How to Budget With Irregular, Fluctuating Income

winter-treesOne of the things I have realized is that winter is coming.

Now I sound like an episode of Game of Thrones, but with Mr. Brickie being in a skilled trade, weather is a big deal. If it’s under 40 degrees, they can’t work. If it’s snowing, they can’t work, if it’s raining, they can’t work.

That’s a lot of conditions under which work can’t occur.

I’ve been trying to do my fancy-dancy income projections but they make me feel like I’m chasing my tail around in circles. With checks for 32 hour weeks, 38.5 hour weeks, 40 hour weeks plus the whole not being a weather witch (is that a thing?) means there is just no way to know for sure what’s going to happen.

So I have been taking some time looking into budgeting with an irregular income. I always thought irregular income budgeting was for people on commission and/or in sales. Look who was wrong…again! I’m telling you, if there’s one thing Mr. Brickie’s job has taught me it’s to dump all my assumptions right out the window.

So in preparing for Christmas and winter and possible job issues (only possible because there’s always the possibility of inside walls that don’t have the same weather issues) the next few months are going to be very ebb and flow and completely unpredictable.

The first place I found with information on irregular income is (of course) Dave Ramsey. Here is a link to a pdf from The Total Money Makeover that talks about how to budget with an irregular income.

If you’ve already been working for a year or more, you can use the system explained in this 99U article. You use the average of your last twelve months of income to determine your baseline. it makes sense. Unfortunately we don’t have near twelve months of data to work with.

You Need a Budget (YNAB) has some great customer testimonials on their page for how the system works on a variable budget. I love individual stories. They help me picture myself in the same situation. Also, I’m a sucker for stories of people succeeding. I love it.

One of the things about budgeting is you have to have more income than expenses or there’s not much to do but pick your priorities and hope for the best. This is going to be the first month in a while where we’re in a position we can actually budget properly. I’d feel much more comfortable if it wasn’t the holiday season on top of everything else.

So I’m just trying to count and re-count the money to make sure it’s all there and not getting spent on anything frivolous. I’m hoping for some great Cyber Monday deals (I’ll be stalking the Cyber Monday page on Amazon as usual) and maybe a fabulous Black Friday deal. I’ll be stalking my Black Friday deals on as usual. Of course the day after Thanksgiving isn’t a technical holiday so I have no idea if he will be working or not. If he is working I will be thrilled and happy to pass up Black Friday deals, if he is not, I hope we have saved enough to take advantage of a deal that may or may not be perfect.

So many uncertainties.

Through them all, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I know we are on a good path to financial independence. Everyone knows waiting is the worst. In this case, however, it’s also the very smartest decision we could make for our long-term success.