Should you work more or save more to boost your budget?


Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam

Blog author Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a money writer and educator. She helps artists and freelancers get creative with their money at Hey Freelancer.

Published March 6, 2018|3 min read

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It's a classic debate: Should you spend your efforts saving or earning? Those in the “savers” camp aim to work all the frugal hacks, like clipping coupons or shopping for groceries at the dollar store to slash their expenses to the bare minimum. Conversely, “earners” say you should focus on your income, because while your power to earn is unlimited, you can only cut back so much before you resort to living in a van.

But why can’t you do a little of both? Here’s how you can make it work for you.

Save if it’s convenient

I’m all for saving money if it’s easy, fun and convenient. If clipping coupons and travel hacking feel like more trouble than they're worth, why bother? On the other hand, if you enjoy homing in on ways to maximize your credit card reward points, more power to you.

It’s up to you how you want to spend your time. For instance, I love rummage sales. I can spend hours digging through piles of junk to uncover gems. On the other hand, while I used to be a bit of a daily deal addict, I phased it out of my life when the work and money didn't add up to enough savings.

Earn when the opportunity is ripe

Maybe there’s a good chance you’ll net a promotion, or you have the chops and time to launch an Etsy shop. Or if you’re a freelancer like me, your client work has ramped up significantly for the month. If that’s the case, jump on the opportunity to rake in some beans.

During these “earn months” I find it helpful not to undergo any major lifestyle upgrades. Or spending sprees for that matter. Otherwise, you risk squandering the extra money. Your earnings during these months can go toward things you want to make headway on, such as a fun vacation, cool gadget or a down payment on a house.

Don’t go overboard with side hustles

There are those who need to side hustle to pay the bills. But for those who just want to earn more to get ahead on money goals, there’s no point in overexerting yourself. Otherwise, you’ll just hate life. If you do side hustle, set rules for yourself. For instance, commit to working only 10 hours outside of your day job, or take on “outdoor” gigs if you spend more of your time glued in front of a computer screen. I still side hustle on occasion as a test proctor and pet sitter. Besides earning extra money, it gives me an excuse to get out of the house.

Change your mix when appropriate

Because there’s no firm line you need to cross between “earning more” or “saving more,” you can change your “mix” or focus accordingly. Let’s say I’m netting a lot of assignments as a freelance writer. If that’s the case, I can put the majority of my energy into making it earning. But if I’m experiencing a lull, I’ll scale back my spending and live on a leaner budget. Shifting between “earning more” and “saving more” in an organic way is a more realistic approach to managing my finances.

It’s up to you to figure out how you want to use your energy, but there’s no reason you can’t cut back on expenses and earn more at the same time.

Image: vgajic