What To Do If You Hate Your Job But Can’t Afford To Quit

By Zach Buchenau

Last Updated: March 1, 2021

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Hate your job but can't quit? Follow these 5 steps | Be The Budget

Do you wake up every day and drive to a job you hate all because you can’t afford to quit? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, tons of people at this exact moment are struggling with the exact same thing.

But just because it’s a common problem, doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Actually, you should do just the opposite. Rather than living with your current circumstances, and allowing yourself to suffer day after day, you should take steps to solve the situation. 

And that’s exactly what I’d like to help you do.

For the rest of this guide, I’m going to walk you through 5 clearly-defined steps that you can take to turn things around. 

To put it in simpler terms, if you hate your job but can’t afford to quit, here’s what to do!

Step 1: Get To The Root Of The Problem

If you hate your job but can’t afford to quit, you are essentially dealing with 2 problems. 

  1. You hate your job, and you feel like it’s crushing your soul every time you drive to work.
  2. If you were to just up and quit, you wouldn’t have enough money in savings to pay your bills while you find a new job.

And here’s the thing, if you want to change your current circumstances, you need to solve at least one of these two problems.

In other words, you need to either find a new job or improve your current work situation so that you don’t have to worry about paying your bills. Or, you need to improve your financial situation and save enough money so that you can quit and still pay all your expenses while you look for a new job.

But before you can approach a solution, you need to define the root of the problem. To do that, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  • What is the biggest problem with your current job? For example, do you hate the industry, the actual work you do, the pay, or the people you work with/for?
  • Is there anything that would make you stay at your current job? For example, would you be happier if you were paid more, transferred to a different department, transferred to a different region, or worked for a different manager/boss? What, if any, changes would need to be made in order for you to enjoy your job.
  • Why can’t you afford to quit? In other words, do you have too many expenses? Do you lack enough savings? Are you buried in a bunch of debt? 

Ask yourself as many questions about your current situation as possible–and be as honest with yourself as you possibly can. Ultimately, in order to solve the situation, you need to have a clearly defined problem.

And once you figure it out, write it down and move on to step 2.

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Step 2: Take A Breath And Do The Math

When your emotions are running high, it can be hard to take a breath and approach your financial situation with a calm, level head. But if you hate your job and can’t afford to quit, that’s exactly what you need to do.

Why? Because if you can’t see past the emotions of your current situation, it’s easy to let your mind spiral out of control. (Trust me, I’ve been there). And emotions will make just about any situation seem worse than it actually is.

So, take a breath and press pause on all those job-hating emotions for a minute. Then, grab a pen, a piece of paper, and a calculator, because we’re about to do the financial math on your situation.

What to do if you hate your job but can't afford to quit | Be The Budget

1. Add Up Your Normal Monthly Expenses

Before you can accurately judge your financial situation, the first thing you need to do is figure out the average amount of money you spend each month. I’m talking about everything from your rent or mortgage to the food you eat.

The best way to do this is to log into your various spending accounts, wfrom your checking account to your credit card accounts, and add up every expense from the last six months. Then, just divide that number by six.

Why six months? Because throughout the year, it’s normal to go through months where you spend more and months when you spend less. And in my experience, six months is about the perfect sample size to get an accurate monthly spending average.

2. Don’t Forget About Health Insurance

I subscribe to the belief that you should always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Because of that, if you want to quit your job, health insurance is a major consideration you should take into account. 

I mean, if you think your situation is tough right now, try adding an uninsured medical bill to the equation. Not good.

Because of that, the next thing you should do is research the cost of health insurance should you decide to quit. Then, once you have a good idea of what you’ll have to spend, add it to your average monthly expenses.  

3. Set Your Savings Goal

After adding your health coverage costs to your average monthly expenses, the next thing you need to address is time. In other words, if you were to quit your job tomorrow, how long do you realistically think it would take you to find new employment?

1 month? 3 months? 6 months?

Whatever you decide, multiply that number by your total monthly expenses including health insurance. The result of that equation is your new savings goal.

Why? Because once you have enough money to cover all your expenses while you look for a job, you give yourself the financial ability to quit.

4. Figure Out Your Timeline

Now that you have a specific savings goal in mind, your next step is to assess your income and determine how long it will take you to save that amount of money.

For instance, let’s say you need to save $10,000. If you can save $2,000 per month, then you should be able to comfortably quit your job in 5 months. If you can save $4,000 a month, then you can quit your job in less than 3 months.

Ultimately, whether the outcome of the math is better or worse than you imagined, once you know the numbers, your path forward should become much clearer.

