Working the Second Job

This is a guest post from Sheryl (a.k.a Cdn Gwen) in Ontario, who is 40 years old with a grown daughter, and is trying to rebuild her retirement dream just 20 years too late for early retirement.

Just after I signed for my mortgage, I ran into a serious cash flow problem. Some of my expenses went up (such as car insurance) that I didn’t expect when I was figuring out if I could afford to buy my condo.  I had already put in a request for a salary review and was waiting for the outcome of that. In the interim, my net pay covered my monthly bills not including food or any other “luxuries”. So I did the only thing I could think of to solve the problem, I took a second job.

In my day job, I rarely talk to the public, instead I deal with paper and numbers. In my “second” job, I’m on the front lines, customer service at a sod farm. The increase in hours that I worked and the money stress left me utterly exhausted.  This 40 year old body cannot handle 65 hour weeks like it could when it was 20. Sunday was my day off. I slept, ate, rested, napped, any thing to recharge my batteries for another long week. I got through it by reminding myself that it was short term, and by watching my emergency fund get replenished.

Being a seasonal business, the hours they needed me to work decreased at the end of June. I worked for 6 hours on Saturdays, and no evenings during the week. I cannot say I was disappointed. My main job income had been increased (in my industry we are lucky if we get an increase once every 5 years).  While I still have to watch every dollar, if I’m frugal with groceries, I can put extra payments on my debt, and not panic when I discover an unexpected expense (more on plumbing problems later).

At the end of September, the second job didn’t need me at all any more, and has asked if I’ll come back next year. This got me thinking about other times I’ve done the two job life, and the differences between then and now.

A plan needs to be in place. Previously when I picked up a second job, I found we would eat restaurant or store prepared food more, we would fight more about chores not getting done, and I always felt like I needed a holiday after I stopped (get rested, or rewarded for my efforts). But there was never any “more” money in the bank at the end to pay for that holiday, or for anything else.

This time, there was no “extras”. No eating out or “day-vacations”. The boyfriend helped wherever he could, whether it was making meals, doing my home chores for me, and generally making sure that I could put my full attention and energy to making that extra money, and keeping it. I feel that having a plan and support are crucial to the success of working extra to help get ahead.

Will I do the second job again next spring? I think I will (providing my support is there again), but I will definitely not work quite as many hours, maybe just Saturdays and 3 nights a week.

Have you worked a second job? Any tips to help make it successful?

6 thoughts on “Working the Second Job”

  1. I have a 2nd job on the side too, teaching once a week. Time management is the hardest for me. But after awhile it becomes a routine and part of you. It’s good life experience keeping busy anyway.

  2. Planning is critical, but a hard look at what is truly essential and non-essential in your life is too. I have worked second and third jobs my entire life. I worked full time (at real jobs, not McJobs) while attending both art college and university (McGill, BA ’95) full time, all the while taking additional art classes and participating in art shows.

    The trick is to simplify yet multi-purpose everything you do. If you cook something, make extra and freeze in portion-sized containers. If you work in an office/outside the home (or even at home), portion, wrap and freeze/refrigerate as many items as you can for the week, bag and you’re ready to go each morning. Bring coffee in a thermos/to go cup, drinks and food with you on the road rather than waste money and lineup time buying fast food. Plan/budget treats/meals out. With friends on jaunts, one person drives, the other pays for the meal. Alternate. Repeat.

    For clothes, just like the guys, come up with a “uniform” and ruthlessly keep it simple and monochrome. Jazz up with scarves, etc. Honestly, almost no one cares or even notices what you wear, and for the office harpies that do, insert-expletive-deleted-of-your-choice ’em. With simple monochrome clothes, it’s easy and idiot-proof to get dressed and to do laundry. One load. Done.

    Time is priceless. A cleaning lady rules and is worth every penny. All errands are ganged up and a big shopping done once or twice a month, if that. Common food and household items are bought in bulk and/or eliminated altogether. Before the Internet, I never accepted a job more than 20 minutes’ commute away from home or the next job. I don’t have TV, I borrow books and occasionally DVDs from the library, and I never, ever go drifting aimlessly around malls. I make lists for everything.

