) -- If you're looking at your end-of-year finances with apprehension, you're not alone. This has been a brutal year for small businesses, and many owners aren't nearly where they hoped to be financially.
But December and its non-negotiable expenses loom. Presents for your kids and spouse (not to mention mother-in-law, nephews and nieces, et. al.). Food for the holiday feast you'll be hosting and provisions for the out-of-town relatives coming to stay. Excursions to keep the kids entertained while they're off school. A bonus to the babysitter who watches those kids while you're working.
How to cover all those costs when you're already cash-strapped? Consider picking up a temporary holiday job.
Despite the dismal overall employment numbers, thousands of places around the country are hiring seasonal workers at this very moment. Most jobs are at big-box retailers desperate for more employees on the ground during the holiday rush, jobs for which you're probably overqualified. But you can earn enough cash to pay for all those end-of-year expenses, and avoid starting 2010 with a whole new stack of credit-card debt.
The easiest way to find a holiday job is to simply ask at your local mall or shopping center. You can also check out Web sites that specialize in advertising hourly positions. SnagAJob.com is filled with job listings from retailers such as
Toys "R" Us
. SimplyHired.com has listings from stores as well as temporary opportunities for registered nurses and accountants (search under "seasonal").
If you've got administrative-office experience, temp agencies and national staffing services such as
are filling positions to cover for employees taking vacation in December.
are also hiring temporary workers, since December is their busiest delivery season. Positions can range from package handlers at service centers to driver assistants, who help make deliveries in high-density areas.
Before you rush off to fill out your application, keep a few considerations in mind:
1. Understand the time commitment:
Many stores want workers who are available overnight or during the early-morning hours to restock inventory. Can you handle a night shift? It's also very likely you'll be expected to work the Friday after Thanksgiving, as well as Christmas Eve. Will you be resentful if you're working long hours while the rest of your family is on vacation? Does your spouse understand that you won't be around to help entertain all those visiting relatives?
2. Get the most from your employee discount:
Maximize your earnings by working at a store where you can take full advantage of the employee discount. Apply first at retailers where you can do the majority of your holiday shopping, and therefore save the most money. Be aware that merchandise discounts can vary considerable: Toys "R" Us gives seasonal workers 10% off.
offers 20% discounts, and craft-store chain Michael's gives temporary workers 25% off.
3. Make yourself available for future work:
For most workers, a seasonal job is simply a chance to earn some money relatively quickly. But it might also lead to longer-term opportunities. If you find you like the atmosphere and the managers, it doesn't hurt to sell yourself as an ad-hoc substitute going forward. Offer to be available on an occasional basis to cover for absent employees, and you could earn some extra cash throughout the winter.
But here's hoping you won't have to.
-- Reported by Elizabeth Blackwell in Chicago.
Elizabeth Blackwell is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She is the author of Frommer's Chicago guidebook, and writes for the Wall Street Journal, Chicago, and other national magazines.