How to Budget with a Variable Income

This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my Disclosure for more information.

How to Budget with a Variable Income


A concern that I commonly from potential coaching clients as I am an online financial coach and cash flow management strategist is, “ya budgeting and cash flow management sounds great and all, but I have a varying income, so I can’t budget.”

I have actually never had a job or career where I had a steady income, it has always been variable. The vast majority of my financial coaching clients also have variable incomes and I have taught these systems and strategies to them and they have been able to be successful at managing their finances.

I want you to know that you can manage your money really well, even if you have a variable income. You just have to be a little bit more organized and intentional.

You Need to Dial in Your Expenses

When you have one aspect of your finances that varies greatly (such as your income) if your income varies from paycheck to paycheck or month to month, then you will want to really dial in on your expenses. Instead of having 2 really volatile situations, you can make it so it is just your income is fluctuating and that your expenses are much more consistent.

Know WHEN Your Expenses Are Each Month

This is where you being organized and planning when your upcoming bills are, is going to be the best thing you can do.

Write down when all of your expenses come out of your account or are due each month, list them from the 1st-31st of the month so you see in what order, they come out.

Have a “Bills” Pay Checking Account

When you have a highly variable income, a strategy that might work well for you is to have 2 checking accounts, one as your “income” account and one as your “bills paying” account.

Each time you get paid, let’s say for example, the first of the month, you will transfer money from your income account, where you are receiving your income or direct deposit to, to your “bills pay” account, where you will be paying your bills out of. Because you know for the next 2 weeks, all of your expenses that will be coming out of your “bills” account.

Have Your Bills on AutoPay

Any bills you have that are not on autopay to automatically come out of your checking account, I recommend for you to switch them because it saves you so much time and hassle.

When you have fluctuating income and expenses, your finances basically look like an etcher sketch, which causes a ton of financial stress and you are being a lot more reactive, than proactive.

So, we are being intentional so you can smooth out those lines in the etcher sketch for your expenses, so they are more like low, rolling hills or even better yet, a flatline, which is much easier to plan for.

Related Content:

How Do You Actually Succeed with Budgeting, with a Varying Income?

When you are budgeting and entering in your projected income, write it down that it is:

Going to be lower than you think AND
That you will also be receiving it later than you would think

Because this makes it so you have more of a buffer zone than if you are estimating high and it comes in less or late. It also helps to cover in case your paycheck is late, you’ve at least planned for that, so if it is on time, that is a bonus.

Decide What Are Your Priorities

The next thing you will want to do is to create a list of what are your top 2 priorities and how you will spend your money, if your paycheck does come in higher. So then if it does, you are being very intentional with it and you have already decided how you are going to use it, instead of just spending it on things that don’t really align with your goals and values.

I want you to decide consciously ahead of time, how you will use that “extra money,” so when it comes in, you have already decided, in a calm, rational and intentional state and not an excited and emotional one. This is of paramount importance because our emotions have a huge effect on our financials!

Don’t Count on Overtime

What I mean by this is, set your lifestyle up to not rely on overtime, see it as a true bonus. Before becoming a financial coach, in my previous career I had the opportunity to work a lot of overtime and so did the men that I worked with. But then with changes in the economy, overtime was cut back by a lot. I had set my lifestyle up so that overtime truly was “bonus” money, but those I worked with who thought that money would always be coming in and treated it as “regular” income, had to make significant lifestyle changes and cut back a lot in their life, because they couldn’t afford to pay all of their bills without their overtime.

If you want to have more confidence in how you are managing your finances and to really get ahead financially, I would love to chat more with you about your specific financial situation and how I can help you. You can find out more here about my online financial coaching services I offer.


I hope you enjoyed these tips for managing a variable income!

Want to find out where you really stand financially? Click “Cash Flow Confidence” Program.

Click here to download my Realistic Budget template!



I am very active on Instagram, follow me here for more financial tips & tricks: (@mandyythomas)

Other Content You May Find Helpful:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *