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20% of Americans Grapple With This Financial Obstacle – The Motley Fool



Many working Americans struggle to manage their money on an ongoing basis, especially when unplanned bills pop up out of the blue. But most US employees have the benefit of knowing how much money they will be collecting in their paychecks on a regular basis. For 20% of Americans, however, that figure is much harder to come by. That's because roughly one in five Americans deal with unpredictable income, according to a new report by Netspend Financial Services Company

One reason why variable income is so widespread is that the gig economy has really taken off. So, those who work on a freelance or contractor basis are often subject to substantial fluctuations in monthly income. The same holds true for small business owners who tend to do well seasonally, but struggle for the remainder of the year.

 Woman sitting on a couch in front of a laptop, holding her head as if stressed

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Not surprisingly, 59% of Americans with variable income say it's either difficult or very difficult to save money. But if you're grappling with a variable income, there is and some things you can do to overcome that challenge. Base your fixed costs on your low income

One of the best ways to keep track of your spending and ensure that you meet your savings goals is to follow a budget. But it's hard to set up a budget when you do not know exactly how much income to base it on. Your best bet, therefore, is to commit to fixed costs that your lowest monthly income can cover. This way, you'll avoid racking up debt during periods when business is slower.

Imagine that over the past year, you've earned anything from $ 4,000 to $ 7,000 on a monthly basis. In that case, you should base your budget on that $ 4,000 figure and only commit to fixed costs – things like rent, car payment, a phone plan, and a cable package – that you can pay for based on that lower earnings figure. If you go overboard on fixed costs, you could easily land your debt any month your earnings come in on the low side.

As far as variable costs go, aim to keep them low when your earnings are low, and feel free to spend a bit more when your income rises. Of course, you will not have this option with every variable expense. For example, you can not torture yourself inside a freezing house because you are in the midst of a lower-earning month and you do not want to pay for adequate heat. But you can cut back on things like expensive groceries or takeout meals when your earnings dip. Capitalize on cash influxes

Just as you are able to have months of lower earnings, so too will you be a few months when your income gets a boost. The smart thing to do here is to take advantage of those higher paychecks while you have them, whether by padding your emergency savings, making additional contributions to your retirement plan, or paying out your existing debt so that it eats less of your income. 19659002] Now this is not to say that you can not spend a little more money when your income goes up. For example, if you have a month when your earnings are $ 1,000 higher than usual, then go ahead and buy concert tickets, or treat yourself to a new gadget with some of that cash. But do not blow all of it. Instead, sock a good amount away so that when your income declines, you have more of a cushion to fall back on.

Dealing with a variable income is not easy. (19659014) fool.insertScript ('facebook-jssdk', '//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3', true);
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