Need a little extra cash this holiday season? Who doesn’t! Whether you’re currently employed or looking for a job, you can practically end up ho, ho, homeless playing Santa to everyone on your holiday list. Given the current state of economic affairs you have two options when it comes to gift giving: 1) Forego the presents, or 2) Score some extra cash. In lieu of robbing a liquor store (which I DO NOT recommend) there are some very reasonable ways to earn a little extra money during the holidays. Even though it’s probably too late to get hired on for seasonal work at places like Target or Best Buy, you can still find a few bucks in between the metaphoric couch cushions of Christmas. To get your brain working in a creative (yet fiscally-minded) holiday mode, here are five easy ways to earn extra holiday cash (with very little effort).

Personal Shopper

No, I don’t mean the kind who shops for the executive who can’t be bothered with picking out his wife’s lingerie. Those types of personal shoppers are pros and usually have a client list that would rival The Mayflower Madam.

The personal shopping I’m talking about involves a grocery store. The holidays are so crazy with parties, children’s recitals, concerts, plays, family reunion dinners, blah, blah, blah! A person hardly has time to think, let alone grocery shop. That’s where you come in. Contact the busiest people you know and offer to do their holiday grocery shopping. Services such as this typically charge 10% of the total grocery bill, plus gas charges for commutes over 10 miles. You deliver the groceries to their home and everyone is happy!

Gift-wrapping

Okay, granted, for this one you need to have a little talent in that you have to know how to wrap a gift that doesn’t look like it was done by a first grader with a broken arm. If you possess such talent then the best way to go about this is to put a flyer out (paper or email) in your neighborhood and office advertising your services (be sure to include pick-up and delivery options for an additional charge). Then go to places like Walmart, Rite-Aid, or Target and buy cheap, but cute, wrapping paper and ribbon, and wait for your clientele to contact you. But be prepared for a wave of work the week before Christmas. People who don’t wrap their own gifts tend to wait until the last minute to buy them.

House/Pet Sitting

If you know you’re going to be around the whole month of December, and you have friends, co-workers, or acquaintances who are going out of town for holidays, offer to house sit, pointing out that you’ll be around all month to do things such as water the plants and take in the mail. And if they have pets offer to care for them, as well, for an extra charge.

For people with pets, at-home pet sitting is a valuable service, especially if their pets are older or unaccustomed to being boarded. Find out what the local pet boarding service charges and then charge less. Regardless, you’re looking at anywhere from $20 to $50 per day, depending on the needs of the pets. Not bad, considering you’d just be sitting in your own home, otherwise, earning nothing.

Holiday Card/Package Mailing Service

Believe it or not, many people still send out Christmas cards, even if they don’t have time to do it. That’s where you come in. For those busy folks who got their 100 cards printed at Costco, but still haven’t sent them out, offer to help. Your services can include address label data entry, addressing the envelopes (either by hand or with the labels you print), affixing return address labels and stamps, and then taking the whole mess to the post office. Let your clients pick and choose from a menu of your services. You can charge by the card or by the hour, whichever you seems fair to you.

Offer the same services to people who need to ship gifts, but don’t have time to get to the UPS store or post office. For a fee YOU can be the one to box everything up and wait in line. It’s best to charge by the hour when mailing packages for others, since you’ll probably end up spending more time on this than you would expect.

Craft Fairs

Okay, so you’re not crafty, but hey, you can sit in a booth, right? For those of you who have creative friends and family who make all those holiday decorations that come out at craft fairs every year, offer to help with the booth for a small fee (and don’t agree to take it in trade for gift items, UNLESS they’re selling something you’d buy anyway). You probably won’t make a lot of money helping in a craft fair booth, but again if you’re not doing anything anyway, why not get paid for it?

The idea is to look for low impact ways to earn extra money that don’t necessarily exist at other times of the year. Remember you still need to be able to do your “day job” or continue to look for work, so don’t bite off more than you can chew (unless, of course, it involves a candy cane or plum pudding).

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