Five tips for budgeting with an hourly wage

Budgeting with a salary is easy because you know the exact amount of money you’ll be receiving each pay period. Hourly jobs are more difficult to budget for because your paycheck can be different every time you get it — depending on how many hours you work in a pay period. However, it’s still possible to budget for shift work. Here are some tips you can use to help with your financial planning. 

Catalog all your monthly expenses.

The first step to formulating a budget is to know all the expenses that you have to pay each month. This includes your rent or mortgage, phone and internet bills, grocery store visits, transportation costs and utilities — just to name a few. With these expenses consistently occurring, you will be able to see how much of your paycheck you’ll need to save to pay for these specific needs. Most of these expenses will be the same amount each month — like your internet and rent — but some expenses like utilities can fluctuate, and it’s important to be aware that some months you could be paying more or less than others. 

Calculate your average paycheck amount. 

While the hours you work are always changing in shift work, it’s still possible to predict how much you can expect to bring home. Start by gathering your pay stubs — or bank statements if you don’t have the stubs — and see how much you make on average. You can do this by adding up the total amount of money you made and dividing it by the number of months you’re using. For example, if you’re looking at the first quarter of this year and you made $1,000 in January, $1,250 in February and $1,125 in March, you add up everything and divide by three. This means that, on average, you bring home $1,125 per month. 

Budget for less than you expect to bring home.

Now that you have a predicted estimate of your monthly expenses and your average monthly paycheck, you need to compare the two. This will allow you to see how much of your paycheck will go to paying necessary bills and how much is left over for savings or rainy day funds. However, you still need to remember that each month will bring in a different amount of money to your household, so it’s best to create your budget on the lower side. By keeping your budget on the lower side, you’ll be able to make sure you have enough to cover all those basic, recurring expenses. 

Know how you get paid. 

It’s important that you understand how your paycheck works to know when you’ll be getting the money in your pocket. Do you get paid every week? Every two weeks? That will be important for you to know because your bills will arrive at different times throughout the month. It’s also important to be aware of taxes. Just because you work 40 hours a week for $14 an hour doesn’t mean you’ll be bringing home that full amount of $560 per week. With each paycheck, your employer will take out taxes for social security and Medicare. 

Save what you can. 

Whenever you can, make sure that you’re putting funds into savings. Some months you might not be able to put as much — or anything — into your savings, but saving when you can will make a difference in the long run. After you pay all of your bills, take a look at what’s left of your paycheck. Maybe you want to take a little of that and treat yourself to dinner, but you should always consider putting some back into a savings account in case you need it in future months. 

While budgeting might be more difficult for hourly wage earners, it’s not impossible. HopeWorks is here to help you in any way – from furthering your education to learning English to working on personal and career development.