Happy Friday everyone! I’m so excited to introduce Kara today on the blog. She writes over at From Frugal to Free. She has a track record of kicking debt fast and now she’s just about to venture out on her own! She’s here today to report on taking the Roth IRA Challenge which tracks $5500 of money (how it was earned, where it went, and lessons learned). Take it away, Kara….
I have a different relationship with side hustles than your average personal finance blogger. I’m employed part time at a non profit, part time at a catering company, and part time as a freelance writer. I don’t have one main job, and then pick up side work here and there. My whole life is side hustles!
In 2015 I had no fewer than seven jobs. For whatever reason, I haven’t ever been able to find a full time job. Great Recession, English major, stagnant wages…it’s hard out here for a Millennial!
Still, maxing out my IRA each year is super important to me. I’ve really just started to save for retirement, and I want to do as much as possible now. So, where am I finding an extra $5,500 in my budget?
All over! Since my income isn’t set month to month, and since it comes from a variety of sources, I don’t allocate one side hustle income directly to my IRA. Instead, I put away chunks of money each month, and that money can come from any of my three jobs.
However, this wouldn’t be much of an article without some kind of side hustle trick, would it?
If there’s a month where I have high expenses (like when I moved in April and had to put down a deposit, as well as buy some things for the new place), I will pick up more catering shifts to compensate. I am driven to hit my IRA max no matter what I have to do. Normally I cater fives times a month. In April and May I’ll be catering 7-8 times a month, in order to bring in some extra money. After taxes, I usually take home about $120 for one catering event.
I also just turned 28, and got $200 from my mom. (Thanks Mom!) Every year, any birthday money goes straight to my IRA account.
Finally, I save all my cash tips from catering, and any coins I find/get back from cash purchases. Every six months or so I cash in my jar at my bank, and deposit the results into my savings account. I’ve done this three or four times now, and have never deposited less than $70.
I’m about $1,500 away from maxing out my IRA for 2016, and I plan to do that by early May. I’ve been diligently saving my extra pennies since February, and have been able to tuck away around $1,300 a month for my IRA. It’s been a brutal schedule, but I’m so close to the end!
Let me talk about the brutal schedule for a minute. Catering, and food service in general, is hard work. I’ve been in the food service industry for five years now, as a waitress and a caterer, and it’s honestly been the most challenging job I’ve ever had. I work about 50-55 hours every week, some weeks up to 70, and between 12-30 of them are catering.
Events are usually eight-twelve hours long (not including drive time, usually another hour total), and you’re on your feet for most of that time, moving heavy things around. Moving a box full of hundreds of salad forks, dinner forks, butter knives, and steak knives is hard. That stuff gets heavy! And of course, it’s an emotional drain. You’re there to serve the client however they want, and always with a smile on your face.
I’ve been catering for two and a half years now, and the money I’ve made there has paid my rent, helped me pay off my student loans, and in general been a huge asset. As I’ve gotten raises at my nonprofit job, and added new side hustles, I’m realizing the money I make isn’t enough for the time I spend catering. For the amount of effort required, the money is no longer good enough.
I plan on catering for the rest of the year, but I am pulling back after May, to about three events a month. Rather than pour all my time and energy into this side hustle, I’m planning on creating a new career as a freelance writer! I recently realized that sometimes a side hustle is just plain not worth it. I’ve been working my butt off at two jobs I don’t really like, when I could be devoting myself to one job that I do really like. Let me tell you, it was a revelation.
More money is always nice, but find a side hustle that works with your life. Don’t make yourself miserable, or work for less than your value, just because you want some extra cash.