Work Extra or Scrimp and Save?

by Katy on November 13, 2015 · 33 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post from 2009. Enjoy!


I’ve been scrimping and saving since reading Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness a few months back. Officially I’ve been amassing an emergency fund, but in reality I’m putting together the $2500 that I will need for my son to go on a class trip to Japan next Spring.

The money that I put into my savings account is solely from extra cash that I’ve been able to scrounge from this and that. I deposit every Monday and sometimes it’s $100.66 but sometimes it’s just $3.47. Either way, it still goes into the bank. Money earned from my job as a labor and delivery nurse is dedicated to household expenses and debt reduction. This may not be what financial experts would recommend, but it feels right to me.

I’m up to almost $800, which I feel pretty good about since I only started this experiment at the beginning of the summer.

I mentioned my savings method in the lunchroom at work yesterday, and one of my co-worked asked:

“Katy, why don’t you just work some extra shifts?!”

This was a good question, as overtime is almost always available and the pay is generous. Without realizing it, this question rattled around in my head all day.

Why don’t I just pick up extra shifts until get that $2500 tucked away?

Well . . . there’s always something to put money aside for. Vacations, home improvements, school clothes, auto repairs, etc., etc., etc.  If I were to work overtime whenever I thought of things to save towards I would never get nice stretches at home. Ever.  I’ve seen this in my co-workers and it doesn’t appeal to me.

I have found that the key component for not burning out in my job is to limit how much I work. Two days per week seems just right for me. When I work more, I groan about my job and my back aches terribly, (I broke my tailbone last year.)

I know I can put aside the money necessary for my son to participate in this incredible Japanese experience without burning out on my job.

Living frugally is about a thousand tiny choices, and for me saving large amounts of money is also about those thousand tiny choices.

Choices I’m happy to make.

Would you rather work huge numbers of hours or scrimp and save? (Keep in mind, there is no way that I feel deprived by my frugal lifestyle!) Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Rose November 13, 2015 at 1:06 am

“Living frugally is about a thousand tiny choices”

I love this! This is exactly how I feel about living a healthy lifestyle as well, but I was never quite able to put into words this eloquently.


Bellen November 13, 2015 at 5:09 am

I agree – perfect wording. I’m printing it in a pretty font on a beautiful paper, found at the thrift store, and posting it on my bulletin board where I can see it, absorb it and apply daily.


NMPatricia November 13, 2015 at 4:09 pm

I agree with Rose. “… a thousand tiny choices”. I have never heard it put so eloquently. And I probably read this six years ago. LOL


Barbara November 13, 2015 at 3:01 am

Scrimp! All through my twenties, travelling was my passion (it
still is but in my fifties and with a husband of many years
standing it’s not quite as intense) – I worked enough to save up
to travel and then came back and did it all over again. I believe
that everyone has something important in their life that that
they are willing to make other sacrifices to do. I did it to
travel – other people I know have done it for other reasons but
it’s an individual choice.


Brenda November 13, 2015 at 3:08 am

I have a similar experience. I like my job and wanted to keep working after having kids. It is typically a full time job with a little used option to go part time. I could work 28 hours a week and still get full benefits- medical, vacation, etc. I saw people working full time and paying thousands of dollars in daycare a month. For us, we decided we didn’t want to use daycare, and why work those hours for the money to go to daycare when I can take care of them myself by working less? So I went part time and was able to work around my husband’s schedule. We sometimes swapped the kids in the parking lot. I feel we got to raise our kids, my kids got to spend a lot of time with their dad and me this way, and I had more time to give my family by working part time and not being tired, burnt out from work. I wish more companies offered this incentive so others could do it, but honestly not many people do it at my company. It worked well for us. Sometimes it’s not about the money.


Leah @ The Frugal South November 14, 2015 at 2:28 am

“I feel we got to raise our kids” is so encouraging to read right now as we juggle our schedules to have one of us with the little one!


Rachel Keller November 24, 2015 at 8:54 pm

People who work also raise their kids. You got to spend some additional time with them, which is nice, but other choices are valid, too.


Nan November 13, 2015 at 4:53 am

It depends. I did a lot of babysitting for cash to boost my oldest daughter’s college fund. I didn’t mind and she graduated debt free. Personally if not for the health issues, I would have recommended you work at least one extra shift a week and save every bit of it in a separate account so you could see the benefits. That’s what I did with the child care money!


