The holidays are joyful in lots of ways—I’m a fan of mulled wine, vintage Christmas decorations, and movies where cute dogs save Santa—but the financial side of the holidays sometimes gets me down. This year, I made a real effort to be better about budgeting my money, and it was working, until on a whim, I booked a trip to Paris to practice my French. Now I’m heading into the holidays with a nearly-empty bank account. Oops. I guess next year, I’ll work on my impulse control, but in the meantime, I’ve been researching ways to make some extra holiday cash. Here’s what I’ve found out about seasonal side jobs:
Are side jobs the answer—or should you just cut back?
Many of us already feel like we have too much crap in our lives, and we honestly don’t want any more random stuff. I’ve cut back on the number of people I exchange gifts with, but every holiday season, I still end up with things I don’t want or need. I live in a small apartment, so some of it inevitably ends up in a bag of donations that I drop off at the local charity-run thrift store. It is perfectly acceptable to tell your loved ones that you’re trying to have a low-key holiday season this year, and that you’d rather focus on spending time together than exchanging gifts. (I wish more people in my life would do this, because it lessens everyone’s holiday burden and emphasizes bonding with each other over buying stuff.)
To find a side gig fast, tell everyone that you’re looking.
Many businesses and individuals need extra help around the holidays—and sometimes, people get so overwhelmed that they don’t have time to find someone to hire. If you’re looking for extra holiday cash, tell your current boss, your old boss, and basically anyone in your network who knows you’re reliable and hardworking. Tell them to keep you in mind if they need holiday help, or if they hear of anyone else who’s hiring. It is always easier to find work through your personal network, so start there first.
Let people know when you’re available for side jobs and what skills you have to offer.
When I’m worried about money, I tend to get so stressed that I feel like I don’t have any options. Here’s a reminder to myself (and to anyone reading this) to take a deep breath and remember that we have all sorts of useful skills that can get us side jobs. If you’re good with young kids, you can babysit. If you’re skilled in STEM, essay writing, a foreign language, or other subjects, you can tutor students. If you like spending time with animals, you could work as a dog walker or pet sitter. If you have office skills, you could work as a part-time personal assistant. If you’re extremely organized, you could help someone clean out a closet or get their receipts ready for tax time.
If you’re comfortable with graphic design and use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter regularly, you could help a local business boost their social media profile during the holiday shopping season. You may not even need Photoshop, because free sites like Canva make it easy to create promotional graphics. Whatever you’re good at, there’s a side gig out there with your name on it.
If your personal network isn’t much help, another place to find side jobs is Nextdoor, a social network for people who live near each other. Neighbors often use the local site and app to ask each other for help finding tutors, babysitters, and other assistance. Depending on who leads your local site, you may be able to offer services as a babysitter, dog walker, tutor, or personal assistant. Personal promotional posts are sometimes flagged as advertising, but even if that happens, you can still respond to posts from neighbors seeking help. The pay for these jobs will depend on what you and your neighbor agree is reasonable, and you’ll typically be paid in cash as soon as you do the work. Sometimes people even use Nextdoor to give away furniture and household items they no longer want. If you’re able to pick those things up, you may be able to resell them on Craigslist.
Desperate for some quick cash? Consider the gig economy.
Now that so many people have smart phones, there are all sorts of apps that offer part-time work and the ability to set your own schedule. One thing I’ve learned while writing this article is that these companies often claim you can earn a particular hourly rate by working with them—but the real number is often much lower. I highly recommend trying to find work through your personal network first, because you’ll probably earn more money if you can avoid using an app as a middleman. (The apps typically take a percentage of your earnings.) If you’re really struggling, and willing to work for a relatively low hourly rate, an app may be helpful. A few to consider:
If you have a four-door car, and live near a major U.S. city, you may be able to make $18 to $25 delivering packages through Amazon Flex. Other options include delivering groceries with Instacart or Shipt, delivering food and other things with Postmates, or giving people rides using apps like Lyft and Uber.
Want work you can do from home? Online tutoring tends to pay less than working with someone in person, but sites like Tutor.com and Chegg.com make it possible to connect with students remotely and work with them using a shared digital work space. (Of course, while other businesses get busier during the holidays, tutoring sites are less busy when schools are closed.)
Taskrabbit lets approved “Taskers” bid on all sorts of local tasks—everything from cleaning someone’s home to solving their computer problems to assembling their new Ikea furniture. If you’re selected for a task, Taskrabbit keeps 30% of what you earn.
Remember that “real” jobs are an option, too.
Before smart phones existed, people looked to the retail sector for holiday side jobs, so keep that in mind. A retail job will typically be less flexible than the work you find through the gig economy, but it may be more consistent, and it may even lead to long-term employment if that’s something you want. Many stores are open longer hours during the holidays, so part-time workers are often expected to work evenings and weekends.
Check local listings on job search sites like Monster and Indeed to find out which companies are hiring near you. Chain stores like Target and Barnes & Noble often bring on seasonal staff to work as cashiers, sales associates, and customer service people. (One benefit to working in retail is that you may be offered an employee discount, which makes holiday shopping a little easier.)
If you have experience in food service, look for seasonal side jobs at local restaurants and catering companies, because they’re often busier than usual during the holiday party season.
A warning: Side jobs should never cost you money.
There are plenty of job search websites that charge fees, claiming to offer access to special listings (especially for work-from-home jobs). Don’t fall for it. Never pay for job listings, and never pay to be considered for a job. Those websites are often just reposting job listings they found on free websites like Craigslist. This makes me sick, because they’re taking advantage of people who are poor and desperate for work. Legitimate job search sites will never make you pay a fee to access or respond to their listings. You should not have to pay to work for anyone—they should be paying YOU.
If you do make some extra cash this holiday, don’t spend it all on other people. Yes, this time of year is all about giving and caring, but that includes self-care, too. If you’ve been working hard lately, you owe it to yourself to relax and watch a few of your favorite holiday movies. Take some time off before the new year, and make it count.