Side Hustle Series: I’m a Starbucks Barista

(Guest Post by Lora Kathleen, as part of our Side Hustle Series)

When I talk about my side hustle, I always imagine myself as some sort of superhero: Desk jockey by day, coffee ninja by night. Of course, real life isn’t ever quite so glamorous, but I still thought I had it pretty good. I got to work all day at my dream job for a professional basketball team, while moonlighting as your friendly Starbucks barista on the side.

The decision didn’t come lightly, but between the uncertainty of the economy, the imminent NBA lockout, and my own irresponsible spending (I had accumulated debt of just over $18k), I was stressed out all the time over money. I realized that it was no way to live anymore and decided to take action. The following week I was suited up with a shiny new green apron and jumped in!

For the next seven months I averaged 70 hours a week between the two jobs, but my quality of life vastly improved. Plus, I loved it.

In fact, I found the less hours I had in a day for myself, the more I was able to get accomplished. While getting my degree, I balanced a full-time course load with a part-time campus job, internships in my field, and social activities and haven’t stopped going since! I had worked in a coffee shop full-time right out of college before, so I knew it was something I could get excited about again every week (in addition to reducing my debt!).

Of course, a barista gig has some not-so-great parts about it too. Here are some pros and cons:

Cons of Being a Barista

  • Practically minimum wage
  • Low tips (not near as lucrative as waiting tables or bartending – we were lucky if it was $2/hr.)
  • Lack of social life (my nights and weekends were gone)
  • Frappuccino Happy Hour (so many frappuccinos, so little time!)
  • Sometimes the customers (they can either make your shift, or break it)

Pros of Being a Barista:

  • Open late so I could get in full shifts after work and on the weekends
  • Free coffee!
  • Free food! (Since I closed, a lot of the food we would normally trash out at night went home with me. I saved hundreds on groceries!)
  • A social network outside my normal circle
  • Interaction with all walks of people I wouldn’t normally encounter (and the life lessons they bring)
  • That extra paycheck (Anywhere from $400-700/mo)
  • Getting paid on opposite weeks from my other job
  • Option for health benefits
  • An additional, immediately vested 401(k) – AND match!
  • Stock options (Proud owner of 6 shiny shares of SBUX!)

Working in a coffee shop wasn’t the highest paying job for the least amount of hours, but it was a side hustle that really worked out for me in the end. I had tried (and failed) trying others in the past, but sticking to it finally helped me land one I was excited about again. And even though I’ve retired the green apron since, I’m proud to say I’ve managed to reduce my debt down by almost $8,000 AND increased my net worth to over $10,000. All in just 7 short months. I’d consider that a pretty great ROI.

If you haven’t found a side hustle YOU love, I’d urge you to keep looking until you find the one that works for you!

Lora Kathleen is a twenty-something wanderer dumping her debt and finding her bliss. She keeps track at If YOU have a side hustle you’d like to share with us, let J. Money know!

(“Starbucks Addict” photo by – haha…)

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  1. Michelle February 23, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    Wow sounds like a good side hustle!

  2. Money Infant February 23, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    Does Starbucks have a DRIP to go with those 6 shares? Considering their business I think they should!

  3. Stephanie February 23, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    “In fact, I found the less hours I had in a day for myself, the more I was able to get accomplished.”

    Yes, this is exactly how I am!! Give me a day with nothing scheduled and I’ll sit on the couch and watch TV all day. But if I have a full schedule I use what little free time I have to accomplish all sorts of stuff. Plus, I sleep way better at night when I’m busy, as opposed to tossing and turning after a day of doing little or nothing.

  4. J. Money February 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    @Money Infant – Bah-dum-ching!
    @Stephanie – Me too :) I sometimes feel like I got more done WITH a 9-5 job than without one, haha… it always forced me to “go go go” and now that I work from home I need a little extra push. I work much better w/ tons of stuff going on under a deadline and on no sleep, haha… but I’m not complaining ;)

  5. Well Heeled Blog February 23, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    This sounds like an AWESOME side hustle. When I was in high school / college, I’ve always wanted to work as a Starbucks barista… it seems like a really cool job with flexible hours, and I’d get to learn to make all those drinks I loved so much. I even interviewed and made it to the final round before scheduling issues forced me to drop that job. But it would’ve been really cool.

  6. Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple February 23, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    Sounds like you really enjoyed your side hustle, and it made a big impact on your finances!

    I’m starting to realized that I get a lot more done when I don’t have so much “free time” either. Work, side job, blogging. Pretty much all the rest of my time goes to keeping up the house, making food or sleeping. But I’m getting a lot done!

  7. Modest Money February 23, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    Wise move to take on a 2nd job. A lot of people just aren’t willing to put in the extra work to get ahead. This sounds like a perfect job for you that fit right into your schedule and lifestyle. If I keep up my online biz, I might eventually get a 2nd job, both to add to my income and to keep my lifestyle more varied.

  8. Stan February 23, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    One of my side hustles that I like to do but don’t do quite as often as I like is to do construction work. Compared to my normal job which can and is pretty stressful/dangerous, doing construction work is relaxing for me. Another side hustle that I am thinking about doing this summer is starting a lawn mowing business. It is something I enjoy doing, the smell of fresh cut grass is relaxing and there are no startup costs.

  9. Bridget February 23, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    wow.. I am a little tempted to apply at my local Starbucks after reading this (I certainly spend enough time in there anyway!)

  10. Heather February 23, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    This makes me miss Starbucks! The nearest one to me is now 45 minutes (I hate you, South Carolina). Sounds like a great side hustle. Something that I’d consider if I wasn’t so far away from one.