Amanda November 13, 2015 at 5:13 am

I completely agree. My husband and I actually do work a ton of hours, but we choose to be selfishly employed for which we get paid much less than we would if we worked “real jobs” but worked fewer hours. He is a freelancer and I am a grad student (I get paid a stipend). We get to do the jobs we love and we both have a very flexible schedule, which is more important to us than money. Living a frugal lifestyle has allowed us to make this decision for our family.


Isabelle November 13, 2015 at 5:46 am

It depends of the situation.
Right now we are paying 2 houses because the old one is not selling, which amounts to an extra 800$ a month in expenses. So there is no way of just “scrimping” to get that money. So I’ve bumbed my hours up until the house sells. Mind you, not that much, but just enough to cover that extra 800$/month. But in general I am more in the “work less, spend less” camp. I usually only work mornings (8h-12h), dedicate my afternoons to various tasks that needs to be done at home and outside of the home, and then we can just relax as a family at night and on week-ends (hubby works Monday to Friday, 8h-4h). This is the perfect schedule for us and I can’t wait for the house to sell!!!!!


cindy@lifeascindy November 13, 2015 at 6:40 am

You are right. it is 1000 little choices. Every penny adds up. I think it is still the responsible thing to do even when you no longer have to.


tonya parham November 13, 2015 at 6:54 am

It totally makes sense to work less spend less– at least for me.

I was hired for a new job (was in a job I hated) and was so excited. Once I got to new said job, it was apparent they expected me to work 60+ hour weeks. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I love my home and my partner too much to spend all my time at a job that doesn’t make me 1/10 as happy.

Plus, I found that I was making lots of money (more than I had ever made) and was also just pissing it away on crap. I realized this after spending $50 on crap at Wal-Mart one work day. I kid you not, I bought 3 packages of plackers (single use dental floss), bottled water (??!?!! I have a contigo coffee mug that holds my water and keeps it cold for hours and hours), and Listerine Breath Strips (which I’ve NEVER bought before!). It was clear to me that I was going to spend all the money I was making trying to make myself happy when this job did not.

So, I quit. I’m a jobless MFA graduate who quit the best paying job they ever had (ever imagined) just to stay home and cook my own meals from scratch, write, and try to make enough with writing to pay my and my partner’s student loan payments.

Scary, but SOOOOOO worth it.


April S November 13, 2015 at 7:13 am

My husbands job requires overtime. I can’t stand it. He is used to it and says he likes the extra money. I always say that I’d rather spend the time with him and skip going out to eat or skip something else that costs money in exchange for him not working extra. I learned the importance of time the hard way, my Dad had always worked hard to make sure there would be money thinking he’d have all the time after retirement. He didn’t make it to retirement. It is more important to go without material extras than to go without a loved one.


Marilyn November 13, 2015 at 7:20 am

Even though my kids are now grown-up, I have continued to work part-time only. I place a high value on my “free” time, the time I spend reading a good book, walking with a group of neighbors, visiting with various relatives, etc. I am willing to live a modest lifestyle in order to have time for these things. Sometimes I think I should have been more ambitious, worked full-time and accomplished more in my career. But I never feel that I should have made more money and lived a more lavish lifestyle.


Johanna November 13, 2015 at 7:37 am

I find that when I have more money from working overtime, I tend to ignore the opportunities to spend less, and the excuses for spending more (heading out to dinner, etc , etc.. ) are so much more convincing… We do best with our budget, when there is not extra money. I generally stick to 40 hours per week, except once a year during harvest I take on extra hours… (This year I actually saved some money for Christmas spending, and have $400 set aside for that, for a family of four. ) It all seems to be relative… the more money I have, the more I spend..


Laurie November 13, 2015 at 7:43 am

Oh, I would much rather scrimp and save. I’m a nurse too and work part-time in a hospital. Yes, there are ALWAYS opportunities to pick up extra shifts. Yes, the pay is good when you do come in extra but I have learned it’s just not worth it. I live in a small house which is paid for, no debt, no credit card balances, no cable, no car payments and live a simple frugal life which I absolutely love. I make enough to divert $200 into a “vacation/emergency fund” per month. I do get part-time benefits at the hospital which is very important. I definitely do not suffer the emotional and physical burn-out many nurses experience that work full time. For me, part-time is the way to go!


