Help! I’m a self-employed mum and I can’t save!

Women with CentsBlog, Budgeting

This week I’m helping out a fellow self-employed mum! She sent in this question:

I’m self-employed and find it absolutely impossible to budget or save. My husband’s salary covers our regular expenditure (such as the mortgage and utilities) so we aren’t saving any of his income and I make okay money, but I get paid so irregularly that setting aside a certain amount or percentage of each payment simply isn’t feasible. What’s your advice to self-employed women whose income fluctuates in terms of both amount and frequency of payment? How can we get ahead financially when we don’t always know how much or how often we’ll be paid?


I can certainly appreciate this challenge as my husband and I are both self employed and on fluctuating incomes! It took us time but once we figured out what worked we got ourselves into a pretty smooth groove. Here is the plan that worked best for us – I hope it helps you too!

The summary

What you need to do is use the consistent income for basic living costs and any surplus for saving and discretionary spending.

The steps

Step 1: Get on the same page

The first step is to get on the same page as your husband when it comes to money. We wrote a blog on this just last week so it’s a great place to start. Managing money is a lot easier when you’re working together not against each other!

Step 2: Set your baseline

Take a look at the last 12 months of income for both you and your husband and write down the total monthly income for each of you. What we’re looking for is the minimum amount that is coming in consistently each month. If, some months you have no income, and other months you get some income, then stick with zero as your baseline. Then take this figure, and use this for your budget. When your income increases more consistently, you can go back and revise the budget.

Step 3: Strip back your expenses

Next, review your expenses and strip them back to the absolute essentials. Unfortunately Foxtel, gym memberships, birthday parties, gifts, holidays, clothing, take-out, junk food, all needs to go. Just keep the bare minimum living expenses – for now.

Then work out whether the consistent income covers the bare expenses. If it does, set up all your bills to be paid by monthly direct debit. That will make it easier to manage your cash flow. If your consistent income does not cover your expenses, then you will need to look at ways to cut back further or generate extra, more consistent, income.

Step 4: Allocate your save, then your splurge

Any income that comes in above and beyond can be split between your savings (starting with an emergency fund) and your splurge fund (this is where Foxtel and gym memberships can make a come back!) – in line with your goals.

Tip: Ways to find extra cash!

This is a challenge that is often faced, not just by self-employed people, but also by casual or temp employees. And often there are a few simple things that most people can do to free up some cash in the short term to at least kick-start an emergency fund – which everybody needs!

* Downsize. Could be your car, or where you are renting
* Sell things you don’t need anymore like clothes or furniture
* Shop around your regular bills like electricity to see if you can get a better deal
* Consider taking some extra work where possible

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The information provided by Women with Cents is general in nature. It doesn’t take into account your objectives, personal financial situation or needs. Think of it as educational material in which to help you make more-informed decisions. We recommend you obtain financial, tax and credit advice specific to your situation before making any investments or financial decisions.

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