Life Lessons

Life Lessons: Budgeting on a roller coaster income

A Federal Reserve report found that nearly one-third of Americans had irregular incomes last year and 40 percent of them struggled to pay bills as a result. If you’re self-employed, freelance, or in sales, your job might pay different amounts at different times.

So how can you plan a budget if your pay is unpredictable?

First, make sure you actually set a budget! A good rule of thumb is to base your income on your lowest paid month from the previous year. Be sure to include all of your monthly expenses.

Next, build an emergency fund. Most experts suggest putting away at least three to six months of expenses just in case you aren’t able to make ends meet. And if you make a little more than expected each month, add it to savings.

Apps can also help! The popular app Mint is good for tracking your spending. Earnin, rebranded from Activehours, provides small, no interest advances of up to $100 against direct-deposit paychecks. Dave offers no-interest advances until your next paycheck to avoid an overdraft. And even helps you set aside money from your paycheck if it’s higher than average. If you earn less, the app makes deposits to bring you up to average until you get paid again with no interest.

Most financial advisors caution against using cash advances too often. But if you can quickly get back to your monthly budget, these services can help you make it through a tough month.

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