6 Ways Trump’s Budget Proposal Could Affect Your Bottom Line

President Trump's proposed budget would reduce services to the poor and elderly. Here are the programs that stand to be hit hardest.

Do you commute to work, have a family member who’s out of work or know anyone who’s ever lived in a flood zone? If so, you should be paying close attention to that most Washington of annual rituals — the making of the federal budget. President Donald Trump’s dramatic budget has one clear winner (defense) and a long list of losers so you don’t want to ignore his proposals until it’s too late to influence the final outcome. So here’s our guide to some of the 80 or so programs that are targeted for deep cuts or outright elimination by Trump’s accounting.

Before we start, it’s important to understand that the federal budget process is a marathon, and we’re only at mile marker one. The White House has only released the so-called “skinny” budget. Many of the cuts it describes are not yet specific, and there’s a more detailed budget to come, followed by Congress’ own ideas about how to spend Americans’ money.

Still, there are enough programs called out specifically by Trump’s budget that one can imagine how America, and your community, might change were the budget to pass as is. The Trump administration did not immediately respond to request for comment on how the budget proposal would affect taxpayers. (On the note of budgets, here are some helpful tips for getting control of your personal budget.)

Changes for Train Travelers

If you like train travel, you might want to get your trips in now. Trump’s budget directly calls for the elimination of long-haul routes on Amtrak. These are largely used by tourists and have often been criticized as money-losing and unnecessary, particularly when the busy Northeast Corridor between Washington D.C. and Boston is overcrowded and profitable. So people who tour by train may need to spend their money on other travel options, like road trips or air travel. The good news for east coasters is some of those savings are being directed to improve service on the nation’s busiest rail line.

The Trump budget actually calls for a 13% overall cut at the Department of Transportation, which will impact local rail projects, too — like Seattle’s decades-long effort to get a light rail system off the ground. The proposed budget cut would actually half its funding. Some 70-such projects around the country are on the chopping block. So is a program named TIGER, which helped local governments pay for so-called “multi-modal” projects — often bike trails.

“Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects,” the proposal says.

How Floods Could Cost More

Do you live near a flood-prone area or care about someone who does? Your life could get more complicated under Trump’s budget, which eliminates the Flood Hazard Mapping Program.

Flood maps are controversial because when they change — and change always means “expands,” because development almost always expands — they require more homeowners to buy flood insurance. On the other hand, the consequences of failing to update flood maps can be devastating, which America learned the hard way during Hurricane Katrina. People buy homes thinking they are safe from floods, and a developer may build on unsafe land. (And if you have flood insurance, it’s important to know what it does and doesn’t cover.) And when a flood comes, recovering from it without insurance assistance can be really expensive.

The budget says Trump’s administration will “explore other more effective and fair” ways to pay for new maps. Detractors oppose anything that makes flood insurance premiums more expensive, however, as that might lead to folks dropping flood insurance, creating another long-term headache.

Need a Lawyer? It’ll Cost You

If you’ve ever had a dispute with a landlord or a domestic partner and turned to a non-profit legal aid service for help, you might have been helped by the Legal Services Corp. Since 1974, Legal Aid has provided access to America’s otherwise expensive court system through a network of 133 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in 800 offices around the country. The program is targeted for elimination in the Trump budget. Some 1.9 million Americans used legal aid in 2014, the last year for which data is available, the organization says.

“Our nation’s core values are reflected in the LSC’s work in securing housing for veterans, freeing seniors from scams, serving rural areas when others won’t, protecting battered women, helping disaster survivors back to their feet, and many others,” said Linda Klein, bar association president, in a statement supporting the LSC. “The LSC embodies these principles by securing the rights of the least fortunate among us.”

Military Base Cities, Cyber-Warriors & Veterans Will Benefit

Trump’s budget calls for a huge increase in defense spending, with general guidance suggesting cities and companies that support nearly every branch of the military would benefit. The budget calls for fresh spending on munitions, warships, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and a “fully equipped” Marine Corps. It also calls for large investments in cyber security, which appears under several budget items, including a $1.5 billion program within the Department of Homeland Security to “protect federal networks and critical infrastructure from an attack.” If you work in these fields, this budget could be good news for you.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also gets a sizable budget bump of 6%, including $4.6 billion to improve VA health care and “patient access and timeliness of medical care.” The funds will help continue the Veterans Choice program, which lets vets choose private providers when seeking care.

