Why Everybody Needs A Side Hustle

After “side hustling” for the last couple years I now find it difficult to remember a time when I wasn’t mowing lawns, building websites, or writing articles. Though we got by on my my salary, we knew it would take forever to pay down debts and meet our savings goals without adding to our income. I had also recently gone through the process of surviving a layoff at my previous employer, but the experience left me feeling less secure by any form of employment.

Break The Living Paycheck To Paycheck Cycle

Less than a year ago I shared a statistic that nearly half of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck. After the labor market’s free fall since January of this year, I suspect that number is even higher today. Relying on a single source of income has simply become too risky for many families, forcing non-working spouses into the workforce, or forcing a working spouse to take on a part time job.

A side hustle is a sort of part time job, but it typically involves you building something around your current trade. Perhaps you write software for a living and can build websites on the side. If you work in construction, perhaps you could build privacy fences or decks for homeowners in the evenings and on the weekends. The idea is to find something you are already good at and cultivate a little side business around that hustle.

Chances are you can make much more money working a side hustle than working at a part time job for someone else, particularly in a retail environment. The real beauty of a side hustle is that over time it will start to generate a second source of cash flow for your family. No longer will you be absolutely dependent on your full-time job for paying the mortgage, keeping the lights on, and putting food on the table.

But How Much Can I Really Make Working Nights and Weekends?

The answer depends on the hustle you decide to take up, how passionate you are about your idea, and how hard you work to promote it. I’ve seen some people work really hard for six months and then flame out because they were only making  a “few hundred dollars a month.”  They made the mistake of comparing a side hustle to their full-time job.

Think about how many expenses you could cover with just a “few hundred dollars” of extra income each month from a side hustle if you should lose your full time job. It might make the difference in keeping your car to help you find another job, or the difference in keeping power on at your house, or food on the table for your family. It might help you cover the costs of COBRA insurance, other utilities, and maybe even supplement your severance pay to make it last longer.

The point is that by earning income in addition to your regular earnings you are, over time, making a potential layoff less and less of a major financial event. Coupled with a solid emergency fund, you would have little reason to fear losing your job, except that this is a particularly hard time to find another one.

Dedicate Side Hustle Earnings To A Specific Cause

To stay motivated, try dedicating your side hustle earnings, or at least a major portion of it, to a particular cause in your family financial plan. Perhaps you could use all of the earnings to help speed up your debt snowball (this is how we use side hustle earnings). Once you are debt free use the extra income to build savings, and then save for a major purchase such as a down payment on a home, or a new(er) car.

Over the last couple years of working two jobs I have found this strategy helps keep me motivated when I want to throw in the towel. If I simply lumped all the earnings in with my regular income it might get lost in the shuffle, and I might simply be tempted to raise our style of living to match my total income. However, we have made a point to continue to live on my current earnings from my full time job while whittling away debt with side hustle money.

Do you currently have a side hustle, or an idea for starting one?


  1. i currently mow lawns as a side hustle. actually both my jobs could be considered a side hustle, with no actual “real” job. my first job is delivering newspapers. both of them are flexible to a point. the down side is no insurance or benefits. i only get paid when i work. however i actually like having multiple side hustle jobs. there is a bit of security in them. if you lose one, you still have the other one or two and the hit isn’t as big. you can adjust.

  2. One great thing about a side hustle is that it generates money that is independent of the money earned through your main job. That makes those dollars more valuable in security terms than the dollars earned from your main job.

    Say that you earn $50,000 at your main job and that $10,000 goes to taxes and $5,000 to savings. Say that of the $35,000 you spend $15,000 goes to non-essentials (vacations, new furniture, etc) and that $20,000 is what you need to spend to keep going (mortgage payments, health insurance, etc.)

    Now say that you earn $5,000 at a side hustle. You could lose your main job and still only be $15,000 short of the amount you need to live that year. If you have just three years of savings in the bank, you could wait one year to take a new full-time position if nothing good came along for that long. Being able to be choosey about your new main hustle can make a big difference in your lifetime earnings number.

    Having an independent income stream does not only provide added dollars. Over time, it translates into enhanced opportunities.


  3. Side hustling isn’t just for the young. When my father retired (40 years ago!) he and his wife had enough to cover all basic expenses so earnings from his post-retirement consulting went into a fund for travel. He was a journalist and the side hustle was public relations. While he was still well, he and my stepmother enjoyed some really wonderful trips to Europe based on this accounting.

    I’m now retired; my husband and I both do consulting in the developing world in our original field of health care. We chose that because we saw a need and thought we could be useful. We love doing it–it’s been an amazing experience. But it also produces income which helps with the luxuries. We try to save most of the post-tax consulting income for various luxuries especially travel. We also put a fixed amount of each payment into a savings account for an African charity we know well and want to support.

    I’d advise anyone facing retirement to think carefully about which side hustle is the most attractive to you and to start exploring ways to make it work. The same old work in a new setting can be a thrill.

