The past couple of weeks, I have been putting in a bit of extra work, and it has made me reconsider the value of earning extra money in addition to my ordinary income. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that extra money equals more freedom in the future, and is worth grabbing with both hands no matter the sacrifice. I fell into that trap.
A New Offer From an Old Acquaintance
Over the new year, I started a new job. On account of the close relationship between my old and my new employer, I have been able to help the former with their transition after my leaving by dedicating some of my working time there. Not long into the deal, it became evident that my old employer wanted me to contribute a bit more than their agreement my with new company allowed. Their solution was to propose an after-hours consulting deal, which would see me handsomely rewarded for my extra effort.
Given that my spouse and I are expecting our first child come summer I didn’t have to think too long about the offer before I accepted. Financing all that baby equipment, like strollers, car seats and whatnot, without having to touch my savings or interrupt my normal cash flow just seemed like an offer too good to turn down.
The True Cost of More Money
My mistake here was setting my sight firmly on the prize, without giving much thought at all to the sacrifice. At a glance, a few weeks of extra effort doesn’t seem like much when the reward is sizeable. A closer look at the realities, however, reveals that the sacrifices are real and felt. Here are some examples of what putting in the extra hours for a few weeks at the beginning of the year at my old place of employment resulted in:
Missed out on the best skiing weekends of the year
Cross-country skiing is one of my hobbies. There is nothing quite like gliding through the beautiful, white and picturesque winter forest landscape, working out and achieving Zen simultaneously. I missed what will likely be the best couple of weekends of the year for skiing because I had to sit in front of a screen crunching numbers.
Underperformed in my new position
When I say underperformed, I mean in comparison to my very best. I believe I have started adequately, but it would be foolish to dismiss the effect of working additional hours elsewhere. Only superhumans would remain unaffected, and in retrospect, I feel I could have gotten off to an even better start in my new job had I put all my focus into it. The next couple of months I have to put in extra effort just to make sure that the impression I give in my first half year at the company is as good as I know.
Wasted precious “just the two of us”-time
While both my spouse and I are very much looking forward to becoming parents, the day it happens will mark the end of an era. For the next eighteen years, at the very least, someone else will be the primary focus of our lives. There will be much less time for the just the two of us to hang out. Instead of making the most of our final few months as commitment-free young adults, I spent some of those hours in an office.
Those are just three examples of direct sacrifices I made by working extra hours over a period, for a bit of extra cash. Digging deeper, I could list out many more things I would rather have been doing than sitting at a desk. Hanging out with friends, reading books, working out, playing the guitar, and much more. And that’s before even mentioning the lack of energy when I finally got home, and less able to put my remaining free time to good use. My depleted energy levels affected all you Abovare-readers, as I wasn’t able to publish a new post last week, despite my goal of publishing a new post weekly.
More Money Is Not Worth Less Living
I have come to the conclusion that extra money is not worth pursuing if it involves trading the free time I have left after already putting in the hours of a full-time job. The obvious exception to that is if the time I put in has added benefits in addition to just earning me extra money. If writing about personal finance online, developing my knowledge of several fields I’m interested in (online marketing and personal finance) will result in another income stream at some point, then great.
With this in mind, the only reasonable conclusion is that I should only pursue money making opportunities that are interesting enough that I would dedicate time to them regardless of the monetary reward. It is important to point out that this is a result of already being financially stable, and having enough resources to finance the needs and the wants that are important for my quality of life.
The point of this post is not to tell you to stop working or to stop putting in the extra effort to maximise your earnings. I want you to be conscious about the assessments you make when it comes to working, money and what is important in life.
It is easy to get caught up in your financial goals and to do whatever it takes to realise them as soon as possible. But don’t forget that today is the only day we are guaranteed to do with as we choose. We have no guarantees for the future. Finding a balance between prioritising your future, and enjoy life now is important. If you are already on track to reach your financial goals within a timeframe you are comfortable with, is it worth sacrificing guaranteed time to spend as you please to reach those goals faster?