A Week In Bucks County, PA, On $18/Hour

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Occupation: Front Of House Manager & Waitress
Industry: Hospitality
Age: 27
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Manager Salary: $18/hour
Paycheck (Weekly): $180
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $950 for rent, split in half with my boyfriend.
Electricity & Internet: ~$105 each, also split in half
Student Loan Payments: $0. I don't have loans from undergrad; my grandparents graciously paid for my education.
Car Payment: $175
All Other Monthly Expenses
Car Insurance & Cell Phone: I'm on a family plan and pay my parents $180/month.
Gym Membership: $75. My gym is a complete luxury that I know is way out of my price range, but I absolutely love it.
Health Insurance: $123; it's not offered through work. I have my own plan.
Netflix: $10
Apple Music: $10.59
Savings: Because my take-home pay varies so greatly, it's hard for me to commit to a monthly savings amount. Recently, I have been putting my waitressing tips into my checking account and my managing paycheck into savings. If I only work my scheduled managing hours, my paycheck is $180 each week. I usually work more than that though. I put more in savings if I have a good week waitressing. My tips each week vary from $300-$800 or more; $500 is about the average.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I wake up and snuggle my kitties. I work doubles on Sundays (managing in the morning, serving at night) and I don't want to leave my bed. Eventually, I get up and put on coffee for me and feed the cats. I pack my bag for the day with breakfast and snacks: coffee, my water bottle, Ezekiel bread with peanut butter, a banana, a yogurt, and a KIND bar. I live across the street from the restaurant where I work and arrive by 10 a.m.
3:30 p.m. — A fairly busy afternoon, but that makes the time fly. I order the special for lunch — a sliced turkey sandwich with goat cheese, arugula, sun-dried tomato pesto, and balsamic glaze. It's $12, but I get a free meal when I manage and 50% off my meal when I serve. I eat quickly during a lull and get ready to be on the floor as a server by 4 p.m.
8:30 p.m. — This night was dead. I debate ordering dinner at work, but I don't want to spend money. I am cut super early and pop into my house to feed the cats and change into comfy clothes; the perks of living across the street from work! I'm going back to work at 9 p.m. to collaborate with the general manager on new tasks I'll be taking over from her. I heat up some leftover shredded pork and sauerkraut my mom gave me and head back to the restaurant.
11:30 p.m. — We are finally done work! I get two shift drinks as a manager. The GM and I have a glass of wine and talk about how stupid Yelp is. My boyfriend is the sous chef and joins us when he is done. I don't have a tab but tip the bartender. $10
Daily Total: $10

Day Two

8 a.m. — Up and putting a pot of coffee on. A plumber is coming around 8:45. My boyfriend and I have a great apartment in a cute town and can walk to work — but the apartment is OLD. A pipe has been leaking and is getting fixed today. I feed the cats and apologize in advance to them that they will be confined to our bedroom while the plumber works. I do some work from home while he is here, which ends up being an almost three-hour job. I don't know exactly how much the job costs but I do know my landlord was not happy!
12 p.m. — I made a late breakfast (brunch? lunch?) of guac on Ezekiel toast and egg whites with Everything But The Bagel Seasoning (my favorite!) and cheddar jack cheese. I put in a load of laundry and tidy up around the house.
2 p.m. — I head to the grocery store for my weekly trip. I get cat food, cat litter, paper towels, toilet paper, a few candles, Clorox wipes, Banza pasta, sauce, bananas, avocados, rice cakes, tuna, yogurt, coffee, creamer, Ezekiel bread, peanut butter, and Oreos. I usually buy household items only once or twice a month so this week's bill is still more than I like to spend at the grocery store. Though my boyfriend and I live together we eat VERY different things, and with our work schedules we are not home for meals together very often. The food I buy is generally just for myself. I get a lot of the household items on sale and save over $12 with my store card. $112.84
9:30 p.m. — It has been sleeting and snowing all night, so my night as manager-on-duty consisted of salting the walkway to the restaurant every half hour. I had a ton of staff show up late, a call out, and a lot of very unhappy servers because of how slow it was. I use my manager meal comp to get a salad to-go, because I plan to go to the gym after work. Better late than never.
11:30 p.m. — I get home from the gym and eat my salad with a side of Oreos. The girl who lives in the apartment above me texts me and I invite her over for a little. We are both crazy cat ladies and watch cat videos and play with my cats and talk about how much we love cats — normal things. My boyfriend gets home from work shortly after and we all watch an episode of Black Mirror. This new season is too good!
Daily Total: $112.84

Day Three

10 a.m. — My boyfriend left around 7 a.m. (he has his son today) and I slept in. I drink some coffee and sift through emails. My last semester of grad school starts in three weeks and I've been purposely avoiding my school email because I'm enjoying my break! I'm getting a master's degree in nonprofit leadership, but after working in administration at a homeless shelter early last year, I don't know if I like nonprofit work after all. It's very stressful and there are a lot of very unethical practices. I do, however, LOVE volunteering, and I've been emailing a ton of animal shelters about opportunities. I eat egg whites and Ezekiel toast with guac for breakfast.
11:30 a.m. — I'm prepping veggies to make a lentil stew when my boyfriend and his son come over. We all play with the cats, who are both interested and terrified of a four-year old, and watch a movie while I cook. The boys go down for their afternoon nap and I go to the gym to do a back workout.
10 p.m. — I was decently busy at work for a Tuesday. After buying dinner and tipping out (busser, food runner, bar) I made $93. $4.50
12 a.m. — A friend asked to meet up for a drink after work. I am an unapologetic homebody most of the time but I have not seen this friend in a while. We head to the neighborhood dive with my boyfriend; he plays pool, we catch up, and he pays the tab. We then walk to the bar we work at for one last drink. Boyfriend and I are both managers, so don't have a tab (as usual), but I leave a tip. $10
Daily Total: $14.50

