Being an assistant is not my favorite job in the world sometimes. You have to deal with long hours, little pay, and weekend text messages that, yes, you are required to respond to immediately, if not sooner. As if that isn’t bad enough, spending your lunch at your desk eating the wilted lettuce you brought from home, while expensing your boss’ $3,000 client dinner at Nobu, might just be enough to put you over the edge. All this being said, if you’re crafty enough, you can find ways to make a few extra bucks in between walking your boss’s dog and pretending to like your boss’s children. (Sorry, can you tell I’m bitter?)
Here are four things you should be taking advantage of in order to stretch your entry-level paycheck:
1. Know everything there is to know about your health benefits.
This may be the first time you have your own health insurance. If this is the case, my advice is to use your health insurance for every nickel and dime you possibly can. Setting up dentist, dermatologist, gynecologist and endocrinologist appointments may not seem like it is saving you money when you’re shelling out for copays, but catching a cavity before it becomes a root canal can save you hundreds of dollars.
You should also look into what your insurance covers. Many times, insurance will cover a set amount of trips to the chiropractor per year, but people don’t take advantage simply because they don’t know about it. If you really want to get the most bang for your buck, have your primary care physician give you a referral for a medical massage, and boom, insurance will have you covered for a deep tissue. (Of course, verify the coverage before you get the massage.) Don’t forget to utilize your dermatologist. If you’ve ever wanted to get a quality retinol cream, you can get a prescription for one through your dermatologist. Not only that, if you have acne, you might even be able to get microdermabrasion covered by insurance. if you use your insurance plan to the max, you can end up getting a lot out of it. That seems to be a fair exchange for talking to your boss’s children about Frozen for 20 minutes.
2. Gather all the points you can.
If your boss likes Starbucks, register a card for yourself, and use it to buy his or her Starbucks. Whether he hands you cash or a credit card, just reload your own Starbucks card with the exact amount needed for his order. Yes, this will require an extra step at the Starbucks counter, but it’s worth it. After reloading your Starbucks card, pay for your boss’s drink on it. With each order, you will earn a gold star, and every 12 gold stars earned will get you a free coffee. This may not seem like a major perk, but life as an assistant sometimes reminds you to appreciate the little things.
And while I wouldn’t advocate for a Starbucks run on your own dime, if you can be getting free drinks because you’re spending someone else’s money, do it up. This nifty little trick can also be done most places that offer reward or loyalty programs. As a rule of thumb, if you are making frequent purchases for your boss somewhere, you should check for a loyalty/reward program. Most places offer something, and all you really have to do is ask. Getting in this mindset can also be helpful in terms of credit card points. I used to know an assistant who purchased all of her boss’s international travel on her card, then expensed it, and raked in the American Express points.
3. Gain some Opentable clout.
If you don’t have an executive account on Opentable, and you frequently make reservations for your boss, you need one. With each reservation made (for your boss), you earn 100 points (for yourself). Once your points add up, you will be eligible for a gift cards worth $20, $50 and $100. There are even some promoted restaurants that offer 1,000 points upon dining, so you can gently nudge your boss in the direction of those restaurants, and receive gift cards more quickly. At the very least, when you are expensing that $3,000 client dinner, you can be happy that you earned 100 Opentable points, right? Fair warning: if your boss doesn’t specifically check in for his reservation, it’ll be deemed a “no show”, will not earn you any points, and will count negatively towards your account. No action will be taken immediately but if you accumulate too many “no shows,” you may be told to stop making reservations via Opentable. You’ve been warned, friends.
4. Open the company handbook, and find the perks no one told you about.
See what all of your hidden company benefits are. For example, many companies will allow you to expense your meal if you worked after 8 PM. Some will even let you expense an Uber home if you work past 9 PM. If you don’t feel comfortable asking your superior about these perks (understandable), look in your handbook, or ask HR. If you are going to be on the work grind late into the night, you don’t want to be funding a late-night Seamless order on your own credit card.
In all honesty, these hacks definitely improved my life as an assistant. Now that you know some of the tricks to stretching money as an assistant, the most important lesson is to not stop using these tricks once you are no longer an assistant. In the odd capitalist world we live in, so often you can earn a reward, or a bounce back, when you spend money. And when you’re spending your boss’s money, and he or she has no interest in tapping into the perks, there’s no reason you shouldn’t take advantage of points earned, miles earned, or a free coffee.
Veronica Zabczynski is a writer living in LA. You can find her poetry on Extracts, Lost Coast Review, Painted Bride Quarterly or her blog, wordslikelace.com.
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