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Budgeting Tips for Beginners
Coming up with a monthly budget is easy, although sticking to it can be a challenge. Here are five budgeting tips for beginners to help you manage your personal finances.
The first step to smart budgeting is to organize your expenses into categories, either essential costs such as your rent payment and then extras like clothing and dining out, advises Dummies.com. Next, create a budget planner worksheet to keep track of monthly costs. You can highlight expenses that are flexible, such as that morning cup of coffee you often buy, and then costs that aren’t flexible, like the multiyear phone plan you’re locked into.
Start saving your receipts, and see if there are expenditures that might not be necessary, states Forbes. By tracking your spending — which is easy if you make your own budget worksheet — you can become aware of expenses you can trim. Scanning your grocery receipts once a week can make you realize how much extra money you’re spending on prepared food from the deli when you’d be better off loading up on staples like brown rice and fresh produce.
Use Credit Cards
Rather than using cash, pay with plastic, advises Forbes. That way you can easily look at your credit card or debit card statement, as well as payments you’ve made through services such as PayPal, and you can even transfer this information to your financial budget worksheet. You may not realize how many Uber rides you’ve recently taken when you could simply use public transportation. Or, a look at all those theater tickets you’ve purchased may make you opt for a few movie nights at home. Of course, it’s fine to splurge here and there, but the point is to be aware of spending patterns that you regularly make, according to Forbes.
Start Saving and Paying Debts
With the money you’re saving from budgeting, consider starting an investment plan or a savings account, if you don’t have one already. Take a look at any credit card debt you’ve accumulated, and focus on paying it down or consolidating it into a plan with a lower interest rate, states Dummies.com.
Use Budgeting Tools
Get savvy with organizing your budget by downloading a free or inexpensive budgeting app that categorizes your finances. You’ll be able to more easily see your spending patterns, and some of these tools can be linked to your credit card and banking accounts, states Forbes. Go online, experiment with several of these tools, download forms for budget planning, including a budget worksheet example, and find out which personal budget tool works best for you.
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Free Budget Planner: Tips For Getting Started
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What is a budget planner?
A budget planner is a tool, such as a worksheet, that you can use to design your budget. A successful budget planner helps you decide how to best spend your money while avoiding or reducing debt. NerdWallet recommends the 50/30/20 budget , which suggests that 50% of your income goes toward needs, 30% toward wants and 20% toward savings and debt repayment.
Create a budget plan that works for you
Before choosing a budget planner, you want to decide on a budgeting system . As mentioned, you could get started with the 50/30/20 budget, if it resonates with you. There are also other budgeting systems that organize your spending in different ways. The zero-based budget , for example, accounts for every dollar in your budget until there are zero remaining.
Once you’ve chosen your system, you can move on to picking a budget planner to help break down your budget and put the numbers into perspective. The best budget planner is one that’s easy to use and stick with. No matter which budget planner you decide to use, take some time to tweak your approach and adjust your spending as needed until you reach your ideal budget.
And if a hands-on monthly budget planner isn’t working for you, consider one of these budget apps . Most of them sync with your financial accounts, so they can track and categorize expenses for you. Keep in mind that some budgeting apps are free, while others charge a monthly or annual fee.
If you can’t make your ideal budget a reality, or if you’re struggling to get a handle on your finances, budgeting might not be enough for you. Explore other options, such as seeking expert financial advice or resources that can help you pay bills .
Use the free printable budget worksheet below to see how your spending compares with the 50/30/20 budget guide.
If this budget sheet isn’t right for you, try another tool. Explore other budget spreadsheets and templates , or download a budget app. For a more simplified snapshot, try our budget calculator .
For other money matters, check out more financial calculators from NerdWallet.
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Make a Budget - Worksheet
Use this worksheet to see how much money you spend this month. Also, use the worksheet to plan for next month’s budget.
The Complete Collection of Monthly Budget Templates
By Andy Marker | February 22, 2017
Monthly budgeting is a common challenge. Whether you’re managing your family’s finances, running a business, tracking your personal spending, or planning for college, the costs can seem endless. Creating a monthly budget spreadsheet is a useful way to keep track of all these expenses and compare them with your income, so you can gain control over your finances.