Bobbi November 13, 2015 at 9:46 am

I’m with you, Katy. My work is rewarding, but I could really burn out on it if I did it too much. Plus, I really value having lots of time, more than money. So I am definitely living a “work less, spend less” lifestyle! I am self-employed, and I could take on much more work than I do. I have colleagues in my field who work a lot more than I do, and seem to feel that if the work is there, they “should” take it. I wonder sometimes, why don’t I do that? I’d have so much money! But then I see how little free time they have, and how stressed out they are. I feel lucky that I can take on enough work to live, but still have a lot of the most precious commodity of all — time — to spend with my family, friends, and hobbies. My interests are low-cost (hiking, reading, hanging out with my dogs, cooking) except for travel, which I prioritize spending money on. I could not care less how old my car is, how big my house is (it’s small), etc. I curate how many work projects I accept to suit my lifestyle, and I feel very blessed.


nicoleandmaggie November 13, 2015 at 10:41 am

While we are not wasteful, I love not having to scrimp and save. It really does take me a lot less time to earn money than to scrimp and save an equivalent amount of money. I think that’s because we’ve automated the easy frugality stuff (the 80% wins) so it’s habit, but anything additional (that remaining 20%) is just going to take time and mental ability away from enjoying life.

It helps that the type of things that I do to get more money are things that help my main career. So writing grant proposals helps me do fun research in addition to providing potential summer salary. I also sometimes get honoraria for reviewing proposals or articles or books, and that helps my profession. Ditto giving talks or even occasionally writing articles for the media on my areas of expertise.


Beth November 13, 2015 at 1:29 pm

I like the idea of scrimping and saving so that I don’t have to work extra. I may not save as much as I would if I worked more, but I am able to both save AND I more free time to do the things I enjoy.


Vickie November 13, 2015 at 2:32 pm

No, I do not work overtime. I’ve done that in the past – when I was younger and poorer – but time is a precious commodity to me. I already work 40 hours a week. The more money you make, the more money the IRS takes. I realized overtime wasn’t getting me anywhere, it was just putting me in a higher tax bracket.
I’d rather find ways to save money, than work more hours. Don’t waste your family time, or the time you have for yourself, it’s not worth it. Life is too short to work yourself to death.


Betty Winslow November 13, 2015 at 2:42 pm

I’ve worked part-time or not at all ever since my husband and I got married, and still do, even though the kids are all grown up now. Homemaking (which is far more than housekeeping) is a full-time job, and if both of us worked full-time, we’d each have a job and a half…. or, considering which of us is the more domestically talented, I’d have two…. :/


Kate November 13, 2015 at 3:24 pm

I am a nurse also and I tend to burn out if I work too much , working part time works great for me so I would scrimp and save if I had the time the get the money I needed.


Marie-Josée November 13, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Both my husband and I work full time. I work 35 hours per week and my husband 40 plus hours. I just left a higher paying job that was literally sucking not just my energy, but my joy and zest for life. I don’t work overtime at my current job because I don’t find the trade (energy versus money) advantageous. We both couldn’t work part time at the moment as we have just taken on a mortgage and we love to travel. We plan to work full time until retirement to fund our mortgage, retirement and travel. We lead simply lives and don’t spend much money on stuff. If our lives were interchanged, I would opt for an additional shift at work – one every two weeks perhaps. I admire your ability in finding alternative ways to generate revenue and your creative skills, but those choices would make me very unhappy.


JoDi November 13, 2015 at 5:24 pm

“Would you rather work huge numbers of hours or scrimp and save?”

I scrimp and save to get the most out of the money I earn. However, I prefer to get the maximum amount of return on my time working so to earn extra money for a savings goal, I would pick working extra hours at my job since it pays more than Craigslisting, etc., and I like my job. You basically work a 2nd part-time job engaging in the frugal activities that save money and earn your extra savings money. My guess is that it pays much less per hour than your regular job, but you can schedule it in bits and pieces that work for you, and you enjoy it so it doesn’t feel as much like work when you’re doing it, and there’s value in that.

