Originally this was going to be a list for my two teenagers but some of these ideas are better suited to adults with a valid driver’s license and a bit of know-how. Some of these take a bit of planning and organizing, but most of them could be done on a fairly spur of the moment case by case basis. The great thing about a lot of these ideas is that you’re spreading holiday cheer by helping to make someone else’s otherwise stressful and overwhelming to-do list a little bit easier. Who wouldn’t pay to have someone come do a few of these things for you? Mostly, what’s important is that you remember to provide a quality item or service to the buyer with a smile on your face and in your heart. Have fun with these!
1. Baby-sit for people who need to do some Christmas shopping without their little ones tagging along. Anyone trustworthy who is over the age of about thirteen or fourteen can do this one. It’s hectic enough to get in and out of the malls and shopping centers without having to drag toddlers along. Contact friends, family, coworkers, and members of your spiritual community to let them know that you’re available for holiday babysitting. This can include time that the parents need to get away for office parties, charity events, and volunteering to help the elderly and less fortunate members of their community.
2. Grab a ladder and offer to clean leaves out of your neighbors’ gutters. Many people are so busy during the summer months that they completely forget to clean all of the debris from their gutters when the sun is out and it’s dry outside. It’s cold and yucky outside now and many people are too busy to get to it themselves. They’ll probably be glad that you offered and they can check it off of their to-do lists. This isn’t one for the younger kids. However, they can offer to rake up the leaves in their neighbors’ yards. Adults could offer to do both the gutters and the yard as one big project for a nice reasonable price. It could also be a father & son side business that you do together – while dad cleans the neighbors gutters, junior rakes up the leaves in the lawn.
3. Bake something amazing and offer to sell it to your friends and coworkers so they won’t have to do their own holiday baking. You probably have to be careful about selling your baked goods to professional organizations and such, but you could do some sideline baking to help out your friends, neighbors, and coworkers who are going to be entertaining guests over the holidays and simply won’t have the time to do their own baking. Have you got an awesome recipe that stands out as everyone’s absolute favorite? It’s the hit of every potluck? Make up some tiny sample sizes or bring it in to the office break room and serve up samples to your potential clients. Then while their mouths are watering, tell them that for a fee you’ll bring them one to their home the day before their guests are to arrive. You’ll have to work out the scheduling and cost of ingredients and such, but this could be a fun way to make some money and spread some serious joy. The hostess will be so pleased when she pulls your work of art out of the fridge and her guests ooh and ah over the scrumptious homemade dessert she didn’t even have to bake herself.
4. Offer to collect people’s empty soda cans and cash them in. My son raised almost $300 last spring doing this so that he could go to a training course to become a camp counselor for the little kids at our church. He went door to door offering to do yard work and most people just handed him bags and bags of pop cans they didn’t want to take the time to cash in. He collected most of them over one weekend and then cashed them all in the following weekend. We live really close to a grocery store where he could walk to cash them in, so I didn’t even have to get my car dirty with sticky soda drippings! This is a really good one for the younger kids to do.
5. Sell something on eBay. I know a number of people who make a decent second income all year round by digging around for antiques and such from the Goodwill and then fixing them, cleaning them up, and selling them for a much higher price on eBay. You have to know what to look for, but these folks will pick up an old pair of stereo speakers for $10 or $15 and then sell them on eBay for $200. The customer pays for shipping. You can also do this through garage sales, flea markets, and estate sells too. Most of the time and work goes into hunting for the cool treasures that someone will want to purchase.
6. Hang up people’s outdoor Holiday lights for them. As a single mom, I would have loved it if someone had come to my house and hung the Christmas lights on my house for me. My children always wanted us to decorate the outside of the house and I hated not being able to do that for them. I didn’t know the first thing about how to go about hanging them up. I didn’t even own a ladder! So, I would think that you could go around offering to hang up people’s outdoor holiday lights for a fee. It they are like me and don’t even have lights but want to get some, you could offer your expertise as to which kind to buy and where to get the best prices and such.
7. Grab a broom or a shovel and offer to clean the neighborhood sidewalks. This is another good one for the younger teens. There’s always sidewalks that need swept or shoveled. And there’s always someone too busy or too tired to do it themselves.