  11. Hannah February 23, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    Well done. I am the same way about time management. Since I took a second job I have been MUCH more productive. I somehow find more time to go the gym, clean house, and cook even while working an extra 10-15 hours a week.

  12. Hermoine February 23, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    My two side hustles are teaching a homeschool history class at my house two hours a week (6 kids $40 a month per child) and I worl at a Medical school as a standardized patient ($18 an hour). I enjoy both sides and it brings in about $700 a month- depending on the med school schedule.

  13. retirebyforty February 23, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    Why did you leave Starbucks? I would consider it just for healthcare alone if I don’t have a full time job. :)

  14. Young Professional Finances February 23, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    Sounds like a great side hustle! I’m so busy already but sometimes I want to pick up a job as a waitress just because I’ve always wanted to see what it would be like. The time commitment scares me – as well as it being something I never tried. You inspired me to start thinking about it again. :)

  15. Squeezer February 23, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    sounds like a good gig. I once worked at a comcast call center in the evenings to save up to go back to college.

  16. Kris @ SimpleIslandLiving February 23, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    I actually would like to get a night job at Starbucks – specifically for the free food. My husband used to close when I first met him and he survived on those sandwiches and salads. (Seriously, he make $14K that year).

  17. Andrew | FabulousSavings February 23, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    Is it true you get a free pound of coffee every week? That strikes me as the main reason to start working there!

  18. Marianne February 23, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    There is a definite advantage to being an employee as a side hustle. All of my side hustles are ‘work for myself’ kind of gigs and while some of them are better than others, sometimes I wish I could just go put in a shift somewhere and know exactly how much extra money I’m gonna make! My full time job has turned into a current side hustle as I am able to work a small number of hours a week while on maternity leave. This has been working pretty well for me.

  19. Jennifer G. February 23, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    It’s pretty much my dream to be a barista. Or just to be cool enough to be a barista.

  20. Aloysa @ My Broken Coin February 23, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    I’ve heard that Starbucks also provides good benefits. Is that true?

  21. BusyExecutiveMoneyBlog February 23, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    I’m not much of a coffee drinker but the atmosphere at Starbucks is unique. People seem to love spending hours there as such they become hooked on the environment. Add in some caffiene to boot and you’ve got a sticky customer base. I think the starbucks atmosphere is what we’d all like to provide our blog readers. A place where they want to come and hang out for hours on end. Great side hustle.

  22. LB February 23, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    First Congrats on paying down your debt and earning so much more with a side-hustle. Now about that free coffee lol. I saw someones comment asking if there was a pound of free coffee involved, so made me think that maybe I need a new side hustle? hmmm.

    I have had so many side hustles/part time jobs, every time I tell someone about one of my jobs it sounds like I had about 1000 since I started working. It sounds really bad, but oh well, at least I can say I am debt free :)

  23. lora kathleen February 23, 2012 at 8:28 PM

    Thanks everyone for the great comments! It sounds like everyone either has great side hustles already or is thinking about it :)

    @retirebyforty – I left thanks to a great new job opportunity that doesn’t give me time. The benefits were great, but I still have them at my new job!
    @Andrew and LB – it is true, Starbucks partners enjoy a free pound every week. I had more than I knew what to do with and gave them to friends, so really, you just need to make friends with a barista :)
    @Aloysa – the benefits were pretty good, especially since it only required 20 hours a week to be eligible. That was important when I was worried about losing my day job (and benefits).

  24. J. Money February 24, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    Thanks again Lora for this insider’s look! You may have just awakened a few more baristas in this bunch ;)

    @Modest Money – Yeah for sure – a lot of people complain about not having money, but they’re not motivated enough to get out there and DO SOMETHING about it. You can cut out as much debt and expenses as possible too, but even then you usually need an increased revenue stream to push forward with your goals…
    @Stan – That is awesome! BOTH of those side hustles actually. I bet it’s really nice in the Spring/Fall too when it’s not incredibly hot out and what not (though not sure where you live, of course). If you ever want to write up a post about either of those and share them with us, shoot me an email okay? Might be fun reads :) j (at) budgetsaresexy (dot) com
    @Heather – Oh that sucks! There are like 15 in a 10 mile radius from me, haha… not to rub it in ;)
    @Hermoine – What’s a “Standardized patient?” They test things on you? Haha…
    @Young Professional Finances – I’ve always wanted to try being a waiter too :) There’s something exciting about it I think. Plus, you get to meet so many new people, ya know? Is that what you like about it too? Or you just wanna try something new?
    @Squeezer – Oh I bet that was the opposite of fun, haha…
    @Marianne – Haha… I know the feeling ;) It would be nice to be forced into a small schedule again, but only if I can decide to not go in at the last minute if I didn’t want to, haha… so I’m pretty sure it woulnd’t be a good fit for me.
    @BusyExecutiveMoneyBlog – “I think the starbucks atmosphere is what we’d all like to provide our blog readers” YES! Exactly! Wow… that was excellently said my friend, I’m so tweeting that right now ;)
    @LB – I think you just like trying something new all the time. You have A.D.D. but w/ jobs, haha… but I’m right there in the boat with ya! :)

  25. Evan March 2, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    My new favorite drink Espresso con Panna! Best thing there there (cheap too)….

    Lora, I think it is awesome that you were so realistic with your situation. I have recently came across so many people that think they are better than a second job for extra cash!

  26. J. Money March 5, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Oooh never tried that one before! Will give it a shot at my next visit :)

  27. L. Raquel Peterson April 23, 2012 at 8:09 PM

    I used to work at Starbucks in my teenage years. If I was smarter back then, I would have saved up and gotten stock options. I was caught up. Not anymore. I might return.

  28. J. Money April 24, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    Heck yeah!! Would def. have been good ;)