7 Times It's Actually Worth it to Take a Lower-Paying Job

woman leaning back at her desk smiling

Adobe Stock

Profile Picture
Heather K Adams734
Content + Copy Writer
July 16, 2024 at 8:51PM UTC
Ever wonder, “Should I take a job for less money to be happy?” You're not alone, nor are you alone in hesitating. It's easy to question an impulse to make choices based solely on happiness, especially if you already have a job that pays well. Doesn't leaving seem unwise or even ungrateful? But is choosing an impressive paycheck over your own happiness any smarter? 
Here are seven times when choosing something besides money might be the happier choice for you to make and a few drawbacks for you to think about while you decide.

7 times you should take a job for less money.

1. When you just need to prioritize your personal life over your professional life.

Maybe you're feeling dissatisfied with where you're living. Wanting to move, to explore a new region, city or even an entirely new country is definitely worth prioritizing. You might be in the perfect position personally to make that kind of leap, with no kids or other obligations to take into consideration. You might also be sad or disrupted in some way, coming off a breakup or grieving a loss. Whatever it is you've got going on in your life right now, deciding to take some time and space to sort things out may just feel necessary. In that case, finding a job that makes as few demands on your time and your mind as possible is one of the best things you can do for you. Any job that's low maintenance and doesn't ask much of you will be invaluable. Finding your way back to happy is a big reason to take a job for less money.

2. When you have family obligations.

Growing a family means a lot of your priorities will shift. You and your partner may decide you'd rather one of you stay home with the children during their early years rather than pay for childcare. In that case, juggling two full-time work schedules to do this may be nigh on impossible. Taking a job for less money but also with fewer hours away from home may be your answer, at least temporarily. Other relatives, such as aging parents, may also need more of your time and attention, especially if you're their primary caregiver and decision-maker. In either case, it could mean the difference between being able to be there for your family personally and relying on a care agency instead.

3. When you want to explore a new career.

While you may have already made quite a bit of progress rising through the ranks in a particular field, you might also have come to a point where transitioning into a new career, or at least pivoting in a new direction, holds more appeal for you. To do so might mean taking a job for less money but more opportunity for growth in that new direction. You may also want to go back to school full or part-time or even start your own business. Whatever is behind your desire to change, giving up a cushier paycheck for a more satisfying professional field might be the best career move you could make.

4. When a job's perks outweigh the smaller paycheck.

Not every job is going to make you filthy rich, but some positions can definitely offer rewards beyond the simply monetary. Getting to work from home or having an otherwise flexible schedule is an obvious perk, as are health benefits, a retirement plan, paid vacation days or even just an office environment and company culture that you find personally very appealing. When it comes to deciding between two or more job opportunities don't forget to factor in everything about the job, from your schedule to the dress code. Focusing only on the paycheck may mean missing out on the very best-for-you position.

5. When your new position offers bonuses, commissions or other incentives.

Many jobs, especially those in sales, offer employees the chance to make more money if you achieve a certain number of sales or reach other milestones inside a given time frame. If you're confident in your ability to meet these goals and get that extra money, then the idea of taking a job for less money won't be such a major consideration. Just make sure your baseline pay still covers your bills and other responsibilities. Unforeseen expenses, emergencies or other situations can eat up a commission or bonus quickly until all you're left with is that smaller paycheck.

6. When the demands aren't worth the rewards.

A bigger paycheck comes with increased responsibilities and demands on your time and energy. Some of us thrive on the pressure that can result from these higher expectations, but even the best of us can suffer from burnout eventually. Be honest with yourself, and pay attention to the signs that the pace at which you're working just isn't working for you, not anymore. If you're always dreading going into work, never feel quite as happy as you think you should or are recognizing other signs of depression, ask yourself if your job might be the culprit — and be prepared to take appropriate action. A paycheck isn't really worth being miserable for.

7. When you want to keep your job.

Times can get tough for companies and organizations just as for individuals. Some companies may choose to offer employees the choice of taking a pay cut rather than being laid off or let go outright. If you need this job or just really like your employer, taking a temporary pay cut is a choice you might make in order to stick with the company. It's a risky decision, since the company may never actually recover, but if it does you might also be rewarded or recognized for your loyalty to the business. Either way, if taking less money means you get to stay somewhere that makes you happy, give the idea of staying some serious thought.

Drawbacks to taking a job that offers less money.

Making less money may mean making some big lifestyle changes.

This is the most obvious drawback to taking a job for less money to be happy. Sometimes, the hit you take to your paycheck may indeed prove significant, whether temporarily or for the foreseeable future. In either case, you could be forced to make quite a few lifestyle changes in order to adapt your habits to your new bank balance. There are any number of ways to curb spending habits, from minimizing your monthly subscription-based services to moving somewhere with cheaper rent or mortgage. However, the decision to make these and additional changes can be difficult. If you'd rather not give up your lifestyle as it is today, then taking less money may not be your first priority right now.

Making less money can be mentally and emotionally stressful.

Aside from the lifestyle changes mentioned above, having a smaller buffer between you and being broke can definitely add to your anxieties. Knowing that you're perhaps one unexpected car or house repair away from only just scraping by can be nerve-wracking for anyone. If you have a family then the pressure to provide for them (and perhaps continue to do so in a manner to which they've grown accustomed) is another thing worth seriously thinking about. We all have periods in our lives when we simply need to make that money. This doesn't mean you have to stay somewhere that makes you miserable, of course. It just means that when it comes to changing jobs or even careers you're going to need to find something that makes you at least as much money as you're making where you are now.

Making less money will delay your big life plans.

If you really want to buy a house, taking a job for less money to be happy may set that back a few years or even longer. Having kids, traveling or moving while still having a healthy cushion from a savings account to rely on and even taking an early retirement may all be things you feel more comfortable putting off working toward until you're making a larger amount of steady money again. Of course, no situation lasts forever, and you might be back to feeding that little nest egg sooner than you think, but the personal effects of delaying your dreams aren't something to be dismissed lightly. Just as not having the monetary resources you're used to can be stressful and something you just don't like adjust your current life to, so too may be putting off those big plans for the future.

Choosing can be hard.

The decision to take a pay cut from your current employer or to take a new, lower-income position somewhere else isn't necessarily easy — nor is there an inherently right or wrong answer. Life circumstances and personal inclinations may make us feel like we have to choose between making money and finding fulfillment in some other way. Choosing the money, especially if it turns out making more money actually makes you happy, is a valid path to take. But deciding no, you'd rather take a job for less money to be happy in your personal life? That's okay too. Weigh your choices carefully, and take your time. Make the decision that's right for you.
--
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Heather Adams has designed (and re-designed) many business cards. She also writes, makes pictures & creates little notes. As a content creator, she believes that the art of business is storytelling. From brand work to writing the copy that converts, the power of good storytelling is what builds success. Follow her work here.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for someone who’s thinking about taking a lower-paying job? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always