My Health is More Important Than $40

Last Updated on April 23, 2021

I did something this week that I didn’t have the nerve to do before, because I always felt so guilty.

I called in sick.

While this may not seem like a big deal to most people, it’s huge for me. It means that I’ve learned that some things (ie: my health) are more important than money.

And that was not an easy lesson to learn.


When I Wasn’t Allowed to be Sick

My first job out of school was working at with a live theatre company. While I was working there, I wasn’t “allowed” to be sick. I was the only person in my department, so there was no one to cover for me if I wasn’t there.

Money was a huge factor for me, as well. Back then I had to work two jobs to make ends meet, so calling in sick often meant missing both shifts. Since we weren’t given any sick days or paid time off, missing one day was enough to destroy my budget. Missing two or three days could mean I couldn’t pay my rent.

Management certainly didn’t make it easy, either. If I did call in sick, I usually wasn’t allowed back to work without a doctors note – which in most cases meant taking another day off work to go and get said note. (Although this “rule” was only enforced randomly, depending if I was on management’s good side or not at the time.)

Because it was such a hassle and usually meant being black-listed, I rarely called in sick. Especially after doing so post-widsom-teeth-surgery caused a coworker of mine to quit. (Seriously.) Instead, I suffered through month-long colds and headaches to the point where I eventually broke down from it all.


When I Was Allowed to be Sick

When I left that job and moved to the college, I was given 6 paid sick days. But I still felt guilty the 2 or 3 days that I did call in sick – even though I was encouraged by my supervisor to stay home, and had numerous people around to cover for me (if needed). There were no consequences for me calling in sick, but I had been conditioned to expect the worst when I did.


Am I Allowed to be Sick?

I’ve now been at my “new” job for about a month. Most of the policies at the gym make sense, but I am still very confused about taking time off – whether it be due to an illness or for vacation purposes. (This has already proven to be a HUGE flaw with the company, and will likely be the reason I leave the position sooner rather than later.)

I’ve been fighting a cold all week, but instead of staying home from my shift on Tuesday, I convinced myself to go into work. It was only a 4 hour shift, after all. And it was an evening shift where there are usually only a few older kids that don’t need as much attention. And I knew that another attendant had already called in sick that day (because I was basically harassed on Monday to switch my shift and/or come in early to cover for her). And I only had 3 shifts this week, so I couldn’t afford to miss it. And it was just a cold – I wasn’t really that sick.

But I knew as soon as I got into my car that I should have listened to my almost-husband and stayed home.

Thankfully the shift was quiet – so quiet that I didn’t really even need to be there. I suffered through the four hours, picked up some nighttime cold medicine on the way home, and went straight to bed.

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling worse. But once again, I was trying to convince myself to go into work, because I still felt guilty calling in sick.

But shouldn’t I feel more guilty exposing kids (and their parents, and my coworkers, and the people using the gym) to my germs? Isn’t it better that I take the time off now to recover (when I don’t really need to be there) so that I’m not still sick next week (when no one else is available)? My health is more important than $40, isn’t it?


I’m Allowing Myself to be Sick

So far, the gym hasn’t shown me much compassion or appreciation (which is a whole other issue/post), so why I am I, once again, putting a low-paying job above my health? Had I learned nothing from my experience at the theatre?

Of course I could use the $40 that I would make working that shift, but my overall financial situation is a lot better now than it used to be. $40 isn’t going to break my budget or put me behind. And my job is not going to be at risk, either. Nothing bad would happen if I called in sick.

So, I did what was the right thing for me, and called in sick for my shift on Wednesday.

To help alleviate my guilt, I called early thus giving them several hours to find someone to cover for me, and also let them know that I’d call on Saturday if I’m not able to make my next shift (which is on Sunday).

In the meantime, I’m allowing myself to be sick – lots of sleep, lots of medicine, and lots of soup. And I’m trying to not feel guilty about it.


Do you feel guilty calling in sick to work? Has the guilt ever prevented you from calling in sick?

Amanda Kay

Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.

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12 thoughts on “My Health is More Important Than $40”

  1. Glad you took the day you needed. They gave you those sick days so they can’t be mad at you for using them; well they can but they can’t fire you over it. I haven’t been sick even once all year! I only feel bad about calling in sick if it’s our super busy time; other than that it’s pretty kick back but I still do have a hard time calling in for some reason. Like I need to be strong and suck it up but for what?