    I am slowly but surely getting clutter/dust-collectors out of my life, which are so very, very energy-sucking and make me sick to look at. Like my mother says, “If I can’t eat it or use it, I don’t want it.” I’m working fairly diligently to downsize my life to one multi-purpose room and eventually into an RV.

    My addiction was coffee table art books. I stopped buying books or magazines years ago: I read/collect images online. I’m trying to decide what to do with my artwork, frames and materials. A messpile of jewellery-making paraphernalia, which at the moment has become my second 3/4-time job, means a larger (gas-sucking) vehicle is necessary to haul all my stuff to markets and shows.

    By the way, I’m turning 60 in a few months, I’ve been semi-disabled for 10 years, my last holiday was in 1984 and I love my dog.


  3. I recently took a contract on the side. In order to get buy-in from my wife we’ve decided that 1/5 of the after tax profit we’ll blow on an outing or vacation, the rest will go towards debt repayment/investing. Taking a side project on becomes a lot harder when you have a little one running around! However the extra income can knock months off your debt repayment plans or help you retire months / years earlier! The pay rate being double my current hourly salary doesn’t hurt either…

  4. I worked 2 jobs for 10 years and loved it! I was so busy that I didn’t have time to spend money; hence my part time job, as a receptionist, paid the bills and the full time went straight to the mortgage and savings. I didn’feel tired b/c in my mind, I considered it my social and fun time. I dont’ do it anymore, b/c I have 2 children now and now less “fun socializing time”. LOL

  5. Just want to add to Ping’s comment — that, yes, the time I spend selling my jewellery at markets, bead and jewellery shows is definitely my social time. I look forward to seeing all my friends and people who don’t know they’re going to become my friends. Jewellery is an incredibly visceral thing in people’s lives, I’ve come to understand. Personally, I have never been interesting in at all. But do now realise it’s a symbol on so many levels. For me: I can’t believe the number of different and fascinating people I’ve met who I never, ever would have otherwise encountered. I’ve made countless “friends” across the world through online special interest forums and know many who own online stores and bricks and mortar wholesalers and suppliers. I have been exposed to a world I never knew existed before.

    It doesn’t have to be jewellery and it doesn’t have to make a lot of money. If you can strategise one of your jobs that way, that it will provide you with a social outlet, particularly if your primary $$-earning job is a solitary one face to face with a computer, then you won’t feel tired, but happily and positively energized with something you genuinely look forward to every day, and which will have a knock-on effect over the rest of your day-to-day life. This will make you far more productive and attract more business to you.

    Too many of these early retirement posts are about a mythical future of freedom, of being able to do what you want when you want — in the future. I used to teach ESL in Italy and every day I walked to my job across St. Peter’s Square and every night I took the bus home past the Roman ruins and Coloseum all lit up like a fairyland. I tried to freeze in side of me that joy and wonder of seeing new things, and resolved, probably not very originally, to constantly encourage myself to somehow find a way to make every day, regardless of where I was or what I was doing, feel like a vacation. Yes, it’s unutterably hard some days, but if you don’t love what you’re doing then why are you still doing it? We are among the luckiest people on earth in this country in that we can change our lives at will. You have to dig and find the will inside yourself to do it. Pick your destination (mental or physical) and Just Do It.

  6. Thanks for the input!! When I did the 2 job thing years ago as I mentioned, my daughter was also at a stage where she needed mommy time, whether it was supervising homework, being a “horse mum”, or just those rare times where a kid wants to spend some time with you. In hindsight, it was also a clear indication (lack of support and co-operation) that my ex-husband and I had opposing values for our future.

    I found working this time to be much more rewarding, even on a non-financial level. It brought me out of my comfort zone, I learned new things, met interesting people, and it was refreshing to be in a non-management position as well.

    I’m looking forward to going back next year to work for them, but will enjoy the reduced hours of only working my day job until spring.

Comments are closed.