Day Four

9:30 a.m. — Oh my god, what have I done? My head is killing me! I really can't hang like I used to. I stagger out of bed to feed the cats and get water and coffee. I decide to take a rest day from the gym and read in bed with a lap full of cats for a while. Eventually, I make Ezekiel toast with peanut butter and a banana. That combo has healing powers and I am relieved to feel like a human again. I hop in the shower and get ready to go into work at 2.
2 p.m. — Because I am a manager and I live across the street, I get called in to help quite often. I don't mind it, though. The GM has a project she's working on, so today I am managing from 2 to 5 p.m., then serving at 5 and closing the restaurant. The owner of the restaurant stops by and gives me a $50 Visa gift card because “he doesn't know how to use it” and he knows my boyfriend and I just moved. Sweet! He takes good care of his managers, and it is awesome. Feeling appreciated at a job is so important to me.
3 p.m. — I love working lunch shifts because they're laid back. I find some chicken salad in the prep kitchen and eat that with carrots I brought from home and a yogurt for lunch, and read through Yelp reviews I have to respond to. People are nuts.
11:30 p.m. — Tonight was pretty crappy for a closing shift but at least I'm done early. I made $145 after tip out and eating a salad (half-off) for dinner. I snag a leftover loaf of sourdough to eat with my stew and head home to my happy place: my bed, a book, my cats, and Oreos. $6
Daily Total: $6

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — It's my day off! Coffee time for me, breakfast time for the cats. I have a ton of things to do today because I am hosting a Secret Santa gift exchange with coworkers at my apartment tonight. After eating peanut butter on Ezekiel toast, I get right into cleaning the apartment.
12 p.m. — I stop by Ulta to buy a few more things for my Secret Santa gift. I get her nail polish, head bands, and lotion. I'm running low on a few products of my own, so I get those plus a few face masks. $62.83
2 p.m. — Once I get home, boyfriend and I stop by the liquor store. We get eight bottles of wine and he insists on adding two bottles of tequila. At least we'll be stocked for a while! He puts the total on his card and since I always have cash (#WaitressProbs), I give him cash for half of the total. $75
3 p.m. — We're making a taco bar for tonight and go all out with the fixings. I cannot believe how much money I've spent for this night, but I'm sure it'll be worth it. Once again, boyfriend puts the bill on his card and I give him cash for half. $45
7:30 p.m. — Boyfriend is hard at work prepping the taco bar while I set up appetizers and wrap my Secret Santa gifts. Once the guests show up, we pop open some wine and start celebrating!
Daily Total: $182.83

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — I wake up sleepy but in a great mood! Boyfriend left to be with his son a few hours ago, and I make an egg white omelet with leftovers from last night.
2 p.m. — I eat more leftovers from last night after getting home from the gym. I check my email while getting ready for work and see that one of the shelters I reached out to has a volunteer training tomorrow. I'm in!
10 p.m. — This night at work was not great. I had “campers” all night, which is the restaurant term for people who sit around for well after they've paid so you can't get sat again. I missed out on getting a 10 top because my campers sat for an hour and a half after they paid! You win some, you lose some. I take home flank steak and brussels sprouts for dinner and walk with a measly $105 after paying for my dinner and tipping out. $7
Daily Total: $7

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — The gym was so crowded this morning but I had a great shoulder workout. I eat toast, eggs, and yogurt when I get home and give the cats their breakfast. I snap a picture of them playing with their new toys from the Secret Santa to send to my friend. They are so happy!
11:30 a.m. — I put gas in my car before driving to my volunteer orientation at the animal shelter. I get gas maybe twice a month. Because we live in town, the farthest places I drive to are the gym or the grocery store, which are each under two miles away. We used to live a lot farther from work (and from pretty much everything) and I had to fill up my tank twice a week. $35
2:30 p.m. — After the orientation, I eat a quick lunch at home, then I walk down the street to the local bookstore. I have a gift card and I need new books. I love my local businesses and try to support them over big business whenever I can. I use my gift card to get Commonwealth (after hearing about it from another Money Diary!) and a book about living with anxiety. (Last year, I finally sought help after living with debilitating anxiety for quite some time.) Because I am a nerd, I wish I could skip work and dive into my new books.
11 p.m. — Work tonight was tragically bad, as it is every time a major Philadelphia sports team plays; we are the polar opposite of a sports bar. I made a lousy $55 after eating a turkey and brie sandwich for dinner and tipping out. I snuggle up with my cats, a glass of wine, and a book as soon as I get home. $5.25
Daily Total: $40.25
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