Out of Work? There’s Less Money for Retraining

Unemployed Americans, particularly older Americans, who seek retraining help may have a harder time under Trump’s budget. The Labor Department, which funds many such programs, is targeted with a 21% cut. Federal funding for local job training programs would be decreased, “shifting more responsibility” to local authorities. Specifically, Trump’s budget eliminates the $434 million Senior Community Service Employment Program, a community service and work-based job training program for older Americans that prioritizes help to veterans. Trump’s budget specifically calls out the program as “ineffective,” saying as many as one-third of participants fail to complete it, and only half of those get jobs.

Vouchers & Charters Win, After-School Programs Lose

For fans of charter schools and other open-enrollment public school initiatives, Trump’s budget includes a lot of new money and support. There’s $250 million for a new school choice program, $168 million more for charter schools, and $1 billion more for voucher-style programs that let local funding “follow the student to the public school or his or her choice.”

Trump’s budget eliminates $1.2 billion spent on 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which funds after-school and summer programs for 1.6 million kids around the country. The budget says the program “lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives.” Both increases and cuts in spending in these areas could affect what families budget for education and child care.

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How to Create a Financial Emergency Plan

You may have an emergency fund, but you probably don’t have an emergency plan. And it’s time you created one.

My son recently brought home a homework assignment. He was supposed to write down a plan for what to do if there was a fire in our house. He’s not even 6.

That same week, our daughter told us about a fire drill in her daycare. She’s only 3.

Even at that age, it’s important to have a plan for the direst of circumstances. Fires are chaotic. To help cut through the confusion and the stress, we come up with plans and practice them. Without confusion, there will be less chaos and fear.

If we plan and practice a response to a fire emergency, why don’t we do the same for other emergencies?

Do you have plans for a car accident or a medical emergency that could leave you with four- or five-figure debt? You may have an emergency fund, but you probably don’t have an emergency plan. And it’s time you created one.

The key to a successful financial emergency plan is that it outlines the steps you would take if you ever had to face that emergency. It means you’ll walk through what you would do if the emergency were actually happening.

For example, the biggest financial emergency I can think of is losing my job.

In my emergency plan, here’s what I would do:

• Lower (or cancel) all nonessential expenses. I would immediately cancel Amazon Prime, my Netflix account and all the recurring costs that are completely discretionary. For services I couldn’t cut immediately, such as my two-year cable internet subscription, I’d downgrade the service to the lowest possible tier.

• Adjust my budget. Since I’d need to live off my emergency fund, I’d need to adjust my budget to be deliberate in my spending.

• Learn how to apply for unemployment benefits. I’d need to know the process for getting unemployment from my local state unemployment office. Learning it now would be easier than under duress.

• Decide how to tell my family. This can be one of the hardest things to do, but preparing for it in advance could make it far less painful.

• Establish a plan for finding a new job. Whether it’s setting up profiles on relevant job search sites or reaching out to my network, I’d establish that plan now so I could execute it later.

• Consider how to spend my downtime. Maintaining a positive attitude during a negative experience — one that could persist for many weeks — is crucial. So is planning for the greater abundance of downtime during the week. I’d need to find projects that would give me a sense of purpose to combat the frustrations I’d experience during a job search.

This is just a subset of the things I’d do if I was laid off. As you build your plan, you’ll want to expand on this list, but I wanted to provide a starting point. (Another good starting point: Checking your credit scores, which can impact your finances. You can view two of them for free, with updates every two weeks, on Credit.com.)

What Events Should You Plan For?

The big ones are a death in the family (including yourself), loss of your job or ability to do your job and catastrophic loss of a major asset like your home or vehicle.

