Note: This is a guest post by our cousin, Jessica. As a single mom, she’s always coming up with new ways to save money and to make extra cash on the side. She shared with us her own experiences with making extra money around the holidays.
As a single mom, I am always searching for new ways to make extra money, especially during the holidays.
I have tried many different ways to make some extra cash – from paid online surveys and reward programs to getting a second job, working more hours and everything in between.
Today, I’m going to share some of ’em.
These are real life things that I have personally done or know someone who has.
I am a single parent with 2 boys, ages 13 and 10.
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I attended Eastern Illinois University where I majored in Family and Consumer Sciences with an emphasis on Hospitality Management with minors in
Business, Entrepreneurship, and Humanities.
I work full time managing a small town fine dining restaurant as my main job, but have some side hustles going on as well.
I am a Senior Independent Sales Consultant for Mary Kay and I work a few hours a week as a bartender in a Mexican Restaurant.
Over the years I have done several things for extra cash.
Not all of these will work for every person, but I have included similar ideas that would work for different types of people.
What will I learn?
1. Picked up extra hours: Earned an extra $432
I know this one seems super obvious, but most people don’t think to ask their employers for extra hours.
Let your co-workers know you are willing to pick up extra shifts in case someone wants to take some extra time off, which people always do at this time of year.
Be flexible and willing to do something outside of your normal job description to get those extra hours.
I volunteered to go to work an hour earlier each weekday to help people in other departments that were short-staffed.
The extra $12 a day added up. I did this 3 days a week for 3 months.
That is an extra $432!
There have been years where that was my entire Christmas budget.
Also, there was no outside cost or pre-planning involved. Plus, this led to me being cross-trained, and I became a more valuable asset to the company.
2. Refer friends & family: An easy $200
The restaurant I work at pays us $50 cash if we refer a new employee and they stay 30 days!
I have collected on this one 4 times.
While the place you work might not have a referral program, a service you use might.
Dish and AT&T give you credit towards bills you are already paying for referring new customers.
The beauty of this is that it isn’t time-consuming.
Money Pantry has a whole article on different referral programs that pay.
3. Help small businesses with social media: An extra $20/week plus free food
Are you somewhat tech savvy?
Many small business owners have no social media experience other than posting on their own personal Facebook walls.
I had to explain to one owner how to reply to comments on their Facebook page. Shortly after, I was overseeing a whole social media campaign for the company.
For me, this ended up being extra hours I got paid for at work which was an extra $20 a week.
The best part of the deal was I got free food which would have been at least $50 a week if I was a regular customer.
There is also PaidSocialMediaJobs.com that can help you find this kind of extra work.
If you personally know any small business owners, reach out to them.
You could even make flyers and go business to business to talk to owners in your area.
The great thing about this is you can work from home and still be with the kiddos. Businesses spend extra money on advertising around the holidays.
4. Grab an Extra Job (or 2): Varies
This one is super easy at this time of year.
Practically all retail stores hire for the holidays starting in September.
Restaurants are also other great options.
Restaurants often hire at the end of summer to replace students who are headed back to school.
Restaurants also hire close to the holidays, especially at places located near shopping centers or places that are popular to host holiday parties.
UPS and delivery services also hire seasonal help.
I have noticed several warehouse jobs posted in recent weeks as well.
Often these jobs can lead to year-round side jobs or full-time jobs too!
Check local newspapers, indeed.com, or just look for signs in your favorite businesses.
I have worked both retail and at restaurants with table service.
I have found waiting tables, if you are in a decent restaurant, pay the best of these options.
Yes, the pay per hour (as low as $2.15 per hour in some states) is awful, but tips more than makeup for it.
Also, if you don’t make enough in tips to earn up to your state’s minimum wage during a pay period, your employer is required by law to make up the difference.
In most restaurants, the servers make more than the laborers in the kitchen.
For the past couple of years, I have worked at a Mexican restaurant located right in between several shopping centers during the holiday season.
I work Monday and Tuesday lunches from 10:45 a.m. – 3 p.m. while the boys are in school.
I make anywhere from $35-$90 a shift in tips, plus what I get paid hourly.
I also get an employee meal each shift I work.
