Newbie with a question ...

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-13-2003
Newbie with a question ...
Mon, 06-16-2003 - 2:13pm
Hello everyone!

I'm new to the message board and have a question regarding tips on budgeting when you don't have a definitive income. To introduce myself, I am a 42 year old mother of a 2 year old son with a wonderful husband, but I have managed to become trapped in a cycle of unsecured debt. I actually went through credit counseling previously, and after 5 years was able to become debt free. Unfortunately, I also relocated to another state for a career opportunity, got married and had my son, and due to various circumstances, some of which include frivilous spending which I hate to admit, have fallen into the debt trap again. Although I have cut up all of my credit cards and use only cash (debit card) for any expenditures, I still have make strides to get the debt paid off. I want to kick myself for getting back into this situation when I was able to become debt free previously.

Anyway, my question is... DH currently works as a plumbing mechanic at commerical construction jobs, so his income can be very variable, sometimes he works a full 40 hour week, but other times he may only work 30 hours or less depending on such factors as weather, supplies, if the jobsite is ready, etc. And with this type of job, he also faces layoffs and job changes frequently. Although I have a good career with a reliable income, our family needs DH's income as well. I am having a hard time budgeting not knowing week to week what his income may be (or if at all ...). I am unable to pay all expenses strictly with my income alone, and DH had a recent 3 week layoff which caused the credit card payments to fall behind (and once behind its difficult to catch up).

I worry constantly because we don't have any savings or emergency funds to speak of and I feel stressed that I am unable to meet our expenses on my income alone. Any tips on how to form a budget based on DH's uncertain income?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Mon, 06-16-2003 - 3:41pm
Welcome! You've come to the right place.

First of all, you may be surprised at how well you *can* get by on only one income. The first thing to do, is to start tracking your spending. Find out exactly where every penny goes. Reevaluate your needs. Before we got wise, I felt $50 a month for ds's college fund was a "need," as well as sizeable retirement savings (I'm not discouraging saving for these things--just suggesting that it's wise to remain within your means, even if that means not saving as much as you'd like for these important things), and then we were spending hundreds of dollars a month on groceries, and so on. I was amazed how, by cutting back five dollars here, fifteen there, we were able to get our entire budget within the confines of dh's one (not very high) income. Granted, we don't have a mortgage, so it was easy to move to a cheaper place to live; but we did refinance our car, and we have a *lot* of debt we have to pay on. Those are fairly fixed expenses. We found, however, that gasoline, groceries, even utility bills, are variable and we can improve them.

Once you've gotten your bills as tightly within the confines of your one income, it will be easier to budget for your dh's variable income.

Another thing you should do, is go back over the past year or two's records and calculate how much you spend each year on categories such as "utilities," "automobile," "gasoline," "clothing," "groceries," etc. Divide the number by however many months you've calculated with to get an average. Then, in any month that you spend less than the average, set aside the difference in a special account (aka Mary Hunt's "Debt-Proof Living" freedom account--read the book for more details on this). In months when you don't have the income to cover each expense, you'll have the funds to dip into. In your situation, you should probably also calculate your dh's average monthly income to ensure you can in fact carry out this plan.

Gotta go take care of toddler. Good luck