Of course, there are many different ways you can budget money, depending on your income source, family size, and the level of visibility you want into your finances. You may also want to create separate budgets for special purposes, such as retirement, college savings, or home improvements, in addition to your personal monthly budget. Perhaps you’re interested in creating a budget for monthly business expenses or corporate projects. That’s why we created this comprehensive list of monthly budget templates. No matter what you’re budgeting for, this collection has a template to meet your needs.
Monthly Business Budget
Maintaining a budget is especially important when running a business. Whether you offer goods or services, this monthly budget template can help put you on the road to success. Record business expenditures, such as advertising, taxes, and legal fees, and plot them against business income, such as product sales and service fees. This template shows you where you need to reduce or eliminate spending, and helps you identify your most profitable sources of income.
Download Monthly Business Budget
Excel | Smartsheet
Household Monthly Expense Budget
When you have a house full of people, tracking expenses can get complicated. Monthly budget spreadsheets are helpful when managing spending for your family or roommates. This template gives you a close look at your household’s planned versus actual income and details expenses for individual categories on a monthly basis. Carefully tracking this information will help you better meet financial goals, prepare for emergencies, and plan for the future.
Download Household Monthly Expense Budget
Setting a budget for yourself is hard — and following it can be even harder. Using monthly budget sheets helps make it easier. This detailed template offers a summary of your income, expenses, and savings goals (both in aggregate and by month) on one sheet with a detailed monthly breakdown by category on another. By taking a closer look at your budget, you can gain better control over your finances.
Download Personal Budget
This monthly budget sheet can help you forecast expenses for your business or academic department for the entire fiscal year, as well as by month. You can also compare percentage changes in the budget from year over year. Expenses are grouped by category (for example, website, research, and travel costs) to give you a snapshot of how you’re allocating department funds.
Download Department Budget
Home Construction Budget
Whether remodeling your home or building a new one, it’s easy for costs to get out of hand. Use this monthly budgeting worksheet to account for all labor and materials expenses, track spending by category, and ensure you’re within your overall budget. This template can also help you set aside extra funds for emergency repairs and unforeseen costs, which are common with construction projects. Check out these Excel construction management templates to help you manage a budget for larger jobs.
Download Home Construction Budget
Simple Monthly Budget
If you just need a basic budget tracker, or if you’re making a budget for the first time, this simple budget template can help you get organized. It offers a basic snapshot of your income, expenses, and insight into extra money that you can save. You can also use this template to plot your finances on a chart for an at-a-glance look at your spending.
Download Simple Monthly Budget
Academic Club Budget
This monthly budgeting sheet helps you track income and expenses for an academic club. Clubs often have annual goals for fundraising, dues, or sponsorship, as well as limits on monthly and annual spending. Tracking all this on a monthly budget planner can help you gauge progress toward financial goals, and verify that your club isn’t spending more than it’s making.
Download Academic Club Budget
Monthly Budget Calculator
Using this basic budget calculator, you can quickly and easily plot regular expenses for major categories (housing, transportation, debt, etc.) against your income for the month. Simply plug in the payment and receipt amounts, and the calculator will reflect totals in aggregate as well as by category for the month. This gives you an at-a-glance view of how closely you’re sticking to your budget.
Download Monthly Budget Calculator
College Student Monthly Budget
College is one of the biggest investments many people will make in their lifetime. Use this monthly budget Excel spreadsheet to help plan for it accurately. In addition to tuition fees, this sheet will help you track spending on textbooks and educational supplies, housing, and transportation, as well as income from jobs, internships, and student loans or scholarships. You can also track your college budget by month or by quarter.
Download College Student Monthly Budget
Early Retirement Budget Sheet
Planning ahead is especially important when it comes to your retirement. If income and expenses aren’t tracked and distributed properly, it could seriously impact your future. Using this monthly budgeting worksheet, you can ensure you’re financially secure when you retire. Track income sources as well as living, personal, and medical expenses on a weekly, bi-weekly, quarterly, or annual basis. You can also compare your actual income with what you need to retire comfortably.
