set up a grotto of some kind, and outfit it with a Santa look-alike and perhaps an elf or two.
Obviously, the first and biggest qualification for this job is that you should kind of look like Santa to begin with. Although fake beards and wigs are used, most of the mall Santas these days have their own flowing white beards. Not only will you need to look the part, but sounding jovial and belting out the “Ho, ho, ho” tagline is also a must. You should be ready to wear a smile all day, be very excited for every kid, and have a genuine love for children and the season.
Although the average mall Santa makes around $10 per hour, some establishments pay up to $20 per hour or higher. If you don’t bag the part of Santa, there are also openings for Mrs. Claus in some malls, or elves and other helpers.
2. House decorator
While most of us like the tradition of putting up the tree and decorations after Thanksgiving, some people either cannot do it themselves or would rather someone else do it. That’s where you can come in and make a tidy sum.
As you would expect, this is a very seasonal business model and is only going to give you about three to four weeks of work at best. But even if you only do it on nights and weekends for a few weeks, you can earn anywhere from $50 to thousands of dollar per home, depending on the scale, the difficulty, and the wealth of the family. Do a couple of these gigs, and you’ll have more than enough to fulfill every gift wish on the list.
You will need some basic equipment, including a long ladder, staple gun, and working knowledge of electrical systems, and should be prepared to work in the rain, snow, and hail. You’ll also need to be able to transport your equipment and be ready to come out and fix issues after you have installed the lights.
3. Package delivery
‘Tis the season to completely overload the mail system. And there have never been more opportunities available to help deliver those packages and make a bundle of extra cash in your spare time.
Right now, Amazon is boosting jobs in many areas of its business, and one of those is delivery. It’s called Amazon Flex and it pays $18–$25 per hour. You set your own schedule, so it’s ideal as a side hustle that you can do after work and on weekends.
There are also services like Doorman that put you in touch with a wide range of companies looking for help delivering packages. You may also be able to deduct the mileage and transportation costs from your taxes. And with every smartphone having some kind of GPS map service installed, you don’t have to know the area well to deliver packages in a timely fashion.
4. House and pet sitting
We’re approaching some major holidays, including the mother of all get-togethers — Thanksgiving. Before the big day, thousands of people pack their bags and travel around the country to be with family and friends, leaving homes and pets in need of caretakers. And that’s when you can step in and make a nice chunk of change.
Put an ad up on Craigslist, or make your services known on an app like Nextdoor, Rover, or DogVacay. Obviously, you will want to get a group of solid references together; people are not going to entrust their home, valuables, and pets to a complete stranger without some great reviews. And if you have done this kind of thing before, even better.
The owners may want to do a background check on you, and you should be willing to help pay for that. However, for just a few days of work doing basically nothing, you can net $250–$300 easily. It can be a lot more if there are many pets to look after. And if you need to be walking the dogs, too, that can also add to your fee. (See also: How to Make $400+ a Week as a Pet Sitter)
5. In-store gift wrapping
Are your gift-wrapping skills the envy of your family and friends? Can you wrap all sorts of gifts, including those with weird shapes and sizes? Are you OK standing on your feet for almost the whole day? If you were nodding your head through that whole intro, you could pick up some great seasonal work as a gift wrap associate in one of the many stores in the mall.
This time of year, free gift wrapping is a big lure for shoppers. Department stores, toy stores, and lingerie stores in particular love to offer free gift wrapping, and you can make $10–$12 per hour, plus tips, for providing this much-appreciated service.
You will have to perform under pressure at times, especially during Black Friday and the week before Christmas, and you may also have to smile through the comments of irate customers. But if none of this phases you, you can make enough money to easily cover your own holiday spending.
6. Warehouse associate
As the demand for products increases toward the end of the year, many companies take on part-time warehouse associates to help out. From Amazon and Walmart, to UPS and FedEx, the type of job you will be doing varies from company to company.
For example, Amazon warehouse workers could be selecting and boxing up groceries for their Fresh and Pantry services, or packing up regular orders from its massive inventory. Amazon fulfillment centers are located in many states around the country, and chances are your state has one already, or one is coming soon.
Although it is part time work, the flexible hours may not be an ideal match if you have a current full time job. This is shift work, and working from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. is common. Also, you’ll need to dress warm in some states, as the warehouses can get pretty cold. You’ll also be expected to lift around 50 lbs. with ease, and as this is a very physical job, you should be in fairly good shape. You can expect to earn around $10–$12 per hour, plus you’ll probably get overtime pay and other benefits.
7. Uber or Lyft driver
A lot of people are already doing the “taxi driver in my spare time” gig, but things get really busy during the holiday season. Additional drivers are always going to be welcome, especially this time of year. So if you have a car that’s in good condition, reliable, and you don’t mind putting on extra miles and wear, you should consider the Uber and Lyft option around the holidays.
Uber and Lyft drivers make around $15 per hour, and Lyft offers weekly income guarantees that vary by city. You should be prepared to work most evenings and weekends leading up to the end of the year, and even with all the extra cabs on the roads, you can still expect to take advantage of surge pricing and make a handsome profit.
On Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve, it’s not unusual to see the fares surge by six or seven times. And on New Year’s Eve, people have paid 10 times the normal fare to get home. That’s $300 for a cab that would usually cost $30. Do a few of those and you’re really in the money.
If you prefer not to chauffeur, Uber also offers the Uber Eats service. That would simply mean picking up and dropping off food without ever having anyone in your car. (See also: How to Make More Money as an Uber Driver)
8. Mystery shopping
With the holiday season comes a massive influx of traffic to brick and mortar stores nationwide. And to ensure standards are kept high, these businesses employ mystery shoppers to evaluate and report back.
If you aren’t familiar with the role, mystery shopping is a job that you do in your spare time, based on assignments sent to you by companies as varied as grocery stores, car dealerships, restaurants, and even liquor outlets. You will shop at the store like a regular customer, and never reveal your intentions to the employees. You make a purchase, interact with the staff, and report your findings to the company that employed you. You will be reimbursed for the item you purchased (there will be a limit based on the store you’re in) plus additional money for your time. (See also: Check Out These 5 Legit Mystery Shopping Gigs)
You can have a lot of fun getting paid to do things most people have to pay money to do. However, there are plenty of scams out there, so make sure you register with a legitimate Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America member.