How to Budget with an Unpredictable Income. It’s easy to see why it’s so much harder to budget when you don’t have a set income each month. When you’re first starting off with a new job with unpredictable income, it can be difficult to know how to make ends meet. If you happen to have an unpredictable income, it may be more challenging at first, but it is possible to learn how to manage your money.
How to Budget with an Unpredictable Income
When you realize that you won't have a traditional budget, it's time to make changes to how you view your finances. Below are tips that are going to help you manage month to month. Sometimes you will have more to work with and sometimes it will be a scramble to make ends meet, but you can be successful and even pay down debt with these tips.
Track Down your Lowest Month’s Income
Most people out there believe that taking your average monthly income would be the best place to start when figuring out your budget, but it’s actually not.
- Starting with your lowest month’s income gives you more room for comfort and flexibility, especially towards the end of the month.
- In order to find this number, you’ll need to gather up all your pay stubs from the following year and find which one is the lowest.
That’s what your monthly income should be set at. But what about those that have always had a set income but have decided to make the switch? If it happens to be the first time you’re working with an unpredictable income or on commission, do your best to estimate what the lowest month may look like and write that down as your income.
Create a List of All Your Expenses
Now it’s time for you to sit down and make a list of every monthly expense that you have. Start out by including all of your essentials, such as food, house payment, utilities, and transportation. Next, you have your home and car insurance to account for, along with any monthly debts, whether it’s a credit card bill, kid’s braces, or school loans that you’re paying back.
If you attend a church and give often, make sure that you don’t forget that on your list. Lastly, you have your nonessentials that you need to include, whether it’s magazine subscriptions, streaming services, restaurant visits, and any personal spending money.
This also is a great time to jot down any savings goals that you have, that way you can track your progress. That way you are creating a plan and beginning to win with your money, rather than wonder where it’s all gone.
Focus On Needs Rather Than Wants
For those of us that live on an irregular income, some of those nonessential items that I mentioned earlier may need to be canceled or unsubscribed. These are all entertainment items that you don’t necessarily need and there may need to be some sacrifice. When things are tight, you need to remember that it’s our needs and not our wants, that is what truly matters.
Make Adjustments If Needed
Maybe down the road, you realize that you initially underestimated your monthly income. That’s a great problem to have an easy problem to adjust to. Now is the time to add that back into your budget and use that money elsewhere, whether it’s paying off debt quicker or placing that money in savings. Just don’t make the mistake of using that money on stuff that you can live without.
At first, trying to budget while on an unpredictable income will have its challenges, but after a few months, you’ll start to get more comfortable. I’d encourage you to get yourself a budgeting tool or a mobile app that can make your life even easier. If you’ve been living on an irregular income for some time and have found one or two other tricks that work for you, I would love to hear from you.