8. Work a second job as seasonal help at one of the department stores in the mall. Most of the major department stores hire extra help in October or November so they can have them fully trained by the time the really busy holiday shopping season kicks in. They are kept on until after the inventory counts are done in January. Then most are let go if they haven’t quit already. Those who have proven themselves to be quality employees will often be asked to stay on longer.
9. Sell something at holiday bazaars. I suspect that you have to get these kinds of events lined up ahead of time with a bit of preplanning and such, but plenty of folks make a decent seasonal income by selling cool arts and crafts type items at those holiday bazaars. Often a percentage of the sales goes towards a fundraiser, but you still make enough to make it worth your time and energy to create the art and to hang out at the art shows.
10. Sell your plasma. We all know how important it is to donate blood during the holidays, but many people don’t know that you can get paid for sitting through a procedure quite similar to the donation process. The difference is that they run your blood through a machine that separates the plasma from the red blood cells and puts the red blood cells back into your body. It take longer and I guess that’s why they are willing to pay you for your time. Years ago, I used to do this when my kids were really little and we needed some extra money for upcoming birthdays and such. They wouldn’t let you do it more than once a week or so and they only paid about $25 each time, so you had to plan ahead if you were going to raise $100 or $200 for something you wanted to purchase. Contact your local Red Cross or other blood donation centers for help finding the plasma centers.
11. Clean houses for others who have holiday guests coming. Typically, if someone has out of town guests coming for the holidays, they have a lot more on their to-do list then just cleaning their toilets and shampooing the carpets. You could become a real lifesaver for those in a crunch who are too busy, too old, or too tired to do a thorough deep cleaning before the guests arrive. Some might even hire you again to clean up after the guests leave too! Teens can do this just as easily as the adults can.
12. Run errands and do odd holiday jobs like wrapping gifts or delivering packages to the post office. You could start a little side business where all you do is run other people’s errands for them. Drop off and pick up the dry cleaning. Take their pet to the vet. Deliver cupcakes to the charity fundraiser. Pick up a handful of gift certificates from national department stores that will later be mailed out. Address and stamp their Christmas cards for them. Do their grocery shopping. Pick up new printer cartridge and some desk calendars for them. It’s all of those tiny little errands that make for frazzled schedules and crazy timelines. For a fee, you could do it for them.
13. Decorate the inside of people’s homes or offices for the holidays. You don’t have to be a professional interior decorator to be helpful. If you’ve got a reputation as having a good eye for attractive and festive decorating, you can help others to set up their trees, hang garland, and place some nice poinsettia here and there. You can help make people’s homes and their office space a warm inviting environment and also include coming back after the holidays to break it all down into to storage containers as part of the deal. I hate tearing down the decorations and would love to pay someone to put it all back away!
14. Cater some dinners for the extremely busy shoppers or for Holiday parties. Those who are not awesome cooks need not apply for this one! Let’s say that your boss is having the annual company Christmas party at his house and his wife is swamped with running kids back and forth to choir concerts and peewee football camp while shopping and planning for her in-laws who will be flying in to visit only three days after her husband’s company party at her house!!! You could offer to cook and cater the event for her. You’d once again be making someone else’s holiday season so much easier while earning extra money for yourself. Decide in advance on a menu and who’s purchasing the ingredients needed. Then all you have to come up with is a dollar figure for your time and grandma’s secret recipe for those little mini-cakes that everyone loves so much.
15. Chauffer someone’s children to and from school and other activities so the parents have some free time. This isn’t quite the same as babysitting. You’d be amazed at how much time a person can spend picking up and driving two or three kids to different events and hauling musical instruments and sporting gear from one event to the next. You could simply run a taxi service for children and teenagers who need rides from point A to B. You don’t have to hang out and watch them once they get there. Just make sure they arrive on time. Even just having an afternoon at home to cook and clean house while someone else gathers up all of the kids and brings them all home could make a world of difference for someone.
As you can see, some of these services could easily be turned into a year-round side job or they could be dropped as soon as the holidays are over. Perhaps you’ll find that you love catering people’s meals, you love refurbishing antiques, or you love running errands and taxiing others around from place to place. You could go into business for yourself and by next year, you could quit your ‘real job’ and be happily self-employed. Then again, your teenager could discover how much time and work it takes just to raise enough money for some generous Christmas shopping. After learning the value of a dollar earned, they might decide that college is a good idea after all!
Copyright 2004, Skye Thomas, Tomorrow’s Edge