My side job brought in over 3,000 in 3 months, never working more than 12 hours a week.
Retail jobs tend to be just barely above minimum wage.
One bonus of a retail job is the employee discount, though it usually isn’t huge.
I worked one holiday season at T.J. Maxx years ago.
The discount was 10% off. Warehouse work and delivery drivers make a bit more than retail from the help wanted ads I have seen this holiday season. ($10-$12 an hour in Central Illinois.)
5. Drive: $25 per hour
Do you have a vehicle?
If so, put it to work!
How much you profit will depend on where you are located and the type of vehicle you drive.
My friend drove for Uber during her breaks from 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. in Springfield, IL and made about $40 a day after she paid for her gas.
Uber claims you can earn $25 an hour.
The worse the weather is the more money you make. This time of year lends itself to increasing your rides!
6. Use your truck/van: $10 an hour
If you have a truck or a van you can also pick up extra cash by hauling things.
Not everyone has a way of getting that big purchase home.
Advertise your services on Craigslist and Facebook.
Be sure to let all your friends and family know so word of mouth can spread.
I helped a coworker move and they paid for my gas and $10 an hour.
I didn’t load or unload anything heavy or I would have asked for more.
7. Collecting Scrap Metal: A friend made $20 in less than an hour
My brother used to collect and haul scrap metal.
How much you make will depend on what kind of metal it is and what the current metal market is doing at the time.
For example, collecting and recycling soda cans isn’t going to make you much, but scrapping an old fridge will.
He would find people that were tearing down buildings and ask if he could take all the metal wiring and hardware.
He would also scrap old cars that people needed rid of.
Ask friends and family for anything they want disposed of.
This is how I got rid of an old refrigerator in my basement.
He got $20 for it and it took him less than an hour to get it out of our basement, loaded, and unloaded, and I gave him gas money just to get rid of it. Cars go for a couple hundred.
Copper wire and plumbing bring the biggest profits though.
Get proof stating where you got the materials, especially if it is copper or else the salvage yard might not take it, complete cars must have the title.
I have an older car that is going to cost more to fix than it is worth. I called my local salvage yard, and they are going to give me $400 for it!
8. Sell Your Arts and Crafts: Varies
Making and selling arts and crafts is a truly joyful way to make money.
Of course, the amount of money you can make depends entirely on your abilities and the tools you have.
All of these things are great gift-giving ideas as well, which is why people buy them around the holidays.
Since the real cost of these things is the time put into making them, they can be inexpensive gift ideas for those of you on a budget.
People love to receive them because they are a labor of love.
This is one you can also get the kids in on, or at least be at home with them while doing most of it.
This one does take some planning out.
Here’s how you can get started:
- First you have to decide what you are making.
- Next figure out how much it will cost and how much time it will take to produce.
- Now you can decide your price point.
- Then you need to find people to sell to. Ask friends, family, coworkers.
- Start an Etsy store. Go to vendor fairs and farmers’ markets. Advertise on your personal social media pages, Facebook garage sale type sites, and Craigslist. You could even make flyers to distribute. See if you can get in a vendor fair or farmers market.
- Start taking orders about a month before your final delivery date.
Remember food items are time-sensitive so plan accordingly.
9. Baked Goods/Candy: I made $200 in an afternoon
This is the one I go for since I love to be in the kitchen making goodies.
In November I sell pies for Thanksgiving.
In December I sell fudge.
This Valentine’s Day I will be making candied bacon rose bouquets.
I start taking orders on the first of November.
I buy my items at Gordon Food Service (GFS), Aldi, or shopping the holiday baking sales that hit the major grocery stores every year.
My pies are $10 for pumpkin and $15 for Coconut, Pecan, Craisin (one of my signature pies).
I make homemade butter and lard crust.
I offer the customer the option of a glass pie dish for $5 more or the option to use one of theirs.
Last year I made 15 pies in about 5 hours, but part of that 5 hours was waiting on pies to bake.
I profit about $7.50 per pie.
I profited $112.50 from doing something I love to do.
I make even more selling fudge because people give it as a gift and eat it all month long where the pie is just usually for Thanksgiving day.