Once those major emergencies are covered, you can expand to less-significant but important emergencies. What if your furnace or HVAC system fails? What if your oven, washer, dryer or other major appliance stops working? These are not as financially painful as losing a job or your car, but they’re still inconvenient and require research.

As you build out your plan, don’t be afraid to add to it. No emergency is too small, and taking the time now will pay off in the long run.

Hopefully you’ll get lucky and never need your plan at all.

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Financing a DIY Remodel Project? Here’s How Home Depot & Lowe’s May Help

Home Depot and Lowe's both offer ways to finance home improvement projects. Here's how to pick between them.

Now that spring is here, you might be thinking about tackling home improvement projects. Whether it’s a new deck or a remodel of your kitchen, you’ll need to figure out how to pay for the work. And if you’re taking on these projects yourself instead of hiring a contractor, you may be headed to your local hardware store.

If you’re debating between Home Depot or Lowe’s for supplies, perhaps considering their different financing options may help in your decision-making process. (Before you look for financing options, it’s a good idea to take a look at your credit to see how it’s doing and what terms and conditions you may qualify for. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

Home Depot Consumer Credit Card

With the Home Depot consumer credit card (which you can read a full review of here), you will receive 0% financing for six months on any purchase of $299 or more. After the promotional period ends, the annual percentage rate (APR) will change to a variable rate of 17.99%, 21.99%, 25.99% or 26.99%, depending on your creditworthiness. There is no annual fee with this card, but it charges deferred interest, calculated from the purchase date if you don’t pay your balance in full by the end of the promotional period.

Home Depot Project Loan

If you need a longer window to pay off your project, especially if you’re doing a large project (think projects like entire room remodels or additions), a Home Depot project loan could be another option. You can borrow up to $55,000 and have up to 84 months to pay off the loan. The first six months are considered a purchasing period during which you only pay interest on the amount borrowed, based on a 7.99% APR. The APR stays the same after this introductory period, but you’ll start to pay off the balance in monthly installments as well.

Why You Might Choose Home Depot Financing

The options at Home Depot and Lowe’s are similar, but there are key differences that could push you in either direction, depending on your preferences. With the Home Depot consumer credit card, there will be times throughout the year when Home Depot offers extended promotional financing beyond the standard six months. Some offers could be as long as 24 months. If you make your purchase during this period, you’ll have more time to pay for your project with no interest.

Lowe’s Consumer Credit Card

When using the Lowe’s consumer credit card there are a few options. You can either elect to receive a 5% discount on your purchase or special financing on purchases of $299 or more. One special financing option is to receive 0% APR for six months. If you go this route you will be charge deferred interest if the balance is not paid by the end of the six-month period. If you think you will need more time, you can choose to borrow for up to 84 months with a fixed 7.99% APR. Just be aware that if you take advantage of the special financing offers, you will not be able to receive the 5% off offer as well.

Why You Might Choose Lowe’s Financing

If you don’t need special financing and just want a discount, the Lowe’s consumer credit card might be the best choice. Because you can earn 5% off every purchase, the overall cost of your project could be considerably reduced.

Alternatives to Home Depot or Lowe’s Financing

If you want to earn rewards for your purchases or extend the 0% APR period, you might want to consider a credit card instead. Here are a couple of options.

Chase Freedom Card

This card allows you to earn rewards on purchases and offers an introductory 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the introductory period, the APR will change to a variable 15.49% to 24.24%. When you sign up for the card, you receive a $150 bonus after you spend $500 within the first three months. The card also comes with rotating 5% cash back categories each quarter. There is a limit of $1,500 per quarter on bonuses, which typically include home improvement stores once a year. All other purchases earn 1% back. This card comes with no annual fee.

Citi Simplicity

If you want to boost the time you have to pay off your home improvement project, the Citi Simplicity card might be an option. (Full Disclosure: Citibank and Chase advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.) With this card, you receive an introductory 0% APR for 21 months on purchases and balance transfers. Once the introductory period is over, the APR changes to a variable 14.24% to 24.24%. This card also comes with no annual fee and will not charge a late fee.

Looking for more ways to spruce up your house? Check out our annual homeowner to-do list.

