Do a quick online search for how to fix your money problems and you're bound to come across recommendations that you get a side job to boost your income. There's a good reason why this suggestion makes it on many of these lists (I've even recommended it at times as well): Because working more seems like the solution to not having enough money.
But adding a side hustle to your already-busy work schedule may not be the answer for everyone. And even if you do have the time, doing so could be bad for your health, and working too many hours is actually bad for productivity.
Instead of potentially overworking yourself by picking up an additional job, it may be better, and easier, to follow these practical ways to fix your money problems.
Track your spending and set goals
If you're considering a side hustle to fill in the gap between what you're earning and what you're spending, the first thing you need do is to track your spending. If you're coming up short each month, then you need to know precisely why. It might be that you're not making enough money, or it could be that the money you make isn't being spent in ways that are unsustainable.
Consider that 28% of Americans who make $50,000 to $99,999 usually or always live paycheck-to-paycheck according to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey. Some of the people in this income bracket really shouldn't have to be counting down the hours until payday. And one of the best ways to get out of that cycle is to take a look at your spending habits and see where your money is going.
You're not alone if don't like spending time making a budget -- a recent Lending Tree survey found that 36% of Americans think budgeting is too much work. But it's a necessary step if you want to figure out exactly what you're spending your money on.
Write down how much money you need each month to cover all of your necessary expenses, and then compare that to how much income you bring in. If you make enough money to cover your needs (transportation, housing, food, utilities, etc.) but you're overspending on unnecessary things, then it's time to start cutting out expenses.
The truth is, most of us have a few expenses we could cut out of our monthly budgets. And guess what? Cutting out $100 per month, or even $200, is a whole lot easier than finding another job and spending every waking hour working.
Do you have one or two subscription services that you pay for each month that you're not using? Go online and cancel them. Do you, like nearly every red-blooded American, hate paying your expensive smartphone bill each month? You can choose a prepaid or wholesale service that still runs on the major networks and costs just a fraction of the price (I personally like Mint Mobile).
The key here is to comb through a few months of spending and pull out the expenses that you know you can live without. Remember, trimming your expenses will likely hurt a little, but the alternative is working more hours to pay for those unnecessary expenses.
Sure, a side hustle could provide more money in your account each month, but if you're already having problems spending too much then there's no guarantee that the money from the side gig won't end up being spent the same way your current income is.
Cut your spending first, and if you still need more money after that then consider a side hustle.
Make the right fix
A side job might be right for you, but working more might not fix your financial problems if you aren't keeping tabs on your spending and cutting out unnecessary expenses. Consider that about 58% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account. Some Americans can't afford to save that much money, but many others could be saving that much -- and much more -- if they were tracking their expenses and cutting out unnecessary spending.
Do these two things first and you might be able to keep your nights and weekends to yourself.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.