Staff Writer
When you rely on tips to pay the bills, managing your money can be tricky. It’s hard to know exactly how much cash you’ll be taking home after each shift, which makes planning and budgeting seriously tough.

Not to mention the fact that the service industry took a huge hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Add in rising costs of living and bad tippers, and it can all feel a bit overwhelming.

But don’t fret — if you rely on tips, here are some things you can do right now.

When you rely on tips, your income can be unpredictable. Your take-home pay might be wildly different from shift to shift, week to week.

This can make planning out your finances tough. But one of the most important things you can do for your finances is to have a budget. The first step is to start tracking your income. Contributing writer and bartender Jeff Morrison suggests tracking your income after every shift for 10 weeks to find your average weekly pay.

“Pick the lower of the averages and base your budget on that figure,” says Morrison. “Just to be safe. I expect you’ll find your income to be more consistent than you’d think, as long as you take the longer view.”

Then pick a budgeting method. We like the 50/20/30 method because it makes things super easy, and it offers a lot of flexibility.

Here’s how it works:

Once you get the hang of it, you can tweak the ratios to fit your specific situation. Find what works best for you and your goals.

Working for tips typically means you’ve got lots of cash. But it’s not doing you any good in your wallet or under your mattress. You should be keeping it somewhere that pays you plenty of interest on it.

An account with Aspiration lets you earn up to 5.00% APY — 83 times more than big banks.

Not too shabby!

Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption, which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

It’s no secret that the service industry has taken some hits. If you rely on tips, you might need a little extra cash more than ever. We found a super low-effort side gig you can do in your free time while you’re just lounging on the couch.

A site called Survey Junkie could pay you up to $80 a month just for filling out surveys. Seriously.

There are a bunch of paid survey sites out there, but this is one of the best we’ve found.

They’ll ask you questions about things like, what kind of laundry detergent do you use? Or, Do you prefer Pepsi or Coke? You get points for answering, and many people accumulate enough points to request a check within a few hours.

More than 10 million people already use Survey Junkie, and it has 4.5/5 stars on TrustPilot.

See how much extra cash you could earn by visiting Survey Junkie and clicking the “Join Now” button. It’s free.

If you play games on your iPhone, but aren’t winning money every time, you’re making a big mistake.

We know of three different apps that can score you up to $83 every time you win a game. Whether you want to play Solitaire, bingo or just pop some bubbles, there’s an app for you to rake in the cash.

Solitaire Cash, Bingo Cash and Bubble Cash are three of our favorite iPhone games that can earn you serious money. Each of them are totally free to download and there’s no risk involved, since you can play for free, too.

Even better? None of the apps have annoying ads to deal with, so you can keep on playing and earning.

Ready to start earning some cash while you have some fun on your phone? Download Solitaire Cash, Bingo Cash and Bubble Cash for free and earn nearly $250 in your spare time.

Here’s another tip from contributing writer and bartender Jeff Morrison. Doing this helps with taxes; set aside even more if you can.

Most people who rely on tips have a pretty low base pay rate, which means they’re often stuck with a large tax bill every year. Start planning and saving for it now so you don’t find yourself in a bind later.

When you’re dealing primarily with cash, it can be easy to forget about investing. And when money is tight, it’s not the first thing on your mind. But you can start small. Like, pocket-change small.

That leftover change from your morning coffee or after-shift meal could turn into more than $1,000.

That’s what happened when Penny Hoarder reader Jeremy Kolodziej opened an investment account with Acorns. The app’s round-up feature bumps each of your purchases up to the nearest dollar and puts the spare change into the stock market, which helped him mindlessly save $1,076 in about 20 months.

“It’s a virtual coin jar,” he says. “You don’t even think about it.” He used the spare change to pay for two vacations.

Plus, Acorns invested the money for him, allowing him to grow his savings — without studying stock prices or managing trades.

The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

Working for tips, you don’t really have the luxury of working from home. And for a lot of people, that means driving to work. When was the last time you compared car insurance rates?

If it’s been more than six months since your last car insurance quote, chances are you’re seriously overpaying.

And if you look through a digital marketplace called SmartFinancial, you could be getting rates as low as $22 a month — and saving yourself more than $700 a year.

It takes one minute to get quotes from multiple insurers, so you can see all the best rates side-by-side. Yep — in just one minute you could save yourself $715 this year. That’s some major cash back in your pocket.

So if you haven’t checked car insurance rates in a while, see how much you can save with a new policy.

*Cash tournaments aren’t available in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee or Vermont.

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