  2. Good for you for taking the day to recover. I don’t feel guilty for taking a sick day. Work actually encourages us taking sick day(s). If you’re sick you can pass it to other co-workers if you go in to the office. If you’re coughing and sneezing all the time that’s a big distraction to other people too.

  3. The past couple weeks the bf and I have been super sick, as in we should have both been home for a week and a half and not at work chugging dayquil like water. We are both the type that feel guilty if we call out. He actually has sick leave where I do not, and it being the busiest time of the year for us, I feel if I call out, everything might fall apart that day.

  4. Interesting insight into the thoughts that go into taking sick time. Thankfully, I can say that I have never been in situations quite like yours before! I had a day a few weeks ago where I seriously considered calling in sick, but felt guilty that a project wasn’t done and I also had a company vehicle that I needed to return. It wouldn’t have been too difficult to find someone who could take the vehicle in for me, but the project made me feel compelled to go in. I got it done… but not a whole lot else that day, that’s for sure.

  5. Honestly, my company has an awesome leave policy for both sick leave and vacation. Yet we have been guilted into feeling bad taking any of our perks… I’m not saying calling out with a small sniffle, but if I’m under the weather and dizzy, or have a migraine – I’m taking the day off whether people think “oh it’s just a headache”. The vacation irks me. They give a generous amount (4 weeks plus another 2 weeks in other holidays) but they then make you jump threw hoops to actually use it. Guess I’ll just end up with a nice vacation payout whenever I leave.

  6. I DO NOT GET companies that try to dissuade their employees to come in while sick (and 6 sick days?? Wtf?? I’m angry for you about that, too, but that’s another rant!)

    I’m super, incredibly lucky to never have been in the position that taking a sick day would get me yelled at or fired. I’ve worked one crummy job, but luckily, for some reason, I never got sick in the year I worked there.

    But my boyfriend worked a crummy job he had to for a few years, and he tells me the same thing. He was a server, and coming into work sick (which he basically had to do, as the managers threatened to fire him) meant getting CUSTOMERS SICK.

    What kind of logic is that?! I’m seriously apt to write to a manager if someone serving me is sick, or at least never go back again. And what purpose does that serve?? Nothing! Just give your employees freaking breaks. Oh no, you as a manager have to cover for your employee, or maybe hire someone temporarily. God forbid profits go down just a little!

    Grrrr. Sorry for the rant, Amanda. Your health is worth way more than $40, and I’m really glad you’re in a position that you can take the time and afford it. No one should be in a position between taking a sick day or paying rent. That’s insane :-/

  7. I’ve called in sick a few times when I haven’t even been sick, but instead really needed a personal mental health day. I have a great immune system bc I am rarely sick. I tell my husband (who gets sick a LOT and is a total germaphobe) that it’s because I let myself get sick as a child, and didn’t use antibacterial stuff all the time, like he does, so my immune system is much stronger than his.

    um but anyway, why was I leaving a comment again…? oh yeah calling in sick. Dude, your health is worth WAY more than $40. Glad you’re taking care of yourself! My job is very good about people calling in sick when they’re sick.

  8. I have a terrible immune system. However at my last job there was zero contingency and so I would work from home. I never took a sick day.

    I’ve taken a few sick days at my current job, which offers lots of sick days and the workload is more flexible.

    I’ve even thought about taking a mental health day or two this year since this year has been so stressful.

  9. Oh hell yes, if I don’t feel like I can put in a productive day at work, then I will definitely call in sick. Gotta do what I gotta do.

    Of course, I work from home now so sick days aren’t really that big of a deal. If I don’t feel like working, I don’t work.

  10. My former employer allowed us 4 weeks od sick time annually which was in addition to the 3 weeks or earned vacation I had…. It was a luxury but the moral of the story was my employer saw benefit in me not getting coworker sick and having it cascade thru the office. Makes a lot of sense.

    My current employer provides me 5 sick days a year. Which is fairly adequate I mean we all get sick from time to time and need a few days to recover…. I take mental sick days too when I just plane don’t see myself being productive while being at work. I don’t want to be there and if I’m not at my best my employer should want me there either. I can see where it’s more of a challenge when u are your own department… But I’ve been there. It is the employers responsibly to cross train someone to fill in when you are out, not yours!!!!

    I don’t feel bad at all taking all my sick days and would take more if I needed them.



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