Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, like American Express, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.
- I recently read a tweet that basically said a side hustle is worthless if it earns you less than $1,000 a month. I had to respond.
- Throughout my working life, I’ve side hustled to bring in extra income — an extra $500 a month was often what bought groceries or kept the lights on.
- Earning $500 a month through a side hustle also helped me pay off $60,000 of debt and grow my business by giving me some financial flexibility.
- Ultimately, I think there’s a lot of privilege in that tweet — I don’t think the author knows what it’s like to live life on the financial edge.
- Sign up to get Personal Finance Insider’s newsletter in your inbox »
I’m at the tail end of a massive debt repayment journey. So far, I’ve paid off well over $60,000 of debt. It has been a humbling, exhausting, intense financial journey.
So when I recently read a tweet that basically said your side hustle is a complete waste of time if it makes you less than $1,000 a month, I found myself needing to address the privilege in that comment. I wanted to share my personal side-hustle experience, which shows how an extra $500 a month made all the difference to my bottom line.
My first taste of financial freedom
I began working when I was 16 years old. I was one of the few girls I knew who wasn’t allowed to babysit, so I was 100% dependent on my mom for spending money. I soon got fed up with that and began asking my mom over and over again to allow me to work.
She finally said yes, but also had the following warning for me: “Once you start working, you’ll never stop.” That was a bit alarming to hear, but I loved the financial freedom that my job gave me at the time. I made a whopping $4.75 an hour and, at the time, that was more than the minimum wage in my state.
I felt so rich.
Throughout my working life, having a $500 a month side hustle has kept my afloat
For the majority of my adult working life, I’ve had a side hustle. It’s painful to admit that more often than not there was more month than money. Sometimes this happened because of my personal spending habits and lack of financial management skills. Other times, money was tight because I just wasn’t earning enough.
An example of this when I worked at Starbucks while attending graduate school. On average, I was making $9 an hour including tips. That money was originally for incidentals and fun money, but the purpose of that income changed when my mom lost her job and I found myself supporting two people on my Starbucks income and student loans.
I quickly scrambled to find another job. That additional side-hustle money made a huge difference for me. I made around $12 an hour at a high-end olive oil shop, and that ended up bringing in around $500 a month extra. Yes, I had to deal with rushing from one job to the other, but that additional income helped me buy groceries, keep the lights on, and pay some bills.
An extra $500 a month can swing the financial pendulum in a positive direction
When I read comments like the tweet that I referred to, I’m convinced those individuals have never lived life on the financial edge. That they’ve never counted change to purchase groceries or get a light-rail ticket. That extra $500 in side-hustle money made a huge difference to me in some unexpected ways.
I learned that a small amount of extra money coming in consistently has the ability to swing the pendulum in a positive direction. That money from the olive oil shop came in twice a month, and I knew it was on its way. I developed a huge amount of respect for even the smallest amount of income earned, because each additional dollar made a difference to me.
I relied on my small side-hustle income when I was first building my business
Many years later, I began a journey into entrepreneurship. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and scary at the same time. My work as a brand ambassador was a saving grace in the early stages of building my business. I typically made between $18 and $27 an hour, and I normally worked with the same team of people on different projects. What was incredible about this side hustle was that our team leader would pay us for the entire shift, even if we finished our work early.
The experience with that particular side hustle really got me thinking about optimizing time and money when working. I’d never really thought too deeply about earning more in less time, and my experience with that team really made me rethink how I ran my business. That brand ambassador gig, where I earned four hours of income in one or two hours, was a godsend — and it was also a lot of fun.
My side hustles also changed my financial life in several unexpected ways. For example, I’ve been able to pay my regular expenses with side-hustle money while building my business. The extra money was also used to slowly chip away at my significant debt. I learned how to better manage smaller amounts of money so that I could manage the larger amounts that I began to earn as my business grew. My side hustles helped me learn how to market my own products, and in more instances than I can count, I was connected to bigger opportunities professionally because of one of my side gigs.
The reason that tweet made me so angry was that it was obvious that the author just didn’t get it. They didn’t get that just like with anything, starting small creates the possibility of earning more. Most people don’t start off making thousands in extra money. They start by making $10, then $75, then $100. It was as if the commenter didn’t get that earnings is a trajectory of small, consistent steps over time. I will forever be grateful for my side hustles, because earning an extra $500 a month helped me earn thousands a year and changed my entire life.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.