How do you avoid spending off your income? How Possible is it to save from a varying income? Do you even budget on an irregular income?. All these are thought-provoking questions.
Yes, it is easy to plan when your income is consistent; but in a case of varying incomes, you don’t have to give up. Honestly, it’s hard to plan with an unpredictable resource but does that stop you from having a good plan? No, it doesn’t.
We all want to spend, regardless of what we earn. However, in a case where the earnings vary monthly, specific measures must be in place to avoid running into debt. It’s bearable when the shift on the income is higher than that of the previous month, but the moment it goes less, problems arise.
I didn’t wake up one day to learn how to create a proper budget on an irregular income.
It started when I left my job to become independent, and then I realized the challenges of working on my own. My earning was not as consistent as before, and I was forced to open my eyes to tips to budget on a varying income.
When your income is not definite, it is compelling to have a precise list showing your monthly expenses. Most Millennials are breaking out of the regular 9-5 jobs and becoming entrepreneurs or contract workers. This kind of works doesn’t come with transparent pay.
Some days are good, and some might not be, so there is a significant need for savings as well as budgeting.
While numerous tips will help you in creating a reasonable budget for your irregular income, here are the ten which served as life jackets for me on the sea of irregular income.
1. Observe Your Income Patterns
You need to observe your income patterns, how it comes in, how much you earn so you will know what your budget will be on. Spot the sequence in which the money comes in, as this will help in managing the income.
You will need to study it for the first four months, after which you will be able to predict the range of the money to expect monthly. With the expected income, you can plan.
A little adjustment might be required because your projected income will either be slightly less or more than the actual income. Hence, the need to understand your income pattern and work in harmony with it when budgeting.
2. Create a Zero-Sum Budget
The next tip for creating a budget for an irregular income is to have a base-line budget. This budget gives you control of your financial life. A budget is a vital tool for never getting broke. Although your income shifts, you can still have a budget for it.
This type of budget works with the least income you’ve earned in the year. It helps in accounting for every dollar you spend and also helps in discovering new funds. For this budget, you will subtract your expenses as well as savings from your income, and you must have nothing left.
To create this budget, get a paper, and make categories. After that, ascertain your income for the month and pen it down. Because of the fluctuating nature of irregular income, the base will be the least you’ve ever made in the year.
Secondly, write all your expenses out in different categories, add them up, and write down the total. Deduct your expenses from your income, and the remaining can go into your savings.
With your irregular income, you might have excess or less, and there will be times that nothing will be left to save. So you will need to be flexible enough to keep up with the variations.
If, after doing all and nothing is left, then you need to prioritize your expenses. Ensure feeding, shelter, and transportation comes up before discretionary costs.
After settling all and you still have something left, that’s good, but if there is nothing, it’s your baseline budget, and remember it’s your tightest.
3. Save at least 10% of Your Earnings
Even though your income is not stable, you still need to save, especially for the sunny days when the income comes less. So anytime your income comes in, the first thing to do is to set aside 10% of the total money.
The money serves as a backup plan whenever the unexpected happens. On days when you earn more, you save more, and when it’s less, you save less. With this, you can spread your income across the year quickly without lesser pay affecting it.
So if your income is not stable, you need to prioritize savings. It is compulsory always to save as much as possible when you can. Yes, the money coming in is not stable, but that should never be a barrier to savings.
Always remember to save, savings is a rescue mechanism.
4. Pay Up Tax
After saving up 10% of your income, the next money to set aside is your tax. Tax is significant so, put aside 20% of your earning for income tax.
It is a compulsory charge imposed by the government on residents of a particular country. To enjoy the basic amenities in a country, you need to pay your tax.
When your income is not consistent, there is a certain percent that you pay monthly. Yes, the money is not stable, but you should avoid unpaid tax so as soon as you save 10% out of the capital, deduct your tax immediately.
Never leave your tax because it can amount to a debt that your irregular income might not be able to fix.
You can click here to read more on income tax.
5. Pay Necessary Bills
There are some bills that you don’t need a second thought before paying them. These bills are essential, and it is vital to put them aside after saving and paying up your tax. Make sure you deduct the money before buying anything else.