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At publishing time, the Chase Freedom and City Simplicity cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

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4 Ways Your Credit Card Can Help You Build Credit (For Real)

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For plenty of people — and millennials especially — a credit card is a scary prospect. And we get why: Phenomenal spending power plus itty-bitty charging restrictions equals a major opportunity to go into debt.

But if you’re foregoing credit cards completely, you could be making it harder on yourself when it comes to another important facet of your finances: building a solid credit score. That’s because credit cards are fairly easy to qualify for — there’s actually a whole category of them designed specifically for people who need to build or rebuild. (You can monitor your progress by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

Plus, while installment loans (think auto loan or mortgage) come with an automatic price tag and, more often than not, automatic interest, you don’t need to take on debt to build credit with a credit card. That’s actually a common misconception, but, trust us, no balance here required.

To help you how to best leverage your plastic, here are four ways a credit card can help you build credit.

1. You’ll Establish a Payment History

And that’s the number one most important factor when it comes to credit scores. Of course, to build good credit, you’ll want to make all of your credit card payments on-time. (One misstep can really cost you and your score.) To avoid any blemishes, set up alerts that reminds you when your due date approaches or even consider setting up auto-payments each month. Just be sure to keep an eye on your statements for any errors or fraudulent charges.

2. Its Limit Can Bolster Your Credit Utilization Rate

That’s how much debt you’re carrying versus your total credit. Experts generally recommend keeping your credit utilization below at least 30% and ideally 10% of your total available limit(s) — which is easier to do when you have a credit card you’re consistently paying off in full.

3. Your Credit Will Start to Age

And that’s a good thing because length of credit history accounts for about 15% of your credit scores. Length of credit history, also referred to as the age of your credit, is essentially how long you’ve had your credit lines. When it comes to building credit in this category, there’s little credit newbies can do, except, you know, wait. But because a credit card represents one of the easier points of entry into the financing world, that plastic in your wallet can help you get started.

4. You Could Be Rewarded for Having a Mix of Accounts

Credit scoring models like to see that you can manage different types of credit. So, if you’ve got an installment loan on your file — like, say, that student loan you took out to pay for college — adding a revolving line of credit, like a credit card or home equity line of credit, could improve your performance in this key credit category. Mix of accounts, or credit mix, accounts for roughly 10% of the points in your credit score.

Of course, there are ways to build credit outside of simply using your own credit card. That includes looking into credit-builder loans at your local bank or credit union or becoming an authorized user on a friend or family member’s credit card. (The account will appear on your credit file and bolster your performance in the aforementioned credit scoring categories, but you won’t be liable for the charges.) And if your credit is kind of shoddy, you can try disputing any errors on your credit report, limiting credit inquiries and addressing accounts in default. You can find a full 11 ways to improve your credit scores here.

Got a credit score question? Ask away in the comments section and one of our experts will try to help!

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These Popular Hotel Credit Cards Just Got Sweeter Signup Bonuses

American Express is upping the ante on two more pieces of its plastic.

Right on the heels of its forthcoming Platinum card makeover, American Express is upping the ante on two more of its popular credit cards.

Now through May 31, 2017, new Hilton Honors cardholders can earn 80,000 points after spending $2,000 in their first three months. Hilton Honors Surpass cardholders can earn 100,000 points after spending $3,000 in their first three months and a free night on their one-year membership anniversary.

Before the big change, cardholders could earn 50,000 points and 75,000 points, respectively.

There’s also a Member-Get-Member bonus on the table — meaning if a friend applies and gets approved, Hilton Honors cardholders will get an extra 20,000 points while Surpass cardholders get 25,000.

The sweeter signup bonuses are launching alongside some recently announced upgrades to Hilton’s loyalty program. Point redemption is now much more flexible, with pricing adjusting alongside rates and, starting April 2017, members will be able to pool points with family and friends. Plus, beginning Summer 2017, you’ll be able to shop with Hilton Honors points on Amazon.

So Should I Sign Up?

