This Is How Much Money Mall Santas Actually Make

Updated: Feb. 08, 2023

Does the job come with a lot of dough-ho-ho?

A boy visiting Santa in his grotto at Christmas.RTimages/Shutterstock

If you set foot in a shopping mall during the holiday season, you’re all but guaranteed to see the festively adorned pavilion marking the presence of everyone’s favorite jolly old elf. Getting into this holiday spirit may even make you crack a Santa joke or two. If you celebrate Christmas, the sight probably conjures up memories of sitting on Santa’s lap yourself as a child. You may even remember asking your parents the question, “Is Santa real?” But now that you’re a grown-up, you may find yourself wondering what it’s like to be the other person in that scenario.

Listening to the requests of small children, all while embodying the spirit of Christmas, might sound like a delightful way to make some extra cash—or it may sound like an utter nightmare. Either way, any mall Santa will tell you that the job is far more than just throwing on a red suit. Mall Santas-to-be often go through a rigorous training process, learning the ins and outs of North Pole etiquette. And, of course, Santa needs a suit before he can start taking Christmas requests. While many mall Santas are provided with the iconic red getup, some must provide their own, Vox reports. And those suits, especially custom-made ones, can cost upward of a thousand dollars—and real-looking white beards cost a pretty penny, too.

Does the salary make up for those expenditures? Well, according to GOBankingRates, Santa’s salary itself can vary quite a bit. The median hourly rate for a mall Santa is $30, but rates can be as low as $12 or as high as a whopping $75. That can add up to an annual take of around $7,000 to $10,000. And then there’s something of a “Santa elite”—people who are deeply passionate about the job and return to it year after year. These distinguished Kringles, who may progress from mall jobs to higher-profile appearances at corporate events and private parties, can rake in as much as $20,000 every year. But even the smaller paychecks for mall Santas average higher than the hourly take for most other seasonal jobs. GOBankingRates reports that the average hourly rate for seasonal jobs is just $10, with Santa earning more than the norm. These adorable vintage photos of kids meeting Santa will warm your yuletide heart.

What all Santas can agree on, though, is that it’s not a job you do for the money. You take on the mantle of Santa Claus because you love the holiday season and want to spread Christmas cheer. The money is just icing on the milk and cookies.