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Little Victories with Side Gigs


Side gigs are looking good!

I’m flying high on recent good news regarding side gigs. I booked the dogsitting gig from Rover, and it will be for $160. In other exciting news, the boarder I mentioned is coming to stay with me tomorrow for $150 per week. I will need help with my pets while I am staying at the Rover gig, so I will kick some of that first-week money to a friend for help with my pets. He will stay at my house for next to nothing as it’s a break from his current housing situation.

Obviously, this isn’t a tenable long-term solution. I can’t be paid to watch other peoples’ animals while paying someone to watch my own, but in this case, I can make a tidy profit and hopefully get a good review in order to book more gigs. I’m actually not interested in dogsitting at all – I signed up for Rover for dog walking and medicine administration since I can give injections and IVs (and I am particularly good at giving cats pills. Happy to share the very strange technique I use should anyone be interested).

If things go well with the boarder, he can stay up to a month, which would mean an extra $600. He takes possession of his new place on September 15th. We decided to reassess after each week so that we are both comfortable with the arrangement.

Spending mindfully

I’m continuing to track spending each day. I spent my weekend at the cottage with my family. I contributed some wine and brought nice thick pork chops from the butcher for one meal. They were an absolute steal at $3.99 a pound, and I was able to pick up five of them for less than $16. I picked up two small bottles of craft beer (I can’t resist a good sour!) and a t-shirt from the brewery on my way out of cottage country. The brewery has the same name as the lake my dad lives on and we love to represent the lake wherever we go. That was a $30 purchase I could have avoided but don’t regret. I take my credit card debt seriously, but I am not in dire financial straits. My last two lake t-shirts have holes in them from being worn so often!

Cottage views

Cottage views

On the way home from the cottage on Sunday, I stopped for groceries at a nicer grocery store (rather than a discount grocery store like I normally do). I spent $27 on house-made sausages, some butternut squash, kale, sardines, potatoes, cheese, and kefir. I haven’t spent any money since Sunday (woo!!). I’ve enjoyed homemade meals since. This morning, I will be ordering coffee and canned cat food from Amazon as I’m going to be out of the house from 8am to about 10pm. That’s another $32 to be divided out of the grocery and pet food buckets ($15 and $17 respectively).

Unplanned social expenses

Tonight will be a bit of a challenge, as one of my mentors from work is leaving. We have worked closely together for years, and she is a friend to me. There’s a going-away event at a restaurant, and I didn’t budget or plan for this. I am so happy to acknowledge that I can attend guilt-free without touching savings or my credit card – thanks to the extra cash I am bringing in from side gigs. If I have to find extra cash to fund my social life, I will happily do that rather than miss out. Could I be out of debt sooner if I directed every spare penny to debt? Of course, as one commenter pointed out yesterday (click if you would like to see me a bit defensive about my spending – oops). But that was never my intention.

My objective

My goal is to pay down debt while building savings and continuing to enjoy my life. I do want to be mindful of the fact that these “surprises” keep happening, and they really shouldn’t be considered surprises. I hope readers recognize I’ve never tracked spending or had a budget that I’ve honored before, and I intend to take this first month as a bit of a temperature reading. It would be grossly premature to set firm goals right now. I am someone who chases goals like a dog with a bone, and I want to assess this situation thoughtfully before making decisions. So, for now, I’m not making any earth-shattering changes. I’m collecting data, being mindful, and making sure I don’t add to my debt or take from my meager savings.

I am crazy proud of myself for finding some extra money with side gigs because I didn’t think it was possible with the kind of hours I keep. I’m going to end today’s post on that happy note and promise an update at the end of the week. Friday is payday, and I will share how I spent my last paycheck. Expect screenshots, some grocery receipts, and accountability.


  • Reply Cheryl |

    This is what I tell my daughter, budget so much per month for food, going out, and spending. I know you posted you’re not going to eat ramen and stay home every day but if you want to buy this house and get out if debt you need to limit how much you spend. There will always be a reason why you spend, only you can decide how long this debt will last.

  • Reply Laura |

    With no savings you kind of are in dire straits. I don’t think you need
    to completely give up your social life but there was a lot of fat in your spending that could be trimmed and we aren’t seeing any of it.

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      I agree completely. I am terrified of my lack of liquid savings (I do have a retirement fund, but I can’t touch that). I am going to set a savings target in September once I have more data about my finances. This month I tucked away 11% of my take home pay, but I would love to get to 20% by the end of the year.

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    You said in your last post that you overspent in your entertainment budget category and this post has you spending more on entertainment. Where are you pulling this money from if you aren’t putting it on a card. Hint: this is money you initially said would go towards debt repayment and instead is going towards your already above budget social life. No one is saying become a hermit but at some point you may need to learn to say no to friends after entertainment money is gone if you truly want to blog away debt( and put yourself out of a situation where you aren’t worrying that the House you

  • Reply Canadian_Sadie |

    I don’t think you’re wrong to be defensive. I’ve been a reader here since almost the beginning, and what’s been happening in the comments section here for the last couple of years is, more often than not, more harsh than helpful.

    I think that it’s possible to offer suggestions and observations without being snarky, and most of the commenters I’ve been reading lately (primarily on Hope’s posts, but here as well) have bordered on mean.

