How We Save 50% on a Variable Income

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We save 50% of our variable income each month. It seems impossible, but is very possible. I share simple tricks we use to save half our income each month.

When I was still working full-time, my husband and I both had well-paying jobs in the same financial niche. As a dual-income household, we were making great money, but we were also spending a lot of money.

I’m sure many of you have lived that way before, too. Day care bills, a mortgage or two, pricey takeout when you’re too tired to cook, car payments and maybe even a boat loan thrown in make for an expensive life.

I Was Missing Something


Life was great, or so I thought. Not long after I had my daughter, I started to feel like I was missing out on way too much in her life. She would sob when I dropped her off at day care (which is like a knife to any mom’s heart), and by the time I picked her up so many hours later, we had to rush home, cook dinner, pop her in the bath, and our evening with her was over before I knew it. I felt like my little baby was only getting a handful of waking hours with the two people she loved the most, and it made me feel terrible.

I knew I had to do something, so I toyed with the idea of leaving my job, but that also meant a loss of half of our income, and the thought scared me. Having two incomes feels safe, having a variable income doesn’t necessarily feel so safe, and I’ve never not worked.

I’ve always felt like I need to be contributing financially to my household because it’s what independent women do these days, but I kept having the nagging feeling of missing out on my daughter’s baby years. She was growing so quickly.

Two Separate Accounts


Once I decided that I wanted to quit, we buckled down and lived off of one of our incomes to see if we could swing it. All of my paycheck was deposited into one account and my husband’s was put in a separate one so that we didn’t have the temptation to spend both. The

We cut out a few spending areas that didn’t give any extra value to our lives (eating out so much, hair highlights, my Etsy addiction.) After a few short months, we realized that we could do it and that it actually wasn’t scary after all.

The next thing I knew, I was putting in my two-week notice, our day care bills were gone, and I got a grasp on our expensive grocery bills. Our living expenses were steadily plummeting, and it felt great. Somehow, though, I felt like we could do more, even with my loss of income.

Our Simple Budgeting Plan


We decided we wanted to pay off our house before our daughter started kindergarten, but in order to do so, we knew we needed to save like never before. Unfortunately, my husband hates to budget, so I had to come up with a different plan to get him on board.

Our solution was to take the same route that we did while I was still working. We had half of my husband’s check deposited into our online savings account and the other half deposited into our checking account.

Just make sure to pick an online savings account that pays a little something and let’s you keep some liquidity.

If our checking account ever gets low, we simply have to slow down on our spending for that month. I know that sounds too easy, and it is, but it honestly works for us. You

Since we’ve been doing this method, we’ve never had to dip into our savings, and we were always able to add more money to our mortgage payment each month to get it paid off in a little over three years. Now that we’ve gotten that bad boy paid off, we want to take it up a notch. We are planning to adjust our percentages to have more money deposited into our savings and brokerage accounts and less money deposited into our checking.

Our Fluctuating, Variable Income


Let me assure you that we are not rich. Far from it, actually. We’ve never received outside financial help from family, we’ve never gotten a big windfall, and my husband isn’t pulling in a six figure salary. He’s actually paid on commission only, so sometimes we get small checks and sometimes we get large ones.

We never know what each month is going to hold financially, but we do know to keep a buffer in our checking account in case next month isn’t so great. If you want to save 50 percent of your income, it’s absolutely possible, even if you have an inconsistent income because that’s exactly what we’re doing.We save 50% of our variable income each month. It seems impossible, but is very possible. I share simple tricks we use to save half our income each month.


There Are No Tricks


There are no fancy tricks to saving more money. You can read 1,000 blog posts about saving more, but you already know what to do.

My advice to you, if you want to get to the point to where you can save 50 percent, is to first build up an emergency fund even if it takes a few months for you to get there. Once you have a stable fund in place, start cutting areas from your budget that don’t really add value to your life (salon visits for fancy haircuts and color, pedicures, manicures, eating out, and buying new clothes for starters), and then work on paying off any and all debt.

This method is not rocket science. Keeping two separate accounts is just a remarkably simple way to budget, and it’s what works for us. If we can do it, you can do it.