Download Early Retirement Budget Sheet
Monthly Family Budget Planner
Families have a lot of expenses. From doctor’s visits to vacations to saving for college, you need a comprehensive budget to track your family’s spending. This monthly budget worksheet allows you to compare expenses with your family’s income and savings, and reflects annual totals by category. Using this template, you can make sure your family is financially prepared for future expenditures, such as education and retirement, as well as for any emergencies that may arise.
Download Monthly Family Budget Planner
GLBL Monthly Budget Spreadsheet
If you want granular control over your finances, this “Gather Little by Little (GLBL)” budget template is for you. It allows you to designate every dollar of income you receive from your paycheck for a specific purpose, so you can avoid spending more than you’re making. This comprehensive monthly budgeting worksheet offers an at-a-glance view of all expenses and income on one sheet, and breaks down each spending category in detail on the following sheets in the template.
Download GLBL Monthly Budget Spreadsheet
K-12 School Expense Budget Template
Even before your kids reach college, school expenses can add up. Keep track of them with this monthly budget template. It allows you to track all spending related to school and extracurricular activities: tuition, lab fees, books and school supplies, uniforms, club and team dues, and more. By managing your school budget, your kids will have the financial support they need to achieve their goals.
Download K-12 School Expense Budget Template
Monthly Budget Template
This all-purpose monthly budgeting spreadsheet can help you keep track of most personal and family expenditures. Use this template to enter housing expenses such as rent, utilities, and telephone; recurring payments such as car loan, insurance, and credit card charges; food and drink expenses; and other costs of living, such as child care, gym memberships, and entertainment. These can be tracked against your individual and/or family income, so you can make sure you’re prepared for the future.
Download Monthly Budget Template
Zero-Based Budget Spreadsheet
Similar to the GLBL budget spreadsheet, the zero-based budget involves distributing your income to certain expense categories, so the balance equals zero at the end of each month. Whether you’re allocating money to living expenses (housing, car, groceries, etc.), to fun and entertainment, or to save for the future, a zero-based budget sheet will tell you where each dollar is going. Use this spreadsheet to plot your current income against your expenses, and adjust your budget until it zeroes out.
Download Zero-Based Budget Spreadsheet
Completed Sample Budgets
Need some more help getting started? These templates offer an example of what your budget might look like once it’s complete. No matter how great your income, planning ahead is important so you don’t overspend, or spend too much in the wrong place. Easily compare your own spending against these sample low-income and high-income budgets to see if you’re on track or need to make adjustments.
Download High Income Budget - PDF
Download Low Income Budget - PDF
How to Use a Budget Template
To create your budget, first determine your regular income: for example, paychecks, government assistance, alimony payments, and child support. Businesses should consider how much money is allotted for specific projects. Don’t count irregular income, such as bonuses or gifts, since these fluctuate from month to month.
Next, calculate your regular expenses. Include everything from housing costs to insurance premiums to recreational spending. For variable expenses, such as utility bills, calculate your monthly average. Don’t forget to include things like groceries, gym memberships, and regular ATM withdrawals.
Finally, choose and download the right budget template and use it to plot all of this information - make sure your spending doesn’t exceed your income. You can also track your finances on an even deeper level by downloading and using one of our weekly budget templates .
Create a Monthly Budget in Smartsheet
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Basic Monthly Budget Worksheets Everyone Should Have
Use these worksheets to track spending, saving, and monthly balances
How To Use Monthly Budget Worksheets
How to complete monthly budget worksheets, monthly budget worksheet templates, what to do after making a budget, frequently asked questions (faqs).
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Budgets help you plan your monthly spending to achieve your goals, whether those are trying to pay down debt, accumulate cash for a new car, or put away more in your savings account. Without a budget, money may sprint through your account as if it’s a revolving door.
- Budgets can help you track, plan, and watch spending to achieve financial goals.
- Budget worksheets offer a way to review ingoing and outgoing amounts in black and white.
- As you work with budget worksheets, you can adjust your budget as you refine your numbers.
Budgeting has also become increasingly popular in recent years; in 2022, 86% of respondents to a Debt.com survey said they tracked income and expenses. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of respondents did so. Almost one-third of respondents indicated they maintained a budget with spreadsheets.
Download and copy The Balance’s Spending Tracker Worksheet and Monthly Budget Income and Expenses Calculator .
