16 Festive Ways to Make Extra Money for the Holidays


It's that time of year again — time to start hemorrhaging money in the name of tradition and capitalism and Santa Claus. But what if you took a different approach this holiday season and made some extra cash before you spent it? It's feasible, and you can even be festive while you're at it. (See also: 25 Tips for Smart and Safe Holiday Shopping Online)

Take a look at these jolly ways to earn a few bucks to avoid ending up broke at the end of the year.

1. Offer Gift-Wrapping or Gift-Hiding Services

Fancy yourself a Martha Stewart-style gift wrapper with a penchant for sharp edges and expert ribbons and bows? Consider offering your gift-wrapping services to the people in your community who lack the discipline (or time and energy) to do it themselves.

Promote your services on sites like Craigslist and online message boards in your area, make an announcement on local apps like Nextdoor (an awesome resource for lots of things in your specific neighborhood, by the way), and place flyers in your neighbors' mailboxes to drum up business.

Also, if you have the extra room, you might want to consider renting gift-storage space in your home for parents who want to keep gifts well hidden from their miniature snoops. Charging as little as $5 a week could add up nicely if you get a few folks on board.

2. Bartend or Serve at a Holiday Party

If you have bartending skills and extra time on your hands this holiday season, put your mixology knowledge to use by slingin' drinks at local shindigs.

Bartending services are at a premium this time of year because everyone is stretched so thin, so you can probably negotiate a more than fair deal from both individuals hosting private parties and businesses with bigger budgets. When negotiating, keep in mind that you likely won't receive tips from guests but rather the hosts at the end of the night — but even that's not guaranteed — so that should definitely factor into your hourly or per-gig fee.

3. Sell Homemade Holiday Crafts and Decorations

Set up shop at local craft fairs, bazaars and holiday markets if you've got items of interest — like holiday décor items and ornaments — that are marketable this time of year. You can find these events at your area schools, churches, and other community venues. Another option is to list your handmade goods in an Etsy shop where you can move product without leaving the comfort of your home.

4. Provide Holiday Party Entertainment

What's a holiday party without some festive entertainment? Notwithstanding the guests who have had too much eggnog of course, many hosts (especially for business parties) will want some type of music at their event, whether it be a soloist playing background music, a live group performance as a main event, or a DJ spinning tracks to fill the dance floor. If you have any of these skills, put out your feelers to see where you fit in.

5. Use Your Lifestyle Expertise to Become a Personal Shopper

As somebody who truly enjoys shopping — in person and online — I think this is one of the best jobs around. And you might be surprised at how many people are potentially interested in this service.

There are lots of folks who are clueless when it comes to gift buying, and they'd rather put their burden in the hands of someone more capable so the holiday season doesn't crash and burn before their eyes when it's time to exchange presents. You can be their saving grace by charging a nominal fee to pick out the perfect gifts for their family and friends. You'll have to know this person fairly well — so you can already have a good foundation of what kind of gifts they need and because you'll be handling their cash or credit card — which is why it's not a bad idea to promote your services at your workplace, church, and other groups of which you're a part.

6. Fulfill Holiday Cards for Individuals or Businesses

I don't send out holiday cards anymore — I don't want to waste all that paper, time, or money — but before I put the kibosh on it, I would spend hours upon hours writing, folding, addressing, licking, and stamping cards and envelopes, and I always wished someone else was doing for me. I doubt that I'm alone, which is why you can be a hired gun for this purpose at holiday season for those who don't mind paying a reasonable fee to expedite this tedious process.

Craigslist is a good place to start, but I also recommend using the Nextdoor app, mentioning it on social media, and reaching out to friends, family, and neighbors via email.

7. Use Your Handy Skills to Decorate Houses

If you're more of an outdoorsy type of person, there is absolutely a market for people who can effectively put up holiday decorations that homeowners don't have time for or who are frightened by the prospect of attaching strands of lights and other thingamajigs to their roofs and eaves. There are commercial companies who provide this service at a premium, but a savvier freelance entrepreneur can undercut the competition by using online outlets like Upwork to post their skills and find jobs. I also would recommend documenting your work to start a portfolio that can enhance and grow your small business in the future.

