Side Hustle #55: Playing Santa Claus

[If you’ve ever wondered how much you get paid for being Santa, today’s the day you find out :) My man Lance gives us the inside scoop in our latest side hustle series while yours truly is out playing Guy-Who-Waits-Til-The-Last-Minute-Claus getting presents… I swear, next year I’m jumping in a big red suit and making money instead!]

Santa loves to give, but he loves to receive as well. And not just cookies and milk. It costs a lot of money to run an operation with ten’s of thousands of employees, so Santa has to go out and pick up a few bucks on the side to cover the costs.

Enter Mikey Clause

One of my employees, not one of the new car ones, goes out each December and picks up $1,000-$2,000 by playing Santa. He not only does it because he likes the extra cash, but he loves making children happy and having a party a few nights each week. The money he makes helps pay for Christmas for his family, and also to save a little extra on the side as well.

Santa or “Mikey,” as we call him around the workplace, takes his side hustle extremely seriously. He spent a good amount to pick up a nice Santa suit. When you pick up a couple hundred kids on your knee it can wear out quick. He goes all out and even has some powder to change his eyebrows from brown to white. He takes it seriously because if he does a good job he gets return business the next year and a lot of word of mouth advertising.

In fact, I just had him come to our church party with about 200 people and man was he amazing. He is very interactive with the crowd leading songs, telling jokes, and meeting with each child to put on a good show.

How Much Santa Charges

Mikey Clause does around 7-10 events each December. About half are private family parties, 25% are corporate/company parties and the other 25% are church parties.

Private family parties: His rates are based on how far he has to travel, and how many kids are at the party. They are usually a lot smaller than corporate or religious parties so his rates are a little lower.

The general fee scale is:

  • 1-10 kids: $50
  • 11-15 kids: $60
  • 16-20 kids: $70
  • 21-25 kids: $80
  • 26-30 kids: $90

And on and on up the scale…

Corporate/Company parties: $150 minimum… just depends on how long, and what you want, Santa to do at the party. Mikey Clause has made up to $500 from an all day corporate party.

Church/Religious parties: $150 minimum… around here the church parties end up having around 100 children so that is a lot of kids to get through.

Premium Rates as Santa

Do you want Mikey Clause on the 24th or even the 25th? Well, that is going to cost you extra. It’s actually the two most requested days besides Friday and Saturday nights before Christmas.

You really have to offer him a sweet deal to be away from his family on the 24th or 25th, but some folks are willing to shell out well over $500 on those days for him to come and hand out gifts directly to the kids for an hour. That’s not too shabby for an hour of work!

What You Get for Premium Santa

Santa will come and tell jokes, lead the group in a few songs, bring up dad or the CEO and have them put on antlers and a red nose to lead everyone in Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer.

Everyone gets to sit on Santa’s lap and get as many pictures as they like. (Mikey Clause says the moms always like to hop on to get pictures of them kissing Santa on the cheek)

santa claus church

Premium Santa will hand out gifts to children as well. All the tags on the presents must be stickers, with the names written clearly with a sharpie so Santa can read them okay. He’ll then call out each child by name and have them come up to get their gift from Santa.

The presents have to be outside and usually hidden in a garbage bag on the side of the house so he can transfer them to his big red bag so he is all ready to walk through the door. He only goes through the front door, btw – no chimney action. After all, he is 370 pounds… there’s no extra padding in there.

So far Mikey Clause has turned down all the premium events this year because they want him to travel too far. While the money is nice, it can’t come at the cost of being away from his own family all day on the holiday.

Advertising Online

Mikey Clause gets a lot of return business each year. However, he also advertises online on a local popular website and gets quite a few calls that way too.


Mikey Clause isn’t the only one out there trying to make some cash on the side. There is a lot of competition. Checking the ads online where Mikey advertises, there are a few dozen other Santa Clauses on there as well. Along with some people who are renting out Santa suits from $25-50 a day.

