’Tis the Season
Extra cash is always nice, but the holidays make supplementary funds especially necessary. If your regular monthly budget doesn’t allow for all the travel, gifts, decor, and party food you’d like to buy this season, you might consider ways to earn a little extra.
Need some inspiration? Here are seven ideas for earning side income — holiday style.
Sell Unwanted Gift Cards
Since so many people are buying gift cards this time of year, it's the perfect time to clean out your stash and get back the cash for holiday purchases. Sites like Gift Card Granny and Raise let consumers sell unwanted gift cards for — up to about 92 percent of the card's value. (And if you plan to buy gift cards as holiday gifts, you can get them at a discount from the same place.)
The average family has $300 in unused gift cards hanging out in kitchen drawers, wallets, car doors, and nightstands, says Mary Ortega of Raise.com. Altogether, about $400 billion is distributed in gift cards and store credits each year — and some 20 percent of them go unused, she says.
Trade In Your Gadgets
Still have your old smartphone from your last upgrade? Or an unused tablet collecting dust? What about video games your kids never play with anymore? With all that unused technology, “you may be sitting on a pile of potential money for holiday shopping,” says consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.
Electronics represent one of the top five most popular categories of holiday gifts, according to Statista, so it’s well worth it to sell yours this time of year. Try selling unwanted gadgets and attachments through sites like Gazelle, which focuses on mobile devices specifically, and GameStop, which adds video games, consoles, and gaming accessories to the mix. In addition, stores like Target and Best Buy let you exchange used electronic items for gift cards that you can put toward holiday gift and party shopping.
Look Beyond Retail
While retail stores always want seasonal help, the hours are often long and tiring. Plus, the average hourly wage for retail workers is around $9, according to Glassdoor. Luckily, there are plenty of other types of businesses that need extra workers, so if you’re interested in a part-time job, check out all the options.
If you’re outdoorsy, consider a part-time, seasonal gig at a pumpkin patch or Christmas tree lot. Parcel delivery companies such as UPS and distribution companies for major online retailers are slammed this time of year and often hire part-time help. These jobs can pay significantly more than retail: Target warehouse workers make $19 an hour on average, and material handlers at Kohl’s distribution centers make an average of $12 an hour. If your wrapped presents are Pinterest worthy, consider working as a gift-wrap specialist at a mall kiosk — or offer your services to friends and neighbors. You’ll need to charge enough to make a profit after buying supplies, but many people are willing to pay for a nice presentation — for example, one gift-wrapping business in San Francisco charges $8 to $16 per package.
Decorate for the Holidays
While lots of people want their homes to look festive inside and out, many don’t have the know-how, time, or desire to do the job themselves. If you do, consider hiring yourself out as a holiday decorator. According to ProMatcher, holiday decorators can charge $45 to $80 an hour.
From decorating trees, mantels, and mailboxes to hanging exterior lights, there are tons of decorating tasks you could offer for pay. Start with your friends, family members, and neighbors, and have them get the word out about your skills and availability. When determining your prices, consider any supplies you may need, like ladders, and whether you will include the lights and fixtures in the price.
Spend Time Online for Cash
If you’re going to be online anyway, you might as well get paid for the things you’re already doing, like shopping, watching videos, and sharing your opinions. Sites like Swagbucks, InstaGC, and PrizeRebel offer free gift cards and cash for the aforementioned activities.
By joining one of these online rewards communities, you could potentially earn hundreds of dollars in gift cards by the holidays. When you buy retail items, airline tickets or hotel stays through the rewards site, you earn points toward gift cards or cash. Some sites also offer gift cards for completing online surveys.
Help a Caterer or Bartender
December is prime time for parties and events, and food service pros often need help. If you’re a foodie or a wine connoisseur (or just enjoy a good party) becoming an extra pair of hands for a catering or bartending service may be the ideal side gig for you.
If you don’t have specific catering experience, play up what experience you do have. “To be a server, even being a parent is great experience,” says Lea Hatch, owner of A Shot Above Entertainment, a bartending service in Southern California. “Having the ability to look around a room and spot empty glasses or trash, being able to walk into a kitchen and know the dishes need to be washed and dried: It's simple things like that.” And you don’t need much experience to be a hostess, greeter, or ticket taker, she says.
Hatch says her company's busiest time of the year is mid-October through New Year's Eve. "The tips are usually very good and clients are always so happy during this time of year," she says. Catering servers can make up to $23 per hour, according to Glassdoor.
Become a Seasonal Actor
Remember when you slayed it as an extra in your high school’s production of Grease? For the dramatically inclined, there are plenty of opportunities to dress up as Santa or Mrs. Claus and earn some extra money at local shops and events. According to Marketwatch, mall Santas make up to $40 per hour, and Santas at private events can make $50 to $300 per hour.
But even if you don’t want to rock a fur-trimmed red suit, this time of year provides other options for amateur actors seeking extra cash. Brian Jagger, partner with Casting Calls America, says there are increasing numbers of live, interactive event-type projects that employ actors for part-time work during the holiday season (think: Halloween-themed train rides). If you have some experience in community theater, you’re a great fit for these kinds of events. Bonus: They tend to happen mostly on weekends or in the evening, Jagger says, so they’re great side gigs.