Find out more about how to set up and fill in a budget worksheet template. Use it for a month or so to see how it works for you.
Budgets can help you manage your finances daily, monthly, and over the long term. You’ll gain insights into how you’re spending and saving money. Budgeting worksheets can help reconcile how much you planned to spend with how much you actually spent. There may be surprising expenses you frequently forget about or that add up fast despite being smaller amounts.
A budget could reveal areas of impulse buying, lack of savings, unused subscriptions, or other financial mismanagement signs, such as repeated late-bill fees. A budget worksheet can help you decide your priorities and even change your spending habits over time. If you get into the habit of using a budget worksheet, you may notice that you spend less and save more. You’ll be able to use that extra money to pay off debts, add to your emergency fund, or invest money for retirement.
Various budgeting approaches exist . The 30-day budget is the budgeting worksheet approach we’ll cover here. Reviewing income and expenses a month at a time is a manageable solution for many people.
Other ways to calculate your budget are with apps, pen and paper, or your financial institution’s budgeting tools. However, a simple worksheet doesn’t require bank logins, is accessible from multiple locations, can help perform automatic calculations, and needs just the right amount of maintenance.
A good “rainy day fund” amount is around three to six months’ of living expenses , but any savings is a great start. Keep your emergency savings in a bank account paying higher interest rates.
To complete monthly budget worksheets, gather your income information (from all sources) and your spending habits for the past month or so. Use your bank account statements, credit card statements, and other monthly income and expense records.
You also can use a Spending Tracker Worksheet (see above for the download link) to track your spending over a month. Before you use it, make a copy first:
- Click “File”
- Click “Make a copy”
- When the “Copy document” window pops up, type in a new name for your worksheet, such as “Emma’s Tracker.”
- Ensure you’re saving it to a folder you can access, then click the green button that reads “Make a copy.”
A step-by-step guide to making a budget can offer more details, including what to do if you receive variable incomes from gig or freelance work.
Do not enter any numbers into the worksheet cells tinted with pink, blue, or green—those cells contain formulas that shouldn’t be altered.
First, copy the Monthly Budget Income and Expenses Calculator (see above for the download link) described in “How to Complete Monthly Budget Worksheets,” above. Following these steps gives you a worksheet you can edit. Then work through the tabs in the worksheet linked above.
Monthly Income Calculator
A good first step is to calculate your monthly income. On the first tab of the worksheet, enter the income you expect to receive from all sources in the “Gross Income” category in the “Projected” column. Enter any deductions from your paycheck in the “Taxes Withheld and Payment Deductions” section and the “Projected” column.
You might base this on your previous month’s income—but if you’re expecting to work more or fewer hours this month, the budget worksheet is flexible enough to reflect fluctuations.
In the “Total Take-Home Pay,” you’ll see your projected net income.
Monthly Expenses Calculator
Click on the “Monthly Expenses Calculator” tab. There, enter your budgeted amount for each category in “Projected.” Expenses could be based on past spending habits you gather from account statements or your spending tracker.
Ensure you’re only entering amounts not already deducted from your paycheck. For example, if your health insurance premium is deducted from your paycheck, enter that on the “Monthly Income Calculator” tab, not as a monthly expense.
Feel free to add or delete categories based on your spending priorities and lifestyle. For example, you might not spend money on coffee or alcohol. Or you might pay alimony, but not have a pet to care for.
Monthly Surplus & Shortages Calculator
In the “Surplus & Shortages” tab, you’ll see how much money you project you’ll end up with at the end of the month. If you find your expenses are more than your income, look for ways to cut back, or earn more money before you find yourself in serious debt. If your income is more than your expenses, congratulations—you have money to stash in your savings.
At month’s end, review the amounts you entered for each tab and enter what you actually spent. Did you vastly overestimate some categories and underestimate others?
Some amounts will mostly stay the same, change slowly over time, or only change once a year. These fixed expenses might include mortgage, rent, health insurance, and car loan payments. Other expenses could fluctuate according to season, usage, or choices; for example, water bills, groceries, or gas. Some are required, while others, like a streaming service, might be optional, discretionary expenses.
