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Should You Take on a Part-Time Holiday Job?

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December has arrived, which means the holidays are in full swing. In a perfect world, we all would have set a holiday budget and saved for it all year long. But this isn’t a perfect world and most of us are spending this month scrambling to find gifts and the money to pay for them. So how can you manage to buy all the presents you need without going into massive amounts of credit card debt? One legitimate option is to take on a part-time job just for the holiday season. Let’s go over the pros and cons of this so you can decide if this is a solution that will work for you.

Part-Time Pro: Extra Money

This one’s pretty obvious, extra work = extra money. It’s true that working at a retail store probably won’t pay as well as your day job. But retail stores are usually in desperate need for extra employees this time of year and willing to take them on temporarily. That means you could decide to give this a try today and have a job by the weekend. You can’t beat finding a short-term, easy-to-do solution for your holiday money needs! Retail stores also tend to offer short shifts of 3-5 hours which means it’s easy to swing by after work to get a shift in.

Extra pro: you may even find a store that gives sales bonuses so you can earn even more on top of your hourly wage. And don’t forget — if you’re honest with the places you are applying to you can tell them that you only intend to do this during the holiday season and plan to quit in the new year. If it works out really well, you might even take this on as a holiday trend every year!

Part-Time Con: Time Consumption and Potential Stress

While retail jobs may sometimes be easy to get, they aren’t always easy to do. The customers you encounter will likely be just as stressed as you are to get their holiday shopping done and that can translate into some rough shifts. The good part is that means your shifts will probably go very fast! Most retail employees don’t have the problem of being bored at work this time of year. The bad news is that you may find yourself exhausted after a few hours of ringing people up, straightening up a store that’s been torn through by last-minute shoppers, and being on your feet for long periods of time.

Part-Time Pro: Store Discounts

Everyone knows the real fun of working for a retail store — the discounts! Some stores are even part of a large group under one owner which can allow you to get a discount at all the associated stores. So if you’re thinking of doing this, try to find a job at a store or conglomerate of stores that you would already go to for holiday gifts. That way you can earn extra money to pay for the gifts and pay considerably less for them. This could give you the ability to purchase more gifts or actually put some of that extra money away for the new year!

Part-Time Con: Store Discounts

Are you a shopper like me? If you are, then the store discounts can be just as much a con as they are a pro. I personally avoid the mall like the plague as I’ve found that’s the best way to keep from spending money on things I don’t necessarily need. So when I’ve taken on part-time retail jobs in the past, I definitely ended up being too tempted by all the goods around me and spent as much as I made (and sometimes more than I made). If you decide to take on part-time job for the holidays, make sure you work at a store that won’t tempt you to buy too many gifts for yourself! During those few minutes you have before or after a rush, you just may find yourself picking out items that you’ll buy when you finish your shift — nearly everyone in retail does this. If you have to work at a store you like because that’s also where you intend to buy gifts for others, exercise that self-control by making sure you don’t mentally shop during your shift. Or, in my case, just don’t even try to take this option on.

If you go through this list and decide that taking on a part-time holiday job is for you, then great! You’ve effectively found a way to prep for the holidays without going into debt for them. If you decide it’s not for you, then don’t despair. There are still other ways you can earn extra money or save money on gifts this holiday season. You could earn extra money from home or get creative by doing handmade gifts or custom gifts from great sites like Etsy.com. In the absolute worst case scenario, communicate with your loved ones by telling them that you’ll need to be more frugal than usual this year. It’s just not worth going into credit card debt to celebrate the holidays, so don’t let this season of cheer and time with your loved ones ruin your finances in the year to come!

Image: Doug Wertman, via Flickr

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