The Pressure to Side Hustle Your Way Out of Debt


Side hustle

One of the most popular personal finance recommendations for people who are in debt is to get a side hustle. Dave Ramsey, for example, says you should deliver pizzas after work to attack your debt with “gazelle intensity.” But working ten to twelve hour days across two different jobs is a recipe for burnout, especially if you have a chronic illness, mental health condition, or family caretaking responsibilities.

With inflation on the rise and a recession looming, I’ve felt the pressure to pick up extra freelance writing work and sell more of my woodworking projects. But I’ve realized over the years that side hustling isn’t always a good solution. Here’s why.

Dealing With Rising Costs

Just like everyone else, my partner and I are feeling the pinch of increasing costs. Our monthly food and gas spending has increased by $500 per month, and we’re bracing ourselves for high heating bills as we head into fall and winter in the Upper Midwest. As all homeowners know, everything in the house seems to break at the same time. This month alone we’ve spent $3,000 on various repairs, including fixing our broken furnace.

When increasing costs or unexpected expenses mess up your budget and push back your debt payoff timeline, it feels necessary to get a side hustle to stay on track. The message we get from personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsey is to push harder and work more when adverse circumstances affect our debt payoff plans. We’re rarely encouraged to give ourselves grace and slow down our timeline to match our changing financial reality.

But I’m trying to fight the pressure I feel to add more work to my plate, because I know from past experiences side hustles don’t always help.

Side Hustles Don’t Always Help

When I overextend myself, I feel stressed out and spend more money as a way to cope with the anxiety. This bad habit reduces the amount of money that I’m able to save from the extra hours I’ve worked. Although I’ve tried to practice more self-discipline, it’s hard to stick to your budget when you’re overwhelmed and not thinking rationally. Apparently, this is a pretty common issue. More than half of Americans shop impulsively to deal with stress, depression, and anxiety, sometimes as frequently as once a month.

Because I have multiple chronic illnesses, the stress of overworking myself can also exacerbate my symptoms and result in increased medical costs. A few months ago, I picked up a few additional writing contracts to help combat the effects of inflation on my budget.

As a result of overloading myself with work, I ended up in the hospital with heart palpitations and an elevated heart rate that wouldn’t come down due to my cardiac condition. Although anxiety wasn’t the only factor, it definitely played a role and made the flareup worse. The ER visit cost me several hundred dollars, so any extra income I got from pushing myself and hustling went out the window.

Accepting Our Limitations

After that incident, I promised myself to be more mindful of my limitations and accept that traditional personal finance advice won’t always work for me. Just because I’m not side hustling and working sixty hour weeks doesn’t mean I’m not motivated to get out of debt.

My debt payoff date is several years away and has had to be pushed back a few times due to life’s twists and turns. I’ll probably never be able to write an aspirational article about how I paid off six-figures of debt in a year. But even though I have to go at a slower pace, I will get out of debt eventually. After all, they say slow and steady wins the race!

Do you have a side hustle to help pay off your debt? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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