Pay for Christmas with a Seasonal Job

by Emily Guy Birken · 7 comments

Seasonal jobs

While we’re all sick of the retail creep of Christmas — remember when we didn’t see yuletide items in stores until after Thanksgiving? — it does serve one useful purpose: it can help us remember to start budgeting for Christmas earlier. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American is expected to spend just about $750 for Christmas this year — an amount that can be hard to find in the budget if you haven’t planned for it.

While some savvy savers may have been setting money aside for Christmas expenses since the beginning of the year, for most of us, the end of the year can take us by surprise. The alternatives may seem grim: either tone down your Christmas plans, or put yet another holiday on plastic.

However, there’s a better bet for getting through a big Christmas debt free: take a seasonal job to pay for your holiday. Here are some great short-term gigs that you can work in November and December, so you can start the New Year with sweet holiday memories and no debt:

Retail Jobs

This is the typical place to look when thinking about temporary holiday employment. The holiday shopping season is big business for retailers, and the National Retail Federation estimates that stores will hire between 585,000 and 625,000 seasonal workers this year.

The fact that job numbers are continuing to improve means that fewer unemployed job seekers will be vying for these retail gigs. Get your application in early to the usual big name retailers: Wal-Mart, Macy’s, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Kohl’s, Target, etc. They will want you in for training so you’re ready for Black Friday.

Also, if you’re doing this gig in addition to your usual job, make it clear that you’ll be available for evenings and weekends, even if your schedule is not otherwise flexible. Those are both the toughest times for retailers to staff and the hours they need the most hands on deck.

Finally, working for one of the major retailers has another big benefit: the employee discount can help your gift dollars go farther.

UPS and FedEx

Those shoppers who aren’t cruising the mall and the big box stores for gifts are likely doing their shopping online, which means shipping needs go up at this time of year, too. In particular, UPS and FedEx will be hiring 55,000 and 20,000 seasonal employees this year respectively. Depending on what you do for these companies — from early morning sorting to delivering packages during the day — you may be able to find a temporary schedule that works around your regular job.

Food Service

In addition to shopping more, Americans tend to eat out (or order in) more often during the holiday season. Consider working at your local chain sit-down restaurant. Depending on your tips, this could potentially be one of the most lucrative part-time seasonal positions you can get.

For those who don’t quite have the peppy personality to be a successful server, delivering pizzas can be another great way to make money over the holidays. You can still make a decent amount with tips, and you don’t have to spend your time trying to up-sell your customers.

The Bottom Line

Even if you can’t fit a traditional seasonal job into your crowded holiday schedule, you can always find some ways to make extra money. Earn some extra cash by shoveling snow, baby- or pet-sitting, or even wrapping gifts for others. Anything you can do to keep Christmas from taking a bite out of your budget will be a big relief when your January credit card bill arrives.

Have you ever worked a seasonal job to help with Christmas expenses?

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  • Kate says:

    You might even make the kids a coupon book “good for” whatever things you can think of that would be specially fun for them. My mom was a great cookie baker at Christmas and she would always make a big batch of large sugar cookies: Santa, Stocking, Star and Christmas Tree, and we would spend a day at the dining room table with pots of confectioners sugar frosting tinted in different colours, plus various decorating sprinkles and add-ons, crafting beautiful cookies that would be displayed on trays before the big family gathering between Christmas and New Years when everything would be eaten up. We also went out prospecting for ground pine, and made wreaths and decorations using wire hangers and twist ties; and then there were the stockings — filled with little goodies and opened Christmas Eve before we went to midnight church. It’s the things we did together that we remember; the toys are mostly property of the great-grandchildren now and we still have the books … and the memories.

  • KT says:

    While I appreciate the concept of not going into debt for Christmas presents, I can’t help but be saddened by a story that says taking a second job to buy presents is a better alternative than spending time with your family/friends over the holiday season. Unless it’s one of those exceptional gifts whose memory they will treasure for a lifetime, the time you spend with family and close friends will be what you and they will remember most. Parents – spend time with your kids! Use the time you would have spent taking a 2nd job taking your kids sledding, take them out for an ice cream cone at the drive-thru, go to the airport and watch the planes take off, play football or basketball with them. Have your kids spend time this season thinking and talking about gifts they’d like to give to each other and give them a few dollars to do so. They’ll wake up on Christmas morning as excited about giving their gift(s) as getting them. Christmas doesn’t have to be all about shopping and the stress of paying for it – it’s more than than so please don’t lose sight of what’s really important at this time of year.

  • Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey says:

    Jobs abound during Christmas season. They indeed help us increase our income and help augment our expenses during the holidays. Another way is reducing our expenses, keeping a savings account for Christmas, and buying generic gifts early while prices have not yet increased.

  • Tushar @ Everything Finance says:

    The employee discount is a great bonus for working retail during the holidays. It’s also nice to work retail or a seasonal job because it’s temporary and you don’t have to quit after. Meeting new people is always a great bonus!

  • Laura@ Financial Freedom Newsletter says:

    This article bring up many good points! Holiday hiring is great for everyone. Although it can be exhausting, having that extra money around the holidays is priceless. Plus, you never know who you’ll meet at a new job! It sounds like a fun, new adventure to me! I know I plan on working during the holidays, it’s my favorite time of year!

    • MoneyNing says:

      A chance to meet new people was exactly what I was thinking of when I read the article. Holiday workers have to work hard but then I’m sure it’ll be fun at the same time (and of course, the money wouldn’t hurt). And who knows? You might meet some life long friends this way too!

  • Mandy Knight says:

    What about a hybrid option? Why not find a way to boost your income a little, and also find ways to stop spending during the holidays. I made a deal with my siblings and parents not to exchange gifts anymore. I just want to enjoy the day with them. We’ve removed the stress of shopping for the perfect gift, and they going out and trying to find something to reciprocate just seems silly. I’m a grown woman, I know they love me, I don’t need a sweater as evidence.

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