Do you wonder where your money goes… or do you tell it where to go?
Helping you budget your money
Creating a handwritten budget from scratch before attempting to use an existing software or spreadsheet can deliver extra flexibility when forming your first budget. Before using this spreadsheet it may be useful to create a paper budget from the ground up. No spreadsheet… no software. Once you get the hang of your handwritten budget, turn it into a spreadsheet so you can take advantage of the calculations and ease of monthly reproduction.
That’s what I did.
What follows is a brief history of my budget, followed by the budget worksheet in 3 usable formats with sectional instructions for use.
From handwritten to electronic
I did handwritten, and it worked great. Manually forming the structure of my budget was necessary, but once the foundation was solid it was time to move to a system that enabled me to easily and quickly fill in each and every month.
Slowly I began developing a spreadsheet to capture the simplicity and function of our handwritten budget, but with the added bonus of auto-calculations and ease of monthly budget reproduction. It’s far easier to fill in the monthly numbers, save them, and print them out than to rewrite it every 30 days.
Looking to buy software? If you prefer a software solution to the handwritten or spreadsheet approach… I recommend You Need A Budget.
Use the budget planning worksheet
If you just want to grab it and go… here is the spreadsheet. If you want or need explanations of sections, please scroll down to the explanation section of this post.
I have included 3 versions: Google docs version, Microsoft Excel version, and OpenOffice version.
Google Docs version
Microsoft Excel version
Budget spreadsheet breakdown
A budget is a living document, constantly changing, adapting, and growing to better reflect where and how you spend and save your money. Do not try to make everything perfect… just get it done, then work on tweaking it from month to month. If you think it will be perfect in one month you will likely work yourself into a tizzy and soon stop budgeting altogether. Sound familiar? Patience young budgeting Jedi… I was once in your shoes too. You can master this budget – just be patient and faithfully work it month in and month out. I promise the rewards are worth the time and effort.
All sections have 3 fields – Projected, Actual, and Difference – they are what they are.
- Projected = the amount you input in each category at the beginning of the month. Remember, don’t try to be perfect here – if you are unsure of an amount, make an educated guess and move on to the next category.
- Actual = the amount you enter at the end of each month… after the money is spent. This should be exact and based on actual hard numbers. To better keep track of what you spend consider keeping a spending journal – we do – it is an essential way to track discretionary spending.
- Difference = the amount your projected amounts differ from the actual amounts. We use the information in these fields to continually tweak how much money goes where.
I have put input some “example numbers” and have only created one sheet labeled “January.” I encourage you to tweak your fields and numbers then duplicate the sheets to include every month of the year. I could have included 12 sheets, one for every month, but then you would just be faced with changing all the fields on each sheet manually anyway… so make your changes to January then duplicate the sheet for each month of the year. To do this, look at the bottom of the spreadsheet screen and find where it says “January.” Now click on that and choose “Duplicate.” Once you have duplicated the sheet now click that new tab and choose “Rename.” You can either create all 12 tabs for the year in advance or just do them as each new month is beginning… I choose to do the latter in an effort to avoid having to change all future sheets if I make a simple field adjustment.
This section is pretty self explanatory – just make sure you include all sources of income including monthly bank interest, dividends, gifts of money, and money you make working any side jobs (a.k.a. “side hustle”.)
This is where you record all accounts you currently have as savings for the future including, bank accounts, CDs, mutual funds, etc. Your projected and actual amounts in this category are easier to nail down because you have direct control over how much you are saving each month. I advise you to set savings goals, create multiple savings accounts (either on paper for tracking purposes or literally as I do in my Capital One 360 account) and then set up monthly auto transfers of specific amounts to each account. Automation is key when it comes to saving money! Remember… it’s your money – pay yourself first!
Fixed Non-Monthly Savings
This is an awesome section of the spreadsheet and one you are not likely to find anywhere else. To populate the fields in this section, do the following:
- Make a list of all your non-monthly expenses that are fixed amounts. For example, auto insurance, auto plates and registration, association dues, professional dues (like union dues), 1/4 of beef, magazine subscriptions, etc.
