Budgeting an Irregular College Income

One of the most difficult part about college income is that you have a budget that’s irregular. In most jobs, you get paid on a particular day of the month and you can expect a paycheck on a given day. Some people receive their paychecks monthly. Some people receive their paychecks twice a week or every other week.

irregular budgeting

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When you’re in college, however, your paycheck comes whatever you can find money. Perhaps you have a part time job. Maybe you have income from investments or other passive income. Perhaps you receive student loans. Regardless of how you receive your money it will take you a while to figure out how to budget it correctly.

Create a Budget, Even Without a Set Income

Even though you don’t know how much money you’ll be making, you still need to have a budget. The trick is that you just don’t know how much to budget for.

The solution? Create the amount you budget with.

Figure out the minimum amount of income you receive each month and use that as your basis for budgeting. Budget your important bills and expenses based on this amount. Any excess you have will then go to other payments or other expenses — the more you make, the more you can pay for.

Organize Your Accounts

Irregular incomes require organization and consistency. This applies to paperwork around the home, but also your banking accounts. You’ll want to have separate accounts for long-term savings, short-term savings, and checking and daily activities. With an irregular income in college, you’ll need a more heavily padded savings account to make it through lulls in income. Having a small short-term savings will help you avoid using your large long-term savings for things that aren’t emergencies.

Make Tough Decisions About What’s Really Necessary

Another difficult decision about money in college is deciding which opportunities come up that you want to take and that you can afford to take. The answer is to decide in advance what is a necessity and what is not a necessity.

Paying for housing costs like rent and utilities are necessities, and food is a necessity. A fun trip outside the country which a faraway place? Not a necessity. Bonding with new friend by going out for drinks or spending time together is a necessity. But spending a lot of money shopping together or eating in places outside your budget? Not necessities. Make those hard decisions in advance so that you can protect your budget when you go outside

Budgeting on an irregular income doesn’t have to be difficult, if you know how to do it. How do you budget, if your income is irregular? 


Budgeting an Irregular College Income — 14 Comments

  1. I have an irregular income because I’m self-employed and it can be difficult to budget. Fortunately, my husband is paid approximately the same amount of money every two weeks. That makes things easier.

  2. In college I worked as an Resident Assistant which saved me a ton of money. I got free housing which was really expensive in Chicago as well as a meal plan and a small stipend. Being an RA also really sucked sometimes but I’m so glad I did it because it saved me so much money.

  3. It is difficult to get through college this way! However, the money really helps in the long run, and if you get a job that you really love doing, especially in college, you can kill two birds with one stone. Be happy with the extra money, and enjoy the job.

  4. When I was in college I didn’t budget at all. Mainly because I didn’t spend any money! All of my income was from a work study job that afforded me to buy a late night pizza twice a month. Times were tough, but I was able to make it work.

  5. I had a job fundraising in college that was awful. Our base was below minimum wage and I think we got paid more based on how many conversions we got. It was a frustrating system especially since I sucked at that job. I switched to a clerical position the next semester which I liked a lot more and the pay was regular.

  6. I didn’t have a formal budget at all when I was in college. Basically I just looked at how much money I had in my checking account and didn’t spend more than that. It wasn’t a very smart way to budget, but I never bounced any checks.

  7. As an actress I’ve lived on an irregular income for the last six years. I base everything on percentages. I can’t set fixed amounts because I don’t know what will come in, so I do my best to stay within the percentages I set for myself. Depending on the month, I sometimes have to go over my 60% for expenses.

  8. A budget was an absolute necessity when I was in college. Always had to be on top of what was left in the bank and in my wallet! But luckily, I never got into debt and not having a car helped.

  9. It can definitely be a challenge budgeting without fixed income. My wife used to have a job where her pay varied, but thankfully I had set income, so it was easier for us. I didn’t have a budget in college, or grad school, and I had the debt to show for it.

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