Saving Money Vs. Earning Money

Yesterday, a new AskReddit question popped up: “[Serious] Redditors, What are your top tips for saving money, or for earning a bit on the side?

The OP asked for serious answers, and Reddit delivered: use the library, learn to cook, make a grocery list, use coupons, save your change, pay yourself first, pack a lunch, etc. etc. etc.

The majority of the responses were about saving money, not about earning more. This is interesting because there’s nearly always a hard limit to the amount that any one individual can save. Whenever you get some list of how to save money by taking the bus, going to the library, packing a sack lunch, you always get someone who says “okay, I’m doing all of those things and I’m still broke.” I’ve said it myself. (This is another reminder to never look up my old blog from ten years ago.)

On the other hand, there’s not necessarily a hard limit to the amount of money that a person can earn. Or, to be more specific: it is hard but there isn’t a limit.

So it’s telling that the advice skewed so heavily towards saving money vs. earning money.

It’s easier to talk about saving money than it is to talk about earning money because saving money is something you can do yourself, but someone has to agree to give you money before you can earn it. (As I’ve written before: “Any discussion of you need to get another job has to start with the idea that you don’t get jobs. Instead, you are given jobs.”)

This means that the official list of Ways To Save Money is freely available, easily discussible, and made up of short-term achievable actions with demonstrable results: pack that lunch, save that change, clip those coupons.

The list of Ways To Earn Money is much harder to discuss. “Go back to school” is not a short-term action. It may not actually result in earning more money. “Apply for more jobs” is an achievable action but it does not necessarily come with demonstrable results. Even “do a mock interview and improve your technique” is not directly correlated to earning more money the way that “put 5 percent of each paycheck in a savings account” is directly correlated to saving money.

I’d even argue that, to borrow from Tolstoy — it was Proust last week, and this week I’m reffing Tolstoy — all ways to save money are alike, but everyone has to figure out their own way of earning more money.

What do you think? Is there a list of short-term achievable actions that directly result in earning more money? Or are those types of lists only appropriate for saving money?

Photo: slgckgc (cropped)