Life as a server has financial ups and downs. One night you might make $200 from a busy service and the next night you may only pick up a $5 tip.
Saving money can be even more difficult when you’re paid in cash, but it’s not impossible. Without proper management, the chunk of cash that you earned as a server at the weekend could be spent before you know it, leaving you short until your next lot of tips come in.
So, are you working as a server and need to know how to save some cash? If so, this article is for you.
Here are five tips on how to save money as a server.
Setting a budget will not only help you achieve your goals, but also make you more financially savvy.
Even though the cash you earn fluctuates, your monthly outgoings don’t. Start by writing down all of your expenses including fixed and variable outgoings. Fixed costs include things such as your mortgage or to pay rent, bills and any credit card debt that you may have. Your variable income caters for groceries, vacations, entertainment and lifestyle.
Next, take away your total expenditure from your average monthly earnings as a server. You can work out average earnings by going through your last 12 months of payslips or notes from how many tips you took home. If your essential and non-essential totals equal more than your income, take action to reduce your outgoings. If your income is higher than your expenditure, you’ve highlighted how much disposable income you have that can be saved or used to pay off debt. It’s still a good idea to cut down on your non-essential spending areas to maximize your savings efforts.
Decide on a realistic figure for each of your spending categories and how much you will put aside for savings each month: this is your budget.
Now that your budget is sorted, use a budgeting tool to make sure you stick to it and manage your cash. To find the perfect budgeting system that suits your job as a server, consider using one of the two options below.
Having a budgeting system in your pocket means that you can easily monitor your spending and saving habits and update your budget on the go, 24/7. This method is particularly good for servers who work late nights and don’t want to spend time updating a spreadsheet when they get home. Mint, Zeta and PocketGuard are top-rated paid apps to consider that will allow you to set goals, add fixed expenses and adjust your budget.
Mint links all of your financial accounts, tracks and categorizes your transactions. If you go over your budget for a particular category you will get an alert. You can also be reminded by an alert for upcoming payments.
Zeta is designed to help couples budget together. You can set personal or combined financial goals and even hide certain financial information from your partner if you prefer.
PocketGuard makes money management easy, optimizing your spending and growing your savings automatically. The atomisation function cleverly categorizes your expenses so you don’t have to. You can even export transactions into spreadsheets.
The envelope method
Using a cash only budgeting method is ideal for people who are paid in cash. Create an envelope for each of your spending categories such as bills, gas, groceries, mortgage etc.
Let’s say that based on the analysis of your average monthly earnings, you need 50% of what you earn to go towards mortgage and bills, 30% to go towards groceries and entertainment and 20% towards saving. Every time you receive a cash payment, put it into the envelopes accordingly and start saving. You can only spend the cash in the envelope for each category. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you have any money left in any of the envelopes at the end of the month, you can either add it to your checking account, savings fund or keep it in that envelope for next month.
Don’t forget to consider what you’re saving for. Having a savings goal is motivational and there’s more chance you will achieve your target if you have a goal to aim for. There are so many reasons to save good money but some of the most popular reasons include paying off debt, buying a home, retirement planning and treating yourself.
2. Plan for your fluctuating income
If you’re a server working on cash tips only, one day you could make $0 and the next you could make $300. You need to learn to manage a fluctuating income to ensure you’re financially stable on the days that you don’t earn any money. There are a few methods that you can consider.
Zero-based budgeting is a strategy that is often used to manage an irregular income. This approach allows you to put the money you earn to the best possible use. Use your list of monthly expenses to prioritise them in order of importance. For example, rent, bills, food, savings, socialising etc. With a zero-sum budget, your income and outgoings should even out so there’s nothing left over from your paycheck. During months that you make more money, put the extra cash immediately into a separate savings account or emergency fund. This money can then be used to fall back on during the months that you don’t earn enough money as a server to pay your expenses.
Here are a few other tips to help you manage your cash.
- Put aside large bills of $20+, then keep anything small aside to pay for general living expenses.
- Pay yourself a monthly salary based on your budget. By putting aside extra cash on the months that you earn more than you need, you will build up a funds pot to cover the months that you don’t earn as much as you need to. This approach will stop your money from draining away and help you save more money in the long term.
