The Greener-Grass Equilibrium

In case you were wondering, yes I did purposely create a title that sounded like an episode of The Big Bang Theory to explain my “scientific” theory surrounding a certain phenomena I’ve noticed over my adult life. The “theory” is based on working vs. free time, and how people near both ends of the spectrum seem to wish for what is on the opposite end.

First, there is the overworked side of the spectrum; this represents those who work long hours and have very little free time. Certain careers require over 50 hours per week of working time. Usually these long hours means getting paid more (or eventually will). Often these people don’t get much time off to actually spend much of their hard-earned cash.


The under worked are the polar opposite end of the spectrum, and where I currently fit in. I’ve gotten my seasonal layoff from my main job and am finding myself having a lot of free time lately. The under worked generally have quite a bit of free time, but not much money to spend during their time off which can create some big restrictions.


I’ve noticed that many people who are overworked really want to have more time off, whereas people who are underworked enjoy time spent off of work but would often trade a bit more work in order to have more money. While I was working this year I was waiting for January to come because it meant having time off to do all of the things I didn’t have time for before. Now that I am laid off I find myself worrying about my money and feeling like I don’t have enough money to go do all of the things I’d like to do. I did save up money in preparation for this period of time but the frugal woman in me does not want to see my savings account go down each month by more than it has to.

One of the sayings that have been around forever is that the grass is always greener on the other side. Both sides have their perks. In any position it could seem like the perks of one side outweigh the perks of the other. If you switched sides, you may end up wanting some of the old perks you benefited from while at the other side of the spectrum.

I think that everyone can find a happy medium. Some people prefer to work more because that’s what they enjoy and value, and some prefer to work less because they value time spent off more than having that extra money or the fulfillment of a certain job. As long as you have enough money to live with, it’s up to you how much you choose to work.

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  1. Monster Piggy Bank says:

    So true, I have fallen victim to the grass is always greener on the other side fallacy before.
    I think it is because it is in our nature to want what other people have. How often do you take the time to think that other people might actually want to be living the way you live? I almost never do that, yet I have had people tell me they think I lead an amazing life.

    • Exactly. I think it’s human nature to never be completely satisfied and always yearn for something else. My life is great but it’s easy to get caught up in what I don’t have.

  2. The same thing happened to me. In college, when I had more time to travel and could skip classes at my whimsy, I had little money from a part-time retail job. Now that I have a full-time job, I find it hard to take time off because of the crazy hours I work. It’s hard to find that balance!

    • Totally! I guess we’ll just have to save like mad for retirement and then have a bit of freedom. Or hopefully get to our ideal place in a job where we can have a bit more freedom in terms of hours but still make decent money.

  3. I fall more in the category of underworked, but not enough pay. But now I’m almost too busy, but most of it is trying to generate more income, specifically from my blog. It does seem sometimes hard to achieve both things.

    • It can be tough. You work contract work right? So it’s hard to gauge how busy you will be as well. Good luck!

  4. I’m part of the overworked/will eventually get paid well. I consider my income decent now, but not good enough for the months I work 75+ hours per week. I always think I would prefer more time and less money, but I know I want the cash for debt payoff and travel now. In fact, I freelance for more cash so apparently I prioritize money at this point in my life.

    Love Leonard and Penny :).

    • It’s tough waiting for that increase to happen. A friend of mine works in film, the hours are completely awful and long and when you first start off you really don’t make much; all you can do is endure until a promotion comes. That sounds like a lot of work! I bet it is really helpful for paying off debt sooner. Good luck with everything. :)

  5. I often compare my working/financial situation to my boyfriends, and I’m not sure which is better…

    I work 2 jobs, 60+ hours a week, often on Saturdays too, to make ends meet. I feel like I never have time for anything, as I’m always at work. But, my workload is usually pretty light, which allows me time to (admittedly) take care of a lot of personal things while on the clock. My stress level is usually pretty low – unfortunately, so is my bank account.

