Should You Get a Seasonal Holiday Job to Pay Down Debt?

pic1Hi guys! Cat here. I was just talking to my best friend who told me she wants to get a job at the mall for the holidays.

She just wanted to make some extra cash since she recently moved out on her own (woo hoo!) I actually convinced her to start freelance writing online, and she’s done amazing with it!

Still, if you don’t want to work for yourself, getting a seasonal job is a great way to generate extra funds that you can use for just about anything, like paying down debt.

When people set out to conquer their debt, they tend to focus a lot on cutting expenses. They forget that getting more income from a job change, promotion, or extra part-time work can provide another way to attack debt.

So, if you want to apply for a seasonal job, first take a step back and ask yourself these questions:

Are You Sacrificing Long-Term Goals?

Most seasonal jobs are in industries like retail or shipping. Stores need more cashiers and sales personnel during the busy holiday season, and shipping companies like UPS need package handlers to help with holiday shipments. A job like this might let you earn some more money in the short-term, but it could also distract you from better long-term plans that can earn you a much larger amount of money.

For example, if you’ve been contemplating returning to college to earn an MBA or any other graduate degree, many universities have application deadlines right after the first of the year. You might also have to take tests, like the GMAT or GRE, as part of the admissions process. You’ll need to schedule time at the testing center, and you’ll also need to study for the tests. It’s better to focus on the long-term opportunity that will secure you a larger future paycheck than to earn a few extra bucks right before the holidays.

pic2How Will This Affect My Taxes?

If your seasonal earnings bump you into a higher tax bracket, then you’ll probably lose much of the benefit you’d get from taking a seasonal job. For example, if you file your taxes as married filing jointly, you and your spouse will start by paying 10% on your first $18,150. For any income you earn that’s more than $18,150 but less than $73,800, you’ll pay 15% back in taxes. If you earn more than $73,800, you’ll pay 25% on the additional amount because you’ll bump up to the next marginal tax bracket. Therefore, if you earned $1,000 from a seasonal job at minimum wage, you’d actually only earn $750. You’d actually take home less than minimum wage for the hours that you work.

So, before you take the job, make sure that you calculate not only what your gross pay will be before taxes but also your take-home pay after taxes. If taxes will take a significant bite out of your gross pay, then the extra job might not be worth your time.

What’s the Opportunity Cost?

Every decision that you make means saying “no” to other opportunities. In other words, taking that seasonal job will mean giving up other things. Most seasonal jobs require you to work nights and weekends, and you might have to work on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Christmas Eve. You might also have to report in on the day after Christmas, and you’ll most like have to keep working through New Year’s Day.

Also, the holidays can be a busy and emotionally fraught time even when you don’t have an extra job (some longtime readers might remember I’m a total Scrooge!) If you really need the money, then having a tight schedule is a small price to pay for financial peace of mind. However, if the money is a nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have, you might want to prioritize family time.

What Are the Added Benefits?

pic3One of the biggest perks of some seasonal holiday jobs is getting an extra discount on your holiday shopping. For example, an employee who works for Old Navy gets a discount not only at Old Navy but also at Gap, Gap Outlet, and Banana Republic. If you do most of your shopping in just a few places, getting a seasonal job at your favorite store could mean big discounts for holiday shopping.

Adding It Up

Ultimately, seasonal jobs are great for people who really need money, don’t mind a little extra holiday stress, and would benefit from getting great employee discounts for the holidays. Just make sure that you’re not sacrificing long-term opportunities — or stressing yourself and your family out — for that little extra cash.

Will you be looking for a seasonal job this year?


  1. Michelle Adams says

    Hello Cat. Amazingly, I actually quit my seasonal retail job (that lasted three years) to enjoy the holiday season. I contemplated keeping it until after the holidays to pay off some of my credit card debt, and I really enjoyed the holiday discount. But, I realized that I couldn’t fathom working another Thanksgiving, with the store that I worked at opening at 6pm (two hours earlier than last year). It was downright depressing given the fact that I missed time with my family and friends.

    I do think that if people can handle the stress and need the money for discounts, then it’s a really great option. Holiday season, though, the associates get thrown into the job with little or no training, just because it’s so busy. They have to roll with the punches and just go with it.

  2. I was hell bent on getting an extra holiday job this year. I already work in retail but I wanted some extra cash for holiday gifts. After many applications and interview offers I ended up deciding that an extra job would just be a distraction to studying for my real estate license exam. Not worth it. So many people only look at the immediate good of making extra cash.

  3. Argh, Cat, that whole idea just stressed me out! I’m pretty Scroogey too. Except for children, I just don’t partake in gift giving anymore. Everyone knows it. If they give me a gift anyway, I’d rather not take it, but I’m not going to be a “you know what” hole about it. But they can’t say they weren’t forewarned. I see no point in spending a ton of money on adults. Everyone just save your money and buy yourselves what you want. Wish Jesus a Happy Birthday and help the homeless whenever we can, not just at Christmas time. Let’s stop the consumerist/personal debt raising insanity! That’s my Scroogey rant for the day. I reserve the right to pick it back up tomorrow! 😛

  4. Hm. I don’t think so. The holidays seem hectic enough as it is and I won’t get as much time w/family and friends as it is. That said, I may pick up the pace with my side hustles, but that’s more because they’re relaxing… not necessarily for the money

    That said, if something presented itself to me, I would entertain it. I wouldn’t mind a little extra cash.

  5. It’s also good to consider jobs that are seasonal, but in a different season. For example, I work at a cell phone store. Every year, a month or two before an iPhone launch, we always increase our headcount. Sometimes it’s October, sometimes February, but it usually doesn’t line up with any other big holidays so there’s no stress added on to the stress of dealing with crazed Apple fans! 😛 hahaha

  6. I won’t get a part time job seasonal or otherwise, for the simple reason we would loose money! My husband works overtime quite often, if I had a job and my husband had to turn down overtime it would cost us. His time and and a half, and double time pay is more than I could make at a part time job.

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