One of the big advantages is that Mikey Clause has a lot of positive referrals from customers. He hands out the contacts from people he has done business with to help verify his work. After all, you are calling some stranger from an online ad to come dress up in a costume and hang out with your kids. You don’t really want to take a chance with that one.

It Adds Up Over Time

Mikey Clause figures he has made well over $15,000 the last decade or so while going around spreading holiday cheer. He says demand has been picking up as the economy gets better. He says the demand for premium has been going up as well from wealthy families or companies, and so he has spent more time trying to work on those than saying “yes” to just anything that comes his way.

What do you think? Want to play Santa next holiday season? :)

Lance is a former TV journalist turned PR Manager who is on a quest to end the world from the fear of investment. Lance became well above average wealthy due to his long time hatred of debt. He has no miracles or luck in his story; just steady, healthy, long term action with a lot of investing and fun along the way. All pictures above are of Mikey Claus.

Want to read 50+ other ways to make money on the side? Check out our entire series here.

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  1. Mrs. PoP December 24, 2014 at 5:33 AM

    For folks who aren’t jolly old fat men, playing an elf also has a decent pay day. I was an elf at the mall stand in high school and was paid about 2x minimum wage for it. Pretty good pay for a high schooler with a seasonal job, but boy were some of those kids heavy! There were some I couldn’t lift to get up on Santa’s lap!

    1. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 24, 2014 at 9:55 AM

      I have a neighbor who is a former NFL Offensive Lineman and he has his “Buddy the Elf” costume as well. His wife isn’t a big fan of him going around in tights, but people get a kick out of a guy who is 6’7″ and 300 pounds playing Buddy….and he can lift up anyone.

      1. J. Money December 29, 2014 at 8:24 PM

        Hahahaha… I watch Elf every single year now – freaking love that movie!

        And way to hustle, Mrs. PoP!

  2. Brian December 24, 2014 at 6:38 AM

    There are people who are way into Santa Claus. If you want to see a pretty good documentary about people being Santa Claus check out Mick Foley’s (yes the same Mick Foley from the WWE) movie called “I am Santa Claus”

    1. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 24, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      Mikey is way in to it. Honestly he loves to be Santa more than he loves the money so I think that is why he is so successful at it.

  3. Mrs. Frugalwoods December 24, 2014 at 6:38 AM

    That’s awesome. Sounds like he has fun doing it too, which I have to imagine is something of a job requirement for Santa. Pretty sure no one would hire me as Santa Claus ;), but, I’ve kind of always wanted to work as some sort of re-enactor… like a pioneer woman or ballroom-dancing Colonial gentry. Not sure why, but it just sounds fun!

    1. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 24, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      Yeah, Mikey is 380 pounds so he fits the part, he is actually down to 370 because he is working hard to shed some weight. He really wants to grow out his beard instead of using a fake beard but it just doesn’t grow very well.

  4. Brian @ Debt Discipline December 24, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    I always thought this would be a great side gig after I’m done with my main nine to 5. I heard Kevin Nealon tell the story recently of playing Santa and that the Santa suit was scotch guarded. :)

    1. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 24, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      Between crying kids and little kids with potential leaky diapers you really have to watch your santa suit. Whenever a crying kid didn’t want to see Santa Mikey he always said, “you must be “claus-trophobic” If you can’t handle kids you don’t make a good Santa.

  5. Kate@GoodnightDebt December 24, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    You read my mind J$! I was at a mall last weekend and there was a Santa taking pictures for free with all the kids and that got me thinking about Santa pay.
    Pricing services as a Santa has got to be tough. So much demand, but so much competition! It’s cool to see how much effort Mikey puts into it.

    1. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 24, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      There is a ton of competition, but Mikey is a young guy in his 30’s so he tries hard to make it fun and entertaining instead of just sitting there. Repeat business and word of mouth goes a long ways.

  6. Gretchen December 24, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    Not sure I could talk the hubs into this, but now I’m definitely going to try! I’ve been told that it is actually quite a bit of work to put together a routine, practice the show you’re going to put on, and the like. But it sounds like once you’ve got it down it’s totally worth it!

