Three Money Tips to Consider if you Work in Hospitality

My first, second, and third jobs were all in hospitality. Working in that industry will give you all sorts of useful (and some less useful) skills, but one thing it won’t teach you is how to manage your money.

So from someone who has been there, cringing in crusty kitchens, smiling at crude customers, and chasing after tools who don’t tip, here’s one money lesson from each of those three jobs. If you pay attention, you just might get out of the hospitality game sooner. And richer.

Job 1: Swarthmore College Cafeteria My step-dad was a Professor and got me a gig at the cafeteria when I turned 14. My job was to sort all the dirty dishes and leftover food as it came down a conveyor belt heading towards a large industrial dishwasher. More specifically I had to grab all the forks and place them tines up into plastic silverware baskets, and then load those baskets onto the belt as they filled up.

It was boring and I hated it. And I eventually got fired for throwing an uneaten orange into the air and landing it perfectly on the fork basket as it sped down the belt. Everyone on the line cheered my perfect shot. Except the Manager.

The good news is I negotiated my job back the next day and saved every cent from then on so I could buy the biggest boombox made at the time. A Sharp GF-777, which as it turns out, had I kept it, would have been a great investment.

First Tip: If you can save for something you really want, then you can save a little more, or use some of what you save to put into a long term investment account - like your super.

Bonus tip: Keep all your old toys - they will be worth something someday. Maybe.

Job 2: Village Porch Ice Cream Parlour This job I got because I hated the cafeteria and one of my step-dad’s students worked here. I’m not sure if brown-nosing the Prof by getting his kid a job boosted his grade, but it definitely boosted my waistline.

My job was mostly to stand behind the counter serving up cones. In the slow times I would experiment by combining flavours to create delicious new ones the world had never seen before - or since.

Second Tip: Combine all your flavours (super accounts) and make the most of a single (delicious) low fee (calorie) option that makes the most of your money. Consolidating your super into one place means you’re not paying multiple fees or for redundant insurance ptolicies that you may not even need.

Also, ice cream addiction is real.

Job 3: Unnamed Italian Restaurant This was my first “real” restaurant job and in the span of about 3 months I went from dishwasher, to assistant chef, to head chef, to waiter, to head waiter. I learned things about Italian food no one should know and, as it turns out I learned a few things about the mafia too.

The pay here was good and the tips were really good (mobsters love to show off), but I left shortly after a near death experience where I spilled a tray of around 25 drinks onto a made guy’s grandkid. About a week after I quit, the place got shot up. I’m pretty sure the gunman wasn’t after me.

Third Tip: Just because you suddenly start making more money doesn’t mean you should start spending more money. The longer you can live beneath your means, the more money you can save for things that really matter - car, house, retirement… bullet proof vests.

So, what do all three of these tips have in common?

The power of compounding returns.

Scott Galloway describes compounding as a magic box. “Put $1000 into a magic box and in forty years, boom! It’s ten to twenty-five thousand. If you could have this magic box, how much money would you put in it?”

So start putting away money away early and often.

If you do, chances are you won’t need to still work in annoying (or life threatening) hospitality jobs for the rest of your life.

Unless you just really, really want to. In which case, I promise to always be a good tipper.

Eran Thomson

Founder and CCO at Zuper Superannuation. I've beaten cancer, been beaten by Mt. Everest, and like to bust rhymes to the beat.

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