Hourly Wage: Santa Claus

Santa Claus
Anderson W Rangel/Unsplash

One of the more unique jobs out there is working as a Santa Claus. The job requirements include a sizeable tummy, a real beard (fake ones are out) and a convincing “ho-ho-ho.”

While it may sound like holiday heresy to mention “Santa” and “salary” in the same breath, you might be surprised to learn that Santas can earn a high hourly wage for bringing joy to little kids and big kids alike.

How much does Santa earn? As with any job, it varies. PayScale’s data show that the median hourly wage for professional Santas is $30 per hour. But many Santas earn far more than that. The 75th percentile for Santa salaries is $75 per hour.

Within a job title, we usually see a small number of individuals getting paid about the median, but the 75th percentile being so much higher for Santa is unusual. What this suggests is that a good Santa is much better than your average Santa, and is compensated accordingly.

If one of these high-earning Santas works 40 days during the holiday season, he can ring in the New Year with $20,000 or more in total wages. The big money is reportedly in private and corporate events — that’s where Santa’s wishes come true. Of course, there are some expenses, namely, the red suit, boots, and belt which can put Santa out $500 to $1,000 bucks. However, earning $20,000 in a little more than month is good money, especially for retirees.

Is your salary a holiday gift or a nightmare? Find out with our Santa, er, salary calculator.

Little Ears and Eyes: Santa Tracker

While playing Santa is a well-paying gig, there are a few things you might want to think about before putting on the red suit. The truth is, Santas are never actually off the clock. You may be seen by a child while you’re out and about, so forget about lighting up a cigarette, taking a drink, or cursing in public; you must also be fast on your feet in case you have to explain to a suspicious child why Santa is eating at McDonald’s.

Speaking of kids, they are Santa’s biggest blessing and challenge. They may pull on Santa’s beard, cry, scream, sneeze and cough; so Santa needs to have a healthy immune system or a good health insurance plan. Santas must be prepared for everything and anything, that’s why there are Santa training schools, conventions and even an Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas!

Bilingual Santa, Hunky Santa, Cartoon Santa, etc…

Reflecting today’s specialized job market, there are specialized Santas. They range from Bilingual Santas to Santas who know sign language; other specialties include Santas who can skateboard, skydive, jet ski, or even parachute down to malls. In Los Angeles, a mall called the Beverly Center features two Santas: Hunky Santa (a muscle-bound Kris Kringle) and a traditional (non-hunky) Santa.

Hunky or not, Santa can bring in big bucks. For shopping malls in the United States, Santa is a key marketing tool to lure shoppers away from retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. In fact, Santa is one of the few advantages that a mall has over discount retailers which often scrooge on holiday decorations and do not have a Santa. It’s not uncommon for a mall to spend thousands building a “North Pole” set for Santa and the elves.

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Santa Inc. has two purposes, bring customers into the mall and generate income from photo packages which run from $15.00 to $40.00. The whole “Santa experience” usually generates about $400,000 in photo sales, of which the photography agency keeps about 75 percent, and the mall pockets 25 percent. However, that profit is taking a bite these days due to cell phones with cameras.

Still, for the Santa who can make $20,000 over five to six weeks, it’s a happy holiday. Just remember, Santa has to please a lot of people: kids, parents, the mall and the photo agency. There is no room for Bad Santa behavior (take note, Billy Bob Thornton).

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