A personal or household budget is an itemized list of expected income and expenses that helps you to plan for how your money will be spent or saved, as well as track your actual spending habits. The word budget may have taken on a slightly negative connotation over the years, invoking an image of pinching pennies or limited spending.
However, a budget is really just a tool to gain a better and more accurate insight into your spending habits. By listing all of your sources of income against all of your monthly expenditures (from required expenses like mortgage or rent payments to discretionary spending like eating out or going to the movies), you get a true picture of your personal cash flow, which will allow you to make better and more informed financial decisions. An accurate budget will also help you to better understand what you can and cannot afford.
If you're finding your financial situation is changing due to an unforeseen economic downturn or job loss, now is a good time to get familiar with these resources and get ahead of your budget to make sure you'll be OK the long run.
How to Use Monthly Budget Worksheets
As everyone's financial situation is different, you may find that not every category in these worksheets below is applicable to your income or spending. You may even recognize that some months are different than others, but you should find after going through this exercise that you are more prepared for those changes and that you're accounting for unanticipated expenses as well.
Though a monthly budget cycle is generally the most reasonable timeframe for which to set up an initial personal or household budget, there are many sources of income and expenses that do not perfectly follow a monthly schedule.
For instance, you may receive a paycheck every week or two weeks, not once a month.
In that case, calculate how that adds up over one month's time and write that in the appropriate row and column. You may also have certain expected or even recurring expenses that occur more or less often than monthly. To account for those expenses (like car insurance) in your monthly budget, simply calculate the total expense for the calendar year and divide that by 12 in order to find the "monthly" expense. Write that number in the appropriate row and column.
How to Complete Monthly Budget Worksheets
To begin, gather all relevant financial statements like your pay stubs, credit card bills, and any other information that will help you make the best and most accurate estimate of your expected income and spending.
To start your budget, complete the "Monthly Budget Amount" column in the Expenses Worksheet to the best of your ability for the next month. This can be downloaded below. Should a certain category not apply to you, you can simply leave it blank or enter a zero (0) in the box.
Over the course of the month, track your income and spending. At the end of the month, complete the "Monthly Actual Amount" column and compare it to your original estimates.
You might have overestimated how much you'd spend on clothing, but underestimated the amount you'd spend eating out. Record the difference.
You don't need to go through this exercise every month, but it is extremely helpful at the start as it helps you to develop the most accurate monthly budget to reference moving forward.
Your Monthly Budget Worksheets
The following are several worksheets to help you organize your information into a budget format.
Our downloadable Net Income Worksheet and Calculator can be used to calculate your monthly income. You can download this worksheet, print it, and fill it out manually, or fill it out digitally in Excel where your totals are calculated for you.
Our downloadable Expenses Worksheet and Calculator can be used to calculate your monthly expenses based on your budget. You can download this worksheet, print it, and fill it out manually, or fill it out digitally in Excel where your totals are calculated for you.
Our downloadable Surplus and Shortage Worksheet and Calculator combines the totals from the two worksheets above and calculates your monthly surplus or shortage. You can print this worksheet and fill it out manually, or fill it out digitally where your totals are calculated for you.
You've Completed the Budget Worksheet, What Now?
Should you find that at the end of the month that you are consistently spending more than you are bringing in, it might be time to take a closer look at where you're spending your money and adjust those areas where you can to make up the difference.
Should you find, on the other hand, that you consistently have money left over every month, you now have the opportunity to decide what to do with that extra cash.
Perhaps you need to build up an emergency or "rainy day" fund. You could also be contributing more to your retirement savings. Consider paying off certain loans faster, or perhaps you can start saving up for a special or large purchase.