How To Actually Save On Any Type Of Income

Saving is one of the hardest habits to get into. Getting paid in cash means you have to get creative with how you actually save. When you possess a consistent pay schedule, it’s a little easier. Living near a beach town like Panama City Beach, the majority of income is usually variable.

My income is typically consistent. Or at least the pay schedule is. My girlfriend’s income is variable, but despite that, she still manages to save 20% of her tips by being diligent about how she does it. That’s the most important part. However you choose to save, be diligent about it. If that doesn’t work, find a different method that allows you to be consistent.

actually save

Beautiful PCB!

How I Actually Save With Consistent Pay

I’m a firm believer in automating everything. Since I know the day my check arrives, I have automated withdrawals set up for my retirement accounts. Basically everything these days can be automated and this makes saving also very simple. This only works if you’re not going to pull that money back out!

To stop myself from doing this, I have several different accounts. I have my emergency fund in an Ally savings account, which allows you additional savings sub-categories within an account. You can set up different things like savings for a car, vacation, house, all wrapped into one account.

Wells Fargo is my primary bank and they have something called a Way2Save account. Every time you swipe your debit card with them, a dollar from your checking account is thrown into this Way2Save account. Since I don’t swipe a whole lot (or try not to, anyway), it usually ends up being an extra $30 or so in that account each month. This is pretty handy if you’re having a hard time actually committing to saving on your own accord.

In order to be aggressive with my car debt pay off goal, I’ve basically been reverse budgeting. I didn’t know that’s what it was called when I was doing it, until I read Owen’s post over at PlanEasy. But essentially, I transfer savings first to a different account as soon as I get paid, make sure my fixed expenses are met, and whatever is left is considered my fun money. In a sense, you’re forcing yourself to live a pseudo paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. Who knew, I’d be back where I started. This time I’m the one behind the wheel.

If Your Income Is Variable, You Can Still Save

As I mentioned before, my girlfriend works where the majority of her income is cash tips. In order to meet her goals, she takes 20% of whatever her tips are and deposits them consistently. She does this for every single shift.

There are few other ways you can do this, also.

  • Set up an envelope system for savings. Set a goal for this envelope and fill it with cash until you hit that goal. When that goal is met, deposit it, or use it for what you were saving for.
  • Fill up a jar (or piggy bank) with money. It’s an old fashioned method, but when you go to empty it, you’ll be surprised how quickly money can accumulate. I still do this with change and single bills. Try this with $5 or $20 and see what racks up.
  • Grab an empty photo album. Fill each frame with a bill of your choosing. Don’t cash it until the book is full. I heard of someone doing this as a graduation gift to their kid.


Final Thoughts

Whether your income is variable or it’s fixed, in order to save, you need be diligent. Be honest with yourself about what you’re capable of sticking to, if you’re going to actually save.

If you’re like me, automate everything. This makes saving an after thought. If your cash varies each shift. Stick to a percentage that you can manage. It doesn’t have to be 20%, but even 5% or 10% is something to be proud of. As you get comfortable with these set amounts, increase it. Find out what you’re truly capable of saving. You’ll surprise yourself with how little you need to spend, when you focus on how much you can actually save.


What are some creative ways you manage to save money on a variable income? Share yours below!


Fairly Frugal Fella


  1. Thanks for the mention!

    I love to reverse budget. It feels natural to me. By saving first I create a bit of tension in my discretionary spending. That helps me prioritize the spending is truly important to me.

    • Anytime! That’s exactly what I’m noticing. That tension puts things into perspective

    • Right?! I may just do this myself for a vacation or something else to splurge when my debt is gone.

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