When you're flush, holiday shopping is something to get excited about. The thrill of the hunt! The deals! And that little special something you pick up for you along the way.
But when money is tight, enjoying the seasonal splurge gets a lot harder. By now we all know that relying on a credit card is a recipe for future grief and yet those holiday wish lists aren't getting any shorter. The solution? A seasonal side hustle that can become a year-round way of staying in the black.
What kind of side hustle? Any part-time gig that can earn you some extra cash without taking too much time away from your family obligations, your day job or your sanity.
The ideal side job should put some extra money in your pocket but not at the expense of your personal wellbeing or your wallet, so look for opportunities that are flexible and don't have big league startup costs.
Here are some low or no start-up cost side job possibilities that can make holiday shopping fun again.
Selling your art or talent
Even though it can look like the market is saturated, your painting, drawing, design and photography skills will always be in demand and the work is ultra flexible. From mini newborn shoots on Saturdays to custom Christmas cards, creating artful or original products on a commission basis has serious earning potential.
It doesn't take much to set up a retail website and social media provides plenty of opportunities for free or cheap marketing.
Driving your own car for cash
Work as much or as little as you want with companies like Uber and Lyft, which let drivers set their own hours. The main challenge most drivers face is figuring out how to balance fuel costs, maintenance costs and taxes against the dispatch companies' present fares.
That sounds like a pain but there are side benefits. Joining a car service can be an amazing networking opportunity so if the product you'd really like to be marketing is you, sign up.
Start your own company
It reads like a big deal endeavor, but starting a business can actually be relatively simple. On the solo side of entrepreneurship, there is one-woman housekeeping and house painting companies.
On the other side are established companies like Amway (which retails everything from cosmetics to home care products) that let people set up shop with a brand people recognize. Just make sure the opportunities you're exploring have low or no startup costs and that your state won't require you to get a business license.
Teach or tutor online
There are hundreds of virtual agencies online that match up struggling students with experienced tutors and teachers. If you have a knack for math or English, know that a degree is not all these companies look for in their tutors.
Credentials are not necessarily as important as your ability to help people understand tricky concepts, and more often than not having a few very satisfied students will lead to assignments. The best part? You get the satisfaction of helping others on top of a paycheck.
Become a content creator
Digital marketing is big business these days and brands both large and small need more and more content to succeed. There is steady work out there for freelance writers who can work fast and deliver blog posts, white papers, essays and marketing materials.
Hook up with an agency for steady work or go solo and try to develop relationships with local small and midsized businesses that need help with their marketing collateral.
Organize for others
Even if you're not the most organized gal on your block you can still hang out a shingle and start working as a personal organizer or personal assistant. It's surprisingly easy to help people get their personal lives or businesses in order – because their clutter and chaos is not your clutter and chaos.
Set up a website and a Facebook page, then check out the small business networking groups in your area to start meeting potential clients. Word of mouth will be your biggest driver of new business.
If you're feeling down because you weren't expecting to be feeling the pinch this year, don't sweat it. Side jobs are the new norm and the holidays can take a big bite out of even an upper middles savings account. Even better, all of the opportunities listed above deliver in the short term but have the potential to grow into something more.
The most important thing you need to succeed, whether you're working to put presents under the tree or looking to grow your nest egg, is an entrepreneurial spirit. That's what will let you make the most of each of the aforementioned side jobs.
And once you're seeing the cash come in? Holiday shopping will once again be the mood booster it ought to be.