But let’s be honest, working “huge numbers of hours” isn’t really what your co-worker suggested. If you’re only working 2 days a week, working a 3rd day (even if you did it weekly) doesn’t put you in the “huge numbers of hours” category unless you’re working 16+ hour shifts. I don’t know if that’s typical in your area, but the nurses I know work 12 hour shifts so 3 shifts is only 36 hours which would barely be considered a full-ime job. I have one friend who works three 12 hour shifts a week and gets paid overtime for all of them because they are overnight and on the weekend. She’s a single mom so this schedule allows her a lot of time with her kids and time for the volunteer work she also does. She’d be working all the time if she worked less at her nursing job and tried to make enough money to support her family by thrifting/craigslisting/cleaning.


janine November 13, 2015 at 5:27 pm

I am retired on just a fraction my former salary. However, my husband works almost a full schedule. I try to keep a strict budget.

I was lucky that my former work was relatively flexible which helped a lot. I agree with many of the previous commentators that both family time as well as private time are important. This lifestyle also allows for community involvement.


Heather November 14, 2015 at 6:35 am

I believe that each families dynamic is unique. Also, the job must be taken into consideration also…it’s not like you are picking up extra hours in an office cubicle. My mother and sister are nurses and are wonderful at their jobs, but burnout is HIGH and most folks don’t realize that you don’t get a schedule lunch break or bathroom break(if you even get one at all). Not to mention the stress level of labor and delivery(screaming Mommas, high risk pregnancies, frazzled daddies, diva doctors). I am sure there is a sense of security that comes with the knowledge that you could pick up extra sifts if the need arises, but if you are making it now with your “hustle” then by all means hustle. Enjoy your time with your family, if this season of your life changes and your find yourself needing to change and work more than do that and be thankful that you were able to enjoy this season.


Katy November 14, 2015 at 11:08 am

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I worked yesterday from 7 A.M. – 7 :30 P.M. and didn’t get a break until 5 P.M. I took 15 minutes to eat my food and then hit the ground running for the rest of the shift. Being a labor and delivery nurse in a busy hospital is mentally and physically exhausting. Very, very rewarding, but at a cost.


Kim from Philadelphia November 14, 2015 at 9:34 am

Before I was a parent I’d say “work more” which I did. The money was a great way to meet our financial goals.
Now I’m in the “work less” camp!


Madeline November 14, 2015 at 2:24 pm

I was also a Labor and Delivery nurse..those TWELVE HOUR SHIFTS are really 14-15 hour DAYS–when you consider the commuting etc. 3 shifts is waaaaaay more than 2!!!! Not to mention you are often too busy to even eat or pee, which truly affects your health and attitude in life!!!

I am retired now. Scrimping and being frugal has become second nature. Even in the days I did work, I always worked just part time.I feel TIME and FREEDOM and FAMILY TIME and TIME FOR MY HOBBIES is a precious commodity– you COULD NOT PAY ME ENOUGH to over work myself!

I never “did without” or suffered in any way from being frugal. Quality of life does not really depend on just money!!


Katy November 14, 2015 at 11:03 pm

You get it.


Randi November 14, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Honestly, I like a bit of both.

Sometimes overtime options fall into our lap (that is few and far between) that really can sweeten up a paycheque for just an extra hour or two at work once or twice a month.

But, we also scrimp and save. We are frugal as we possibly can be, though we enjoy a nice splurge every so often. We save as much as we can, and live on one income (our other income pays tuition) . We are (nearly) debt free, we were required to take out a small loan to buy a new to us car since we didn’t want to deplete our savings or dip into the house or school funds. But we’re paying it off very quickly, and the extra hour now and again really makes a difference in our lives.

But, work more – like whole extra shifts? Not really interested in that as a practice.


laura November 15, 2015 at 6:18 am

What a great post and what great comments! Money isn’t everything to me. It is more important to me to have balance in my life. I love my parttime job but i also love to be frugal and not be stressed out from my job. I do consider being frugal and finding ways to stretch money a hobby and talent and maybe even another little side “fun” job. I also don’t want to have regrets about spending all my hours at work and not spending enough time with family. I realize that some people dont have the option of working only parttime so I am truly thankful that I do. Katy- you are a great example to me of someone who has balance in their life!


Jill November 16, 2015 at 1:04 pm

I sadly do not have the choice to pick up overtime at my job. Sure, I could get a second job, but then I would never see my family. I am already getting weepy about my daughter going away to college in four years(!), so I resolved last summer to spend as much time with her as I could before she is gone, gone, waaahhhhh!


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