If you’re a big fan of Hilton hotels and travel often, then, sure, consider signing up. Both cards are solid as far hotel rewards credit cards go. The Hilton Honors Surpass even made our list of the best cards for hotel hoppers, as it offers 12 points per dollar on eligible Hilton purchases, six times the points at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations and three times the points (mostly) everywhere else.

If you’re not interested in paying the card’s $75 annual fee, the Hilton Honors credit card is a solid alternative: seven times the points at Hilton hotels, five times the points at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, three times the points everywhere else and no annual charge.

Both cards tout a variable purchase annual percentage rate (APR) between 15.99% and 19.99%, depending on your credit. (You can get an idea of where you might fall by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

Have Credit Card, Will Travel?

If you’re booking it all over town and beyond, a good hotel rewards credit card can make you some money back on all those stays. (Just be sure to pay any balances off in full; otherwise, you’re just kissing those points goodbye to interest.) But the right credit card for you depends on your travel preferences.

Stay solely at Starwood properties? Well, its Preferred Guest credit card, also from American Express, might give you the biggest bang for your buck. Wind up at Wyndhams? Its Barclaycard Visa is worth checking out. And, if you travel often, but don’t like to limit your stays to just one hotel chain, there are plenty of general-purpose travel credit cards out there that’ll earn you points, miles or cash back on all your flights and nights.

A bit more Credit Card 101: Be sure to read the full fine print of any card you’re considering to learn exactly what you’re signing up for. And get ready to do some math — a lot of travel credit cards carry steep annual fees (think $450 or higher) that are only worth paying if you travel and/or spend a certain amount each year.

At publishing time, the American Express Platinum and Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

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15 Ways to Save at Crate & Barrel

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Whether you’ve just scored a new abode or you’ve been living in your place for a while and it could use a little updating, Crate & Barrel is a long-standing go-to when it comes to home furnishings. The store sells quality goods, so prices for some items can be on the higher end. Luckily there are some pretty easy ways to save. Here are 15 of them.

1. Sign Up for the Newsletter

Provide your email address for current offers, sales and news.

2. Shop the Special Offers & Rebates Section

Crate & Barrel often offers added incentives for customers to shop by including things like gift cards for free items with purchase in their Special Offers & Rebates section. Examples include things like a $30 gift card with purchase of a KitchenAid Mixer or up to 50% off Viking Contemporary seven-piece cookware sets.

3. Wait for Items to Make it to the Clearance Section

As with any store, Crate & Barrel needs to move inventory frequently to make room for new items, especially as they relate to seasonal goods. Check with the Clearance and Outlet section of the site frequently to see if the things you need have gone on sale.

4. Check the Site for Coupon Offers

Before heading to the store or making a purchase online, be sure to check with the coupon section of the chain’s website to see if any special offers are happening.

5. Never Pay for Shipping

Even if you can’t make it into the store to buy your goods, make sure you never pay for shipping by checking out the Free Shipping section of the site and only order the items you need once they won’t cost you to ship.

6. Apply for the Crate & Barrel Credit Card

If you’re a savvy credit card user and frequent Crate & Barrel shopper, its credit card can earn you 10% back in reward dollars or six months of special financing, as well as other perks like special offers and access to events. The card has no annual fee, but like most store cards it does come with a hefty variable annual percentage rate (27.49%), so only get one if you can pay the card off in full every single time you use it. Favor a different brand? You can learn more about the best credit cards for a stress-free shopping spree right here.

Just be sure to check your credit before applying for any new plastic. Otherwise, you risk a rejection — and a hard inquiry on your credit report — for naught. (You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

7. Use Your Crate & Barrel Card at its Sister Stores

You can use your Crate & Barrel credit card at CB2 and The Land of Nod as well to really rack up the reward dollars you earn.

8. Create a Registry

When you create a wedding registry with Crate & Barrel, you’ll have access to their 10% completion credit for six months after your event, which applies to anything left on your registry as well as items in the store or online. Learn more here.

9. Search Online for Coupons

Check out sites like dealsplus, RetailMeNot, Coupon Cabin and Savings.com for discount codes that you can apply to your Crate & Barrel purchases, or …

10. … Install a Coupon Aggregator on Your Computer

Browser extensions like Honey will automatically find and apply coupon codes for you at checkout.

