Should You Get a Second Job?

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If it feels like money is tight, it's not just your imagination. Real wages—the actual purchasing power of your salary once inflation has been taken into account—have been on the decline since 2006. For some people, a part-time second job might be the answer. Here's what to consider before you make the decision to start looking.

Should You Consider Getting a Second Job?

Working extra hours at a new gig won't help your financial situation if you lose your primary job because of it. Before you even start looking for part-time work, make an honest and accurate accounting of how you spend your time right now.

Keep a journal for a week or so, writing down everything you spend time doing each day. Think of it as a food diary, but for time instead of calories and nutrition. Write down absolutely everything—work hours, time spent cooking, cleaning, and doing household chores, plus time spent on leisure and exercise. Then ask yourself if you can afford to give any of that up.

If you find that you're spending five hours a day catching up on your Netflix, the answer might be yes; if getting a second job would mean forgoing extra assignments that keep you in the boss's good graces, or letting your gym membership lapse, the answer might be no. And of course, if your employer has a policy against moonlighting, it's not worth the risk of getting caught and losing your main paycheck.

Is It Enough Money to Be Worth Your While?

The taxes you pay at your full-time job are largely invisible because the government takes its bite before you see a dime. Some part-time jobs will be the same way—the employer will deduct state, federal, and any local taxes, plus social security before you get your check. But even in that case, you could wind up making a lot less than you'd planned. If you only have a few hours a week to work and your after-taxes paycheck doesn't amount to much, you could be better off clipping coupons or cutting expenses.

Finally, if you work as a contractor, you'll be responsible for your own taxes. Depending on your situation, you might decide either to adjust your withholdings at your primary job or pay quarterly estimated taxes. Either way, your situation will be a lot more complicated than that of someone who only works for one company as an employee, and has taxes taken out.

Will Getting a Second Job Offer More Than Money?

Even if you don't stand to make a ton of cash from a part-time job, there are still reasons to do it anyway. A low-paying part-time job might be worth the investment if:

  • You'll gain skills or experience that will make you more employable or help you move into a new role or industry.
  • You'll make contacts that could lead to professional opportunities down the line.
  • You'll have a chance to "try out" a new role before making a total career change.
  • Your present job doesn't fulfill a major need in your life, e.g. a chance to give back to your community or travel more or engage in a hobby that doesn't presently pay all your bills.

How to Find a Part-Time Job

Once you've decided that a part-time job is right for you, there are a number of ways of going about finding the perfect opportunity for your schedule, needs, and experience, including:

  • Spreading the word. Whether you're looking for part-time work or a full-time career, networking is the best way to find a job. Tell people that you're looking, whether it's through an in-person connection (at a party, say) or online.
  • Checking part-time job sites. Old standbys like Monster, CareerBuilder, and Craigslist allow you to search for part-time jobs via keyword or filter; dedicated sites like and feature seasonal or part-time work only.
  • Keeping your eyes open. Once you start your search, you'll begin to notice opportunities that had been there all along, from Help Wanted signs in windows to friends casually mentioning that their company could use a little more help. Be on the lookout for scams, go with your gut, and don't be afraid to speak up and ask for more information. Your part-time dream job might be waiting just around the next corner.