    You’re focusing. That’s good. What gets measured gets managed–so paying attention to where your pennies go will help you get ahead of the debt, and well on your path to a stable future. Accountability is a good thing, and you’ll get that in spades here from the BAD community. 🙂 Keep chugging. You’ll get there! 🙂

  • Reply Jessica |

    Living on ramen and buttered noodles is no fun and not sustainable. Yes it will take longer to get out of debt your way, but it will still happen. You can still have fun, but drink a $3 draft beer instead of a $10 martini. Little steps will eventually lead to bigger steps because debt reduction is addictive once you start seeing it happen. Paying off those credit cards starts feeling better than another dinner out

  • Reply Rhitter |

    First time commenting on your story.. First of all, you are spreading yourself too thin. Trust me, I have been there. You mention your goal is to pay off debt, save money and have a social life. I am sorry, but all of these contradict each other. Again, trust me I know. You mention that you use the EveryDollar app… and that is fantastic. But as person that is currently in debt, and has a dream of owning a home, my primary goal is to pay off debt, and that should be yours. Saving money is not an option for you right now because you need to get rid of the debt first. Now about the social life, it’s okay to have one, but not to the extent you have. I have a limited social life, because my primary goal is to get out of debt. My advice is to really look at yourself and decide what is important? What is your number one goal. If it is home ownership, then get serious about dumping the debt. Don’t waste time or energy on the savings. Focus on the clearing the debt. Then save like crazy, because you won’t have to worry about the debt. Listen to Dave Ramsey. His plan works. Good luck!

    • Reply Cynthia |

      I agree that Elizabeth’s goal should be to pay off her credit card debt in a timely manner. However, she should also build an emergency fund for those expenses that can’t be paid with a credit card: things like moving. I’ve never had a landlord that would accept credit card payment for deposits, for instance,

      • Reply Rhitter |

        Yes, she should have an emergency fund for minor emergencies, as prescribed by Dave Ramsey in the Baby Steps. If she has to move and move quickly, just pay the minimums and save for the move, and then after you are settled, attack the debt. It’s what I did and recently had to do to save for school.

      • Reply Elizabeth S. |

        Good point. In Toronto, we pay first and last month’s rent up front, so you don’t pay that last month and can typically use the saved money for your new place. I don’t want to be paycheck to paycheck, though, so it’s important for me to have a separate saving fund for something like an unplanned move (God, that prospect is terrifying. If my landlord wants to take over my house, I’m leaving the city for sure).

  • Reply Reen |

    I am not a fan of Dave Ramsey on most issues. I acknowledge that he has many supporters and his plan works for a lot of people. However, it is not realistic for those that have a multitude of debt requiring years to pay off or those subject to potential changes in circumstances (e.g. renting, pet medical, etc.). I suggest establishing an EF of at least 2 months expenses plus what it would cost you to move or for a major car repair. That way you have a buffer on several fronts. Then, up the debt payments. One thing I disagree vehemently with Dave Ramsey about is not to contribute to retirement savings while you are getting out of debt. For someone like me that graduated with $150k+ law school debt (which I have paid off in full) deferring retirement savings for the 10 years it took me to pay off my loans would have meant missing out on market increases, compounding, etc. Not a good choice.

    I agree with the other comments-you can have a social life but you need to decide what is best. This month it was a $200 night out, $30 t-shirt/drinks, etc. You could have had your friend over for much less and even gotten Chinese takeout and skipped the t-shirt. Unless you change your mentality about “it’s just one t-shirt” that habit will reoccur every month with some new “want it” expense. Snowball that over a year and it could be thousands of dollars. Ultimately, it’s your decision but what you are currently doing is not working. With that said, I applaud you for evaluating, taking baby step, and putting it all out there.

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      Thanks for the advice. I contribute to my retirement funds out of my work paycheck for company matching (it’s small, only 3%, but it adds up). That fund is only at 12k. In Canada, you can borrow from your retirement savings tax free for your first house, but I need to read more up on that. I haven’t decided yet if my house savings should be separate (something tells me they should).

  • Reply Drmaddog |

    I think it is a good idea to take a month to track where you are spending your money so you know where it is going and what to cut. And like dieting you should have a small amount of freedom to let loose so you don’t feel completely deprived.

    Dave Ramsey can work for some for getting out of debt but agree his investing advice can be downright scary. One of the hosts on the House of FI podcast had over $200k in law school loans and personal debt with her husband. They have followed DR for some years during which they had two kids and adopted four. They aren’t through with debt payoff and the chucked the Dr plan and went back to putting in on retirement. She really regrets not putting at least something away for all that time because they are in their 40s, still have a good pile of debt and are way behind on retirement. She said if they’d put even 5% away they would have captured the gains over the last several years and would be way better off than they are now trying to catch up in volatile times.

    • Reply kate |

      Agreed on Dave Ramsey. His snowball helped me to get started paying off med school debt (~110k about to be payed off this month!) but thankfully I ignored his investing advice and started 401k contributions right after residency. I suppose I might have paid off loans earlier if I hadn’t but I’d hate to be starting to save for retirement at 37.

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      This is sage advice. I hadn’t read his investing information, but it isn’t in line with my goals. Once my debt is paid off, I will be saving aggressively for my own financial independence (I still have a lot to flesh out in terms of defining what that means for me).

So, what do you think ?