zookeeper wages

Part 3: Underpaid, Overworked, and Underappreciated

As a zookeeper, or anyone who’s making $28,000/year (or less) it’s really easy to end up with an external locus of control. That’s where you live life feeling out of control. It’s not your fault you don’t have any money, it’s not your fault you’re in debt. It’s the worlds fault that you’re broke and that you decided to be a zookeeper.


However, unless you’re that lucky person that ends up winning the lottery, the universe isn’t likely to change your circumstances for you, you’ve got to take control and do that on your own. That’s why you need to find your internal locus of control and figure out how to live within your means. Or better yet, make your means bigger.


How do we do that?


Step 1: Know what you spend and where you spend it-

Track your spending for a month. Write down EVERYTHING. That $2.03 you spend on the Mountain Dew before work? Yes. Write it down.


Step 2: Decide what can go-

This is the challenging part and we tell ourselves all sorts of stories about how we spend our money. “I couldn’t live without that.” “I deserve that because I work so hard.” “Everyone else can have that.” And the list goes on.


A good way to do this is to label each item on your spending tracker as a necessity or luxury. Seeing only two categories really lets you look at what you might be able to cut out.


So what luxuries do zookeepers spend their hard-earned, minimal salaries on?


Pets- The average american spends about $1,641/year on a dog and $1,125/year on a cat…of course zookeepers aren’t average so do your own budget and track how much you spend on your cat and/or dog.


Animals anonymous- Okay, I love my AA, the shirts are soft and the graphics feature our animals! If you’re not part of the AA tribe, then I don’t know what rock you’ve been hiding under, but this can be a big financial suck too. If you buy one shirt/month you’re spending $348/year. That’s a car payment!


Drinking- If you’ve ever had the pleasure of attending a conference then you know this industry likes to partake in the drink! Are you drinking away your finances with those vent sessions at the bar with your co-workers or the bottle of wine to comfort you from a rough day? Well the average American spends about $1,200/year on their drinks. How about you? How much do you spend?


Concerts- Many of us love to go blow off steam at a concert, but tickets (even to the trendy hipster shows) are expensive. The average millennial spent $163/year in 2015 and that’s likely increased since then.


Starbucks- I think this graphic says it all. At least you’re working hard and burning the calories!


Masters degrees and other school expenses and student loan debt- These schools are ripping you off! There’s many keepers in the field without a bachelor’s degree and numerous without a masters degree. Can these degrees help? Sure! But they aren’t 100% necessary to advance or become employed. Of course it depends on your facility and its requirements, but it also depends on you, your work ethic, and your networking. This field is still very much more about who know and not what you know. So don’t burn your bridges, find solutions, and own your shovelful and if you still really want to go to school for you, then go get it! Just be prepared for it not to have an impact on your paycheck.


Step 3: Make a budget

Decide how much money you’re going to spend on what and then spend that amount. While it sounds so very easy, this one is the toughest one. I still haven’t mastered it myself.

So get some help! Check out these resources below


Dave ramsey- listen to the podcast and you’ll hear all sorts of people who are making 25-50K/year paying off 100’s of K’s dollars in debt.


The Balance- You can subscribe for articles, tips, and more


Step 4: Look for ways to increase your means


Start a side hustle- Lots of keepers find something to do to make them a little bit of money on the side. Look at your strengths and see what fits with your work schedule. Are you an artist? Do you speak a second language or maybe you’re good at a particular subject? Consider tutoring. Maybe you could teach piano lessons or coach a little league team. Your dreams are your only limits so think about your strengths and what you love to do and go out there and get it!


Increase your EQ or your emotional intelligence score- On average people with a high emotional intelligence score make $29,000 more/year than those who don’t. So get to know yourself, get really honest about your weaknesses, and then work on them!


Ask for a raise- Check out the previous post about asking for a raise and then go out and get yourself more means.


Honestly we suffer from a lot of first world problems around here. Take a look around and be grateful for what you have, stop comparing yourself to others, and know how lucky you are to have the COOLEST JOB ON THE PLANET!

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series here!

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