When To Give Up A Side Hustle

In response to last week’s post regarding side hustles, and why everyone should have one, Amiyrah of 4 Hats and Frugal pointed me to one of her recent posts along with the following question:

Up until a few weeks ago, I also had a side hustle, and have pretty much always had one since I was 14. What I am wondering is, what are your thoughts on having to let go of side hustles? When life gets complicated or when the money your making doesn’t make up for the extra stress you are attaining?

It’s a great question, and one that I’ve pondered myself at times over the last couple years of maintaining side hustle in one form or another. For those who have never tried to maintain a second career, I can tell you that it is exhausting. Keeping up with your regular job AND a side hustle requires a lot of sacrifice, and sometimes that sacrifice far outweighs the benefits gained.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I like to think of side hustles as a temporary endeavor. Understand when I say temporary, I simply mean not permanent. You could work at your hustle for a few months, or a few years. But at some point something will have to give.

If you are like me and hustling to get out of debt, then debt freedom may be the point where you decide to step back and reevaluate things. With all debts eliminated, chances are you can afford to give up the side hustle and return to a “normal” work schedule, enjoying more free time when not engaged with your primary job.

If you are hustling to put a child through school, or save up for a down payment on a home, or some other finite financial goal, then chances are your end point is also fairly well defined. However, if you are working two jobs so one spouse can stay home with the kids, or so you can realize your dream of early retirement, or some other long-term financial goal, the hustle could become a permanent fixture in your life. And that’s the point when it could become a drain.

Side hustles are great for boosting your income, but they come with one major risk:  lifestyle inflation. As cash flow increases so does the temptation to increase spending. Pretty soon you start counting earnings from your part time career as part of your regular income. You can now afford that bigger house, and can easily make another car payment thanks to your side job. Be careful. This is a spending trap, and one that if you fall victim to, can lead to years of pain and financial suffering.

While working a side hustle do your best to keep spending flat. Throw your extra income at your goal, and only that goal, while resisting the temptation to use that money towards lifestyle spending. Once your goal is achieved, it will be much easier to evaluate your new financial picture, decide the things that are most important at that stage in your life, and make a clean break from your side hustle as Amiyrah appears to have done.

Always strive for balance in your financial life. Do not allow earning money to completely consume you, even if you are doing so for a noble goal. Debt can always be paid back a little slower, and savings can be accumulated a little longer. However, you only get one shot at maintaining your health and well-being, and your relationship with loved ones.

Comments

  1. Hi

    What excellent advice this is! I think that you should always evaluate your “hustle” as you would a normal job, i.e. how much is it paying you per hour. I know some people that try and make a bit of money from trading on Ebay, but they would probably be better off just doing a few hours in a burger restaurant! A period of low returns is fine and normal at the start, but you should expect a reasobale return on your time investment eventually.

    One dream that many people have is that their hustle will eventually become their full-time occupation. This implies a period of high stress when your side occupation is getting near the income of your regular job (unless of course you have found that mythical thing – the way to make money with no effort!)

  2. This is such an important topic! You can often get severely burned out (physically and mentally) from overwork. The best thing to do, whenever possible, to earn side money, is to find what you enjoy doing. For example: Strange as this may sound, I enjoy analyzing math problems and budgeting. Because of this, I enjoy working from home as a tax preparer. I also love children, so I babysit. These are the kids of jobs, where you say, “And people actually pay me for this?” But these are very simple, flexible situations for me. I do not need this money to pay the mortgage. My husband’s income does this. The money I earn on occasion, is used for extras. We can live without them. But they are nice to have.
    I recently wrote something about this in regards to housewives (those who live on one income for the most part), called “Work at Home”

    http://thelegacyofhome.blogspot.com/2009/06/work-at-home.html

    There is also an excellent reference to an article by Crown Financial Ministry in my post.

    Blessings
    Mrs. White

  3. A great question. I’ve debated this for a long time with my blog and with a monthly freelance project I used to have. I gave up the freelancing because the money just wasn’t worth the time or the effort.

    But the blog is still running strong.

