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The Fundamental Lesson That Made Me Embrace An Unglamorous Side Job

Okay, so I can’t be the only person who does this: You are simply minding your own business, enjoying your day, when BAM! — out of nowhere, a long-buried memory of something stupid you once said resurfaces, and you can’t help but cringe. Hard. I have a few, but there is one memory in particular that, to this day, still makes me blush with shame.

I was 13 years old, and it was right around the time when everyone my age was starting to get their first jobs. A seasoned babysitter, I really had no interest or motivation to work in the fast food industry, where something like 22% of Canadians (including most of my peers) have their first job. I can remember discussing this with my father and saying with a mix of entitlement and cluelessness that is often expertly executed by the young: “I don’t care how much I needed the money — I would NEVER work at a McDonald’s.” For a beat, my Dad was silent. And then, cool as a cucumber (or McFlurry, if you will), he responded “Why not?  I used to work at McDonald’s.”

I have always been a bit of a “Daddy’s Girl,” and to this day have been known to utter “my Dad could beat up your Dad” a time or two. I remember a whole mass of feelings writhing in my stomach that day — mostly embarrassment, but also more than a few questions. I managed to blurt out a less than eloquent (and incredibly incredulous) “Why?!” I couldn’t wrap my head around it: why would my Dad, arguably the coolest Dad who ever lived, demean himself to work at a fast food joint?  

Over the next five or so minutes, my Dad succinctly imparted on to me a life lesson that I still hold dear today: sometimes, you need to “do what you gotta do” to reach your goals. For my Dad, his goal was to put himself through college without help from his parents, without loans or financial assistance, and to graduate debt-free. This was a goal he was able to achieve, but not without sacrificing some evenings, weekends, and summer vacations, and working his fair share of “unglamorous” jobs in the foodservice industry.

In the time since then, I have worked my own fair share of unglamorous jobs (many of which have been in the foodservice industry). These include the summer I spent working evenings and weekends at Subway on top of my 40-hour a week pharmacy assistant job to contribute to my own post-secondary education, or the memorable winter I spent waking up before 5 AM to work as an early morning cleaner at the local movie theater (did I mention I was in my second and third trimester at the time and saving up for my soon-to-be-arriving baby girl?). Each of these examples typifies a “side hustle,” which Entrepreneur.com defines as “a way to make some extra cash that allows you flexibility to pursue what you’re most interested in.” Neither of these jobs was one I was passionate about or foresaw myself undertaking for the long term (though at the movie theatre, we were allowed to keep any game tokens we found lurking under the seats — score!). However, these part-time jobs, or “side hustles,” gave my funds the extra “boost” that I needed so that I could pursue the things I was passionate about: my post-secondary education and becoming a mother.

In fact, I have quite recently undertaken a new side hustle: say hello to the new nighttime office cleaner at my husband’s financial planning office! That’s right, every other week, I stop by the office and for two hours vacuum, dust, and tidy to my heart’s delight!  Why not?!  Not only am I getting paid for something I have been doing for free at home (I might have to start billing my husband, now that he has a professional cleaner under his roof!), but the amount I make cleaning happens to be the same amount I have been putting away every month into my daughter’s RESP (AKA a Canadian Registered Education Savings Plan). Keeping my daughter’s education in mind every time I go to clean the office puts my efforts into perspective and makes every cobweb and dirty toilet seem worth it. A few hours bi-weekly now is going to help fund my daughter’s wildest educational dreams someday. Fair trade-off.

I know that a lot of people shirk at the concept of adopting a “side hustle”; after all, most of us are already overworked as it is, and the thought of scheduling just one more activity into our already jam-packed calendars may seem hardly worth it. But, as with anything in personal finance, and as my Dad would say, it is all about what you are willing to do to achieve your personal (and financial) goals.

Have you ever/do you work an “unglamorous” side hustle? What do you do to boost your earnings? What is the most unglamorous job you have ever undertaken?

Amberley blogs about parenting, personal finance, teaching and donuts over at Occasional Adventures.

Image via Unsplash

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