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When you’re not a salaried worker, there’s a big chance that your income is irregular. So, when it comes to budgeting it’s easy to assume that it just isn’t going to work for you.
I get it. I mean, how can you budget when you don’t know how much you’re going to bring in, right?
This is why so many people don’t even bother with budgeting at all but guess what? Creating a successful budget is possible.
There are strategies you can use to create a spending plan without it going up in flames and to prove it, I’m going to go over a few to help you budget with an irregular income!
How much to record as your income
When there’s a small variation
When there’s a small variation between the amount of your paychecks, like a $10-$60 difference, then your situation is going to be a bit more simple. This is because you’re not having to deal with the possibility of overshooting or undershooting by hundreds.
When determining how much income to record in your budget, I recommend gathering your last six pay stubs. From here, you can go one of three ways:
- Use the amount of your smallest paycheck as your income. So long as nothing out of the ordinary has happened, such as falling ill and being out a while, you can opt to use the smallest paycheck as your income. When you choose to make your expenses fit within the smallest check, you help to avoid the devastating effects of a steady income decline. Any time your pay is higher, you will be able to work the excess funds into your other budget categories.
- Use the average of the six paychecks. Add together all six paychecks and divide by six to get the average. Use this amount as your income. Any time your pay is higher, you will be able to work the excess funds into your other budget categories.
- Add general difference in pay to your smallest paycheck. As stated before, when you choose to work with the smallest paycheck you ensure that you will be able to pay all of your expenses with a smaller income. If you feel confident that your pay will rarely be as low as your smallest paycheck, you can opt to add in an amount that lies comfortably in the middle of the general difference in pay.
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When there’s a large variation
If we’re talking about hundreds here then obviously the simple strategies above may not be enough to keep you afloat. For you to comfortably budget with irregular income, you will need to get your account ahead. This could be by a month, three months, or more. It will just depend on your unique situation and personal preference.
Review your income over the past few months to look for a trend of decline. If your income is steadily decreasing, especially during the times we’re in now, then I recommend saving more than just one month.
So, let’s say you opt to only set aside one month. The amount you save should allow you to live comfortably, so don’t try to cut corners here. You want it to be able to support your regular day-to-day.
Include all of your essential expenses as well as the non-essentials you’re paying for regularly. I like to call this a Wacky Pay account and recommend keeping this money separated by placing it in its own account. Its sole purpose is to act as a buffer and you don’t want it to get mixed up in expenses it shouldn’t be.
Now when it comes to what you will record as the income in your budget, you can use the average of the last six pay periods as your baseline.
Anytime your income is less than your baseline, you will pull the difference from your Wacky Pay account. If your income is more, I recommend adding the excess to your Wacky Pay account or at least a portion of it, especially if your income has a trend of being higher during a certain season and lower during the other months.
Creating your budget
Now that we are passed the income section, it’s time to plug in your expenses!
Back when I had to budget with an irregular income one thing that helped make it easier was focusing on what stayed the same.
So even though you don’t know exactly how much income you’re going to bring in you know that your rent/mortgage is going to be a specific amount. You know that your cable and phone plan are going to be a specific amount. See where I’m going?
Your fixed expenses are just that, fixed, so plugin those amounts that you know you will have to pay. The good thing with fixed expenses is that they are typically all essential, or the most important.
You’ll have most of those must-have expenses already out of the way, which leaves you to add in your:
- Essential expenses that vary based on usage (utilities, gas, etc.)
- Savings contributions
- Non-essential expenses
Start with the essentials first, like your utilities that fluctuate based on usage. Then, work your way back to those expenses that are more discretionary.
Calculating discretionary expenses
Look, we’re emotional beings and our spending is deeply intertwined with our feelings. That being said, the amount we spend on non-essentials, such as eating out or shopping, may vary. A simple way to calculate how much you spend is to gather your last 3-4 bank statements because your transactions won’t lie!
Go through each statement and add how much was spend on each certain expense. Depending on the total amount, you’ll need to decipher if you can realistically afford to plug it into your budget or if you need to scale back.
I recently uploaded a YouTube video all about creating your first budget and walk you through how to determine how much to set aside for those variable expenses so definitely check it out here whenever you get to this step!
Creating a budget with irregular income is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s possible! You can still have a successful spending plan, whether you know exactly how much your paycheck will be or not.
If you’re needing more of a step-by-step to help you create a successful budget and finally stick to it then you want to grab my newest ebook, Budget Boss! Check it out here!