A common question I receive from readers is “should I get a second job?”.
The fact that so many are asking the same question suggests that many of us would appreciate more money in our everyday lives.
At the same time, getting a second job isn’t all positive – clearly there is enough that is negative about landing an extra job that many people wonder whether it is worthwhile.
So what’s the answer?
In this article I’d like to discuss a number of questions that you should consider before applying for a second job. By asking yourself each of these questions you should find yourself better placed to make an informed decision about whether a second job is right for your situation…
How Much Extra Money Do You Need?
The most obvious reason to get a second job is to boost your income. Of course, one obvious question is how much extra money you need. Appreciate that most “second jobs” will be low paid, such as working in retail, in a restaurant or a bar.
While it’s not impossible to land a well-paid second job, it’s more likely that you’re going to be earning minimum wage. So – is that income going to cut it?
For some people a few hundred dollars extra each month will make all the difference. For others, this may be a drop in the ocean compared with what we need – in which case there might be a better alternative.
Can You Cope With Less Free Time?
One of the problems of second jobs is that they impact your free time. Suddenly rather than enjoying yourself on your weekends or evenings you’ll be spending a lot of that time at work.
For some people, this loss of free time can actually be positive. More time working means there’s less time to worry about your financial situation, or to spend your money unnecessarily. There are also those people who simply like to be busy, and for whom sitting around at home feels like a source of torture.
On the other hand, a life of nothing but work has the potential to tire you out constantly. As someone who worked a 60+ hour week for several years I certainly found that I was tired the whole time, got ill more often, and missed spending time enjoying myself.
What’s more, free time doesn’t just have to involve relaxing; spare time can also be positively invested into other tasks. You can donate time to a charity that you’re passionate about. You can start a side business to bring in revenue. You can learn new skills which can increase your value to employers.
So ask yourself how valuable your evenings and weekends really are to you – and contrast this with your financial situation. If earning some extra money takes priority over free time then consider a second job. On the other hand, if a lack of “me time” has a negative impact on your lifestyle then consider one of the many alternatives to landing a second job.
Do You Have a Short-Term Goal?
Starting in a new job (especially at the bottom) takes a lot of discipline, particularly at the end of a long and tiring work week. You’re therefore going to need to stay motivated to make a second job work for you.
One question to ask yourself when considering a second job is therefore whether you have any specific short-term plans for your income. Let’s say, for example, that you want to save $1,000 for travel, or that you have a $2,000 credit card bill that you want to shift. Ask yourself just how long it will take to achieve this goal with a second job?
Due to the nature of second jobs, having a specific goal in mind can make them easier to bear. If you know, for example, that you just need to give up your weekends for the next six months, before you head off travelling for a year or more then it’s a small price to pay.
If you have no specific, measurable goal then working seven days a week seemingly for ever more can very quickly start to grind you down, as all the pleasures in life drain away because you’re too busy at work to experience them.
How Flexible Are You?
Second jobs often require large measures of flexibility. In retail, for example, you may be asked at short notice if you can cover a particular shift. You may also find that your working hours change over time, in response to the demands of the business and other, full-time staff.
Often, the more “anti-social” the hours – working holiday weekends, the evenings of national sporting events etc. – the more likely you are to be in demand as other staff try to book time off. As someone who has had their fair share of missed parties and family events let me assure you just how tough it can be to focus on work when you know all your friends are having fun elsewhere.
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind making these sacrifices (at least in the short term) then a second job can be an excellent way to increase your income. Additionally, people whose main job has very clearly-defined hours can benefit from such an arrangement.
If your current job has a fluid idea of time, where you may need to stay late on occasion, or where your hours change each week, then fitting a second job around such a situation can be near-impossible.
Indeed, this is why I never took on a second job when I was struggling financially – the working hours at my main job changed so frequently that I just couldn’t commit to a second job because I never knew when I was going to be free from one week to the next.
What Are the Tax Implications?
It’s easy to get carried away when considering a second job, imagining all your new-found wealth. However, while a second job can be a useful tool for many people, before making a final decision it’s important to consider your tax situation.
I have met a few people over the years who found that all the extra hours they worked helped to push their income into a new tax bracket, with a fair amount of their new earnings disappearing straight away as a result.
So do your research depending on where you live, to make certain that you’ll be able to retain as much of your additional income as possible.
What Are the Other Benefits of a Second Job?
Second jobs don’t just have to be about money – though in most cases they are. Side jobs can also offer you opportunities to meet new people, to pick up fresh skills, or to give you a “foot in the door” with more permanent work.
I know quite a few charity workers who started out in a part time role, while working another full-time position. They gained skills, experience and respect while doing this. Then, when a full-time job came up at the charity they were in the perfect position to land the new role.
So ask yourself whether a second job is purely about the extra money you can earn, or whether there are other harder-to-define benefits that could help to improve your work situation given enough time?
Are There Other Solutions?
You might think that whether to get a second job has a simple “yes/no” answer. However, there are a range of other solutions to a too-tight budget that don’t necessarily need to involve a second job. Here are a few alternatives to consider…
Economize – Can you slash your living expenses, removing the need to earn more money? Here at Frugality Magazine we’ve published dozens of posts on how to save money in every area of your life. Follow these tips and you might just find that you don’t need a second job after all.
Start a Side Hustle – These days it’s easier than ever before to start your own business from scratch. Don’t think that you necessarily need some incredible skillset; most elements can be learned quite easily along the way.
Indeed, thanks to how much the hours in my main job changed, this is one of the key routes I used to dig myself out of debt. I started a number of blogs (see how simple it is here) which allowed me to work on them whenever I had some free time.
Today these same blogs bring in a comfortable side income, without me needing to dedicate set hours to them. Indeed, it is thanks to these blogs that I have recently been able to spend the summer in France enjoying myself.
Work Overtime – If your main employer offers the opportunity to work overtime then this can often be more profitable than landing a second job. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, you already know your main job well, so you’re going to be more useful from the get-go.
Just as importantly, however, you’ll probably earn a higher hourly wage than you would starting a new second job – many of which pay little more than the minimum wage.
Land a Pay Raise – Are there ways to improve your hourly rate at your main job? Could you request a pay raise, or negotiate a bonus scheme, or take a promotion? Now may be the time to sit down with your boss, explaining that they’re just not paying enough for the lifestyle you need, and ask what opportunities there may be to take the next step.
Jump Ship – Lastly, would your skills be better paid elsewhere? In some instances, jumping from one company to another can be enough to land you a considerable pay raise? This was another strategy that I used myself to dig myself out of a financial black hole: I simply moved from one company to another, and increased my income by roughly 25% in the process. Problem solved!
As you can see, there is no easy answer as to whether you should get a second job. For some people, willing to see it as a short-term solution a second job can be a great way to reliably earn some extra money each month. For others, however, there may be better solutions which don’t eat up as much of your free time.
Only you can decide, based on the points raised above, whether a second job is right your unique set of circumstances.
Why are you considering a second job? What concerns do you have? Have you worked second jobs in the past – and how did this work out for you? Please leave your experiences in the comments section below so we can all learn from one another…