One Day’s Pay

I’m a cheap bastard. I will spend all sorts of money on my wife and kids, but I can’t stand wasting money on myself. Most days I put on my 18-year-old watch, grab my 20-year-old backpack and drive my 7-year-old used Jeep to the hospital wearing free scrubs I got 5 years ago.

Although I’m frugal (cheap, stingy, miserly) I do realize that most of this penny-pinching is unnecessary. Physicians are well compensated for their time and a single day’s pay could buy a lot of conveniences.

Financial bloggers like to write about the latte factor – the large sum that can be saved by cutting small things from your budget. Today we’re going to explore the hustle factor – the large number of small things that can be bought by just working one extra day.

Whether it be in the ER, working locums or side hustles, I’ve found several ways to convert a day of work into $2000 or more.  For most side hustling physicians, $2000 quickly becomes $1200 after taxes (unless you use a solo 401(k) or cash balance plan). Here’s what one day of work translates into:

406 Starbucks Tall Caffe Lattes

I do brew my own coffee, but it has more to do with wanting to get cracked out in my pajamas than it does with saving $2.95 every day.  One day of work could pay for more than a year of daily overpriced lattes from Starbucks.  I bet I spend 5 minutes a day cleaning the coffee pot, refilling the water reservoir, cleaning out the filter and packing it with new coffee grounds.  That 5 minutes translates to 1825 minutes a year.  That’s 30 hours (3 10-hour shifts) spent avoiding spending 3 bucks on a cup of joe.

closed white and green starbucks disposable cup
Think how hard you could work with 406 of these coursing your veins.

480 Gallons of Gas

“If I just buy a $100,000 Tesla, think of all the money I’ll save on gas”.  Those are words that will never come out of my mouth.  I live 2 miles from the hospital and average ~2,500 miles every year.  No amount of fuel savings is going to make or break me.

selective focus photography of gasoline nozzle
Fill ‘er up.

Saving fuel really is not going to motivate me much when showing up to work for a day can buy me 480 gallons of gas.  Based on my minimal driving habits, that’s more than 3 years of fuel for the Jeep.

2.3 Car payments

The government estimates that the average American car payment is $523 a month.  That’s way higher than I’ve ever paid, but I could still make a few months payments just working for one day.

automobile automotive autumn car
Telecommuting is cheaper.

10 years of Gym Memberships

One of the downsides of All Work and No Play is you neglect your health.  I would feel more guilty about letting my gym membership go to waste, but it only costs me $10 a month.  That means that even after paying taxes, a single shift could pay for 120 months of gym membership.  That’s a decade of telling myself I’m going to start running again any day now.

bodybuilding close up dumbbells equipment
Feel that (cash) burn.

3 months of Lawn Service

When I bought my big dumb house it came with a big dumb lawn.  I did what most home owners do and bought a big dumb lawnmower.  Each summer I resent using my precious free time maintaining the lawn.  For $100 a week I could have someone else do it for me.  Turns out that picking up a single shift could pay for someone to mow my grass June through August.

shallow focus photography of green grasses during daytime
Astroturf would be cheaper.

6 months of Electricity Bills

Like all self-respecting fathers I spend most of my time wandering the house turning off light switches.  I can actually hear my father’s voice in my head as I harass my kids about wasting electricity.  My electric bill usually runs around $200/month, which means a single shift pays for 6 months of power.  I should spend more time picking up shifts and less time pushing down switches.

shallow focus photograph of pendant lamp
Who left all these lights on?!


12 months of Cable Bills

“I cut the cord and I’ve never been happier”.  Good for you.  I’m a shift worker and I want 600 channels to surf when I get off work at 2AM and I’m wide awake.  You can pry this TV remote out of my cold dead hands.  You won’t find me cancelling cable to save money.  At least not as long as 1 day’s work pays for an entire year of channel surfing delight.

night television tv video
This 4K static is so much crisper!


10 years of Amazon Prime Memberships

I cannot say enough wonderful things about Amazon prime.  It’s the closest mankind has gotten to plugging into the Matrix.  Yes, I would like a baby grand piano and a 55 gallon drum of Jello on my doorstep.  How did you know, Alexa?  Some frugal people will cut out their Amazon prime membership to save the $119 annual fee.  It just doesn’t seem worth the sacrifice when one day’s pay translates into a decade of free 2 day deliveries.

Red pill, blue pill…..I’ll do whatever it takes to stay plugged in.

20 weeks of Meal Delivery Service

With multiple jobs and 3 kids at home, we are willing to pay for convenience.  One of the best things we’ve discovered in the past few years is all the meal delivery services out there.  We get three meals a week delivered to our doorstep for $60/week.  I’m sure we could buy the ingredients for less money, but when one day’s work pays for 20 weeks of meals it’s hard to turn down.

food egg kitchen cooking
Bon appetit!

11 One Day Passes to Disney World

Our guilty pleasure is taking the whole family to Disney World.  I usually time it during a medical conference so the hotel gets paid for by my job.  The park passes come out of my pocket though.  Luckily, a single day of working pays for 11 passes into the park.  I disimpact someone’s log flume, and 10 of my dearest loved ones and I can ride Splash Mountain all day long.  That seems like a fair trade.

animation cartoon cartoon character disney
Mickey wears white gloves so he won’t leave fingerprints on your wallet.

A Penny Saved

A penny saved is a penny earned.  When you can earn 200,000 pennies in a day, it takes a lot of penny-pinching to make up the difference.  I will probably always be frugal.  It’s engrained in my DNA.  That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the ridiculous income we physicians have access to.

If you scoff at the idea of side hustling but brown bag your lunch, brew your own coffee and cut the cable to save money, just remember how little work it takes to replace that savings.


5 thoughts on “One Day’s Pay

  1. I like this line of thinking. My only caveat is that one day of pay can lead to one more year syndrome in a hurry. If I just work that extra year I will…. Fill in whatever desire you think you will achieve more by working that extra year.

    At some point you will prioritize time over money. Because time allotted is finite (and unfortunately unknown what’s left) there is a point where the money gained from working cannot make up for the time lost doing so.

    But I get your point, we are very well compensated for what we do and it makes no sense to deny yourself whatever you think you need to because it’s like spitting in the ocean in terms of overall impact.


  2. It’s insane to me that there are professions where an extra day can make you $1200, after taxes! I make less than that every two weeks! That being said, I love that you took things that you use (or might use) and gave them a time value. I used to do that when I was little. I’d decide if the item I was buying at the store was worth my time, not my money.


  3. Using your income to justify an expense is a slippery slope. The only time I’ve actually implemented this kind of thinking was to buy extra stuff when taking extra call. When we builit our first house, I wanted a hot tub and a pool table. That’s $10,000 from the local spa and pool place. Yes, they specialize in both. Fireplaces, too, I think.

    Anyway, picking up a few extra weekends emboldened me to make that purchase without regret. But those are one-time expenses (sort of). When you start using your income to justify subscription services and lifestyle expenses, your cost of living is pretty much irreversibly raised. Lifestyle creep is tough to undo.



    1. Totally agree that lifestyle creep is a dangerous slope. I will always be a cheap bastard at heart and have been living on 1/3 of my ER income for years.

      When it comes to side hustles, I’ve taken the Live on None Challenge. It either goes to taxes or gets invested.

      The latte factor just isn’t as pertinent for docs. Maybe it should be called the McMansion/Tesla/Alimony factor.

      If you make $400,000/year but think your Netflix account is keeping you from achieving FI, it might be time to loosen the purse strings.


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