There’s a dirty little lie in the personal finance world.
Fine. It’s not a lie.
But it’s not the universal truth that it’s held up to be either.
“You can always make more money.”
Can you really? Can I?
You Can Only Cut So Much
I have this frugal thing down. After slashing our budget across the board several years ago, we zeroed in on our grocery spending. For months, it hovered at $250. That was pretty impressive, but I knew we could do better.
We live near an Aldi and have a backyard garden, for budget’s sake!So, we worked at it, and we got our spending down to $200 a month. For two people. Including one person who may or may not have a hollow leg. Or a tapeworm.
That was the crown jewel on my frugality tiara.
RELATED POST: How We Hit Our $200 Grocery Budget
But that was also as low as that number went. You also get to a point in the midst of your fat trimming where can’t and won’t are so intertwined you really can’t (or won’t) discern between the two. Even with a $200 grocery budget, we could have cut more. Simply opting to eat less would have helped. It would have helped our budget that is. It also would have made me hangry, which doesn’t help much of anything. We also could try to take shortcuts, sacrificing nutrition and taste. But we shouldn’t and we wouldn’t, respectively.
You Can Always Earn More
Sure. You can always earn more money. On the surface, it really does make sense. But the asterisks, parentheticals, and caveats go unspoken.
You can always earn more money. Assuming you have a job where you can negotiate your salary, land a raise, or pull in a bonus. Or your current situation would allow you to change employers or even career fields.
But if you can’t earn more money at your primary job, you can always develop a side hustle, a passion project, or a part-time gig. Then, you can always earn more money that way. Assuming you have the time, the energy, and the mental bandwidth to do so.
And suddenly, we’re right back to the same situation where can’t and won’t are indistinguishable from one another. I could give up the precious after-work hours with my little family to hustle even more, or I could cut back on my sleep even less. But as someone who hasn’t slept through the night in more than a year, I can tell you that is not an optimal way to live. There’s that wouldn’t and shouldn’t again.
When In-Between Becomes Ideal
Right now, I have done everything I can to earn more money at my primary job that fits within the parameters of what works for my family and me. I am unwilling to uproot in the middle of the school year, but the truth is that I am mostly unwilling to uproot ever. My salary schedule is one of the most generous in the entire state. The same is true for my benefits packages.
I also love my coworkers and the community that I serve. The students and their families are second to none. I’m not going anywhere.
RELATED POST: A Lesson in Latte Factors, or Reaching Teacher Nirvana
So that means I side hustle. But I am also unwilling to side hustle away the handful of hours that I have with my son each day. As a result, it means turning down some of the more lucrative options in favor of work that I can do remotely whenever I have time. I might not have the highest paying freelancing gigs right now, but I thoroughly enjoy my clients. Plus, I’m paid promptly.
So the truth about being able to always earn more doesn’t match our reality. Part of it comes down to things we cannot change, while other aspects are simply things that we are unwilling to change.
And that’s OK.
I accept it. I realize now that we are doing everything we can to earn more within our current situation, and we should continue to work on finding things to cut. While I don’t know that this lifestyle can be boiled down into a neat little mantra, it works for us in ways that catchphrases don’t.
So Tell Me…Are you working on earning more? Spending less? Or enjoying the sweet spot that you’re currently living in?