Setting a budget is a great way to relieve uncertainty and stress while also helping you figure out how to meet both your short-term and long-term financial goals. Getting started can be daunting, but we've got a free, fillable worksheet to get you started. You can also speak to a certified financial counselor by calling 877-337-3399 for budget help.
Once you've downloaded the worksheet, here's what you'll need to know to fill it out:
- Your take-home pay. This will include your salary after taxes, any income from side jobs, child support, and any other incoming funds.
- Your monthly expenses. This usually includes payments like your rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, credit card payments, and subscriptions. A rule of thumb is to average your spending based on the last three months' bills if your expenses fluctuate.
- Your annual or semi-annual expenses. Things like car insurance and vacation expenses are often overlooked in budgets since we don't pay them every month, but they still need to be accounted for.
- Miscellaneous expenses. Concerts, gifts, pet-sitting, and clothing expenses are things most of us pay for infrequently. Put any infrequent spending you want to plan for in this category.
After you've filled out the worksheet, you should end up with either a budget deficit or a budget surplus. A budget surplus means you have money left over to put towards something else, perhaps a savings account or a loan payment. A budget deficit means you don't have quite enough to cover your expenses, and you may want to reorganize your budget or even speak to a counselor about your options.
A final thought: it can take up to 3 months to get your budget to really work, so don't get discouraged if you find yourself having to tweak your budget. Budgets are tools that evolve as life goes on, not rigid rules you have to live by. Use your budget in a way that works for you. Happy budgeting!