Funds for things like food, transportation, and shelter should be set aside before thinking of buying a cell phone, cable, entertainment, and other discretionary bills.
The bottom line is, you need to settle the necessary bills that can make you go broke if you don’t pay attention to them before others.
6. Never lay Your Hands on a Credit Card
Credit cards are for people with a stable income, some people with steady incomes even try as much as possible to avoid debt by refusing to own a credit card.
According to statistics by Money Smart Week,
an average cardholder owes $4,500 on credit. The average credit card interest rate currently across products is over 12.8% on low rate cards and 19.4% on standard credit cards.
For an irregular income earner using a credit card, the sole reliance is on the card, and it is an expensive option.
However, for a card without a high rate, the credit card can be a good option or bank transfer. This way, you can monitor your expenses. With a bank statement, you can track your costs any day, any time.
7. Look Out for a Side Hustle
Full reliance on irregular income might not be very easy, so you need to find another attachment that will support your irregular income.
Several things will bring in money that is as much or more than your irregular income. Things like blogging, ebooks, youtube channel, property sales, and other items can be a support for your income.
All these things will boost your income, and you can settle other bills as well as satisfy your other wants with the money from them.
Living solely on your irregular budget can be a tough thing to do. I’ve been in those shoes before. It was challenging, but with time, I ventured into sales of used clothes online, and I got money even more than my income as a freelance writer.
As such, a side hustle is another tip that will help in creating a budget on an irregular income.
8. Clear Off Debt
Debt is typical, but it can be avoided. In a case where you live on an irregular income, after saving, paying tax, and clearing off the essential bills, the next thing to look out for is debt.
Debt accumulation can either lead to bankruptcy or being broke, and these are things you want to avoid, so after taking some funds for savings, tax, and bills, the next thing to sort out is outstanding bills.
In a situation where the debt is much, the best thing to do is to clear off the highest, and every month, you keep paying till you clear off all. You can also check out debt consolidation loans, which you can take to clear off your debt.
Although debt is common for irregular income earners, you can also do away with it as much as you can. If you want to avoid being broke, debt should never be your friend and if you have to owe, make it minimal.
Remember that we are trying to set a budget for an irregular income. If your income is so small that your savings can’t help, you might need to take a loan, but you should pay up as soon as you can when the income gets high.
9. Try Micro Investments
Another way out debt and being broke is by venturing into macro businesses and investments. Stock exchange, foreign exchange, and other investments are available.
Investment is a fundamental part of business planning in this day and age. However, money from irregular income might not be enough to invest, but you can try and go into micro-investments.
Micro-investments allow people to save a small amount of money without any traditional barrier to investing like brokerage, among others. It is best for people with irregular incomes.
When doing this, you only need to pay the micro-investment platform a nominal fee, which is usually within the range of $1-$ three monthly. If the money that comes in for you at the end of the week or month is not stable, this micro-investment might be the right choice for you.
Many platforms offer micro-investment opportunities. They include Access Manager, IQ option, Capital group, among others. You can leave your money for months and watch it grow on the platform.
10. Seek Out Regular Sources of Income
Yes, we want to be independent, but the challenges that come with it are worrisome. Sole reliance on an irregular income is not easy, especially when you are getting lesser than the expected. Instead of getting fed up and tacking loans, why not look out for regular sources of income?
You can look out for jobs that will pay you a stable income, yet affords you time for that one that brings the irregular income. Jobs like teaching, sales rep, and other works that yield regular income will assist ideally in supplementing the irregular income.
Incomes from stable jobs can take care of other expenses, and add up to your savings. It can also build up as investments as the case may be. The income will help in stabilizing in case the income comes lesser than expected.
The moment you decided to live on an irregular income, you must be ready for the stress that comes with it. Although, if you make good use of the tips above, it will be very stress-free & you might forget you are living on an irregular income.
I hope you find this post helpful. If you find it useful, do share it with friends as well as colleagues. You can also drop your comments and suggestion in the comments section.
Remember also to share your experience if you tried any of the tips above.