Five ways to grow your savings without a steady paycheck

When it comes to freelance work or infrequent pay, finding a way to pay the bills is difficult. Saving seems impossible. Use these tips to help you grow your savings, even when your paycheck isn't steady. 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Alicia Barney Knapp works in a co-working space in the evening after leaving her daughter in on-site childcare, on February 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Barney Knapp is a freelance writer.

Whether you're a freelancer or part-time employee, not having a regular salary can disrupt your progress toward big financial goals. Money fluctuations can mean you either have to stop the savings transfers, or withdraw money out of the account to cover bills.

But saving money without a regular paycheck isn't impossible, and with these tips you can learn to create a savings habit that sticks!

1. Separate All Your Savings Goals

Even if you have a separate savings account, it's too tempting to have all the money in one account while simply allocating the funds to different savings goals. For this reason I recommend opening a new savings account for each individual goal.

My husband and I recently did this as an experiment, and for two months in a row we've had a surplus of money in our bank accounts, and have been able to save money toward all of our goals. And we're both self-employed so you know how difficult this can be!

While it is possible to have too many accounts, this strategy works for us, and has allowed us to pay all of our bills, self-employment taxes, and save extra money toward various specific goals.

2. Pay Yourself a Regular Salary

As a freelancer, temp, or someone who works on commissions, it's still important to pay yourself a "salary" on a regular basis. I deposit a regular salary from my business account to the household account every Monday — no matter how little or how much my freelance business brings in.

Giving yourself a regular "paycheck" will help combat the inconsistent income that comes with being self-employed. It may take a few months for your budget to adjust to the changes, but it can drastically improve your finances and allow you to finally get into the habit of saving money.

3. Try a Microsaving Tool

Microsaving is when you save extremely small amounts of money — like $2 or $5 a week. As your budget adjusts to the savings, and you begin to see your small balance grow, you can increase the savings amounts. Next thing you know, you've saved a couple hundred dollars that can be used towards anything you want.

To make it even easier to save money without thinking, there are several differentmicrosaving apps available that will put saving money into automatic mode.

  • Digit is a popular tool that allows you to start saving money via text message. Once you link your account, Digit will start withdrawing a few dollars every week and deposit into your new Digit account, based on your bank balance and only if you can afford it.
     
  • Acorns is a microsaving investment tool that helps beginner investors or students get their feet wet in the market. Everyone has to start somewhere and Acorn's round-up payment withdrawals makes saving money very easy.
     
  • SmartyPig allows you to create individual accounts for each savings goal and keeps you updated on the progress. You can also earn rewards, cash back, and gift cards as incentives to save money.

4. Find What Motivates You to Save

What motivates you to save money? Are you a competitive person who likes to turn saving money into a challenge? Find a few friends who will commit to a savings competition with you. Whoever reaches the goal first gets a free dinner, night out, or other incentive (paid for by the losers, of course!).

Are you an artist or visual person? Try mapping your progress by coloring in circles for each $50 or $100 you save. Whether it's goal tracking, paying off debt, or saving for a particular event, try coloring your way to reaching your goal. And when you've reached your goal you can hang the artwork in your home as a motivational reminder.

5. Join a Savings Challenge

Much like a diet helps you jumpstart your weight loss plan or workout regimen, a savings challenge can help you get your spending under control, and create a regular savings habit.

There are lots of different challenges available. You can go on a 14-day spending diet, a 60-day cash budget challenge, a year-long shopping ban. Last year I participated in a 12-month money challenge from inspiration I found on Pinterest. But the options are basically limitless, so start out small and then increase the challenge as you become more comfortable with it.

Experiment with different methods and test out strategies based on your money personality and saving style. Don't be afraid to try out new ideas to see how they work for you.

This article is from Carrie Smith of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. 

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