11. Purchase Used Gift Cards

Visit a gift card resale site and search for Crate & Barrel gift cards that you can buy at a discounted rate.

12. Follow Crate & Barrel on Social Media

Never miss a sale when you follow Crate & Barrel on their social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook.

13. Keep an Eye Out for Special Ways to Earn More Savings

Every now and then Crate & Barrel will offer additional ways to enter for a chance to save — which is all the more reason to keep an eye out on their social media pages for updates.

14. Earn Cash Back

Use a cash back or rebate site to earn a little bit extra back on your Crate & Barrel purchases.

15. Let the Brand Know You’re Moving

Register your move with the U.S. Postal Service online and be sure to click on the section that allows you to receive coupons from certain home goods stores — Crate & Barrel has been known to send them to new homeowners for 10% off.

Want more brand hacks? We’ve got 15 ways to save at Bed Bath & Beyond and 18 ways to save at CVS.

Have a brand you’d like us to tackle? Let us know in the comments section below.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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30 Cities Where Millennials Are Still Living With Their Parents

Across the country, more people ages 18 to 34 are living at home with their parents. Here are the cities where it's happening the most.

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These 15 States Have the Most Telecommuting Jobs

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7 Money Rules Freelancers Should Live By

For years, Russell Wild was one of millions of Americans who didn’t know from where or when his next check was coming. The former freelance journalist says he’s very familiar with living with volatile income, some months raking in far more than he needed and other months scraping by while waiting for the next check to arrive.

“Both the income side is volatile, and the expense side, especially where health care is concerned, because freelancers don’t have corporate coverage,” says Wild.

Nearly one-third (34%) of Americans said they faced large swings in income from 2014 to 2015, according to a recent analysis by PEW Charitable Trusts. The research group defines a “volatile” income change to be an increase or decrease of at least 25%. Among households whose earnings declined, the median loss was 49%.

In 2004, Wild dropped his freelance writing career for something more stable. He’s now a registered financial adviser and author based in Philadelphia, Pa. He says he watched fellow freelancers “go into panic when they saw that there was little chance of covering the next month’s rent, or the latest doctor’s bill.”

Year over year fluctuations in household income occur for a number of reasons. A worker might get an annual bonus or promotion. On the flip side, a worker could experience a sudden illness or job loss. Those in contract or freelance occupations are especially vulnerable to income volatility. Researchers also found Hispanic, less-educated, and low-income American households are most susceptible to income volatility.

Households experiencing inconsistent or irregular income may be able to leverage the following tips to better manage financially and get prepared in case of a financial emergency.

  1. Base your budget on your lowest grossing month

Your household’s income might be volatile, but your goal should be to make sure your lifestyle is as predictable as possible. You can add some stability to your life by establishing a budget.

“Try to live within a fixed income — the lowest point of your fluctuating annual or monthly household income,” says Arlington,Va.-based financial planner Hui-chin Chen. Those with volatile income should also try to limit debt and unnecessary spending.

Monitor your household’s cash flow carefully to see what you’re spending money on, then cut out the unnecessary expenses until you are left with your fixed costs, such as housing or monthly bills.

“Without being aware of what you’re spending and where, you can overspend your sometimes low income without realizing it, or treat yourself to more than you should when there’s a big month,” says Stephen Fletcher, an adviser at BlueSky Wealth Advisors in New Bern, N.C.

Keeping record of your spending might be tough to do at first, but budgeting apps like EveryDollar, Level Money, and Mint can help you keep an eye on yourself or your household.

“Volatile incomes require discipline, otherwise you can end up feeling like you are living paycheck to paycheck,” says Fletcher.

  1. Set your lifestyle now

Once you’ve got your budget together, don’t fall prey to lifestyle inflation when you have a couple of months of steady work or receive a large influx of cash. Try to develop regular spending and saving patterns.

