How to Budget With Irregular Income

Budgeting With Irregular Income: Part 1

If you’re trying to figure out how to budget with irregular income, we’ve got the solution for you.

We can’t change the fact that you don’t know exactly when or how much you will get paid, but we can teach you to be in total control of your money, and stop stressing about it! This eight-part series will teach you exactly how to budget successfully and get ahead with irregular income.

You’ve got a good thing going. Maybe you sell real estate, (or subscriptions or packaging or pharmaceuticals), or you own your own business or take pictures or design websites or write copy.

You work hard—there is no doubt a lot of hustle involved—but you also have a lot of flexibility. Sometimes you can’t really believe that people pay you to do the thing you love, or use the app you developed, or that the more you sell, the more you’ll earn.

It might have seemed a little crazy to the very responsible 9-to-5 people in your life, but you’re doing it. And it is a little crazy. Especially the part about never knowing exactly what you will make or when you will get paid or how much.

But you keep telling yourself, you are living the dream. At least part of the dream? On some days? Because the rest of the time you are just plain stressed. Well, anxious and stressed.

And it’s probably not the work. It’s the money—or lack thereof—or maybe just the not knowing about the money and the waiting for the money. Or the flaky clients, late invoices, and unexpected expenses. Sound familiar?

The Irregular Income Rollercoaster

It isn’t just you. Living on an unpredictable income is a wild ride. The highs are high (So much work! Big invoices paid on time! New business! Feeling rich!) and the lows are low (Uncertainty. Doubt. Fear. Feeling stuck and poor. So poor. What if you never get another job again?).

Or maybe you work seasonally, and a few large expenses blindside you just as you transition to your slowest months.You’re stressed about money just about every minute of the day—and night, because you can’t sleep when you are stressed about money.

Why did you ever think this would work?

Because it can. Once you understand how to tame the irregular income beast.

Oh, and also, once you accept, love and honor the all-knowing power of the budget.

Don’t Believe The Hype

The problem is, someone probably told you that budgets don’t work with irregular income, and you believed them. Or maybe your own experience has made you quite sure that “irregular income” is synonymous with money stress. You’ve tried to forecast. You’ve tried to budget. Nothing has worked.

The good news (yes, there is good news!) is there are a couple of simple reasons why what you’ve tried in the past hasn’t worked. And better yet, some very specific solutions you can put in place to change your relationship with your money, giving you more control of your finances and your business than you ever thought possible. Also—bonus!—the best sleep of your life.

Everyone Needs A Budget—But Especially You

Let’s get this straight—everyone needs a budget. But you–you and your variable income–need one even more.

The budget will help you to flatten out the highs and the lows. The budget will give you boundaries so you aren’t always guessing. The budget allows you to plan for the future, positioning yourself to take calculated risks. The budget will give you the confidence to make better decisions. The budget will ensure that you can eat in all the months, not just the good ones.

If your budget hasn’t worked/isn’t working, it’s probably because:

1. Your Budget is Set in Stone.

Talk about a budget, and most people imagine something you set at the beginning of the month (or, worse, the year!) and then twist yourself in knots trying to match it. Or else you failed. Everything in your life changes week-to-week and day-to-day, why pretend a budget is different? Budgets can and should be flexible.

2. Your Budget Is Built Around Anticipated Income.

Budgeting money you don’t have yet is like a farmer promising exact deliveries of crops to his neighbors the day after he puts seeds in the ground. It doesn’t work. Instead, he should wait until the crops actually grow, then take stock and divvy them up appropriately. What you actually have, is different than what you think you might have.

A budget that replicates itself each month without thinking or a budget built on a hopeful forecast of what money might come in is, at its best ineffective; at its worst, downright dangerous—especially with variable income.

Not Just Any Budget

You need a budget that is as nimble and adaptive as you are (or hope to be). You need a budget that works with the money you already have in hand, and that helps you prepare for your future plans.  And the things you don’t know about yet. A budget that puts you in the driver’s seat.

Over the next eight weeks, right here in this space, we will teach you how to build and maintain a flexible budget that will become one of your greatest tools. Your business—and your life—will never be the same.

In the meantime, ask yourself, “What would I do with my career or my business if you weren’t always stressed about money?”

Next: Part 2: How to Make Spending Decisions When Your Income is Unpredictable