Since 2013, I have been working over 60 hours a week in one way or another. Twice because I had very demanding jobs, and all the others because I was working side gigs. I’ve worked nights in a restaurant, freelance written after work, and worked in promotional events on weeknights and weekends.
From a financial standpoint, it was a fantastic boost for my goals. I was always making $15/hr or less, and usually in temp jobs. I needed more security. (As of March, I have a new permanent job that pays $20/hr. Remember this, it’s important later.)
I paid off my student loans in 7 months, got out of $4,000 in credit card debt, saved $10,000, and was able to move into my own apartment where I live alone.
I finally settled into my place about a month ago, and I’ve had a lot of time to think. I was looking at my budget thinking and wondering what the next “thing” was. Use side money to begin contributions to an IRA? Get enough money saved for a down payment on a car when mine kicks the bucket? Extra money for a vacation? But nothing was immediate. That was frustrating, so I had to think more about what the side gigs could help me with.
During this time, I also started thinking about a lot of opportunities I missed BECAUSE of my side gigs. I had to decline friends’ invitations to hang out, visiting my family, and taking up hobbies. I also did not focus as much on things outside of my main job that could have improved my main income, like networking and doing a little outside research.
I realized something: I was becoming a robot. I was not truly involved in the things I was doing – just going through the motions to get the money I needed. I felt empty knowing there was nothing left financially to achieve… and that made me feel kind of pathetic. My life had revolved around making money. I didn’t even know what was going on in my friends’ lives, and I couldn’t answer “what do you like to do in your free time?” outside of making money and pushing myself to meet goals.
On top of that, there was no longer a NEED to be a robot. I made enough now to live comfortably and save way more than $200 per month. I’ll be eligible for the 401k next year. We get yearly COL raises and bonuses. There was no reason to continue busting my ass when I had enough now to live in my means, and a little more, and I was in a healthy financial place.
So two weeks ago, I decided to stop all forms of outside money-making. The only thing I will continue to do is one summer gig that doesn’t pay well, but genuinely makes me happy and doesn’t eat too much of my time. Things are already changing for the better. I’ve had more time to study for my job (which my boss has noticed and was impressed I took initiative on) – that will mean doing my job better, and getting a better raise next year. I have also talked to my friends and family on the phone more and found out what’s going on with them. Even having the space to make healthy meals and exercise has been a huge benefit for my mood.
And, I did carve out space in my budget for saving for a new car and some vacations. While continuing to put away towards my emergency fund.
Side gigs are excellent opportunities to get yourself out of bad financial situations. Overall I don’t regret it – but in hindsight, I wish I had made a game plan to know when to stop. It’s easy to become addicted to the extra income, but it’s not worth it at your own expense as a human being. Side gigs are just that – something you do on the side because it’s either fulfilling or getting you out of a bad spot, not a permanent band aid.
I didn’t expect my rant to be this long! But I hope it helps others not lose themselves in the pursuit of money.