  4. I am a SAHM and have been blessed to be able to stay home for 17+ years (and don’t plan on going back into the work force) but I just started a little “side hustle” because I want to take my earnings and put them towards tithing and our debt load.

  5. My husband has been with his current employer for 15 years as a software/pricing manager in their corporate office. The pay isn’t great but the insurance/benefits are better then most. I do home childcare so my benefits are minimal. Three years ago my husband heard the janitorial service working for his employer was giving them a hard time. We discussed what an opportunity this could be for us in the years to come- once the kids were grown and we had our evenings free. Well three weeks later the janitorial service just up and quit on the company and our service was rushed into full steam. We currently clean their two office buildings (and one more small local office) twice a week and bring home 1/2 of my husbands regular salary with this 25 hour per month side hustle. It isn’t glamourous but has been paying off our last credit card and healing my security gland (Dave Ramsey knows all about my security gland issues!)

    I have some college and my husband has his MBA yet cleaning someone else’s toilets may be the best thing to happen to us financially…. I agree with so many out there… their are jobs people can do if they WANT to make some money!! In fact right now we would be happy to hire someone to help us (our teenage kids are working for us now while still holding full time jobs and going to school!)clean on the weekday evenings. My 72 year old mother even side hustles by watching our little girls while we clean. She can’t make more then $50 a month in her current apartment but we can easily buy her a bag of groceries or pay for cable to reimburse her for her help.

    YEAH for Side Hustles!

  6. I’m a huge fan of the side hustle. Since I got a FT job at 19, I’ve always had another little job or two on the side, be it freelance writing or working at another place for a few hours a week. It began out of necessity, but now it’s just extra income that goes straight into savings.

  7. I agree with you completely about the side hustle. I’ve used a side hustle before to help build a safety net – the emergency fund that Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman discuss so frequently.

    In fact, this emergency fund provided me the savings I need when I made a career transition. I might not have been able to do this otherwise.

  8. My Dad went to school for graphic design, but lost his career due to the computer age (all graphic design these days is done on photoshop and other such programs and my father can barely navigate the desktop). So he ended up driving cab to support his family.

    However, he does his art as a side-hustle, starting off 10 years ago doing community art shows on the weekends. He now sells his artwork in gallery gift shops across the state.

    Sometimes I think of how horrible it must be to not be able to follow a career path of your choosing, but I love how he can still make a profit doing something he loves.

  9. I have never heard it called “side hustle” before- I am retired from 38 years of being a RN where I always did extra shifts,insurance physicals,private duty, home health nursing visits etc. After my 3 kids were grown and the financial for them was less I started dabbling in realestate rentals (8 homes-I PAID ONE OFF AND THEN USED THE RENT FROM THIS ONE AND THE NEXT UNTIL ALL PAID OFF),then started owner financing the homes. I cashed in and invested in insurance annuities,life insurance, long term insurance,(at the time these were 7-10%interest),Now I have 2 owner financed properties-income of $700/mo for 30yrs. I am 70 1/2yo w/ adopted son age 11-who has life ins that he can start w/ drawing at his retirement,it was a one time payment of $5,000,annuities,savings bonds,I bonds,special postal stamps,special coins.

  10. I’m just getting started on a side hustle. I am a stay at home(schooling) mom, and I am getting certification to become an aerobics instructor. Childcare is covered during the time I teach classes and the pay on an hourly basis is nice, plus I save the gym membership fee and save money in keeping my body fit. I can work as little as 2 hours a week, a flexibility that is essential with my commitment to teach my children. My motivation for starting this is to have something for myself….we are thankfully in a position where debt does not own us and my husband’s employer (US Army) won’t lay him off.

  11. My side hustle is blogging. It pulls in “just” a few hundred dollars per month, but the more the merrier — it’s helping us pay off our 2nd mortgage faster than we would otherwise.

    I’d say I’m currently pulling in about 10% or so of my pre-tax monthly income, so it is a small amount, but I look at it as giving myself a 10% raise!

  12. One thing to watch out for: there could be legal or ethical implications of a side hustle similar at all to your day job.

  13. My “side hustle” is coaching – although I’ve never thought of it as a “hustle” – just something I do because I absolutely love it. I coach boys/girls cross country in the fall and girls track in the spring. My total pay for these jobs is about $3700. Certainly not a ton of money for the hours and effort I put in, but as I said – it’s purely a labor of love. This “extra” income goes straight into financially sound things – knocking down mortgage debt, savings, or retirement funds.

    I must admit that, as a teacher, I don’t do any additional side hustles in the summer. But I do spend much of the summer cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking firewood. Since we heat our Michigan home completely with wood, in a way my work in the summer is a side hustle.

