Work Extra or Scrimp and Save?

by Katy on August 11, 2009 · 35 comments


I have 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.”

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan August 12, 2009 at 3:05 am

I’m with you on that one. I feel burnt out from working and working extra shifts isn’t, in my opinion, an option.
Its also about knowing your limits as a person and maintaining a healthy life/work balance. Excellent post from you!


Jessie August 12, 2009 at 4:57 am

I work a full time job, but am currently looking toward the birth of my first child. My husband and I are saving as much money as possible so I can take a long stretch of time from work. During that time, I will be evaluating my career and how to balance it with family time. This post is a valuable insight – it helps me see that some people have been able to make a decision that works for them – and without being miserable.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl August 12, 2009 at 5:08 am

I like to do a combo. lol Although, I can only handle working extra for a limited amount of time. This spring when we found out my husband was going to lose his job, I took on a fair number of extra jobs (piano jobs, photography jobs, childcare jobs, etc) to help us grow our emergency fund. This was stressful, to be sure, but it was for a limited time.

If I were you, I’d be sorely tempted to pick up maybe two extra shifts a month until you reach your $2500 goal. Since you’re not the sort to be a workaholic, I wouldn’t worry about that becoming a pattern.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl August 12, 2009 at 5:09 am

I should add that while I was working the extra jobs, I still kept up with pretty much all of my frugal habits, so I wasn’t cancelling the one out by doing the other.


less is more August 12, 2009 at 6:52 am

Is their an earlier post that explains your Monday deposit ritual? I’m curious about what inspired it and what you scrimp on to put away. Do you deposit all your leftover cash from the week or transfer money from checkings to savings?


Cheryl August 12, 2009 at 6:53 am

This is a very timely post for me. I too read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” and changed my life financially. I recently was laid off and am re-evaluating what I want to do to bring income into our home.

Thank you for this post!


GLM August 12, 2009 at 7:05 am

What about working and extra half a shift? Is that an option? If you have the option of earning more without compromising your health, I say it’s worth exploring.


Jinger August 12, 2009 at 7:16 am

I admire you. I, too, scrimp and save, but my odd change, small survey checks, and other bits that come to me are used for our entertainment…a small dinner out here and there or a movie rental. That’s all I have for extras. I do have $25 a week from my checking deposited into ING for emergency savings, but often have to use it, like today, for a dog vet emergency visit.

I know the pain of a tailbone injury…I experienced it long ago and my daughter in law, recently. I am now in rehabilitation from a broken wrist and will be out of work for another month, which means scrimping even more, but we are managing. No money spent except for basic bills, rent and food and of course the little dog’s vet visit.


Marie August 12, 2009 at 10:31 am

I feel like balance is always elusive but maybe over a period of time we can achieve it. My husband was on mandatory overtime for three weeks when our newborn was about 1 month old. My kids wouldn’t play with their Daddy and on his first Saturday off my 4 year old asked him why he was even home since they had seen him so little. However, in that one month we made three months worth of saving progress.

He’s not on overtime right now and I love it. I scrimp here and know I could scrimp more but I feed 5 people on $300/month without access to CVS or other drugstore games and I feel like I would be headed into nutritional deprivation if I cut anymore.

While we are in the day I don’t like overtime but the numbers seem to reflect that working more makes a lot more headway than cutting back. But we have a pared down lifestyle to begin with so we aren’t living on the edge. Currently we choose to take overtime when its offered which is maybe 3-6 weeks a year.


Angela August 12, 2009 at 10:37 am

Isn’t it great that you have the choice?

That’s what I’m so grateful for in middle age- I’ve been working long enough and hard enough that I don’t absolutely HAVE to work full time (since the salary is so much higher and we don’t live “high on the hog.”) I’m still “working” all the time, but it’s on things I love that I don’t necessarily get paid for (like blogging and some of my writing).

Knowing that it’s an option to take an extra shift gives you flexibility. You can keep on with your program, and at the rate you’re going you’ll probably reach your goal in time. And if not, you can do a few extra shifts to make up for the shortfall.

I also agree that “scrimping and saving” does not make me feel deprived. I love feeling that I’m putting my money towards the things that are important to me, so I definitely don’t feel like I’m sacrificing.


shewhosees August 12, 2009 at 10:59 am

I agree that scrimping beats working more. If you add shifts to add money, pretty soon the longer hours become your “normal.” Then if a big emergency comes up, the option of working more is no longer available because your time is tapped out.

I see this all the time in my friends. They want more and more STUFF, so they work more and more HOURS. Next thing you know, work is their entire life.

The underlying question has to be, “What are you working for?” If the answer is only, “Money,” time to re-evaluate.


hiptobeme August 12, 2009 at 11:04 am

I work in healthcare as well and I know the option to work more is always there. I guess it comes down to personal boundaries and values. What is worth more, the money for the trip, which by the sounds of things you will have in plenty of time, or the quality and smooth running of your home? For me, I try to stay at part time. This can be difficult, as the pressure to work full time is there from my employer, but the stress wears me out and in the end is just not worth the money for me. Also, when I am well rested and feel as though I am giving what my family needs, I am a better employee. I know my own limits and try my best to stay within them. This has taken me some trial and error, but it has gotten better. I also bank my stats for paid time off…is this a possibility for you?


