Survey: 1 in 3 Americans Rely on Side Hustles to Make Ends Meet

Prior to the pandemic, having a part-time job, a side hustle, was a great way to pay off debt and save for the future. 

But now that the price of groceries, housing, childcare, and transportation have all seemingly skyrocketed, much faster than incomes have been able to keep up with, side hustles are increasingly seen as a way for Americans to make ends meet.

Some of the most popular side hustles in the U.S. include selling clothes, making and selling crafts, delivery driving, and freelance writing.

According to new data from Bankrate’s Side Hustles Survey, more than one-third (36 percent) of U.S. adults earn extra money beyond their main source of income through a side hustle to pay for regular living expenses, like rent and groceries. 

Other surveys have found the number of Americans with a side hustle to be much higher – closer to 50 percent.

The average side hustler earns an average of $891 per month in extra income, aside from their main source of income. That’s up from an average of $810 side hustlers earned per month in 2023, according to Bankrate.

According to Bankrate’s side hustle survey:

  • 36 percent of side hustlers reported using at least some of their side hustle income to pay for regular living expenses
  • 37 percent of side hustlers use at least some side hustle income to fund discretionary spending
  • 31 percent save at least some of their side hustle income
  • 20 percent use their side hustle income to pay down debt

And of those working a side hustle, 32 percent reported this is not likely to be a one-time gig, noting they estimate they will always need that additional income to afford their expenses.

“While it’s admirable that so many Americans are putting in extra time and effort on their side hustles, it’s unfortunate that most are doing so simply to fund their expenses,” said Ted Rossman, Bankrate Senior Credit Card Analyst.

Survey: 1 in 3 Americans Turn to Side Hustles to Make Ends Meet

Prior to the pandemic, Americans with debt, or Americans working toward a savings goal such as buying a home or saving for retirement, would take on a side hustle temporarily to crush their financial goals. 

But starting in late 2020, inflation grew at a record pace, much faster than wage growth, peaking in the summer of 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, when inflation was at 9.1 percent, and year-over-year wage growth was 5.3 percent, according to MarketWatch. 

This essentially meant that despite earning more money, workers couldn’t buy as much because the prices of goods were rising faster than their wages. As inflation continued to drive the cost of housing, gas, and groceries higher, American consumers had two choices: cut their spending or raise their income.

With two-thirds of Americans reporting they were feeling financially squeezed, living paycheck-to-paycheck, many began turning to side hustles in order to afford everyday expenses. 

In fact, many side hustlers are relatively new to the game. More than half, 52 percent, of side hustlers started working after 2022.

For many people, a side hustle may feel like a necessity rather than a choice — but the extra income still may not be enough to push them into the realm of financial security.

Nearly one-third (32 percent) of side hustlers say they think they will always need a side hustle to make ends meet. For others, side hustling isn’t forever — 16 percent of people with a side hustle plan to develop it into their main source of income.

The amount of money you can make through side hustles varies depending on the industry you choose to go into, how much time you put in and how you market your business.

Another survey conducted on behalf of Self found that most respondents (26.7 percent) earned between $51-$250 per month from their side hustle. A small percentage (1.7 percent) of respondents said they earn over $4,000 per month from their side hustle, putting the average earnings around $688 a month. 

Of course, as the split of earnings shows, there will be some side hustlers earning much more, and many earning much less. 

That’s not to say it isn’t worth trying your own side hustle, though it may be difficult in the initial stages. There are plenty of people who turn a simple hobby like crocheting or gardening into something that makes them enough money to cover basic costs and afford some extra luxuries in life.

Some generations are more likely than others to take on side hustles. 

  • Gen Z is the most likely to have taken on a side hustle, with 71 percent saying they’ve done so. 
  • Millennials are close behind, at 68 percent. 
  • Baby boomers are the least likely to have taken on a side hustle, but nearly a third (32 percent) still say they have.

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