“If you know what you need to keep the lights on and you know what you need to pay yourself (save), it’s much easier to plan for influxes of cash that need to be set aside,” says Chicago-based financial planner Nick Cosky. He says households can get started by setting monthly and annual spending and savings goals.

Try to make as many monthly and annual expenses as possible predictable and planned. For example, if you know your expenses totaled about $5,000 last month, then you should plan to spend no more than $5,000 this month and the following month.

“Live below your means, especially until you have achieved sufficient cash reserves and savings,” says Anne C. Chernish, president and managing member of Anchor Capital Management in Ithaca, N.Y.

Once you’ve maintained a certain level of monthly cash flow and your emergency stash is all set, you can adjust your quality of life accordingly. If you can afford to, Patrick Amey, a financial planner at KHC Wealth Management in Overland Park, Kan., suggests those who experience regular volatility keep one to two years of living expenses available — just in case you need to maintain your lifestyle without a paycheck for a while.

  1. Anticipate large expenditures

If you are aware of a large expense coming up — maybe your car needs repair or you’re aware of necessary medical services or even paying your taxes each year — you should plan to save as much as you can before the bill comes.

Create a separate savings account and allocate funds toward it periodically for the upcoming expense. Make sure your savings goal considers all of associated costs, so you won’t get caught off guard.

“With purchases like cars, homes, and other large items, these types of purchases require insurance, property taxes, etc., so buying when you have just enough cash to make the purchase can have serious and crippling long-term effects,” says Fletcher.

  1. Always plan ahead for taxes

If your income varies because you’re a contractor or work for yourself, you’ll need to budget for tax withholding. You can plan ahead and pay your taxes quarterly. You’ll get the payment out of the way, plus you won’t feel it as much as you would if you pay when you file your taxes.

Unfortunately, if you experience income volatility, you might pay a different amount in taxes if you have a particularly good — or bad — year and enter a different tax bracket.

“Higher taxes follow good earnings years and, if one has insufficient reserves for tax, can deliver a double whammy. Just as the income turns down, the tax from the previous year is due,” says Chernish.

For that reason, Cosky recommends you get 6 to 12 months ahead of the tax liability and keep your CPA or tax preparer in the loop so they can help you plan tax withholding.

If you’re doing your taxes on your own, you can use this IRS form to estimate your taxes owed each quarter.

  1. Have multiple income streams

When your main income stream is inconsistent, it might help to pick up a second job to help cover expenses during economic downswings or simply to ensure your expenses will be covered.

As an added benefit, you might also feel more financially stable, as you could possibly put more money into your savings.

Wild, a former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, says for most freelancers that might mean accepting a corporate contract and working on your more creative projects in-between the corporate job’s deadlines.

“When I was writing full time, before I started financial planning, I always had a steady gig. I was for years a regular contributor to various magazines, and later I had book contracts with decent advances,” says Wild.

  1. Save at least a year’s worth of expenses

Lynn Dunston, Senior Wealth Manager at Dunston Financial Group in Denver, Colo., suggests those with volatile income have enough money saved in an emergency account to cover a year’s worth of expenses, instead of the usual 3- to 6-month savings recommendation for those with stable income.

“It is critical that if there is a down month, they are not having to accumulate credit card debt or take out loans in order to continue their standard of living,” says Fletcher.

  1. Make sure your money is working for you

After you have your emergency savings funded, it might not make as much sense to continue to put ALL of your extra savings there. Since interest rates on savings accounts currently lag behind inflation, your money would actually lose value in the typical savings account today.

You can stash “near cash” in higher-yield savings options like short-term bonds or CDs. Mark R. Morley, president of Warburton Capital Management in Tulsa, Okla., tells his clients to create a “currency escrow” or a safe bond portfolio that can be liquidated as needed for currency needs. The escrow ideally holds at least one year of expenses in short-term investment bonds. Morley says it can be used to supplement income or added to when income is high.

Fletcher says to avoid tying up all of your cash savings in retirement accounts like a 401(k) or IRA to avoid penalty charges in case you need to withdraw the funds early. Instead, he suggests you invest excess funds in a brokerage account, since you can take money out of that with little or no tax implications.

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