- It’s a good idea to write down your total amount of tips after each shift so that you can get a more accurate monthly income estimate and adjust your budget accordingly.
3. Work better shifts
Sunday mornings are apparently the best time for finding generous tippers. It’s also well-known that large groups of people are more likely to eat out at weekends. Parties are also more likely to happen on a Saturday or Sunday than a weekday. Whilst you won’t always get a choice of what shifts you want to work, if you’re serious about earning as much as possible it’s worth putting your name forward for the late weekend shifts.
If you already have experience of working in a restaurant, it could pay you to find a job in a higher-end establishment. This is because reputable restaurants will have a wealthier clientele, meaning they are more likely to order costly food and give a larger tip at the end.
4. Put your customers first
The happier your customers are, the more they will tip. The more they tip, the more you earn. Here are some tips on how to make the people sitting at your table feel like kings and queens.
Know the menu well: this may sound obvious but customers will appreciate you being able to make recommendations from the food being served and answer any questions that they may have about dietary requirements. It will also help you save time by not needing to run to the kitchen to find out the answer to the basic questions. The more time you have, the more customers you can serve and the more you earn.
Brush up on your steps of service: whilst this may vary depending on the venue, the basics stay the same. You should promptly greet your guests and take the drink order within a few minutes of your customers being seated. Once the drinks are delivered, take food orders. Condiments and cutlery should be taken to the table next and the server should check if any refills are needed. Once the food has been delivered don’t forget to ask if there is anything else your table needs. Check that your table is happy with the food five minutes after they have started eating. Efficiency is key to making more money as a server but don’t overstep the mark and rush guests otherwise you may not receive any tips at all.
Write everything down: nobody wants a server who keeps coming back to the table to check the order. During busy shifts this will also annoy the kitchen and put you on the wrong side of the chefs. Whether it’s on a notebook or a tablet, write every part of the order and any dietary requirements down so you can refer back to it.
Get to know your regulars: being on first-name terms with your regular customers will make their experience more personal and keep them coming back. The more your section stays full, the more tips for you to take home. Anticipating your customers’ needs can also help you seat more customers. For example, you know that one of your regular customers always has a coffee after their meal. Get it ready before they ask, scoring you brownie points with the customer and also giving you a chance to flip your tables faster.
Complete necessary certification courses: customers love knowledgeable servers and are more likely to tip well if they feel you’re adding value to their experience. An alcohol serving certification will equip you with the information you need to make good recommendations for your guests and keep them happy.
Pick a few of the practices above and give them a go. Whilst working as a server may not be forever, there are ways that you can utilise the opportunity and earn as much cash as possible in the process.
5. Find a suitable side hustle
Side hustles are one of the best ways to earn extra money so you can pay off debt, save up for a big purchase or reduce your financial stress. The following side hustles can earn you extra cash around your shifts as a server, giving you more financial freedom.
Top up your earnings by signing up to sites such as Task Rabbit.
You can pick and choose the jobs that appeal to you the most and fit around waiting tables. Typical jobs include helping people to move home, cleaning, home repairs and refurbishment, delivery services, yard work and general admin.
Help people land their dream job by writing a powerful resume and earn some extra dollars in the process. You will need to be able to meet deadlines but the best part is that you can do the work at any time of the day or night to suit your other commitments. You can apply for resume writing jobs on Upwork, RiseSmart and Talent Inc.
If you are good at making items or baking tasty treats, you can easily turn your hobby into a side hustle business and start boosting your main income as a server. You can sell your crafts at yard sales or flea markets or advertise your services online and take orders.
Start a flipping business
Selling used goods, collectables, antiques and cheap items at markets or garage sales can be a lucrative business. A flipping business involves buying an item at one market and re-selling it for a higher price somewhere else. Items that flip well include furniture, power tools, baby items and appliances. If you enjoy finding a bargain, starting a flipping business could be the perfect side hustle for you.
Saving money as a server
Budgeting is the most important part of any financial plan, but especially as a server when you are paid in cash and the money you earn can vary significantly. Not only will following a budget give you financial security but your overall mood and wellbeing will improve too.
Want to know more about how to keep your finances in check? Take control of your money with the latest personal finance advice on our website.