The Rules of Serving: Rule Six

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Rule Six: Never spend money you haven’t made.

I am glad July of 2010 is behind me.  I cannot recall a month that was less lucrative in my serving career.  My income dropped by well over 50% last month.  Unbearable heat combined with a disproportionate number of patio shifts took a chunk out of my savings.  I had planned for a slow month, but not one this slow.

I was fortunate enough to follow my own advice on saving and budgeting.  I keep my living expenses low and save during good months.  This allowed me to avoid the month being devastating financially. I stay out of debt and carry no credit cards.  My car is paid for and my rent is minimal.  My savings was depleted, but not drained.

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Budgeting for Servers

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No single topic addressed in this blog is more fundamental to being a successful server than budgeting.  This is the cause of a majority of issues servers have and the primary reason so many servers leave the business.  Nothing can make a shift harder than needing to make money.  Anxiety, stress, frustration, and most other negative emotions you feel as a server result from the need to make more money than you feel you are during the shift.  Learning to budget as a server will alleviate stress and allow you to make more money by worrying about your guests and not your money.

The difficulty in budgeting as a server is that you have no idea how much you will make from night to night.  Most jobs have a set wage per hour or week that allows you to anticipate your income and plan accordingly.  Serving does not provide this luxury.  Everything from bad weather to the season finale of a popular TV show can decimate your income for the night.  This makes budgeting based on future income nearly impossible.  I know a number of outstanding experienced professional servers who try to do this by predicting the income of each shift.  It leads to tremendous frustration, as each shift is a success or failure.  Shifts not hitting the mark lead to panic and shifts that exceed it lead to buying a few extra rounds after work.

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