Amazingly, I was actually earning more money that I could keep with my part-time job as an undergraduate. I earned $12 an hour. There were no travel costs, no wardrobe costs, no extra activities, no unpaid hours of work (I kept a diligent time sheet), no commuting expenses (I worked really close to where I lived). I would be left with more than $10 per hour working at this job.

On a per-hour basis, my part-time job in college was more lucrative than my first "good" job after college. It was also less stressful and far less intrusive on my time.

One of my closest friends at the time made $7.50 an hour working at the night shift at a local gas station right after college. The gas station was just down the block from his apartment, and he'd spend most of his time there reading or practicing his sketching, as he'd have a customer maybe once every 15 minutes. He didn't have a car, and on the rare occasions when he needed to go somewhere, he would take the bus.

It often seemed that he had more money to spare than I did. At the time, I thought it was just an illusion, but when you start running the numbers this way, it's not entirely surprising, particularly if he was paying lower rent and lower utilities than I was.

Realizations like this one are what persuaded me to make a scary career leap and start working on my writing full time. Doing that meant that I no longer had a commute (saving on car maintenance, fuel and time) or any wardrobe costs or eating-out costs. My time spent on work was actually spent on work. There was no more travel -- I've only been tempted to travel related to ny new work once, and that one time was canceled due to a family illness.

On the surface, my salary dropped through the floor when I made this move, but when I started running the numbers like this, I began to realize that my hourly income really wasn't going down much.

Whenever you're thinking about your next job or your next career move, you need to think through these kinds of things. Often, a job that looks like it earns you great pay or is a great opportunity really isn't either, and a job that seems like you won't be earning much can actually leave you with a lot of money in your pocket. When you take into account things like stress and schedule flexibility, sometimes the "low-end" job is just the job for you, particularly if you're simply working to earn a paycheck and are focusing your energies on getting a side business or other opportunity off the ground.

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