    1. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 24, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      You could tell Mikey was totally prepared for an audience that didn’t want to sing along or didn’t respond to jokes. He had his santa bag full of props and dealt with crying kids that didn’t want to sit on his lap and had his pitch as well telling the children that he couldn’t promise them anything with their presents, but told them to be extra good helpers at home. He said he’s had some wild request from kids from asking about secret codes to getting in to the white house to others that wanted their brother or sister to get better in the hospital.

    1. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 24, 2014 at 10:17 AM

      Congrats on the part. There are lots of Christmas and holiday parts out there. I’ve seen a few people play the Grinch as well!

      1. J. Money December 29, 2014 at 8:26 PM

        Love that, Stefanie!

  7. Kim December 24, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    That is maybe my favorite side hustle idea. I don’t think I could handle all the kids in my lap, but more power and money to your friend!

    1. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 24, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      You really have to love kids and deal with some demanding parents as well. Mikey is pretty good at going over expectations ahead of time so that things don’t get awkward at the parties. At most he is there 30-60 minutes. He stayed at ours for 2 hours just as a favor to me, but he does a great job…but if you can’t handle some crying kids and parents that want the absolute perfect picture after waiting in line for a while…this may not be for you.

  8. Steve Kobrin December 24, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    On the one hand, I was thinking that it would be more in the holiday spirit for somebody to play Santa Claus as a volunteer. However, I am a big believer in healthy competition for keeping standards high. May the best Santa win!

  9. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 24, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    You can do that as well. Mikey volunteered his time to meet “Cancer Kids” and had a big party with 40 children and their families at the local cancer hospital.

  10. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer December 24, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    That is awesome, Lance! I love how you pointed out that Mikey is not one of the new car employees, LOL. Speaking of Santa side hustles, our oldest works every winter for a company that does reindeer (REAL reindeer) appearances, some visual and some with sleigh rides. She LOVES it. She wears a Santa hat, and tells the kids all about the reindeer. The kids get such a big kick out of it. We’ve been working hard to ingrain into our kids to only work jobs they love, and she hit the nail on the head with this one.

    1. J. Money December 29, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      I want to hang out with real reindeer!!!

  11. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 24, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    That is a great habit to start early in life. It’s good to have a job, but even better if you can find something you love and can excel at in life. Work without passion can be 30 years of misery. Work can still be hard a lot of times, but there has to be some satisfaction to it. Lots of fun hustle opportunities around all the holidays!

  12. Amy December 24, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    Oh, what a fun peek into this world. Thanks for sharing!!

  13. Mr. Captain Cash December 24, 2014 at 11:33 PM

    Interesting read, I have always wondered what kind of money they were making from being Santa as some of them put in impressively long days making sure they meet with every kid. Glad he has fun and takes so much pride in his performance as meeting Santa for all kids and myself when I was young was a huge deal.

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank December 25, 2014 at 3:36 AM

    Being a Santa Claus is really a good side hustle. I’d probably be one next Christmas and would also make kids happy. I imagine myself. I just wish I’d look as real as possible. :D

  15. Myles Money December 25, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    This is a cool way to spend Christmas. I may need to put a bit of weight on first, but I would love to try being Santa…

  16. Alexis December 25, 2014 at 9:12 PM

    I was always curious as to how much Santa’s made. That’s a good amount especially for a side hustle every year.

  17. Jeremy @ Go Curry Cracker! December 26, 2014 at 2:27 AM

    I played Santa this year, but only over the phone. The Taiwan kids were super excited to hear Santa speak “real Santa English” Ho Ho Ho, haha

    Happy Holidays to the whole J$ Family!

    1. J. Money December 29, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      Haha, nice…

  18. Zambian Lady December 26, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    How interesting. I did not realize that being Santa can generate so much money. Too bad I can’t be one – wrong gender and size ;)

  19. Tommmy December 25, 2018 at 8:20 AM

    Are you my Uncle?!