I love budgeting! However, for the past 3 years, it was very difficult for us to create a working budget. Why? All the jobs we worked were unsteady paychecks.
Some were cash based, some were seasonal, all of them were part-time, shift work, direct sales, side hustles, gigs or build your own business jobs. Budgeting was a nightmare – our income was always changing and it seemed we had no way to predict what we could make, so we never knew if bills would be paid or not. I have finally come to realize that these types of jobs require budgeting to be done slightly different than a 9-to-5er would do a budget. Here are our insights into budgeting for the people like us…
1 – Decide If You Are a Hobbyist or a CEO.
In direct sells, your upline will alway talk about 2 groups within sales – hobbyist and business owners. When I was doing direct sales, I didn’t take much notice to this idea, but now I know what they meant. Take the time to think about why you went into your side hustle. A hobbyist probably will make enough to buy their own products or a tank of gas or to pay for daycare. A hobbyist works when it is convenient or when they need extra cash. They probably aren’t throwing everything at the dream/side hustle all the time, and that’s okay. If a little extra income is what you want, you are a hobbyist.
The other group of people, the ‘business-owners,’ want to leave a job, work for themselves, create a business and become their own CEOs. They are driven, they get up early, stay up late and never accept no for an answer. CEOs will be doing everything and then some to make sure that their side hustle is completely paying the bills, because they don’t want to go back to the old way of living under someone else’s payroll.
We have had side hustles that were on both sides. Personally, we have found that being hobbyist does not give us a consistent enough income to consider it part of the budget. Use a hobbyist income to go on vacation or take care of extra expenses or as fun money – the less pressure a hobbyist has, the more fun they have with their side hustle.
If you are wanting your side hustle to be part of the budget, you have to switch your thinking from hobbyist to CEO, because to make a side hustle work you have to be very deliberate with your time and energy.
Seriously, this is the biggest one for side hustling. You can’t be optimistic, you need to stay realistic about how much money you are making. We do ride-share driving, and here in Phoenix, the summer months are terribly slow (everyone is hiding inside in the A/C, nobody needs a ride!). The income drops from $150 a day to $50 a day. Now, for 3 years, we have tried to say that we can make that $150 a day during the summer time, but realistically, we just can’t. You need to sit down and find the patterns and be honest about what you can and what you can’t make with your side income. And figure out what you are ACTUALLY making. Optimism does not pay the bills, realism does.
3 – Create A Buffer.
The biggest problem with working as a full-time gigger is that you have no insurance, no sick days and no vacation days. You know at some point you will get sick and you will have days that you don’t want to work 7 days a week. That is normal, but since these days aren’t provided for you from an employer, you have to create these into your budget.
If you work 5 days a week at your side hustle, you only use 4 days for your household budget, the extra day should be set aside as savings or for vacation. Or every week, you put aside $25-50 (or more!) into a savings account, so you never see it nor can you touch it. Now this is specifically for PTO time, it isn’t your actual ‘savings.’ You may want to consider opening a new savings account to keep track of your PTO time.
Every time I have talked to side hustlers and asked what they will do in an emergency, their answer is ALWAYS “Oh I will just work more if I have to take time off or if I need more money.” DON’T DO THAT! It is so easy for side hustlers to only remember that they are working for themselves and can always work more, but that mindset will drive you to exhaustion and make you hate the side hustle world. You don’t do more, you save better. You don’t make it up when you have emergencies, you expect the emergencies and take care of them beforehand. One trick I learned was to think “Okay, Tuesdays (always the same day!) is when I get my PTO and sick day.” If you consistently save 1 day a week, you will have 10 days of vacation/PTO time saved for yourself in less than 3 months.
Also on this one – don’t let your savings be an overdraft protection for your debit card, this allows you to use up your savings without realizing it. Helpful in the moment, bad in the long term.
4 – Find Your Actual Pay.
This is where regular budgeting fails for the side hustlers. A regular budget is based off of a 2 X a month paycheck. Regular jobs give predictable pay, so it makes it easy to plan bills/savings/spending. However, in side hustles, pay may be daily or seasonally, it may be cash based or include tips. Side hustles and anyone working a shift that can change will see that their income fluctuates based on how much you work.
So here is what you need to do – You need to determine your average and exact daily and weekly pay. Yes, keep track of every penny coming into your bank accounts during this period. Track for a month. Once you can see your average and actual weekly incomes, you will start your budget based on the ACTUAL pay of the LOWEST pay week. Why the lowest? Let’s do the math:
Week 1: $500
Week 2: $300
Week 3: $350
Week 4: $400
Total Income: $1550 a month with an average of $387.50 a week
Income based on lowest pay week: $1200 a month budgeting for lowest pay week of $300 a week.
Budgeting for the low end of what you normally bring in allows your budget to be less stressful. See, if you budget to use $1550, but have a slow month and only bring in $1200, you are scrambling and stressed over trying to make the budget work. On the flip side, if at the end of the month, you find you made $350 more than you budgeted for, then you are less stressed and can budget that money at that time.
5 – Work For Your Budget.
In other words, you don’t stop until the budget goal is met for the day. This is the biggest difference in a hobbyist mindset and a CEO mindset. Remember a CEO doesn’t want to go back to work under a company again, so some days they will work 12 hours to make those budget goals. If you know your low end pay should be at least $300 a week, and you are only at $200 on Friday, guess what? You need to work all night to bring in the money. And, no, PTO savings can’t be used here. PTO is for sick time/vacation, not because you didn’t make your goals. You never borrow from the next day or week, you make sure you reach your goals every single time. If you have a CEO mindset, you have to make that money.
And let’s be honest, it takes deliberation and focus, you have to be very intentional with your time and energy to make a side hustle into a full time reality.
As I am typing this, it is 2:30 am. I am on the night shift with our newborn, wide awake 3 week old, so I am taking this time to write this blog and work on my website. This was not the time I wanted to be working, but it’s the time I have, so that’s when I need to work.
Nobody wants to hear that the reason their side hustle isn’t paying their bills is because they aren’t focused on it enough, that they have no plan and no ‘why’ for making it completely pay the bills, but that’s the truth. If you aren’t putting the time in it and creating a plan on why you are working the side hustle, well, it will probably just remain a hobby. If you plan it, create it and stick to it, you will see it be able to replace your income and it will give you the freedom of being a business owner and the life we are striving to get to. So, what is you want to be – a business owner or hobbyist? Leave us a comment to explain how you going to make your budget reflect your choice.
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