Saving money and cutting costs are two of the most important things to consider when thinking about Financial Independence and Early Retirement. However, there are realistic limits on how much anyone can save, assuming there are fixed expenses in everyone’s lives that are not easy to remove, such as kids, rent, or a home mortgage. If savings have been maximized and expenditures minimized, then the only other option to increase wealth in the short-term is to focus on increasing income. If you are not optimizing your spending and saving, then I suggest you read my article, “The Financial Trap Explained! Why Saving is so Hard…”, in order to provide some insight into the underlying reasons why saving money is a struggle for so many of us. The next step after controlling your spending is to focus on optimizing any and all sources of income by utilizing the key ideas from my last article. One of the best ways to increase wealth is to turn an expenditure into a source of income. Let me explain how I increased my short-term income and cut my expenses with Volleyball.
Sharpen the Saw – How I Invested in Myself
The harder it is to learn a particular skill, the more you will be compensated for that skill. Spending countless hours perfecting a highly valuable skill requires discipline and dedication. The problem is that so many people spend the majority of their educational and professional lives investing in just one skill, and the remainder of their free time on unproductive tasks. It is what we do with the remainder of our free time outside of work that makes the difference between becoming financially independent or not. Most people tend to invest their time and money in things that are fun and temporarily remove them from the harsh realities of the world.
Everyone has their vice, their one thing they do to escape. I am no different, my addiction was and still is… video games! I’ve invested over 3000 hours mastering DOTA (Defense of The Ancients) and other competitive games that really provided no true value to anyone but myself. I was reasonably good at these games since I invested all my waking hours into them. Sometimes, I would even come across well-known professional gamers in ranked matches, but it became painfully obvious that I would never become good enough to make money by gaming.
What we do with our free time after work and on the weekends is what makes the difference between retiring at 40 and retiring at 65. The most important thing we can do is to build habits that truly invest time towards increasing knowledge, skills, and extrinsic value. It is easy for me to spend all my free time watching Netflix and I may even become the best at answering Netflix original series trivia questions, but no one is going to pay me for that. So, instead of filling my schedule with bad habits that cost a lot of time and money, I decided to invest in myself and get better at Volleyball.
Finding a Job is a Job! – Bump! Set! Spike!
Volleyball is a sport that I have loved since I was very young and have always played casually. Early in 2016, I began taking the sport more seriously and began signing up for volleyball classes and advanced open play sessions. It took a lot of mistakes on the court and an enormous amount of time to get marginally better, but I stuck with it. I got multiple looks of scorn when I first tried to play with more advanced players but eventually reached a point where I am now confident and comfortable enough to play at a reasonably high level. My dedication to invest my time and money in volleyball was initially a way for me to have fun and stay in shape but morphed into an expensive hobby that was costing me $15 per open play session and $20 per volleyball class. This may seem like a totally reasonable expense to some people. That, or hitting a ball around for $35 a week may seem ludicrous to you. Either way, I had to figure out a way to reduce my expenditures while still playing volleyball!
Once I fully understood Financial Independence and realized how much I was spending on Volleyball ($35 per week, $140 per month, and $1680 per year), I realized something needed to change. I was thinking about playing less or stopping all together, but understood that I would never really be happy with that decision. Sure, there would be a few more dollars in my pocket, but that wouldn’t be worth it if I had to trade my happiness in return. I do not condone “sacrificing” happiness (in the sense of consumerism) in exchange for pursuing financial independence. Instead, I recommend that everyone find creative ways to obtain the same level of utility or happiness in life, while reducing or completely replacing the costs of the good.
So, taking my own advice, I applied to all the Volleyball jobs in New York City that I could find. I took the time to compose thoughtfully written emails and followed up with each company in the weeks to come. After a bit of effort, it took about 6 weeks for me to begin working at my new job after I had applied. I am now able to play Volleyball for free whenever I am scheduled to run an ‘open play’ session. Instead of paying for something I regularly do, I get to be paid to do something I truly enjoy. On top of being able to play for free, I was given the opportunity to become a referee and coach. This job gives me the chance to learn skills that I never would have gotten from my 9 to 5 job and can potentially lead to great opportunities in the future if I ever want to start my own league or change professions.
Work Hard! Add Value!
There are many examples of hobbies that can lead to a promising part time job or business. If you have hobbies that tend to cost a lot of money and provide little value, then I definitely suggest you reconsider how you spend the precious few hours of free time you have every night (and weekends). Are you spending your free time doing things that cost money and provide little value in the long term? I was definitely guilty of wasting time when I was investing all my free minutes into gaming with no prospects of going pro. I still play video games for fun, but games do not consume the majority of my free time like they used to.
I decided to dedicate anywhere from 10-20 hours of my week to my new job because it is something I love and something I am truly interested in. I want to be clear that getting a second job may not be the right answer for everyone. It may be absolutely correct for someone to invest further into their 9 to 5 career if that career provides the best potential future returns. Whatever your specific case may be, there are a multiple numbers of ways to turn your hobbies or habits into a source of income (or a way to invest in yourself). If you love wine, then become a part time sommelier. If you love gaming, become a live streamer on Twitch (I wish this was popular when I was in college). If you love a sport, then coach that sport. If you love traveling, then figure out a way to get paid to travel (my sister did a teaching English abroad program in Korea for a year and loved the experience). If you love the night life, then become a bartender or DJ. If you love photography, then begin building your portfolio and internet presence.
The options are endless depending on your specific situation and your specific hobby. Some ventures may prove to be more worth your attention than others, but every decision to be productive instead of idle will bring you one step closer to your goals. You won’t be able to take advantage of the opportunities in the world if you are not willing to work hard for it. So, instead of binge watching the latest season of your favorite TV show, let’s be productive and work hard!
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