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Side Hustles: The Budget Band-Aid For All

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Whether you’re a student, a full-time employee, or something in between, side hustles can be the budget booster for which you’re looking, and there are hustles to suit every situation. Seriously, thanks to the Internet and some sharing economy behemoths, you can get started earning money outside of your “regular” jobs within the hour if you really wanted.

Now, I’m not here to be idealistic about side hustles either, because other people have done a very good job explaining that a side hustle is a glamorous rebranding of “get a second job,” which is true af. Nope, I’m here to be a realist who will tell you that straight up, having an extra few dozen (or few hundred) dollars hit your bank account outside of the money you’re expecting next month is almost always a huge sigh of relief.

So whether you’re a full-time employee or a full-time student, let’s rap about how a side hustle can make your money life easier based on your current time commitments and career situation.

Situation #1: You’ve got a full-time job

If you’re already pulling in a full-time income, why would you consider a side hustle?

Well, ask anyone working outside of engineering and computer science, and they’ll tell you that sometimes, an extra few hundred bucks a month can be the difference between struggling to make it to the end of the month and feeling like you’ve finally got a bit of budget breathing room.

However, as a full-time employee, you’ll want to prioritize side hustles that are as flexible as you need them to be – and you might even want to focus on ones that leverage the skills you clearly have thanks to your day job. Freelancing is a great bet for most professionals since there will always be organizations who could use your skills but can’t afford a full-time you.

You’ll want to watch out for two things as a moonlighting freelancer: conflicts of interest and deadlines. If you’re freelancing in a similar field to your day job, make sure you aren’t taking on clients who are direct competitors, and when in doubt, ask your boss. As for deadlines, it’ll only take one accidental all-nighter to turn in that freelance proposal before you start getting a sense of how much you can really commit to outside of your 9-to-5.

Situation #2: You don’t have a full-time job … yet

If you’re on the hunt for a job, side hustles can do double duty when it comes to easing the stress of landing a full-time position.

First of all, if you can set up a quick money-making side hustle, that extra cash will go a long way to making your emergency fund cover your period of unemployment. If you’ve got a car or an apartment, this would be a good time to look into the tried, tested, and most reliable income generated in the sharing economy by checking out Lyft or Airbnb. You could even look into established service marketplaces if you want to trade time and effort for money, like or

But while you’re making that emergency fund stretch, you should also take a long, hard look at landing side hustle work that pumps up your resume. If you’re looking for a job in marketing, see if there’s a small business you can work with on some short-term marketing projects. The same goes for just about any field: If you can side hustle your way into relevant job skills, that’s an excellent use of your job-searching time that doubles up as an income stream.

Situation #3: You’re in school full-time

If there’s one thing people say about students, it’s that they’ve got tons of money… right?

Let’s pause while we all cry into our piles of student loan debt.

Just because you’re studying doesn’t mean you can’t take on a side hustle that’s related to your interests, your skills, or both. From selling thrift store finds on eBay, to starting an Etsy store, to babysitting, and yes, even starting to freelance, the world is your side hustle oyster.

Before you dive in, make sure to consider how you’ll handle the extra workload of maintaining a side hustle, because while you don’t have a full-time “job,” you definitely have a full-time workload. But when you do get started, you’ll be setting yourself up to avoid the whole ramen noodle thing by padding your budget with some extra cash every month.

There are plenty of good arguments both for and against a side hustle, but if you need a bit of a budget band-aid, the extra money you generate outside of “traditional” employment might be exactly what you’re looking for, on exactly the schedule for which you’re looking.

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