  14. If anyone has ideas about how to monetize a blog, I certainly could use pointers.
    I become a freelance publicist in March. I cut my roster to two dedicated clients and then was blessed to have a slew of freelance clients contact me.
    I also sell plants from my yard and am going to start an ETSY store soon to sell handmade items.

  15. Side hustle now days is a must. After 22 years the company I worked for closed the plant and moved it south for cheaper labor. I found Vemma and Verve energy drink (www.JustVerve.com)and I am trying to learn as much as I can about bloging and others ways to generate income of the web. Great post I hope to have as many readers as you do one day

  16. We hear a lot about diversification of investments, but this is more important in times like these:

    diversification of income!

    Great post!

  17. This is a must read! I’m totally convinced that “multiple streams of income” is the safest and surest way to wealth and prosperity. It’s becoming clearer every day…

  18. I’d highly suggest people look for side hustles (love that term) that involve being able to earn money on the internet with zero inventory requirements. My side hustles are all internet-based on while I’m no John Chow I am starting to bring a very nice little amount in every month such that after expenses I can actually take a draw that is meaningful to my family finances. I can’t imagine ever retiring – at some point my side hustle becomes my love. When you can do it anywhere, anytime then who needs to retire?

  19. Your terminology makes it sound like something back-alley. 🙂

    I prefer moonlighting or something like that but regardless, it’s a cool topic to write about. Good job.

  20. Anyone who is in debt or just wants some extra spending cash should have a side job. It is best if it can be something flexible that you can put in more hours when it is convenient or you need more money, or scale back when you need a little bit of a break.
    I agree with Frugal Dad…this side money should have a specific purpose, otherwise it will just get lumped in to the rest of your income and you will have the tendency to spend more. I use my side money to pay off principle on a car loan. Anything I earn from my part-time job goes directly towards the loan on top of the monthly payments I already pay from my full-time job. The car will be paid for in no time!

  21. The term “Side Hustle” has long been used in the African-American community–and it is NOT a part-time job. The original meaning referred to something that was done on the side that is entrepreneurial in nature.

    Anyone can get a side gig (a part-time job), but it takes someone with the entrepreneurial spirit (and balls) to be able to “get their hustle on”, as we like to say in the African-American community. It requires you to be a marketer, a risk taker and a believer in self to hustle effectively–and, unfortunately, having another job (albeit on the side) just doesn’t fit the bill of the true and intended meaning of the side hustle.

    I would love for the term side hustle to be used authentically (but I digress)

    I’ve been writing about Side Hustles for years and have many ideas on my blog, check it out if you’re interested.

  22. I’ve had numerous side hustles, which ultimately weren’t worth losing my evenings, weekends and more time away from my toddler. I was already tired from my full time! I was introduced to 5LINX, a company that allows you to sign on as a rep and offer cell phones, voip home & business service, satellite tv, home security, video phone and a few other services via your company website. While it took some effort getting it going, word of mouth has done the rest. My first customer was myself, then my family & close friends who then spread the word. Now the money flows in with alot less effort and hits my account every Friday! Best side hustle ever because you don’t have to convince people to buy what you offer, at a discount at that! By the way, I still work a full time job but am getting laid off soon, so thank God for my plan B to get us by!!

  23. This is a really thoughtful post. I tend to see consulting as the most lucrative kind of side hustle or side job out there. Most other work pays a modest amount, unless you can get into some sort of gig where you sell your knowledge. Consulting, freelancing or maybe home renovation work can pay $50 to $200 an hour or more. When I look at those numbers, it’s hard to justify just about anything else…unless you are looking to hit the ground running, which a part-time job at minimum wage certainly can provide. But, with a little elbow grease and foresight, you can set up a side income by hustling consulting work and it will end up being way more lucrative. In fact, I tend to encourage people to start out consulting as a side job, rather than plunging right in.

    When you think of it, even if you earn $100k a year, a 5% raise is just going to get you $5,000 more a year and then a chunk goes to taxes. If you get a side job as a consultant and make $5,000, you may be able to do that in 100 or even 20 hours…and you can write off your use of home and other things, so you keep more. That sort of math makes way more sense to me.

    Of course, if you think strategically, you can turn something like lawn mowing into a more lucrative business and still earn big bucks.

  24. Hello Fellow Frugaler and side hustlers! I recently started my side hustle a few months ago (freelance, resume writing). Its not going to make me rich but what it IS going to do is provide me with some tax benefits. Running a small home biz allows you to deduct operating expenses, your home office, lunch and entertainment expenses and other benefits. A book that I found really useful (and got me motivated to get off my butt and do it!) is Sandy Botkin’s “Lower Your Taxes Big Time.” Its basically a primer for starting your side hustle and how to LEGALLY reduce your tax footprint. Good luck everyone! We can all do this!

  25. The idea of a side hustle is a great one. My side hustle are my blogs. They only bring in a few hundred dollars a month for now, but they have a long-term perspective ; the traffic grows with time and my revenues go higher year-after-year.