(WFSB) – The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a financial toll on many Americans.

Unemployment has left people with inconsistent incomes and struggling to make ends meet.

Channel 3 spoke with experts about what do if the money being brought in is not the same every month.

Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez is the host of The Money Confidential at Real Simple Podcast.

She said to start with what a person knows.

“That is your constant, recurring and necessary expenses,” O’Connell Rodriguez explained. “This includes things like your rent or mortgage, your insurance payments, food costs, transportation costs, utility costs, etcetera. Now if you’re not sure what that total cost is on a monthly basis of your recurring necessities, you can go back through your bank statements and your credit card statements and highlight those essential costs, add them all up so you have a really solid number of what you need at a minimum on a monthly basis to pay those bills.”

Then, people can build their financial plans around those baseline numbers.

Building a budget is critical to staying on track.

“Another thing you can do is use flush months or financial windfalls to help build a buffer against those leaner months,” O’Connell Rodriguez said. “So, if you have a great month income-wise, or you get a financial windfall like a tax refund or a gift or anything else, use that opportunity.”

She said those can be an opportunity to build up an emergency fund, which can help cover future months if there’s a shortfall.

“A dedicated savings account with three to six months’ worth of living expenses set aside, maybe more if you’re able to,” O’Connell Rodriguez said. “And it’s only for emergencies. So, it’s not savings for a vacation, it’s not savings for the next holiday season, it’s not savings for any of your other financial goals. But it’s there to help you in case of an emergency, like a job loss, or a month where you know you’re not making as much income as your essential cost of living is.”

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