Most twenty-somethings that I know don’t keep track of their finances very well, if at all. Since I made the decision to move out of my parents house — HOORAY (sorry mom & dad), I’ve taken the time to sit down and create a budget for my expenses. It took about an hour and today I’m sharing how I created my budget, along with my simple budget worksheet (free!).
My mom has always balanced my checking account each month, filed my taxes, and handled both her and my dad’s finances. She is a rockstar when it comes to this stuff so I’ve been talking to her about getting a handle on my banking and adulting in general. I really hope that one day I can keep a household together the way she can. My point in telling you this, is that I’m new to the budgeting world, too. But ,I’ve found this easy way to create a budget where you only have to manage a few areas, and let the worksheet do the rest.
Setting up your budget doesn’t have to be hard.
There’s really no need to complicate it. I created my spreadsheet and added all of my numbers within an hour and one cup of coffee.
A key aspect of setting up your budget, is to find a way to track it that works for you. I made a very simple excel spreadsheet to do the math for me. I’ve linked a blank version of my spreadsheet down below for you to use if you’re interested. It’s free to download and has the formulas already set up. You can fill in your numbers and modify it without trying to figure out how to make the math work. And don’t worry. I’ll walk you through it, so you understand my methods and calculations.
I also calculate my budget on a monthly basis because that is the general breakdown of my bills, and I think most of you will find the same applies to you. Some people prefer to manage their finances weekly, but that is too tedious for me.
The first item you need to know is your income after taxes.
If you work on a salary, then this step is super easy. Just look at your pay stub and enter the number that was on your physical check or deposited straight into your account because they’re probably all the same.
If you get paid based on an hourly rate, then this gets a little trickier. If you would like to make it easier, you can use Online Income Calculator. This website will calculate it for you. I checked it against my manual math where I looked up my pay stubs for last month and it was only different by a few dollars.
So, I’m scheduled to work 35 hours each week at my job, but I usually clock about 40 each week. So I used the calculator and did the math with 35. If I work more and make more, then I’ll have a little left-over at the end of the month, which is wayyyyy better than over calculating and coming up short on bills.
Once you calculate your income after taxes, just type it in the appropriate cell and press enter.
After you know your income, you need to calculate your fixed expenses.
I choose to itemize mine by monthly expenses that will be withdrawn from my account or bills that I know I will need to pay. This was a little tricky for me because I debated on where electricity and water should go because they are monthly bills, but fluctuate from month to month. I opted to put them in the next category. This category should have your rent/mortgage, Netflix, car payment, subscriptions of any kind, etc. It needs to have ALL of your recurring expenses in it. I put my student loans in this section because I want to pay a certain amount each month towards paying them off, but some months I may pay more, if I can.
Add extra lines in if you need to or take out ones I have included, that you may not need. After you enter these, from month to month you shouldn’t have to worry about re-entering these– they can just carry over. Also, don’t get in the mindset that because the items in this category are fixed amounts that they can’t be cut from your budget. Beauty Box subscriptions, Netflix, etc., can definitely be taken off if it really comes down to needing that last $10-20.
Next you need to note your Variable Expenses.
The hard part of budgeting these is that the amounts change from month to month. This is where you can add an additional column and have one for ‘Budget’ and one for ‘Actual’. The budget column will be what you project you will spend. You can then fill in the actual amounts spent at the end of the month. I kept mine simple for this post. I try to keep these numbers as low as possible. Obviously life happens, and some things are unpredictable, but if you’re on top of your money game, then you shouldn’t ever find yourself in an unstable position financially.
So what’s left?
Do some simple subtraction and you should have an amount left over (hopefully a pretty good one!). But if you’re not like me and want to account for every penny, you can add some lines in your variable expenses (or fixed if you have a continued pattern of extra money), and put it in savings or your retirement accounts, or even pay down your student loans. I think this is similar to Dave Ramsey’s zero balance budget (I doubt that’s the right name). Obviously, I haven’t researched this well. I like the idea of accounting for every penny I made during the month, but on an income that varies from week to week, it’s not easy, so I will have a remaining balance (if this is a negative number, you have bigger problems my friend).
You final product should look something like this:
** I’d like to emphasize that I just made up some of these numbers, so if it seems like a crappy or unbalanced budget, you’re probably right.
But there’s more on your spreadsheet, Kristin.
You’re right, there is. (Sorry I didn’t include it in these photos!) I’ve placed a section at the bottom for all of my accounts, and for budgeting for extras. You can adjust this as necessary, but I like to see the amounts in each of my account in one place. Additionally, on my personal copy of this, I have a sheet setup for each month of the year. You just have to copy and paste to set this up for yourself.
Maybe you want to start budgeting now for Christmas or for a vacation. Add it to the spreadsheet in the variable/fixed expenses and then add a ‘Balance’ Line at the bottom for it so you can see how much you’ve added to it each month.
I created the percentage column to track which items or categories most of my money goes to. Obviously rent or a mortgage is a big piece of anyone’s monthly spending, but the percentage column is a great way to keep a check on frivolous spending on your personal vice. Mine tends to be makeup (shocker!).
So my message is this:
If you’re trying to save money, those pesky trips to Target must stop my friends. We all chant the “I just need toilet paper and tampons” mantra. And we all come back with dollar seasonal goodies, a new bikini, a new jacket, jewelry, baking supplies, and some odd and in housewares. Time and time again we fail because we never look at the actual numbers. Using a budget tracking sheet like this can help you see where you struggle in staying on budget and where you excel (hehe math pun cause my download is in excel). I’ve been using mine since January and it has made a huge difference in my spending. I’m more aware of the money I’m just swiping away with my credit card and have brought my control in quite a bit.
If you’re interested, I’m also putting together a post about how I manage my yearly information for taxes and another for ways to stick to your budget. Keep your eyes peeled! 🙂 I will link them here once I post them!
Do you keep track of your finances? I’d love to hear your methods and what works for you! Also, if you have any questions about the spreadsheet, just drop a comment below or send me a private email to firstname.lastname@example.org.