Creating a monthly budget helps you plan to meet financial goals and lets you monitor your spending to see if you're on track. If you can use even the simplest spreadsheet software, you can create a comprehensive budget that lets you set goals, keep accurate records, make projections and adjust your spending as necessary.
Open your spreadsheet software and create a new spreadsheet. Save it using a name you'll remember and save it to a place on your hard drive you can easily locate.
Create a column for expenses down the left-most column of the spreadsheet. In the first cell of the third or fourth row of the spreadsheet, write "Expenses." Make it bold and use a point size that is larger than what you'll use for your individual expenses. Skip a row, and in the first cell of the third row, write, "Fixed Expenses." Skip several rows and write, "Variable Expenses."
Place headings under the fixed and variable headings, listing each of your expenses. The Better Business Bureau has a sample household budget at its website (see Resources) with more than 80 potential household expenses.
Place headings under the fixed and variable headings, listing each of your expenses. The Better Business Bureau has a sample household budget at its website (see Resources) with more than 80 potential household expenses. List the heading for your fixed expenses starting in the cell directly under the "Fixed Expenses" heading. Fixed expenses are those that will not change each month. Examples might include rent or mortgage, car payment, student loan or cable. List the heading for your variable expenses starting in the cell directly under the "Variable Expenses" heading. Variable expenses are those that will change each month. Examples might include groceries, electricity, dining out, gasoline and entertainment.
Leave a blank row after your last expense item, then create a row to total your monthly spending each month. Call the row, "Total," similar to how you notated "Expenses."
Create a horizontal row at the top of the spreadsheet to place the names of each month. Start the row after the cell marked "Expenses." After you have reached December, add another column called, "Budgeted," and enter your projected average spending for each expense, each month. Next to that column, add another column called, "Actual," to track what you actually end up spending as the year progresses. After that column, create a column called, "YTD," to track your total spending on each expense in a running total. Create a formula for the "Average" column that divides your "YTD" entries by the number of months that have passed. You must manually update the number of months in this column each month. If you can project your income, you can match the "Budgeted" column against your monthly income to see if you need to make adjustments to your budget.
Create a similar spreadsheet for income below the expense spreadsheet. Skip the row underneath the "Total" row of the income spreadsheet, then add a row called, "Monthly Income" that subtracts your expenses from your income. This will let you see if you are spending more or less than you make each month.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.