I profited $200 from selling an afternoon’s worth of fudge making. I don’t necessarily take orders for this because it keeps longer than pies and I sell it all month during December. I also use this as a gift for my coworkers.
10. Ornaments/Decorations: Varies
My mother makes these gorgeous centerpieces as gifts every year for her sisters, her mom, and me.
I have been telling her for at least five years that she needs to make and sell them.
Some of the restaurants I work in pay big bucks for decorations like the ones she crafts.
She fills in the rest of what she needs from big name craft store sales, always sure to use a coupon from that week’s ad or printed off the Internet.
She could easily sell them for a 50-85% mark up of her cost depending on the sales.
I have several handmade ornaments hanging on my tree that I have been given as gifts; I love those more than any of the store-bought ones.
11. Woodworking: Varies based on the project
The most beautiful ornament I have ever seen was a hand-carved Santa’s face.
It was in Branson, Mo.
It was $50.
I almost bought it, but then snapped back to reality and realized I have to have at least 2-3 side hustles going on just to pay for Christmas gifts.
The point is if you have woodworking skills now is the time to make some cash on the side.
My dad also has made my mom several pieces of furniture for her Christmas gifts.
He made her a full length mirror jewelry cabinet, chest, entertainment center, and a hall tree.
Almost half of his materials on these projects were reclaimed from old furniture.
These types of handmade items are huge sellers at craft fairs, fall festivals, and online.
12. Welding: $20 to $50 a (small) project
My friend’s boyfriend is an apprentice welder and made her and her girls some awesome metal sculptures and wall decorations last year.
He used all leftover materials from his jobs other than the paint he bought.
I have seen similar things that sold for $20-$50 depending on size.
You can find customers at art and craft shows and even on Etsy.
13. Gift baskets: $350
If you’ve ever purchased a pre-made gift basket from retail or an online store, you know they can be very expensive compared to the actual cost of their contents. And people will buy them!!
My favorite gift every year is the gift basket my dad makes for his brothers and me.
It is just shelled peanuts he buys in bulk at the local food service store and this super awesome summer sausage that you can only get at a small town meat locker in Illinois.
It is the best thing I eat all year long (and I work at some pretty awesome restaurants).
Some years he has even made a wooden box with a slide top that was wood burned for packaging.
For this, focus on finding the best products at a lower than retail cost and package them in a super awesome way.
You don’t have to limit yourself to food. But you do want specialty products.
The best thing about this one…
You don’t have to be super crafty!
I make and sell Mary Kay gift baskets and profit about 50% of my materials.
I am having a holiday open house and am projecting to make around $350 profit from just a few hours of work.
Get creative with your baskets!
My cousin lives in St. Louis and makes baskets filled with goodies that are hard to find in other areas. She fills them with local items like gooey butter cake, Fitz’s Root Beer, Old Vienna Red Hot Riplets, and Syberg’s wing sauce.
People buy her baskets to send to friends and family that don’t live in the area, so these items are a rare treat for them.
Think about popular items that are exclusive to your geographic area, that may be difficult to find in other regions.
People are willing to pay because it’s a cute thoughtful gift and they don’t have to spend a whole day out shopping.
She typically profits around $500 each Christmas season selling these baskets.
14. Sewn/knitted gifts: Varies
People love things that keep them warm this time of year.
Some of the things I have been given as Christmas gifts include:
- Rice Packs
- & Washcloths
I loved everyone of them.
Just remember to shop sales if you are wanting to make it to sell and don’t have a buyer yet.
Fabric and yarn can be very expensive.
I have noticed people don’t fully understand how long it can take to make these kinds of items.
One lady I know commissions her quilt work and the materials are paid for upfront before she even starts the work. Quilts can be time-consuming, but she typically profits around $250 for each one.
The best socks I ever owned, my grandmother made, and she spent $13 on the yarn to make them!
Make sure that this is a profitable venture for both your pocketbook and your time.
15. Monogrammed gifts: $200 in a month
Personalization is the way to take something that is $2 and charge $10.
Things Remembered has made an entire multi million dollar business out of this.
Anyone can do it with the help of a Cricut cutter.
Though they can be expensive, many women have one or know someone who does.
My library even has one for the public to use!
Just turn this hobby into a money maker.
