Working in hospitality can be incredibly rewarding. You’re following your passion, you’re bringing people joy, and you’re developing a diverse skillset that will be with you for the rest of your career.
But it can also be tough on your hip pocket. Especially when you’re working irregular shifts, or you’re a student who can only afford to work so many hours a week. Unfortunately, the recent changes to penalty rates in Australia will only make things harder for a lot of people.
If these changes have you worried, and you’re looking for a few simple ways to save money without adjusting your whole lifestyle, then you might like to check out these hacks.
1. Mock Up a Budget – And Be Honest About It
If living with multiple accountants has taught me anything over my life, it’s the importance of keeping a budget. Because the thing is, it’s really easy to lie to yourself about your finances. If you don’t have it all down on paper, you can coast by week to week without even realising how much you’re spending on things you don’t need.
Start by budgeting out your next month. Make a list of all of your regular unavoidable expenses in one column – your rent, your utility bills, your groceries, public transport costs, petrol, etc. And make a list of your extraneous expenses in another column – your Netflix subscription, how much you spend on hairdresser appointments, clothes, eating out, alcohol, etc. Be honest with yourself – no one else is going to see this, and it’s only going to throw everything off if you flub things.
It can be hard to know your exact wage for the month when you’re working irregular shifts, but after writing out that list, you should be able to figure out how much you can comfortably spend – and where you can cut back.
Just bear in mind – you don’t have to cut back on everything fun. Giving yourself a little allowance, even if it’s just $20 a month, will stop you from feeling deprived, so you don’t go making a big reward purchase to compensate.
2. Start Meal Planning (And Pack Your Lunch)
Doing up a rough meal plan every week can really help you keep your grocery bill consistent. And it means you don’t end up spending money you shouldn’t on workday snacks or quick takeaway dinners.
If you work in a kitchen, then you probably already have plenty of ideas for your meal plan, but if you need some fresh inspiration, try websites that cater to cooks on a budget, like Buzzfeed or Budget Meals. You can use a free app called TrackMySpend to get an accurate read on how much you spend on groceries every week.
On average, most Australian households spend $100 a week on eating out. So packing all of your meals and snacks for work can also help you save some serious pocket change. If you know you’re going to be too tired to put something together before a shift, prepare it all in bulk so you don’t have to think about it for the rest of the week.
3. Stop Buying Your Coffees
I know, I know, it hurts me to suggest this just as much as it hurts you to hear it. But let me lay it out there – say your takeaway coffee costs you $3.50, and you buy a coffee before your shift every day. And let’s say for the sake of argument you work 5 shifts a week. Then that’s $70 a month. That’s $840 a year.
And let’s be real – most of us are having more than one coffee a day.
You don’t have to stop altogether (and we think you should always support your local café!) but maybe limit your coffee purchases to once or twice a week. Or visit your local roaster, buy some of their beans, brew a batch at home and then take it to work in a travel mug. That way you’re controlling your spending but you don’t have to sacrifice on quality!
4. Get Creatively Thrifty When Shopping – Or Freecycle
You can find some great clothes in op shops, on eBay and at markets, for a fraction of what you would normally pay. Part of the fun of going thrifty is not knowing what you’ll find, and you’d be amazed at what some people throw away – often with the price tags still on. Here’s a secret tip I picked up from someone who used to work in one of these shops: go op shopping in a wealthy suburb. It’s not uncommon to stumble across designer gear with huge markdowns.
Most op shops also support local charities, so you can walk away knowing your modest purchase has contributed to an important cause.
Now that we live in a share economy, freecyling has become another alternative. It’s likely there will be a freecycling Facebook group for your local area – do a search and see what pops up. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, this is a place where people advertise items they’re giving away for free, including furniture, books and concert tickets. If you live in Australia, try Zilch, where you can browse a whole catalogue of second-hand goods.
5. Join Your Local Library
If bookshops are your ultimate weakness, try to limit yourself to borrowing from your local library, or purchasing from second-hand bookstores only. It doesn’t sound like much, but spending $30 on a book a month can start to add up over the year.
Another option is to start up a book swapping club with your friends, especially if you have similar tastes. You could do a different theme every month – like “Books by a celebrity chef” in March and “Scandinavian crime thrillers” in April. Do a call out on Facebook and see how many people are willing – you’ll probably be surprised!
6. Open a High Interest Savings Account
Interest rates are pretty shocking here in Australia at the moment, which is fantastic if you’re ready to buy a house, but unfortunate if you’re trying to save. Be aware of the interest rate on your savings account, and if it’s lower than what it could be with other banks – move your money. You can use comparison websites like finder.com.au to find out what you could be actually be earning in interest. Most of the time these high interest savings accounts prevent you from withdrawing money unless you do a transfer, which is brilliant for stopping you from making hasty spending decisions.
Just be aware of the conditions – many will have minimum deposit amounts that you have to meet before you can earn the interest. Look up reviews websites and forums to find out what other people are saying before you make the final call.
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