You can continue to use the monthly expenses tracker to track spending through the month and keep tabs on big buys or categories you need to add (or delete). Some people find it easier to manage a budget when breaking down spending by week.
Use a budget to help shape your financial goals and vice versa. For example, you may decide you want to use your budget to help you get out of debt, buy a home, or save up for your kids’ future education. If you want to save money for a specific goal, you may need to “pay yourself first” with even $5 or $10 into a savings account to ensure money goes toward your goal every month—even if that means eating out less or spending less on groceries.
Take the opportunity to analyze your spending habits. Perhaps you budgeted only $100 per month for gas. At month’s end, you discover that you spent $150. If you ponder the reason for the difference, you may find it was due to inflation, big trips, or you just underestimated your gas usage. This could help you plan for next month’s gas budget and help answer why you’re chronically short on cash.
Review your budget at the end of each month and adjust for the coming month. Within a few months, you may be spending less and saving more.
What is a balanced budget?
A balanced budget is one where your income and expenses are balanced evenly, without too much or too little left over. One way to implement a balanced budget is with a zero-based budgeting approach , which aims to assign every dollar of your income to an expense, savings, or spending.
How can budgeting impact your overall wealth?
Budgeting can increase your overall wealth through:
- Creating limits on your spending
- Offering a savings path toward your financial goals
- Establishing or accelerating debt repayment
- Boosting emergency savings
- Initiating investing or retirement savings
A financial cushion can help prevent debt from building up or unexpected expenses from wiping out your reliable spend-and-save habits. Ideally, budgeting can help build generational wealth .
Debt.com. “ Americans Are Budgeting More Than Ever .”
University of Utah Cooperative Extension. “ Balancing the Budget, Fitting It All In .” Page 3.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “ Budgeting: How To Create a Budget and Stick With It .”
Rutgers University Extension. “ The Benefits of Budgeting .”
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Personal Monthly Budget
Download our free monthly budget spreadsheet and get your personal finances under control. Compare your budget and actual spending on a monthly basis. Also try our yearly personal budget to make a budget for an entire year. If you have a family, try our family budget planner for a more detailed set of budget categories.
This spreadsheet helps you compare your monthly budget to your actual expenditures, and can be printed on a single page in portrait orientation. The difference between your budget and actual spending is calculated and formatted to make it easy to find out where you may be overspending.
Personal Monthly Budget Spreadsheet
License : Private Use (not for distribution or resale)
"No installation, no macros - just a simple spreadsheet" - by Jon Wittwer
To use this template, just fill in numbers that are highlighted with a light-blue background (the Budget and Actual columns). Some numbers are included in the Home Expenses category as an example, but you'll want to replace those numbers with your own.
The purpose of this type of budget worksheet is to compare your monthly budget with your actual income and expenses. You record your desired budget for each category in the "Budget" column. This represents your goal - you're trying to keep from spending more than this amount. At the end of the month, you record in the "Actual" column how much you really spent during the month.
For a more detailed set of budget categories, see the Household Budget worksheet. See our articles Make a Budget and 5 Basic Budgeting Tips if you are just getting started or new to budgeting.
Using the Personal Monthly Budget Template
The calculations in the "Difference" column are set up so that negative numbers are bad. The spreadsheet uses the accounting format where negative numbers are in parenthesis like (115.00) , and conditional formatting is used to make the negative numbers red - red means bad in this case. So, if you spend more than you budgeted for, the value in the Difference column will be red - to help it stand out as a warning.
The Monthly Budget Summary table in the upper right of the worksheet totals up all your income and expenses and calculates your Net as Income minus Expenses. If your Net is negative, that means you have overspent your monthly budget.
Adding or Removing categories : You need to be careful when adding or removing categories, to avoid messing up the formulas used for calculating the totals. After making a change, you should check the formulas to make sure they are still correct.
More Budget Spreadsheets
- Money Manger - A more advanced budget management tool for Excel
- Personal Budget Spreadsheet The 12-month version of the above spreadsheet.
- Household Budget Spreadsheet (monthly) - More detailed and includes child expenses.
- Family Budget Planner A yearly budget planner, with the same categories as the household budget spreadsheet.
- Home Budget - Our original selection of home budget worksheets.
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