My nephew’s wife has an Etsy store she sells her various merchandise through.
Her biggest sellers are her tee shirts and etched glassware.
She picked up an extra $200 last month with a shirt that simply said “It’s fall, y’all”.
I have another friend who sells personalized wood-burned items via Facebook and the yearly fall and holiday market in our small town. He uses reclaimed wood, so the investment is very low.
He typically makes around $1500 between October 1 and Christmas, just making items in his spare time.
16. Join a Direct Sales Company: Make $350 in one week
Everyone is buying this time of year, they might as well be buying from you!
Many of these companies even have special offers for new consultants at this time of year.
Also, you can get your gifts for loved ones at a discounted price!
Ok, so before joining any direct sales company, do your research.
Check their Better Business Bureau ratings.
Find out the company’s business model.
Commissions run between 10%-50%.
Find out if you are required to recruit other people, and how much commission you would make on them.
In some companies, you can only profit if you recruit others (MLM or multi-level marketing).
Find out if there are quotas.
Do you have to carry inventory?
Find out how much it is to start out.
It varies from free to thousands of dollars.
Can you sell online?
There are so many questions.
Find a company with products you already use, products you can be passionate about.
It is hard to sell something you don’t believe in. There are so many companies out there surely you can find one that gets you excited.
My mom and I already used their products.
My first sale to her, on what she was already using, paid for my starter kit ($100).
The commissions are 50%, which is the highest in the direct selling business.
They have a great car program.
I get 18% off my total phone bill, about $25 a month.
I like that it is a consumable product so I can keep selling to the same people over and over again.
When you sell a product with a long lifetime you are always searching for new customers.
With any direct selling business, you tend to get out of it what you put into it.
Some weeks I make $10 because I didn’t do any planning the week before, or I am not actively pursuing people.
Last week I profited $350.
I only worked about an hour and a half doing a single facial and explaining to another lady the steps of her skincare system.
Though everywhere I go I am handing out business cards, hanging flyers, and distributing catalogs or products.
If I do this at the place I am already going to, I can write my mileage off on taxes. There are TONS of tax benefits of having a home based business.
I expect to make close to $1000 over the next few weeks with open houses and a couple of holiday parties that I am doing.
Be sure to do your research before joining any direct sales company. Don’t ever invest more than you can afford to lose, in case your sales aren’t what you imagined.
17. Rent out extra space: Made $50 for an unused side of the garage
Many people travel for the holidays making it easy to earn some extra cash this time of year.
You can rent out a spare bedroom or your whole house.
Heck, you can even rent your driveway for cash!
I am checking into this while we are gone over the holidays.
It will help offset the expense of our holiday trip.
While many people are not comfortable having strangers in their homes, there is still the option of renting out your garage, or at least part of it.
A few years a friend needed a place to store some items. I rented him half of my two-car garage for $50 a month.
For something like this, I would recommend a Craigslist ad or cheap local paper ad to find a potential renter.
Oftentimes people just need storage for winter months for things like jet skis and boats.
18. Sell your extra stuff: Earned almost $2000 once
This is a perfect time of year to purge the house of unused items and make way for new items sure to flow in through the holiday season.
This may sound old-fashioned, but you could have a Saturday morning garage/tag/estate sale.
This is good if you have a ton of stuff.
I had one when my son was 2 with all of his baby stuff, clothes I would never fit into again, and a bunch of junk my parents just wanted out of their house.
I made almost $2,000.
Or, you could sell it through Facebook garage sale and other online yard sale apps and sites.
I both buy and sell on these sites.
I found an Authentic Coach wallet last week for $8! (Don’t tell, as I may give it to my mother for Christmas.)
I sell my kid’s outgrown clothes and toys on here.
I don’t do this if I have a ton of stuff to go through, or I post like things in lots.
- 5 Pairs of name brand boys athletic shorts for $25.
Depending on where you live, you can do porch pickups.
I have a plastic tub I leave on my porch and leave items in it, people pick them up, and leave the money.
I take no time to deliver.
I can make $200 doing this when the boys go up a size in clothes and selling last winter’s coats and boots.
There are also many sites to sell used electronics on, like Decluttr.
