Mastering Money for Writers: How to budget when your income isn’t consistent #1

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Welcome to the first lesson in Mastering Money for Writers where I’ll tackle the dreaded B-word…

As writers, we know words are a powerful thing. A single word can halt a nation, stir a rebellion, move someone to tears, shift a person from a state of hopelessness into enlightenment.

So let’s be honest for a moment. When you hear this word, “Budget”, what are your immediate feelings and thoughts? Is it anxiety because how can you budget when your income as a writer is perhaps small and unpredictable? Is it scepticism because you’ve tried budgeting before and it just didn’t work for you? Is it tiredness, overwhelm, the thought of the work to put this into motion? Is it rebellion when you just don’t like the idea of the restrictiveness associated with it?

What if I were to tell you in the world of Business, completely different emotions are evoked by this word?

Budgeting enables movement and growth. Budgeting is your heartbeat, your oxygen. Budgeting is clarity and power.

So I hope from here on, this misunderstood word gets a little more love, especially because it holds the key to helping you fulfil your dreams!

Insha Allah each week, I’m going to tackle just one element of how to budget when your income isn’t consistent. I will cover the topic from different points of view in consideration of our many personality types. Because what I’ve learnt over the years from all the books, podcasts, articles and courses I’ve devoured is that one size does not fit all. Just like your writing is not going to resonate with everyone you meet, when personal budgeting is concerned, what works for a Plotter may not work for a Pantser.

If you’ve reached the end of this intro, I hope you feel as excited as I feel! Now grab a cup of coffee or tea (or hot chocolate—whatever floats your boat) as you turn the page to the first chapter.

Chapter 1: Work out your lowest monthly income

The first step towards gaining control over your money is actually clarity

It’s easy saying it, but I know firsthand how hard it is to apply it. I think because sometimes you just don’t want to know the true reality of your situation. “Ignorance is bliss” as the cliche goes. The thing is, ignorance is only apparent temporary bliss when personal finances are concerned. Your circumstances will never change as long as you’re driving in the dark without headlights. No matter how much you hope and pray (for that big break, for that miracle that makes it all better), you’re bound to hit a tree.

Now let’s talk about what to do in this first step to gaining clarity on where you’re starting from.

Review the past 12 months and work out your lowest monthly income.

While some people may suggest using your monthly average, it’s better to base your budget on your lowest income so that you’re covered for worse-case scenarios. Also, if you can get to a point of being comfortable living based on your worst months, every other month will be one of promise.

So you know the “what”, but now I’m going to really break down the “how”. Just in case your mind is already telling you this first step feels too hard, where do you even start.


If you’re a plotter (like me), you perhaps like spreadsheets. Something about them, the organised look and feel, the fun of playing with formulas. Here are your instructions:

MonthMonthly Income
Min Income:= Min(B2:B13)
  1. Open a blank spreadsheet and create a table that looks like the above
  2. Log into online banking
  3. Open your past 12 eStatements (if issued monthly)
  4. Scroll to the bottom of each statement and type the figure for Total Credit for that monthly period into your Monthly Total column against each month
  5. Once you’re done, in the final row after your last figure, insert the formula = Min(B2:B13)

It will be obvious which figure is the lowest without the formula but that spoils the fun!


If you’re a pantser, please don’t have a heart attack! I will not force you to learn spreadsheets. You’re allowed to do things the old school way. Here are your instructions:

  1. Grab a blank piece of paper
  2. Log into online banking
  3. Open your past 12 eStatements (if issued monthly)
  4. Scroll to the bottom of each statement and write the figure for Total Credit for that monthly period as a list on your piece of paper
  5. Review your list and circle the lowest number


  1. What if I can’t find the past 12 bank statements?

Something is better than nothing. Work with the figures you have. Your bank typically shows the last 3 months, so work out your figure based on that.

  1. What if I have a partner who contributes to our home?

Do the same exercise with your partner’s income then add your two “lowest monthly income” figures together to get the total for your home.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask and I’ll add it to the FAQs so it can benefit others.

That aside, congratulations on making it to the end! Now, you have a whole week to complete this exercise, so no excuses! Until next time, wishing you a life of increased abundance. Ameen

Raihanaty A Jalil

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Author: Raihanaty A. Jalil

Raihanaty A Jalil writes poetry and fiction and has been on a panel during Perth Festival Writers Week 2019. She has performed a reading of her work at the Wheeler Centre Melbourne during the Digital Writers’ Festival 2019. She currently sits on the board for Centre for Stories.