    My boyfriend, on the other other hand, does shift work in the medical field – 12+ hour shifts, with lots of overtime. He’s had to work over pretty much every holiday since he started, usually has to eat on the run, and only on rare occasions does he get any real break at all. But, he gets almost 2 months per year in vacation time, and makes a lot more money then me.

    I’m jealous that he gets so much time off; he’s jealous that I get to spend Christmas with my family.

    I’m currently hunting for a new job, and have been wondering about this topic a lot. In my head, I’m telling myself I need to find something that pays better and can give me more free time. But does that mean I’m done at 5pm everyday and get the standard 2 weeks vacation time? Or does that mean work 70 hours a week, and get a month or two off each year?

    • Having to work holidays is really tough. As a server I’ve worked a lot of them and depending on the holiday it can be really upsetting to be stuck at work instead of being with your family. But at the same time 2 months off is amazing. And working in a place where you can get personal things done on work time is awesome. I guess it will totally depend on what you find out there what type of hours you’ll be getting. Good luck! :)

  6. I totally value time off but I always want more time off to do more money-making things, so I have no idea where I lie.

    I think the best thing is being in control of your schedule. I’m most productive from 6am-8am then again from 11am-3pm and I usually get another good hour at 10pm. Unfortunately the “appropriate” workday is 9am-5pm, which only covers ONE of my productive times.
    If I could be 100% self-employed, my day would look at lot different. Then you can take time off whenever you want and work whenever you want and make however much money you want…. ideal.

    • Definitely! I agree that there are certain times of productivity. I used to stay up a lot later at night but I found one hour at night vs. waking one hour earlier meant I got a whole lot done. If I haven’t cleaned anything in our house before the sun goes down you can guarantee I pretty much won’t touch it for the rest of the night… which unfortunately happens at 4-5pm over the winter. In fact most of my productive work for some reason absolutely has to fall during daytime hours. I am really not sure why.

  7. I’m with Bridget on this one! When I was in school, I complained constantly how work never stopped because it didn’t. But there were so many more breaks. I worked more, but had more breaks.
    Now, I work from 8 am to 5 pm, often times without a lunch break because it’s better to work and eat at my desk. No breaks means I am literally brain fried by the end of the day.
    I prefer working a bit more during my productive times.

    • School work was insane. Especially coupled with the jobs I worked! But that being said, I was definitely one of those people that skipped half of my classes in order to make breaks for myself. I had honestly so little free time back then it’s funny to look back on. But in the first few years it wasn’t that busy and I remember having lots of free time.

      I hate how jobs often almost require you to not take a lunch break, either based on workload or other factors. It’s definitely not good for the brain fried feeling. I agree with you about the productive times. I get so much done during those and then literally nothing done during the other times. haha

  8. I totally agree that there is a happy medium to be had. But, I know some people who never get to take a vacation and I personally couldn’t live like that.

    • Me either. I also know people like that who are over retirement age and own their own business, so doing that doesn’t necessarily mean you can make your own hours. I just hope people find their happy medium sometime in their working life and don’t hate their situation the whole time.

  9. Striking a balance is an individual pursuit. I work crazy hours (some paid, others not) with the hope of it all paying off a few years down the line, while my fiance does the 9-5 (6) thing and comes home to relax. She gives me my space, which I am grateful for. Point is, there needs to be a end-goal in mind to contextualize the work, or lack of, in order to prevent the “greener grass” from looking too green.

    • That’s great she is so supportive. I agree that an end goal makes it all worth it. If you know that working many hours is going to pay off in a way that makes you willing to work a lot, it’s totally worth it (and more bearable!). Good luck with everything :)

  10. Both my husband and I are self-employed. I have a bit more control over my work hours but we both at times work 60+ hour weeks and hardly see one another. We support each other and do our best to spend our free time together. Our problem is trying to carve out enough days to take our honeymoon at this point, never mind a regular vacation lol!

  11. Maybe it’s not greener on the other side, but it’s a different shade of green which looks more vibrant because our eyes have not adjusted to it yet. I value free time almost more than anything else. That’s why I’m willing to work over 45hrs a week now, so that I can retire early and have as much free time as I want in the future and still make lots of money from my residual income to not worry about going broke :D

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