Do you use a traditional budget? Do you track your savings percentage? Is there anything you could cut from your budget today? How possible would it be for you to save 50 percent of your income?


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Robin McDaniel

Robin is a freelance writer who chronicles her financial missteps and victories on her blog


  • Sarah says:

    This was an awesome post, Robin!! Congrats to paying off your mortgage and saving so much of your income!! Amazing!!

    We were in your same boat, but I just got a FT job and we bought a bigger house, lol. I have big plans though with my freelancing business, with the ultimate goal of my husband and I BOTH working from home (!!). A dream that I know can happen if I put in all the hours and hard work now! It also breaks my heart that my girls are in daycare FT. My 3-year-old likes it until Friday, haha, but my 2-year-old cries everyday at drop-off. Hopefully they can be home with us sooner than later!! Until then, I’m soaking up every once I can with them and working extremely hard the times they’re not with me or sleeping!

    Ok, this got a little long, but thank you for the encouragement this am!! 🙂

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      Thanks, Sarah! Good luck with your freelancing endeavors. I hate that about daycare– I’ve been there, with the crying and whatnot. 🙁

  • Kate @ Cashville Skyline says:

    Nice work, Robin! I shoot for a 40-50% personal savings rate every month. And it definitely wasn’t easy at first. However, there were several things I don’t miss — less cell phone data & minutes, cable, lower insurance premiums, etc. My biggest challenge is always food and drinks. And I’ve been really struggling with that lately.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      Food, specifically going out to eat, was something we struggled with too, but once it became habit for us to eat at home more often, it wasn’t a big deal. It’s not that we don’t go out anymore, we just limit it to weekends only.

  • Hannah says:

    The last three years, we met or beat 50%, but with our home renovations we’re not close this year. I think the two bank account trick could be a tremendous help for this (although we already have about a dozen for our various sinking accounts).

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    We use a zero-sum budget, and it forces us to live off of last month’s income. We consistently save more than 50%, but it’s not hard because our expenses are so low!

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      That and you guys are killing it with your online income! 😉

      I really like the method that you guys use, and I know it works for commission based people since you guys are both self employed. Problem is, anytime I throw around the word “budget” my husband runs screaming. Ugh.

  • Neville says:

    Great read! I work in sales so my commission checks are varied as well, so I totally relate to this. I am still grasping how to save more, I typically fall in the 15-30% bucket due to work expenses like treating clients out or travel which I usually charge and pay off the next month. I definitely want to eliminate eating out and potentially cable (working on that!!)

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      Ditch the cable. You won’t miss it, and it’ll free up so much more time for side hustling. We finally ditched ours a couple of months ago and haven’t looked back. Don’t know why it took us so long.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    We try to save or invest my husband’s paycheck and live off my income. This year has been a bit skewed because we bought and renovated a four plex, but I still count money going toward that as investment. When we had credit card debt, this money mostly went to payments anyway, so once those were gone, we made sure not to waste our income anymore.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      I would probably count the money going into that 4-plex as investment/savings as well, because typically it’s an appreciating asset as long as you don’t dump too much money into it.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    We live in a small house, rent out part of the house, and really don’t have any extravagant expenses that stand out. With that being said, most of our expenses are fixed and we don’t have much control over it without making a major change (i.e. moving next door to work to cut out gas). I think it’s easy to save 50% of your income if your income is high enough. I know people like to focus on the expense portion, but honestly I think a lot of this comes down to income and debt. With student loans we really have no control over that monthly expense. We can pay more towards it, but we can’t cut it out of our budget. Same with the mortgage. This is why I’m so focused on increasing income versus adjusting expenses – if you double your income it certainly won’t be a problem saving 50%!

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      I would agree that it’s harder if you have a lot of fixed expenses. Luckily, we never had any student loan debt, so I can’t even speak for having that kind of debt.

  • Tre says:

    We have a budget, but use a similar method. A set amount goes to our savings account each month. After we pay the fixed costs whatever is left in the checking account has to last for the month. I’ve just come to think of what goes into our checking account as our monthly take-home and forgotten about the money that goes into savings. It’s much less tempting to overspend.

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