And with that in mind, it’s time to move on to step 3 and create a plan.

Step 3: Create A Plan

If you hate your job but can’t afford to quit, then the last thing you should do is make a hasty, rash decision. As hard as it might be, addressing the problem with a calm and level head is the best thing you can do.

And now that you have taken the time to define the root of the problem, the next step is to create a plan to solve the problem.

To help you out, let’s take a look at three different approaches you should consider taking:

Option #1: Try To Improve Your Current Work Situation

Unless it’s just too far gone, if there’s a chance you can solve your work situation without quitting, then I highly recommend you attempt this first. On paper, this is usually the best option, but for many people, it can be the scariest and most difficult.

Why? Because this plan requires you to be bold and communicate as openly and honestly as you can.

For example, if you hate your job because you feel like you are underpaid, then you will need to talk to your superior about a pay increase.

If you can’t stand a particular co-worker (or supervisor), then you’ll need to have an open and honest conversation with that person and take the issue head-on. Or, you may have to talk to your boss (or they’re boss) about it.

Ultimately, your goal here is to stay calm and collected, communicate honestly, and do your best to solve the situation. And if that doesn’t work out, you can always move on to option #2.

Option #2: Get A New Job Before You Quit Your Current Job

If you hate your job but can’t afford to quit, then the next option is to get a new job before you quit your current job. That means you’ll have to make time for filling out applications, networking, and interviewing.

And the more you hate your job, the more aggressive you need to be on your job search.

The sooner you find new employment the sooner you can quit. So get aggressive with your job hunt, and don’t let up until you’ve found a new place to work.

Then, you can quit your job without worrying how you’ll pay your bills.

Option #3: Improve Your Financial Situation So You Can Afford To Quit

The third option you have is to improve your financial situation. By that I mean, you need to find ways to save as much money as you possibly can, as fast as you can. Essentially, the goal here is to save enough money to cover your employment gap. And since you already figured out the financial math in Step 2, this should be fairly straight-forward.

I recommend two-pronged approach:

  1. Get on a budget and cut as many expenses as possible. Seriously, the more expenses you cut, the more money you’ll be able to save, and the lighter your financial burden will be if you decide to quit your job.
  2. Find ways to make money on the side. Be it a part-time job, selling your stuff, or starting a side business, the more income you can earn outside of your normal paycheck, the easier it will be to quit.

As a final note for this option, if you have any consumer debt, from credit cards to car loans, I highly recommend paying them off as quickly as you possibly can. 

And the more you hate your job, the more aggressive you should get. Seriously, if you have a car payment, sell your car and buy something cheaper in cash. If you own a boat or RV, sell them and kick those payments to the curb. 

Not only will that lighten your financial burden and allow you to quit your job sooner, but it will reduce a lot of the financial stress in your life. And let’s be honest, when you hate your job, the last thing your really need is a big pile of debt keeping you up at night.

Now, depending on your financial situation, this option could take awhile. So I recommend focusing on your finances in conjunction with one of the other two plans we already discussed.

Step 4: Endure As Long As It Takes

Here’s the thing, no matter how you plan to escape your current work situation, it will take time. And if you can’t afford to quit, that means you will have to endure as long as it takes for your plan to work.

Whether it be the time it takes you to save enough money to quit, the time it takes you find a new job, or the time it takes for you to communicate and start seeing an improvement in your current situation, you may have to endure for a while.

The good news is that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Just dedicate yourself to your plan, and work as hard as you can.

Apply to as many jobs as you possibly can–even if you don’t think you’re qualified. Take on a part-time job at night to save as much money as you possibly can. Sell your stuff, get out of debt, and cut your expenses to the bone.

Ultimately, all your hard work and dedication will pay off. But until then, endure.

Step 5: Leave On Good Terms

When the day finally comes and you get to quit your job, the final thing I will suggest is that you maintain your integrity and leave on good terms. No matter how horrible your situation has been, the only thing you can control is your response.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not suggesting you lie about your situation. Honestly is always the best policy, so don’t be afraid to speak the truth–especially in an exit interview.

Just don’t burn the bridge. As hard as it might be, the most important thing you can do is exhibit your good character, and walk out of your job with your integrity intact.

In the long run, you’ll be glad you took the high road.

Final Thoughts

When you hate your job but can’t afford to quit, it can be hard to get up each day and drive to work. But ultimately, with the right plan, the will to overcome, hard work, and perseverance, you can turn things around.

Just remember, it won’t last forever.

In fact, if all goes well, you might just end up improving both your work situation and your finances. Now that’s what I call turning lemons into lemonade! 

Zach Buchenau

About The Author:

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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