Money Talks, So Should You

Budget Whisperer: The life of a minimum-wager

Susan Russell
by Susan Russell, Dimespring 30

I am in the “between jobs” position right now, in the most literal sense. After my beloved seasonal position came to an end I was told of a possible full-time placement with the same organization, but I have to wait for this position to become available.

Not exactly where I saw college-educated, mid-twenties self, but in the meantime I’ve been forced to find income in a whole slew of ways, one of which being a part-time, minimum wage job down the street from my house. While I don’t have to deal with traffic on my way to work (which is arguably worthwhile), it has really epitomized the struggle of making ends meet.

READ: Living large (enough) on a budget

Upon applying for the job, I made clear that I would be available any day, any shift. Unlike many of the other employees, I am not taking classes or have other part-time employment, so plugging me into the schedule should be easy.

Still, I haven’t been scheduled for more than 20 hours since beginning, which begs the question, How do people make a living working in the customer service world? How are there enough hours in the work week to spread among employees and still provide an adequate livelihood? I’ve had to rely on no less than three other sources of income to come close to making my now even more conservative budget.

Beyond a financial standpoint, the work itself is less than ideal. And I don’t mean in an I’m-better-than-this, I-don’t-want-to-serve-others kind of way, but more of a don’t-treat-me-like-I’m-stupid kind of way. Mostly from fellow employees than from customers even.

Now, I recognize that this is my first stereotypical customer service position, but I do have valuable, relatable life skills, so there’s no reason to explain to me that I need to organize like-things with like-things. Or that when we’re out of something, restock it. Perhaps common-sense isn’t as common as the name would suggest.

READ: 6 ways working from home makes you a happier person

I certainly agree with the idea that everyone should have to work in the service industry at some point in their life, though. I used to think people said that to refer to skills learned, but I know understand it’s to learn how to appreciate others. I have worked a lot of jobs that were aimed towards serving others, but the restaurant world is a whole other story. I don’t think I’ve ever been (intentionally) rude to others at restaurants, stores, etc, but understanding is another thing altogether.

When I see a tip jar or a tip line on a receipt now, you better believe I am making use of it. And when I see it’s busy or there’s a less-than-pleasant customer in front of me, I smile a knowing smile and give them a break.

What are your minimum-wage life lessons? Have you overcome the odds or are you struggling, too?


Susan Russell, aka the Budget Whisperer, is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.