Working Extra to Pay off Debt (& Feeling Cranky)

The cheerful pizza delivery guy vs. me

                In his book The Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey writes of people cheerfully chipping away at their debts by delivering pizza in the evenings after working their regular day jobs. It’s an irrefutable concept: If you earn more money, you can pay off more debt. Since our journey out of debt began just over two years ago, I’ve taken on extra work by teaching summer school, and this year is no exception. I’ve accepted a position to work from the beginning of July until the middle of August as a co-op teacher. The program is great, giving students the opportunity to earn credits by working “in the real world”. Students who are to be in my class this summer have requested placements with police, retail, medical offices, dog groomers, seniors’ homes, summer camps . . . And it’s my job over the next few weeks to secure those positions for them.
                Great opportunity, right? A chance for me to work outside the regular school setting and to associate with people from a variety of job sectors. A chance for students who don’t necessarily excel at academics to experience success in a practical work placement. And a chance to earn extra income to pay off more debt. A win-win-win situation. But I’m tired!
I remember how it used to be through the month of June. There’s a crazy rush of final assignments and the overarching stress of impending exams. At the same time, the weather is beautiful and enticing, making it difficult for students to focus. The strange atmosphere of combined anxiety and spring fever brings on an element of exhausting chaos unique to this time of year. But the summer break is just past the horizon, offering staff and students alike a happy energy to see it all through. Unless they’re involved in summer school.
I’m worried about finding positions for my students. I’m uncertain about some of the computer programs I’m supposed to use. I’m not getting in any workouts as I go to my regular job for the day and then prepare for my students’ placements in the late afternoons and evenings. The house isn’t getting cleaned, and meals are decidedly slipshod these days. All the while, the alternative seems so lovely: To finish off the school year and head into a summer holiday – drinking in a slower pace; picking strawberries with my daughters and making jam; taking the dog on leisurely walks; cycling with my neighbour in the mornings; curling up with a book for hours; visiting people I don’t get around to seeing through the year . . .
I’m whining, and I’m not proud of it. I’m falling short of that cheerful pizza delivery guy. The promise of debt-freedom is supposed to be spurring me on, but it isn’t. It seems like a bottomless pit. That image from Fantasia  of Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer’s apprentice comes to mind: Having brought on a flood of infinite proportions, his every effort to contain it is made useless by those multiplying, psychotic brooms. A rather dismal view of things. Inaccurate too. Our debt isn’t infinite, and our efforts haven’t been useless. It’s just that debt-repayment is a long-term undertaking, and sometimes it seems . . . REALLY long.
Ramsey says that The Total Money Makeover “is not a book for the wimpy among us” (Ramsey, 10). Well, I’m coming face-to-face with my inner-wimp. These next few weeks will be tough as I work double-duty. But I’ll find the placements, learn the computer programs, and soon enough, the school year will end, and I’ll be back to single duty. The workouts can wait. So can the house. And it will be interesting to meet with students and supervisors at their various places of work. It will be heartening to see my students succeed – especially those accustomed to failure. And it will be satisfying to cut a significant slice out of our debt this summer.
So there. With any luck, I’ve nipped my whine-fest in the bud and faced down any wimpiness. I’m not exactly perky about it all, but hopefully I’ll shake off this mood slump before too long. And I’ll be cheerful. Like the pizza delivery guy.

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  1. I can understand where you’re coming from. In theory it’s a great concept to be have the opportunity to make extra money, but with it come some serious sacrifices. I’ve had a series of side hustles over the last couple years. Some work out great and fit into my schedule, others make me exhausted. Hopefully you can get through this and be single-tasked, but have less debt so it will make the experience worth it. Hang in there!

    1. When I’m aware of the times I really feel I’m sacrificing something important, I remind myself that it’s time-limited. Once I’m out of debt, I won’t make such sacrifices. Here’s hoping that your future side-hustles will be the kind that fit seamlessly into your schedule. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I don’t pretend to know everything about Dave’s philosophy, but I hear the term “Gazelle intense” get thrown around a lot. Increase income as much as you can, decrease your spending to the bone and pay off that debt as quick as possible. For some that works….for me it’s a recipe for burnout and resentment. My source of extra income through our “pay off our debt” period was freelance writing, and for awhile I took on every extra job I could find. Eventually I learned that it just wasn’t sustainable, you can do things like that in sprints, but there comes a time when you have to take a breath and recharge those batteries too. Remember, even while paying off your debt, you need to enjoy life as well. 🙂

    1. I think Ramsey would be in agreement with you. It’s important to avoid burnout. It’s not always clear where that line between focused intention and burnout lies though. Often we only recognize it when we cross it. I don’t think I’m crossing it at this point. The next couple of weeks will be overloaded and out of balance, but there will be a manageable pace afterwards. I’m just not thrilled with what’s on offer for the next two weeks, especially since it involves a significant learning curve – always a stressful thing for me. I appreciate your caution, and I will be as astute as I can about recognizing the burnout line. Thanks for your insightful comment!

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