Red Icculus August 12, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I would rather work harder to get what I want. Too many people want free things at the expense of others like with socialist health care. If they were actually willing to work hard, they probably wouldn’t want to steal from others either.


Pennie August 12, 2009 at 6:13 pm

I’m definitely in the work less, scrimp and save more camp. My life is so much richer and more balanced this way.

I applaud you for choosing to devote time to your family, home and self over becoming a work slave–the tremendous payoff is apparent in your posts. I think you should continue on with your original savings plan, only taking on the extra work if its likely down the road that you won’t have saved enough. Stick with your guns!

I thought Heidi’s comment illustrated well the crazy circle that ensnares us when our priorities get out of wack.


ksmedgirl August 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm

I will work extra hospital shifts to fund a vacation. I find that to be worth my time. For the rest of the things that come up, I evaluate whether it is worth my time and mental health. Sometimes it is, but mostly it isn’t. I am lucky to have a profession where I can work as much or as little as I want.


Jupe Blue August 12, 2009 at 6:55 pm

I’m an electrician by trade and people always want to know if I do side work for extra money. I don’t unless you are a very, very good friend and then I don’t make them pay. It just isn’t worth my time away from family especially since people asking are looking “for a deal”. If people insist the they want me to do side work, I tell them that I charge $100/hour (going rate in my town from an electrical contractor is $90/hour).


Jacquelyn August 12, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Scrimp and save, definitely. My job is to run the household and manage the expenses in such a way that I can continue to stay at home and be a domestic goddess. 😉 I could always just get a paying, outside the home job to make life more financially cushy, but I’d miss out on being a stay-at-home mom.


Christopher August 12, 2009 at 7:24 pm

I have a side job that is probably averages out to one day a month. I take paid vacation days off from my regular FT work (I have plenty of leave time on the books, thank goodness), and work the side gig (which is more fun than my regular job & pays great). As a rule, the money goes into our family savings. Just working OT at my regular job always leaves me feeling drained and like it wasn’t worth the money. Finding a situation/formula that fit and felt right was the key to this for me.


Pat August 13, 2009 at 6:49 am

“Living frugally is about a thousand tiny choices.” That one line sums up the whole post. We make a thousand tiny choices in our frugal lives and they all are because we have chosen to follow the frugal lifestyle. We are enriched by it and in turn enrich our families. Great post Katy! And I agree with the other posters – don’t work those extra hours unless you desperately need to for your son’s expenses in Japan. He is a very fortunate boy. Spending time with your family is the priority now (and makes for wonderful memories later).


Jocelyn August 13, 2009 at 9:17 am

I am young and fortunate to have a good full time job with the opportunity to work overtime as work load allows. While I sometimes regret that I don’t have enough time or energy to be living as frugally as possible, my paycheck ensures that I don’t have to scrimp and save and still have a sufficient emergency fund. That is, until I close on my new condo.


Diane August 13, 2009 at 9:45 am

I can see that I’m in the minority here, but maybe working an extra shift or two would would help you get over the hump as you work toward your goal. As a school teacher and mother of three girls, I know there are certain times of the year when I’m able to handle more on my plate. Perhaps you could work an two extra shifts in the months of October and February or whenever things are “quieter” at your house. For sure not the weeks of back to school or around the holidays!

I do think overtime can be a dangerous trap that can become more of a “have to” than a “want to” if you are not careful, but it doesn’t sound like this is a worry for you.

What a wonderful opportunity you are providing to your son!

I really enjoyed this post, too!


Tracy Balazy August 13, 2009 at 9:50 am

I’d rather scrimp and save; life’s too short to work it away. The 40 hours a week I work is too long as it is! But I have little problem scrimping and saving because I’m not all that into “stuff” unless I can buy it used.


Jean Farris August 13, 2009 at 10:01 am

Just out of curiousity, what is your son contributing to the cost of this opportunity?


Sierra August 13, 2009 at 10:36 am

For me, I find the most important thing is to make the savings count by actually putting them in my savings account, or into debt repayment.

Whether I get an “extra” $200 by selling a magazine article or shaving it off our grocery bill, if I don’t right away put that money toward savings, it disappears back into the household budget without a trace. In spite of my careful accounting.


Kristin @ klingtocash August 13, 2009 at 11:09 am

I do a combo. I scrimp and save as much as I can but my husband and I will also pick up side jobs and extra work. We are currently paying off debt and we are both working with gazelle intensity to pay it off.

You are in a different situation. If this is to pay for your son’s trip, I would have your son do some odd jobs around the neighborhood to help save up for the trip. There are always people who need their lawn mowed or leaves raked. Since this trip is for him, I’d have him working the overtime!


Dawn August 13, 2009 at 4:31 pm

I am also a nurse and I tend to work more hours to pay the bills. (I am a single mom) I work full-time as a nurse in an elementary school and per-diem as a Labor and Delivery nurse on weekends and during the summer. I am currently in the middle of a 7 day stretch at the hospital since it is the summer and there is no pay check from the school. I am tired from working so much and think I could be more frugal and work less. I feel like the summer is flying by and I have not had a lot of time with my children.

Someone once told me “the more you make, the more you spend”. I am going to try being more frugal so I have more family time and not as tired. I agree though, as a short term need to pick up a few extra shifts for a special expense.


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