- Calculate the yearly amount each of these expenses costs you, add them together and divide by 12. For example: if the combined yearly total of all your non-monthly expenses is $3,300 – your monthly amount to save will be $225.
- Do the calculation for each expense (or group of expenses) and enter that as a field in this section of the spreadsheet, like the sample data I put in the spreadsheet template.
Later in the spreadsheet you will find the Fixed Non-Monthly Expenses section.
Expenses Section – Rather than setting up a simple “expenses” category, I broke expenses down into five different categories to better track and manage them. Auto pay, manual pay, fixed non-monthly, cash envelopes, and other (or left overs.)
Auto Pay Bills
The first section of expenses is auto pay bills. I encourage you to use the power of automation for as many financial transactions as possible – when it comes to personal finances… automation = success. Bills that are friendly to automation are bills that have static amounts and static due dates each month. If the amounts are not changing and the due dates are not changing… then set up automation. Look at it this way – every automated bill is one less bill you have to worry about!
Always set up automation through your bank… not through your debtor. I never give a debtor direct access to my accounts – if at all possible, neither should you.
Manual Pay Bills
Here you will enter monthly expenses with fluctuating payment amounts. You know that you have to pay it every month… you just don’t know exactly what the amount will be. Examples that fit into this category are gas and electric, sewer, water, etc. Don’t worry about getting these projection amounts perfect, just enter in an average. What I did was to go back 12 months for each expense, found the average, then entered that as my projection amount. Some months it is too high, and some months it is too low, but this way I always have the extra money in my account when needed.
Fixed Non-Monthly Expenses
This section is directly related to the Fixed Non-Monthly Savings section detailed above. In these fields simply record each fixed non-monthly expense as it comes due. This is a GREAT way to keep track of – and stay on top of – bills that are due at irregular intervals. Without using this system you risk being hit with “surprise” expenses that can ruin your budget. Using this system provides you with a solid solution to those budget busting problems!
This is one of our new favorite categories! You can take this section and really make it your own. My advice is to use cash envelopes for spending categories that constitute random spending… like groceries, dining out, entertainment (like movies, etc), clothing, and the biggest one… miscellaneous. The power of using cash envelopes cannot be readily explained… it is something you cannot understand until you implement it into your own life. Want my advice? Do it… and do it now. From the very fist day we started using cash for specific purchase categories we saw an immediate change in how we felt about the purchases. There is just something painful about seeing the cash slip out of your wallet and into the hands of another! This concept is especially powerful for your random spending habits – when implemented properly, it will help you reign them in quickly… I promise!
Last but not least, the infamous “other expenses” category. This is where you will lump together any expenses that do not readily fit into any of the previous categories. Make sure you try to put expenses in one of the above categories first, but if the do not fit, put them here as a last option. Most of the time, but not always, the expenses that end up with here will be non-monthly and non-fixed expenses. A lot of times you will have no way of knowing when the expenses will come due, nor how much they will be. Some examples are, doctor, gifts, house expenses, gas, etc. You will basically take any left over categories, put them here, and project their costs as closely as you can based on past experience.
This is what it is… just a big summary of your income, savings, and expenses in one quick view. I’m not sure how useful it is, but I know some people like to see it so I included it.
Make the budget worksheet your own
Remember… your budget is a living document – expect it to change over time. Do not focus on making every calculation perfect… your accuracy will improve over time. For now just focus on using the spreadsheet faithfully each month and don’t be afraid to make it your own. The categories and amounts I put in are just examples… if you customize it to your situation you increase sustainability of future use.
If budgeting is a problematic behavior for you… using this spreadsheet will give you a fresh perspective and hopefully help you finally nail down a solid spending plan for your unique situation.
You can wonder where your money goes, or you can tell it where to go!
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