You want to keep track of your monthly spending, savings, and earnings, but don't feel terribly inclined to invest in budgeting software or use a web-based, free program. One of the simplest ways to create a budget is to use spreadsheet software, which you most likely already have on your computer. A spreadsheet budget is customized to your spending and earning habits. You can make it fit your schedule, too by setting up either a weekly or monthly budget sheet.
Collect your receipts from every purchase made over the past month as well any bills you received. Don't worry too much if you've lost receipts for small items, such as a cup of coffee or slice of pizza.
Sort your bills and receipts into categories, then add up the amounts from each category. For instance, pile your water, electric and gas bill together and add up the total due for the month. Collect any restaurant receipts together and figure out how much you spent going out to eat.
Add the total earned from your pay stubs to figure out your monthly income. If you get paid once a month, your job is easy. If you get paid biweekly you'll have to multiple the amount from one paycheck by 26, then divide by 12. If you get paid weekly, multiply the amount by 52, then divide by 12. Don't forget to add in your partner's income as well as any other sources of income.
Open the spreadsheet program on your computer. Save the file as "Budget" or something easily recognizable. Make a sheet for each month of the year.
Type the words "Anticipated Income" as a heading in row 2 of the first column, usually labeled column A on the spreadsheet. In row 2 of column B, type the quantity of your expected income. Back in column A, type "Actual Income" in row 3 as a heading. Using your pay stubs, type in the actual amount you earned at the end of the month in row 3 of column B. Enter the actual amount as a negative number so that you can compare it to the anticipated amount. In row 4 of column A, type the heading "Difference." In row 4 of column B, type "=SUM(B2:B3)" and press enter. The difference between your actual and anticipated income will appear in the cell.
Type the name of each category in the subsequent rows of the first column. For instance, write "Housing," in row 5 of column A, directly under "Actual Income," "Car" in row 6, directly under "Housing," and so on. You may wish to divide each category into subcategories, such as "Homeowner's Insurance," "Utilities" and "Repairs" under "Housing. In column B, record the anticipated expense, and the actual expense in column C. Record the actual expense as a negative number. Type =SUM(B5:C5) to total the difference between the actual and expected expenses. Make sure you change row number to reflect the actual row for each sum function.
Highlight or select the entire budget and copy it. In some software you can highlight the entire text by pressing "Control" and "A" at the same time. Press "Control" and "C" at the same time to copy it. Click on the next month's sheet and paste the budget, by pressing "Control" and "V" into that sheet. Repeat with the remaining sheets to create a template for every month.
Items you will need
- Receipts from purchases
- Pay stubs
- Computer with spreadsheet software
- Re-evaluate your spreadsheet every so often to make sure you are staying on track. Note where you can make changes, such as reducing your entertainment expenses or cutting back on electricity or cell phone use. Also make adjustments whenever you or your spouse receive a raise, or a reduction in income.
- Set up your budget spreadsheet on web-based office software so that you can access it from any computer (see Resources).
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