8. Set Up a Cookies and Hot Chocolate Stand

Kids set up lemonade and Kool-Aid stands and sell snacks on their sidewalks during the summer, so it only makes sense to apply that same concept to the cooler weather by offering hot chocolate, coffee, and cookies to keep passersby warm and comfortable. Plus, children love to buy presents for people with their own money, and this is a great way to pad their pockets (and teach the value of a good work ethic while you're at it) so they can enjoy the holidays a bit more.

9. Bake for People Who Are Too Busy to Spend Time in the Kitchen

I enjoy baking, and I often share my pastries, cakes, cookies, and other goodies with my friends and neighbors. Some of them have even hired me to bake goods for them when they're hosting a gathering or just for indulging in themselves. You also can take samples to local restaurants and ask if they would be interested in carrying your items on a limited basis. You never know what could happen if you don't ask.

10. Rake Leaves or Shovel Snow for Neighbors

My mom and dad used to make me pound the pavement in my neighborhood when I was a kid to ask the neighbors if they needed a low-cost snow removal service by way of undocumented child labor. And it was torture!

While I wasn't a fan of it back then, in hindsight I appreciate that the experience taught me early on to use my resources to earn extra cash while appreciating the value of a dollar. I'm not opposed to doing it these days, but I will admit that it might be a bit unsettling for many people if a grown person showed up on their doorstep asking to remove snow or rake leaves for money. Fair enough. But that's why I would generally recommend that your children get in on this act (through suggestion, not force) with proper supervision. It's not the most fun they'll ever have, but they'll be pretty stoked about the money they've made.

11. Clean Up Before or After Holiday Parties

Who wants to clean up the massive mess that party guests have left all over the house after a successful holiday party? No one — but as they say, it's a dirty job and somebody's gotta do it. That somebody can be you if you don't mind washing, scrubbing, and sanitizing the after-effects of a rousing get-together. You can promote your services locally (the usual suspects that I've mentioned previously — Craigslist, Nextdoor, etc.), but you also can try apps like Handy which helps connect house cleaners and handy people to clients.

12. Interview to Be a Mall Santa or Elf

While we continue to shift away from shopping malls culturally (which sort of look like the apocalypse has already begun, by the way), there are still plenty of them out there thriving — and they all need Santa and his helpers around the holidays. You can apply to be the Man in the Red Suit or one of his pointed-eared minions directly within the shopping center or by locating a national staffing service that specializes in this particular area.

13. Entertain the Public With Outdoor Performances

I live in New York City where there's no shortage of street performers with their hats on the ground, playing for pennies. You can get in on the act to by taking your show on the road, setting up in a well-trafficked area, and watching the dough roll in one dime at a time.

14. Try Planning Small-Scale Holiday Parties

Have a knack for planning and hosting events? Use those skills to help novice party planners share the responsibility and stress. You'll definitely want to start small — you don't want to bite off more than you can chew and potentially ruin someone's holiday festivities — so it's best to query folks in your social circle to see how you can help the event go off without a hitch.

15. Cater Small Holiday Gatherings

When I first started hosting my annual holiday parties, I made all the food by myself, which took hours and hours. By the time the party started, I was so exhausted that I couldn't properly enjoy the fruits of my labor. When I finally had enough of slaving in the kitchen after a few years of hosting, I decided to look into have the party catered. The problem, however, is that the catering was beyond my budget, which left me with few other options.

If you enjoy cooking (and the results consistently yummy), you can potentially serve an underserved market if you can locate those people like me who don't want to cook everything myself but who also can't afford hundreds of dollars worth of catered food and staff. I think the best way to find that middle ground is to offer crowd-friendly food at a fair price that you'll deliver to the party without the extra expense of the servers, and then be on your way.

16. Pick Up Seasonable Retail Employment

Want part-time work that you don't have to look hard to find? Head to your favorite local retail store and ask it they're hiring for the holidays. If they are, fill out an application to throw your name into the hat. You'll likely make minimum wage, so that's something that you'll want to consider, but something is better than nothing — especially if your budget is already in a bind. Also, don't forget about the potential employee discount for which you'll qualify that can save you a bundle on gifts; that aspect should definitely be a factor in where you apply.

Are you planning to pick up some extra cash this holiday season with a festive side hustle? Let us know in comments!

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