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Making the Money Work When Your Income is Seasonal

Flexibility, built-in vacation time, freedom—seasonal work has many natural benefits. But it also comes with its own challenges, especially in making its financial side work for you. Most of the available financial advice assumes a steady income stream each month. But that doesn’t help much if you have to plan for extended periods without a lot of cash rolling in.

Use these pointers to make sure your money situation is what you need it to be, no matter the season.

Take advantage of all incentives

With labor shortages common in the US, many employers offer several incentives – from retention bonuses to transportation reimbursement and beyond – so weigh your options and go with the employer offering you the best total package. Keep track of all offers mentioned to make you get everything coming to you.

Know your monthly expenses

This can’t be overstated: the biggest key to successful money management with seasonal work is understanding your baseline monthly expenses. Knowing what you need to survive and have a decent quality of life throughout the year ensures you don’t encounter too many anxious moments when money is tight. Once you know your basic monthly expenses, you can start calculating how much you’ll need each month during your off time.

Do the calculations

Multiply your monthly baseline expenses by the number of months you don’t plan on having income (or much income) over the coming year. Once you have that number, divide it by the number of months you will be working. Now, you know how much you need to save as a bare minimum total during your work stretch.

Utilize multiple savings accounts

In addition to being a time of earning, your heavy work months should also be a time of saving aggressively. To keep all your savings goals straight, set up accounts to stash money for your upcoming monthly expenses and anything else approaching the horizon. That could include vacations, tax obligations, home repairs, or other outlays of cash.

Do a new budget with each transition

On top of diminished income, your life during the times when work isn’t plentiful may have other differences when it comes to expenses. Taking the time to do a new budget each time you transition into and out of your busy work times will help you keep your spending in a place that keeps you safe and secure.

Prioritize emergency savings

With variable income, you’re even more susceptible to the negative effects of a sudden, unexpected expense. Even if you’ve covered all your core expenses, you’re not assured of a smooth transition time until your next larger gig. Without a steady income stream, a big surprise can lead to a big crisis. You may not be able to save enough to cover every emergency right away. Still, putting money away is a good idea to ensure less turbulence when that inevitable curveball comes.

Stay wary of credit card usage

If unforeseen events arise and you find yourself looking to a credit card to cover your necessities, understand that this should be a wakeup call that your finances are in a precarious position. Mounting credit card debt, especially for someone with inconsistent income levels, is not sustainable and should be treated as a sign that significant changes need to be made to your overall financial plan.

Be conscious of stress-related expenses

When you’re in the thick of a busy work season, you’re probably looking to work as many hours as possible. When you have a little time off during this hectic stretch, you might be looking to make the most of your leisure time to blow off some steam. Whether it’s lavish food and drink, a retail therapy session, or another type of splurge, these big spender moments might feel good at the time, but they can be costly to your overall financial wellness in the months ahead. Try to plan some low-cost activities ahead of time for your relaxing hours, so you’re not as tempted to go hog wild.

Time your more considerable expenses carefully

If you’re like many seasonal workers, you may keep yourself motivated during the tougher moments by thoughts of treating yourself once working days are put on hold for a while. It could be a nice trip somewhere or a lovely little gift to yourself. It’s wise, though, to hold off on treat until you’ve done a full assessment of where your money’s at before making a big purchase. You don’t want to start your leisure time by creating a more tenuous financial situation for the months ahead.

Avoid check-cashing businesses

If you get paid with a check for your seasonal work and rely on a check-cashing business to get at your hard-earned money, please reconsider your options. Having a checking and savings account with a local credit union, or bank will help you keep more of that money you put so much effort into earning.

Take advantage of available assistance

Contact your state’s unemployment office to determine if you might be eligible for unemployment benefits during the period in which you’re not employed. Additionally, you may also qualify for help through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. For other programs that might be available in your area, dial 211.

Don’t neglect your retirement

Many employers make retirement savings easy with a set-it-and-forget-it plan like a 401(k). Saving for your golden years may be a bit more complicated if you plan on continuing with seasonal work. However, remember that an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and other options are available. Take advantage of the opportunity to put the power of time to work for you.

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