Life as a waiter has its ups and downs. One night you make hundreds of dollars during a busy dinner service. Another night, you may have a table or two and dismal tips. Since you do not earn a steady paycheck like other workers, building a reliable budget can seem like a long shot. But even though your income fluctuates, your bills and expenses do not. Use averages to figure out the best budget for you.
Look at the total amount of income you earned the previous year as a server. The amount will appear on your Form W-2 or on your final paycheck stub if you have not received a W-2 for the year yet. If you declared all or the majority of your tips, this amount will include your tip income as well. Divide this amount by 12 to determine your average monthly income.
Deduct 10 percent -- or an amount with which you are comfortable -- from the average monthly income to give yourself a cushion. If the restaurant you work hits a rough patch or customers start to tip less than they did previously, you will have some wiggle room.
List all of your monthly expenses and their amounts in the spreadsheet or database. Include all your fixed expenses, such as rent or mortgage, car payments and student loan payments, as well as expenses that fluctuate from month to month, like the cost of groceries, clothing and gasoline. Be sure to include everything, no matter how minor it seems. Total the amount of these expenses.
List all the occasional expenses you have in another column of the spreadsheet or database. These expenses typically include car insurance payments and the cost of dental or medical exams. Add up these expenses, then divide by 12 to find the monthly average.
Add the average of the occasional expenses to the amount of the monthly expenses. Compare the amount to the monthly income. If it is lower, you do not need to do much more, other than stick to the budget and your spending habits each month. If the amount of your expenses is higher than the safety-net monthly income amount, you will need to trim somehow. Cut out non-necessities first, such as meals out or designer clothing. You may need to be hard on yourself to avoid overspending.
- If you do find yourself with extra money at the end of a month, put it in savings. Focus on building an emergency fund first, in case anything happens with your job, for example. After you have a significant emergency fund built up, focus on saving for retirement or other goals.
- Go back over the budget every few months. You may find that your monthly income has increased or your needs have changed. Make adjustments as necessary.
Based in Pennsylvania, Emily Weller has been writing professionally since 2007, when she began writing theater reviews Off-Off Broadway productions. Since then, she has written for TheNest, ModernMom and Rhode Island Home and Design magazine, among others. Weller attended CUNY/Brooklyn college and Temple University.