Straight out of college, I was thrilled to land my first job teaching kindergarten through eighth-grade music. It was perfect. Except for one thing: It was part-time.
Like many recently graduated music teachers, I wasn’t left with many options except a $20,000-per-year job in which I worked only about 25 hours per week. While I thought I could make it work, I was back to living on ramen noodles by September. It definitely wasn’t what I had envisioned my post-college professional life to be.
Then I saw the sign — a literal sign: “HIRING NOW FOR THE HOLIDAYS!”
I was skeptical at first. I had a college degree, after all! Plus, I was a teacher who was pretty darn good at her job, if I do say so myself. Why would I want to work a seasonal retail job in my off hours?
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Finding Part-Time Work
Well, let’s just say that my rumbling stomach and my need to pay rent won out in the end. I took a job working as a cashier at one of the busiest stores in the United States. And I even added more work as a singer in a caroling troop and jazz band.
While I was a nonbeliever at first, I ended up making an extra $10,000 in three months.
If you want to find ways to make extra money during the holidays, or if you want to have a debt-free gift-giving winter, here’s what you need to know before you put in your application:
Figuring Your Part-Time Schedule
Let’s start with the obvious: You’re going to work more. In my case, I worked my teaching job three days a week for 20 hours, cashiered for another 30, and then took gigs most weekends for an additional five to 10 hours.
That’s nearly 60 hours of work per week. While that’s totally doable for single ladies like I was at the time, I couldn’t handle that today with a family and a strict sleep schedule.
You will also inevitably miss out on some of what the holidays can mean — especially the parties and get-togethers.
Sure, some stores are revolting against forcing their seasonal employees to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. However, unless you’re lucky, you can almost guarantee that you’ll be putting in hours while the rest of your family and friends open presents or stuff their faces with pumpkin pie. Missing out on traditions or not seeing the look on your kid’s face when she gets her presents can be a depressing reality.
- Driving: Signing up to be a driver with Uber or Lyft during the holidays can help you steer your way to some extra cash.
- Lending a helping hand: Become a Tasker on TaskRabbit and get paid to help others out with their odd jobs. You never know who you might meet, too!
- Being a retail associate: A lot of stores hire extra hands at this time of year to help with last-minute shoppers and seasonal sales happening.
- Serving or bartending: People are happier during the holidays, and happy customers mean bigger tips!
- Making gifts: Why not get crafty and make some stocking-stuffer worthy presents to sell on Etsy or even eBay?
On the other hand, there’s the money. In just three months, I made enough money to supplement my part-time income and pre-pay my rent for the next year.
Income from my music gigs meant that I got paid in cash. (Though I did have to claim these earnings on my taxes.) As a result, I didn’t have to wait on paychecks to buy gifts.
We’re also talking about a very limited timeline of sacrifice. If you’re not a huge devotee of holidays, seasonal work in the winter could be a huge boom, especially if you’re planning an awesome vacation in the summer or a career switch-up in the busy hiring season.
And of course, that money could max out your retirement contributions for the year without dipping into your regular paycheck each month.
If you’re ready to take on a seasonal job, get hunting now! Major retail stores, where you can find the majority of holiday work, begin hiring in mid-October through mid-November. Of course, there are other options out there if you’re not into folding sweaters or cashiering.
There are holiday-related jobs such as working Christmas tree lots, photographing kids visiting Santa’s village, and wrapping gifts at shopping malls. You can also capitalize on the weather and get busy decorating other people’s homes, plowing driveways, or becoming a personal shopper. Other businesses that hire extra employees for the season include restaurants, vacation resorts and hotels, and event planners and caterers.
Part-Time Work Is a Year-Round Grind
And don’t forget — seasonal work isn’t just for the winter! You can find temporary jobs in your city’s top seasons. That might mean spending a few months leading kayak tours in the summer or working a food truck during fair season.
Whether you make seasonal work your permanent thing, or just sub in for Santa’s elves for a month or two to make some easy cash, considering a seasonal job opportunity may just be your ticket to financial freedom.
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Additional reporting by Kelly Meehan Brown.