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I Turned My Passion Into a Side Hustle. Now It Helps Pay My Student Loans

I'm still able to work my full-time job and be there for my family without burning out.

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Alicia Barrington / CNET

I’m all for finding ways to make extra money, but I don’t love when financial experts recommend taking on a side hustle without explaining how to fit it into your schedule. Sure, a second gig can help you pay down debt or grow your savings, but it can also be draining. Who has the time and energy to run a small business or drive for Uber on top of a 9-to-5 and personal responsibilities?

But what if there was a way to turn your passion or hobby into another stream of income without completely eating up your free time? That’s exactly what I did, and I have no regrets.

I’m a personal finance editor, a wife, a mom and now a spin instructor. Here’s how I took a hobby I already enjoyed and turned it into my side hustle, and how you can, too.

Why I become a spin instructor

Spin class has become my way to disconnect from everyday stress for an hour. I felt good about spending my money on a membership that was good for my physical and mental health. And it also helped me feel accomplished and motivated. I wanted to inspire this feeling in other people. 

So, after some consideration, I decided to audition to become a spin instructor. Flash forward through three rounds of auditions and an additional month and a half of training, and I’m now a regular instructor, teaching three classes a week. I feel all of the endorphins as soon as I hit “play” and turn the lights down. 

Why this side hustle works for me and my family

Teaching classes takes time. Learning choreography, brainstorming new themes and even making playlists often require spending time that I’m not paid for. But I don’t mind that. I actually enjoy it.

And since I teach during early morning and weekend hours, you might wonder about the time commitment. But I scheduled my teaching classes this way for a reason -- it’s the same time I would normally spend on myself if I were taking the class instead of teaching it. 

I teach while my husband and kids are still sleeping, and I get home in plenty of time to start my work day. It doesn’t take time away from my family in the evenings, which was important to me. 

Fitness has always been a priority for me, but after the pandemic, it felt hard to get back into my regular workout routine. I ate more junk food and felt less energized. Since picking up spin classes (and especially while training and teaching), I’ve been prioritizing self-care and carving out time for fitness. 

Now, I feel a lot more like my old self. I have more energy to tackle home tasks, spend time with family and work without feeling drained or unmotivated. I’m also more focused and productive overall. Earning additional income doing something that makes me feel good is an added benefit.

What I’m doing with my extra income 

On average, I bring home about $250 to $300 every two weeks for teaching classes. Sometimes it’s more, depending on training, substituting for a fellow instructor or taking advantage of the professional development hours. 

My student loan payments generally cost me a little less than one spin instructor paycheck. And even though I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford my student loan payments, it’s nice to have the extra cushion to pay my bill with additional funds. But I’m not putting more money toward my student loan debt, even though I could.

What do I do with my second spin paycheck? It varies. Sometimes I’ll put a portion of the check in my high-yield savings account to put toward our family vacation fund. Other times, I’ll treat myself. I recently used a portion of my second check to hire a babysitter so my husband and I could spend time together. Then I put the rest toward self-care. I consider it “play money” that I can use responsibly.

What I like most is that it frees up money between my husband and me. And my student loans are no longer a line item for our family budget. But even if my side hustle check were less than my student loan payment, we’d be able to cover the difference.

If you’re not passionate about your side hustle, think twice

You can earn additional income from any side hustle, but you’re more likely to experience burnout or begrudge the extra time you’re spending if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. I know I did. 

I DoorDashed for a while a few years ago, and between gas and the time requirement, I found it grueling and exhausting to travel unfamiliar roads to pick up and drop off food and only earn $20 for two hours of work. But when I figured out a way to earn some extra money doing something I’m passionate about, I found it felt less like work.

There may not be an easy solution for everyone, but it’s worth looking into what you love and seeing if you can use your skills or passion to channel into another stream of revenue. For example, if you love dogs, you may get joy from dog-sitting or walking pups in your free time.

What works for me may not work for everyone, though, and I know sometimes it’s necessary to bring in extra money doing a job you don’t love. And that’s OK if it helps you reach your financial goals, so long as it remains manageable. But I’d challenge you to find something you’re passionate about to see if you can combine both.

Dashia is a staff editor for CNET Money who covers all angles of personal finance, including credit cards and banking. From reviews to news coverage, she aims to help readers make more informed decisions about their money. Dashia was previously a staff writer at NextAdvisor, where she covered credit cards, taxes, banking B2B payments. She has also written about safety, home automation, technology and fintech.
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