Making Progress: Fighting Instant Gratification

A rough-skinned newt we met on a recent hike near our home.

Instant gratification is a great luxury. With instant microwave food meals, nearly instant drive-through food and coffee options, we are all getting a little bit spoiled.  Hell, Amazon’s speed on shipping items is getting ridiculously fast! Everything around us seems to be speeding up all the time. Wouldn’t it be great if we could apply this wonder of instant gratification to paying off debt or getting rich?

I wish it were that easy. If you do any Google searches related to paying off debt or making money fast, you’ll be swarmed by a host of websites with all kinds of suggestions and “click here now” prompts. It really would be great if these were quick things to accomplish. Unfortunately, the reality is that they are not.

Paying off debt takes time and effort. Not just today, but tomorrow, and the next day, and next week, month, maybe next year even. It takes consistency and hard work, dedication, and focus, sacrifice and courage. If I had my way, I would just ignore our debt as a couple. Wouldn’t it be easier that way? Perhaps in the short term. But the debts that we don’t come to grips with today only grow with each day that we let them slip by unnoticed.

When I first started looking for a second source of income I dove deep into web searches to see if there was an easy way to become debt free. I wanted to put in minimal effort and receive maximum results. But once I spent more and more time pouring through these websites and suggestions, I got discouraged by the reality that almost all of these options were scams or uncommon windfalls that were not easy to repeat or duplicate in my own life.

Before I got too frustrated and gave up altogether on adding extra income to our bottom line each month to help pay off debt, I returned to an idea that Dave Ramsey often throws around as an example when he talks about listeners getting extra jobs: delivering pizzas. I think he kind of uses it as a placeholder for entry-level jobs, but it got me thinking.  It is not glamorous, it does not make you money hand over fist, and it is not a “get out of debt easy” plan. But it is having results for us.

After a long day of solving IT issues for our clients at my primary job, I throw on a Pizza Hut shirt and baseball cap and hop in our Prius and scoot around town from about 5:30PM until 11 or 11:30PM serving up hot cheesy goodness. These are long days, no doubt, and it is difficult to stay the course. Some days are great, with a handful of tips, and others are very slow and uneventful. But with each shift that I work, each hour that I make that rather low wage, each time a generous customer hands me an extra few dollars as a tip, I am thankful because we are a few dollars closer to reaching our goal of becoming debt free.

I am not saying that everyone should go out and deliver pizzas, it is most certainly not for everyone. But instead of trying to find your next big break, the next big get rich or pay off debt quick scheme, consider doing something that is predictable, consistent, and may require some good old fashioned hard work. We are blessed right now in our country to have a very low unemployment rate. One benefit of this is there are generally more jobs available than there are capable workers to fill those positions. When I walked into Pizza Hut and told them I had a reliable car and would always show up on time, I was hired almost without a second thought. It won’t be a dream job, and you probably won’t want to do it for very long, and that’s okay! You don’t have to do it forever. The important thing is that you are making that extra effort to help free yourself or your household from that icky debt that keeps hanging around. Every dollar does count. The day when we make our last debt payment, I already know that I will be able to look back on all the little odd jobs that Jos and I have done and will be proud to say that we put forth our best effort in order to be a better steward of the money and talents that we have been given, both today and in the future.

Don’t think about it too much, my friend. There may be awesome, ordinary opportunities waiting at your door today.

Side Hustle

For months I have been working hard at my current job, making pretty good money and chunking away at our student loans. We started the year with about a $22,500 balance on my own undergrad loans from Azusa Pacific. Through a lot of hard work, dedication, focus, and God’s provision, we’ve been able to drop that total to just under $9,000 here at the beginning of November. Pretty crazy!

At the end of September, I was working 40-45 hours per week, which was fine. But I felt in the back of my head that I had a little bit of extra time and energy every week. I wanted to make a bigger dent in the loan progress, so I looked around for side gigs. I’ve always done computer jobs on the side here and there. A cleanup, hard drive replacement, whatever it may be. But those jobs are very irregular. I wanted something a little more predictable and steady.

In looking for good side jobs, I kept reading about delivering pizzas. Seemed like something reserved for young high schoolers. But I read more, and I was intrigued with being able to work independently, get to spend time in my own car with my music and work at my own pace most of the time. On top of that, pizza delivery is a tipped position, so there is potential for making more than the standard wage for an entry level position like that. I also had another asset in my corner: a Prius.

I applied to one of the national pizza chain companies here in Forest Grove, less than a half mile from our house. I lucked out here in the Portland metro area, as the minimum wage is actually a very healthy $12.00/hr. As I’ve worked, I’ve found that if I really hustle and keep a smile on my face, tips can be pretty healthy. In my rough math, I usually make $6-9 per hour in tips, pushing the hourly wage to around $20/hr. Really not bad at all!

This has taken a large amount of humility, however. One of my first weeks, I delivered to the local university and stepped into the campus center building and was met with smirks and giggles from some of the college students as I stood there with a few pizzas in hand with my dorky hat on. I was kind of embarrassed, but in the back of my mind, I actually sympathized with those students who are racking up greater student loan debt than I ever did. They will learn soon enough, I suppose.

This side hustle has been challenging. I usually work 2-3 nights per week, usually right after my day job I head there and work until close at 11:30PM or so. It’s not glamorous, it’s not sexy, but it is getting the job done. I’m pocketing $300-$350 in wages and probably $200 or so in tips every two weeks.

Moral of the story is: put your pride aside, or take that step of faith, and try it! Whatever “it” is, you can do it!