I have officially reached the breaking point. I took the wrong highway exit coming home from catering at 11:00pm a few nights ago, and I burst into tears. I was so exhausted, so upset at my life, so completely done with everything, that I just cried it out on the frontage roads.
I got back to my new apartment, where my awesome boyfriend was waiting up for me, and I was so short with him. I was resentful that I had spent the last 10.5 hours working a really hard event, and that I had to get up tomorrow morning to go to my non profit job.
I am working way, way too hard, for way, way too little money. I’m in the throes of burnout, and it’s a bad place to be.
I did some calculations the other day. For working roughly 50 hour weeks across three jobs, I will net $39,400 this year.
This is a tough number for me to look at. On the one hand, that’s more money than I have ever earned in my whole life. That’s a real person salary! That’s the income goal I set for myself this year, and if I keep things as they are, it’s kind of amazing to know I can hit that goal.
On the other hand, the thought of working myself to the bone for just under 40k makes me want to burst into tears again. It’s important to note that I net $39,400, but I will gross only $30,200.
I turned 28 in early April, and amidst the fun of having a birthday, I felt disheartened by a lot of the financial realities of my life. I’m trapped in a low income cycle, and it’s strangling other parts of my life. I have amazing friends, a wonderful boyfriend, a great place to live– but all of these are overshadowed by my low income.
All my jobs are pretty demanding. Catering is so physically exhausting, it’s amazing. The non profit job treats me like a full time employee, even though it pays me like a part time contractor (my actual status), and it requires a lot of brain power. My freelance writing also requires a lot of brainpower and creativity to do well.
I feel pulled in all directions, and I have come to the conclusion that this can’t continue. 40K is amazing, but this is not the road to get there. I’m unhappy much too often for this to be the right choice.
As I’ve written about before, letting money pass me by is really hard for me. I struggle with it. Even when I was sobbing in my car, I was crunching numbers. I’ll be able to max out my IRA by the end of April, which is huge for me. It’s still $4,500 short of my retirement goal for this year, and still $9,300 short of my savings goals for the year.
I know that I need a change. I just don’t know what change to make. Catering is exhausting work I don’t love, but I can leave it at work. The nonprofit is more money, but much more demanding, and stressful. It’s also got a very hard ceiling- the maximum amount I’d be able to make there for the next two years is $36,000.
Here are the figures: I gross roughly $120 for a 10 hour catering event. I gross just around $2,000 a month for the nonprofit. Financially, it makes more sense to quit catering and stick with the nonprofit. Quality of life wise, I’m not sure which makes more sense. Catering dominates my weekends, and is a time consuming job. The nonprofit leans way too heavily on me, and is emotionally demanding. Neither is a field I’m interested in pursuing as a career.
My bare bones budget is $1,100 a month. In order to hit my goals for this year, and do the traveling I’ve already lined up, I need to bring in $26,600, after taxes.
If I quit a job, that goal’s impossible. I’ll have to make a sacrifice in my savings goals. I’ll be looking for a new job of course, but there will definitely be a period of underemployment. I’ll have to dip into my emergency fund, and I won’t be able to save any money.
I feel confident I can bring in $1,100 a month through writing and catering, and the hope is to grow my writing side of things. The uncertainty of being a freelance employee is what holds me back. I still feel like I’m walking on financial eggshells.
If I quit catering in May, I’d still bring in enough to live off my bare bones budget and save. I’d still be a stress ball, but definitely less of one. I’d have my weekends off, though my food costs would go up.
If I quite the nonprofit it May, I’d lose way more money, but gain way more time. I could develop my writing career, cater on the weekends, and most likely make enough money to not dip into savings. I would not be building my savings though.
Finally, I’ve been planning a huge trip in September, one that will take me three weeks. It’s part work (writing), part play, and I’ve already set some balls in motion. So while normally I could throw myself into a job search, I’m hesitant because of this trip.
This dilemma has me aching for FIRE more than ever, but it feels so far out of my reach. How can I save enough money to retire at 43 when no one will pay me money right now?! I’ll definitely max out my IRA this year, but if I quit, that may be the only retirement savings I can put away. That’s not enough.
What a downer of a post. I promise there are good things in my life too! I’d love to hear from y’all about what you think I should do. I feel much better than I did in the car last weekend, but I know that I need a permanent shift. I’m just not sure what yet.
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.