If you are in a rush go to a local GameStop or an electronics reseller.
I have found local gaming/electronics stores take a larger variety and older games. They also pay a bit more.
Also, sometimes they will offer a higher price if you take store credit instead of cash.
There is always at least one video game on the boys’ Christmas lists.
Make sure you have a photo ID.
To sell your clothes you can always go to your local consignment shop.
Almost every town has one.
The one in my town gives you 50% of what your item sells for. They keep the items for 90 days.
After 30 days they discount it, after 60 they put it on clearance.
They are VERY picky and usually only accept about 75% of what I take in there.
The plus to this is that they price and sell it.
When I have a lot of items and I am super busy this is my go-to.
I take store credit, so they give me an extra 10% on my cut of the sales.
I then use that to buy Christmas outfits and winter clothes.
19. Rent your Services and Skills: Earn whatever amount you can charge!
There are tons of ways to make money from your knowledge and skills, like answering questions, teaching, fixing things, etc.
First, get customers by telling friends/family and people you know.
Post it on your social media pages.
Place Craigslist ad or cheap local newspaper ad, you could even make flyers to distribute.
Ask for referrals, it is very important for these kinds of services.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate a good price for your services.
Each job will differ and price accordingly.
I held a small cooking class in my kitchen and made $250 in 2 hours.
20. Personal Chef/Catering: $25-$40/hr
Plenty of people are hosting events this time of year.
Many would buy a gift certificate for personal chef services to give to others.
Everyone likes to eat.
I have a girlfriend who caters the Thanksgiving dinner for a family every year.
She goes shopping and they pay her for all of the ingredients.
They pay her an additional $200 for cooking for 12-20 people.
She does it all ahead and delivers it at 11:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving with holding and warming instructions so she can spend Thanksgiving with her family and collects her dishes the next day.
Personal chef services tend to be between $25-$40 per hour after food cost.
Each event will be different and priced according to food cost and time and skill to execute.
21. Personal Bartender: $15-$40/hr
What is any holiday event without some festive beverages?
Maybe your chef skills aren’t up to par, but your social skills and martinis bring the party to life.
This too should be priced according to hours involved and skills required.
Are you just pouring wine and beer, or are you making hand-crafted cocktails and sabering champagne bottles?
Your fee should be $25-$40 an hour if you are mixing drinks.
Typically at events like these, you are not tipped and make a flat hourly rate.
I did one with 2 kinds of boxed wine and a keg of bud light for $15 an hour, but that is the lowest I would go.
22. Personal Shopping: Earn $25/hr
Some people HATE shopping (I know crazy, right…)
Others are physically unable to.
This is where personal shopping comes in…
With the help of Amazon this should be a breeze.
I did this in the days before Amazon and got $10 an hour to help take a little old lady shopping around the mall, Target, and Walmart to get Christmas gifts for her grandkids.
Another time a friend gave me $20 to pick up his girlfriend’s gift because he didn’t want to go into Victoria’s Secret.
The hardest part is finding clients, especially when you are just getting started.
Thankfully, these days there are tons of websites and apps that make it easy to find clients.
Here are places that pay you to shop and deliver items for people:
- Shipt: Get paid to deliver groceries.
- Amazon Flex: Get paid to deliver Amazon products (read our review).
- InstaCart: Get paid to buy and deliver groceries.
These platforms make it really easy to get started as a personal shopper/delivery person.
And with the business increase around the Holidays, I’d imagine there’d be more demand, so you don’t have to worry about not having enough clients.
23. Decorating: $15-$30/hr
This time of year is known for its decorations.
Many older people are unable to assemble a tree or hang outdoor lights.
Many other people are just too busy.
If you are not putting any of your own artistic impression into the decorations and simply putting up their yearly decorations, charge $15 per hour depending on how difficult the job is.
If you are doing your own designs and shopping for the material double it to $30/hr.
24. Housekeeping: Up to $35/hr
This one is good any time of the year because people often want the service on a regular basis.
Often though, people will spring for one time housekeeping around the holidays.
People want their homes to be in impeccable shape when hosting holiday events or out of town in-laws.
Husbands will also buy a one time deep cleaning for their wives as a Christmas gift.