  4. I did this for 15 years (retail sales associate) and newspaper route carrier…
    Started out as 2 part time jobs, so one supplemented the other, the retail job developed into a full time job, but i like plan A and plan B, you never know. I have neither plan right now, but a hard working husband and his retirement from first job in the military…making our housepayment…the 2nd job covers living expenses…

  5. Not letting your side hustle inflate your lifestyle is immensely important and is a temptation that few can successfully resist.

    I refuse to add my side hustle income to the main income bracket on my budget… instead I just keep it in a separate account and use it only to reach my current goal & purpose for the hustle.

    Right now I am using my side hustle income to pay for the expenses to run it, then secondly to pay down my high interest consumer debt. Once these goals are reached I will then continue allotting all my proceeds toward a single goal… that goal being savings!

    Lastly, I am working to turn my side hustle into my main hustle, so eventually it will replace my main income… but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there!

  6. I am thinking of going back to work, JUST to either save for retirement or pay off the debts. Hubbys current job has a nice retirement program, he gets full retirement and i would collect 1/2 of his retirement income (he does pay into it).
    Not sure what i am going to do yet. Just want out of debt and well some $$ in the bank. We are in the throes of remodeling this teeny house we share with our daughter and grand daughter…so we tend to trip over one another from time to time. Would be nice to move eventually, but i will cross that bridge when we get there, too. I am just glad that i got to wake up this morning to face another day.

  7. I don’t know if my 2nd job as a professor at the graduate school every Saturday is a side hustle, but I know that I enjoy it so I don’t really let it stress it out. But then teaching has its normal stresses. For example, my work doesn’t stop at the university because I still have to make a new exam and visual aids. It’s tiring, but still I love it.

    As for income, it’s a little bit extra but at times not enough as Philippine income is quite smaller than the usual. Compared to other people here though, I’m very much blessed to be able such income.

    It’s true though that we tend to have lifestyle inflation because of extra income. I just bought a new netbook. But I think this is a reasonable purchase as my back already hurts from lugging my regular size laptop whenever I have a lecture. But it sure puts a dent in my pocket.

    I’m not yet sure when I’ll decide to stop my side hustle. I’ll just make sure that I have enough free time for me so that I won’t feel stressed.

  8. I agree with Miss White. Finding side hustles that are pleasurable makes really helps with not getting burned out. You have to find things that fit your personality and availability,

  9. Everyone is right, and it boils down to values, and knowledge.
    I have made more than my fair share of mistakes in life.

  10. What a terrific post with superb follow up commentary by all.

    No small point on lifestyle inflation. I can’t count the number of people I came accross during my mortgage career who used a part time income (in addition to the full time) to qualify for a mortgage.

    Now on the surface, this may seem well intended, but if you need the income to make a house payment for a 30 year loan, then you basically will need to manage two careers for the foreseeable future.

    Many of us understand the concept of staying on a lousy job to pay the bills, but can you imaging needing to stay on two? And with no end in sight?

  11. I met my husband mid career (his) . He told me his parents raised him and his sibs, NOT to depend on anyone. His choice to do 20 years in the mil. was based on investing in himself (he was a corpsman/Navy). It paid off. Of course our house isn’t a mansion (far from it) but it works. We ran up debt, but we are still working at being responsible for our choices and paying it off (along with the interest that accumulates) but i found Dave Ramsey and tweaked his advice to work for us.

  12. Frugal Dad,

    Thank you so much for posting this! And the comments are wonderful. I now feel even better for letting go of the side hustle I had. I already see a difference in my husband’s attitude and my son’s behavior from me not stressing about continuing with that secondary income.

  13. You are correct in the side hustle dilemma. I know of many who will work as much overtime as possible in order to afford a lifestyle that is beyond their means. When there is no longer overtime available, I have seen those same people loose their cars, have to look for second job, etc. Great post!

  14. “Do not allow earning money to completely consume you, even if you are doing so for a noble goal.”

    My thoughts exactly. Money is a tool to help you live your life. If you don’t live your life, what good is the money?

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