Getting a handle on your finances and tracking your expenses can be hard, but the task will be a lot easier if you create a comprehensive family budget. Once you have that budget in place, you can more easily track your monthly expenditures and look for places to cut back. Fortunately, you do not need to invest in an expensive accounting software package to get the budget you need. Instead, you can use your existing spreadsheet software to set up a monthly budget and track your progress.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Credit card receipts
- ATM receipts
- Monthly bills
Gather all your credit card receipts and statements, along with your ATM receipts. Separate the ATM receipts into cash withdrawals and debit card purchases.
Go through your checkbook and make a list of your checks for the month. Note the amount of the check and what it was for. Do the same with your monthly credit card statements.
Gather your monthly bills and separate them into categories like rent or mortgage, utility payments, cable bills, Internet charges and so on. Use the information you have gathered so far to create a list of spending categories. When creating your budget, be as specific as possible. For instance, separate your food costs into takeout food, meals at restaurants and grocery store costs, rather than using a single category for all food costs.
Download a budget template for your spreadsheet software. Microsoft provides a number of templates for Excel, and other spreadsheet vendors have similar templates. You can create the budget on your own if you wish, but it is easier to use the template and simply replace spending categories if you need to.
Enter each spending category into the budget spreadsheet columns across the top row or into the prepared template. Add any new spending categories to the template if you wish. Enter the amounts you spent in each category during the month and add up your spending in each category. Simply use the "SUM" function in Excel to add up your columns of figures. Then run a grand total that adds all column totals together.
Gather your pay stubs and other income documents and use them to add an income section to your budget spreadsheet. If you are using a budget template, the template will already include a section for income. Otherwise, you will need to add that section manually.
Compare your total income to your total expenses to see where you stand. It may take a couple of months to spot trends in your expenses that could help you find ways to cut back and save. For instance, you are consistently spending a lot on restaurant meals and nights out, you can save money by cooking at home more and hosting movie nights in your own living room.
Save your completed budget spreadsheet with the name of the month and year. Using this naming convention will make it easier to find a particular month and track your expenses from month to month.
Create a new budget for each month, using the old spreadsheet as a guide. Track your spending in each category over time and use that information to find areas to cut back in and make do with less.
Tips and warnings
- Once you become aware of your monthly spending, you will be in a position to project expenses, which enables you to do some more precise financial planning for the future. While projections are not always obtainable, a template like the Kiplinger example in references can show personal spending and expense trends.
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