Housekeeping services start around $20 some go up to $35, and that is without bringing your own materials and supplies.
Good housekeepers are always in high demand.
25. Gift Wrapping: $3-$5 per gift
I am good at wrapping gifts, and I enjoy it.
I made $100 in one day for gift wrapping services.
It was $3-$10 per present depending on size.
Add $1 if they wanted a bow on it.
And gift storage until Christmas Eve for the entire order for $25.
26. Leaf Removal: Made $300 in 2 days
This time of year lends itself to a one time yard work opportunity, that doesn’t require a ton of extra equipment like others.
You can either price by the hour or size of the yard.
When I did it I charged by the size of the yard and how many leaves there were, so each price was different.
I did it with my then husband and he cleaned gutters while I raked leaves.
We made $300 in 2 days, that was 12 years ago.
We just walked around my parent’s subdivision and knocked on doors and asked people.
27. Snow Removal: Earned $200 in a single day
After the leaves fall, then the snow comes.
The same year I did leaf removal, I did snow removal.
I went around the same area to clean off sidewalks and driveways.
For extra money, we cleaned off cars and scraped icy windshields.
I found you make more money per hour this way than leaf removal because people don’t want to go out in the cold.
We made $200 in one day working off and on.
28. Babysitting: Earned $300
Once again, for extra holiday cash you don’t want to commit to anything on a regular basis.
One year I didn’t have anything going on for New Year’s Eve.
I hosted a kid’s New Years’ Eve Party and babysat my neighbors 4 sons and their 2 cousins overnight.
I made $300.
In hindsight, I could have made quite a bit more!
Start advertising your services only and put a limit on how many kids you (and maybe a helper) can watch.
You could easily get $100 per child on New Year’s Eve.
Another idea is to host a kid’s holiday party on a Saturday day into the evening. This would allow parents a large chunk of time to shop, wrap, and prepare for the holidays without peeping eyes.
I would offer 8 hours of childcare for $50.
29. Photography: $100 per session
Last year I bought a new SRL camera as an early Christmas present for the family.
To help recoup the cost I took some holiday photos for my coworkers.
For $100 I would go to the location of their choosing, take photos for an hour, edit photos for an hour, and give them a disc with all the photos for them to print off what they wished.
I am just an amateur photographer.
I am sure a person with more photography knowledge than me could get much more.
I did photos for 2 coworkers.
One of the people even asked me to come to do pictures again in the spring.
Then I did one for my cousin for her Christmas gift.
If you don’t have a nice camera, check your local library.
Ours has photo and video equipment for short term check out.
And let’s not forget that with today’s technology, some smartphones actually take better pictures than some of the cheaper DSLR cameras.
And if you like taking pictures with your phone, read our post on how to sell your Instagram pictures.
30. Dress up: $100 for half a day
The holiday season can bring you some extra cash if you are willing to dress up for the season.
Santa Claus is the most obvious, but Mrs. Claus, elves, carolers, and even the Grinch can be popular characters.
My friend worked for a reindeer farm that was recently advertising for a Santa to pose for pictures with children and live reindeer for $100 for a morning of work at the local Rural King. They provided the costume.
Keep your eye in the local papers and Facebook groups to find Santa Claus jobs as well as other holiday character related jobs.
If you have your own costume put out ads and book private parties.
Extra tip from MoneyPantry
Jessica shared some great tips on how a single parent can earn extra cash, especially around the holidays.
There are also many other options.
Here’s another great option that anyone can use to bring in some much-needed cash…
31. Take online surveys: Earn an extra $50-100/mo
Companies use customer feedback to improve their products and services.
And they get that feedback through survey sites that conduct market research studies.
You can join those survey sites/panels for free and earn anywhere from $0.50 to $10-$20 per survey.
The best part is that most survey panels nowadays have apps that let you take available surveys from anywhere and anytime.
Interested in making some extra cash by giving your opinion?
Join these panels from some of the best paying survey sites:
These are just the extra things I have done or heard of others doing around the holidays to make extra cash.
I am sure the list could go on. I would love to hear other ideas on how you have earned extra holiday dough.
Please share some of the ways you earn extra money during the holidays, especially during Christmas.