As a child of a single mother who was also a child of a single mother, the advice given to me for most of my life was to make sure I had an income and was able to support myself — without relying on a husband.
For all of 2018 and most of 2019, I took that advice a little bit too far. I held three jobs at the same time — one full-time job, planning events for 40-50 hours per week, a part-time job waiting tables for 30 hours per week, and one very part-time job banquet serving for 10-12 hours every few weeks.
The cost of working two extra jobs
Working two additional jobs earned me an additional $21,398 in 2018 (gross). That reflects 899 hours waiting tables and 115 hours at the banquet hall. A person who works one full-time job at 40 hours per week spends just under 24 percent of their time at work. With two additional jobs, I spent more than 35 percent of my time at work in 2018. And since my full-time job and the restaurant job were each 30 minutes away, I spent close to 3 percent of my year traveling to work.
With so much time devoted to working or going to and from work, I had limited time to do everything else. The restaurant work was mostly on weekends, and I often worked from open to close on Saturdays and Sundays, leaving me with hardly any relaxation time and little time to do all of the life admin tasks that keep me functioning. I rarely grocery shopped, and fast food and takeout became my norm. Rather than looking for deals on new clothes I needed, I settled for Stitch Fix — and even though the clothes are good quality, they were more expensive, and never on sale. On days I was too tired to take the dog out for the long walk she needed, I used Rover to book a dog walker.
Working more doesn’t always mean spending less
Most of the things that I was spending money on were things to make my life more convenient due to my limited free time. If I wasn’t spending such a large percentage of my time at work, I wouldn’t have needed to pay for these time-saving services. All of the hours I spent at work created a cycle that was next to impossible to get out of — I was spending money to make my life easier because I had no time, but then I had anxiety over spending so much money, so I would feel the need to continue working extra.
I also had no real purpose to working all of these jobs, besides a general desire to increase my savings account. I’m lucky enough to have no debt thanks to scholarships that paid for college and a mother who always taught me to only spend the money I had. Having no real goal for the money coming in, however, made the money leave my account almost as fast as it came in. Despite earning more than $20,000 beyond what I needed to live, only half of that money is in any kind of savings account. I have some clothes, a boutique gym membership that is rarely used, and 10 extra pounds to show for it instead.
How I started valuing my time
Working so much taught me a lot of lessons about the value of time and the value of money. We’ve all heard that time is money, but sometimes it’s better to sacrifice money for time. I was miserable while working: my body ached from running around on the concrete floors of the restaurant, and I was exhausted from 18 months of working nearly every day.
My social life suffered, too, as I had no energy to hang out with friends. I worked most weekends, anyway. A close friend moved to South Korea, and I was left wondering how much time I had lost with her before she left because I was at work.
I started to really understand the truth that balance is everything. While extra money is always useful, the tradeoffs are not always worth it. Since quitting my job at the restaurant, I have been able to use my fancy gym membership, and lose the extra weight gained from all of the drive-thrus.
Without the restaurant, I’m leaving close to $17,000 on the table this year. However, I’m gaining health, better relationships, and ultimately more time to pursue other things. Time and money are always going to be on opposite axes, and it’s a delicate balance to make sure that I’m not going too far in either direction. I’d rather spend a little extra money on the microwave-ready rice packets, rather than waiting 45 minutes for the less-expensive uncooked rice to cook. But I also don’t need to work every waking hour to support my life — and working less allows me to spend more time shopping for deals, cooking meals instead of going to restaurants, and enjoying a much better overall quality of life. Time, on the other hand, is a finite resource. I’ve found that it’s better to live a little more frugally and go without a few of those wants, rather than spending most of my time working and missing out on the rest of my life.
Betsy is an event planner in St. Louis. When she’s not working, she’s learning how to needlepoint, working out, or hanging out with her senior dog, Cocoa.
Image via Unsplash