Budgeting for Irregular Income: Tips for Freelancers

byFrugal and Simple

Sun Jan 28 2024

@ CompanyLLC
Budgeting for freelancers

As a freelancer, you never know what your income will be each month. Depending on client contracts and due dates, it can feel like sailing on unpredictable seas. The fluctuating nature of freelance income makes budgeting a unique challenge. 

Compared to traditional 9-to-5 jobs, where paychecks are consistent, freelancers must plan for the ebb and flow of their earnings. So let’s talk about it. Read more to discover effective strategies for budgeting for irregular income, ensuring financial stability and peace of mind for freelancers.

The Impact of Irregular Income

When you live on an irregular income, you must plan ahead for the months that funds are more sparse. You may have a big project that keeps you busy but doesn’t have a payout until the following month. Understand the nature of unpredictable income flows to create a better budget. 

  • Nature of Freelance Income: Freelance incomes can include feast and famine cycles. You can have one month when all the projects are due and the payouts pour in. This isn’t the time to celebrate and spend all the money you earned. Put aside some of the funds for months that have fewer collectibles. 

  • Importance of Adaptability: Use a flexible budgeting process to account for feast and famine. Be ready to pull from your saved resources on the months that have smaller payouts. This doesn’t mean you are going over budget; it simply means you planned ahead with saved funds. 

  • Financial Mindset: Moving from project to project allows you to create flexibility in your time management and workload. Have a financial mindset when signing up new clients, choosing to work for those who will assign consistent work. 

Once you recognize your income patterns as a contract employee, you’ll learn when you can spend a little extra to celebrate your hard work. Small victories like signing a new client or completing a long-term project only contribute to your budgetary goal achievements. 

Basic Budgeting Principles

Before setting your budget, take into account these budget principles that apply to all types of income. It will help you get a better picture of a monthly budget that makes sense for your lifestyle. 

  • Track Your Income and Expenses: Make a detailed list of your income and expenses. As a freelancer, you will want to track your income over the last several months and come up with an average number. 

  • Identify Essential Expenses: Writing down your necessary bills like rent, utilities, and transportation expenses will give you a tangible number of the minimum amount of money you need each month to have food, shelter, and clothing. Is there anything you think you need that can be crossed off the list? 

  • Create a Realistic Monthly Budget: After you calculate your average income per month, come up with a budget that allows you to spend 50% of your average income on necessities, 30% on savings, and 20% on extras. 

As a freelancer, your budget will look a little different. In the tighter months, you may eliminate spending on entertainment and extras to avoid dipping into savings too much. When you get paid more, you may feel more comfortable spending a little extra during those months. 

How to Create a Realistic Budget for Your Frugal Lifestyle

How to Create a Realistic Budget for Your Frugal Lifestyle

Building a Buffer

It’s more important than ever to build up savings as a freelancer. Your savings will work as a buffer to get you from one month to the next. 

  • Emergency Fund: Everyone should have a rainy-day savings account to get them out of a pinch when the refrigerator or car breaks down. But a freelancer needs even more in the emergency fund to help when income is low. 

  • Income Smoothing: Instead of relishing in your high-paying months, consider the extra money an overage toward future months with lower payments. This is called income smoothing and helps you stick to your freelancer budget. 

  • Tax Planning: Freelancers receive full paychecks without tax removed, so it is up to you to set aside money to pay taxes each year. Tax planning should be a part of your budget and is often overlooked by freelancers. Don’t get caught with a hefty bill during tax season. 

These budgeting tips will allow you to create a more predictable budget amidst your wavering income. This stability is comforting to those in freelance work. 

Advanced Budgeting Strategies

Once your initial budget is set, take on new strategies to make sticking to your budget even easier. Here are some strategies to consider: 

  • Multiple Bank Accounts: Divide your bank account into categories, including spendable funds, savings, and expected taxes. Dividing the funds into these categories will reduce the temptation to spend outside of your budget. 

  • Leveraging Financial Tools: Search online for apps and websites to keep track of your spending and give tips on where you can save. 

  • Periodic Financial Reviews: Track your spending and regularly evaluate your budget success. If you need to make changes or set reminders along the way, you will have accountability each time you perform a review. 

These advanced strategies will set you up for success as a freelancer. You can live on a budget rather than living paycheck to paycheck and spending what you make each month. 

Dealing with Dry Spells

All freelancers have to suffer through months of low income. It’s always a good idea to cut spending during those months. However, there are ways to avoid the dry spell and increase your chances of a more steady income. 

Instead of relying on one client for all your freelance work, diversify your income stream. You may see a lull in your work coming up, so put time into securing new clients. Then, when your original client picks up on the work, you will have even more income to get you through the slow times. 

Create a Budget You Can Keep as a Freelancer

You have what it takes to stick to a budget on an irregular income. It demands discipline, foresight, and a proactive approach. By following these tips, freelancers can navigate their financial waters with confidence. It’s not just about surviving the stormy months but thriving throughout your freelancing journey.