If you're not interested in ratios, averages, projections or other formulas concerning your finances, you can create a simple budget with paper and pencil or a basic spreadsheet program. You can create a budget that sets spending limits so you can plan for paying your bills and saving money, or you can record expenses as they occur to monitor your spending to stay on track.
Start by writing a list of your anticipated income. This might include your salary or wages, income earned from a savings account or CD, gains on stocks or bonds, gifts from family or friends or proceeds from the sale of assets, including a yard sale or items you sell on eBay or Craigslist. The Better Business Bureau recommends beginning your budget by listing your income. This will help you set spending limits.
Write down those expenses you have to make each month that will be the same amount. This might include car payments, health insurance, and mortgage or rent. If you can project a monthly average for recurring expenses such as groceries or electricity, include those here. If you have semiannual or quarterly bills, such as insurance premiums, you can take the total amount for the year, divide it by 12, and place that number as a fixed expense each month.
Variable expenses are those that will be different amounts each month, or that occur on a non-regular basis. This might include dining out, gas, utilities or credit card payments. If you want a real-time budget to show you how much you will need each month, put a non-regular expense, such as a semiannual car insurance premium, in the month when you will need to pay it. Doing this will help prevent surprises and income shortfalls during a particular month.
If you want to put aside money for your retirement, an emergency fund or a college fund, or if you're saving for a purchase such as a family vacation or new car, budget a set amount each month and record that as an expense. This is money you may be able to use to help make up for a monthly shortfall.
Set up your budget using columns across and rows down. List your income and expenses down the side of your first column. List the months of the year across the top of the page. Enter your projected income and expenses across from your list, placing the amounts you anticipate for each month in the boxes under each month. If you are not projecting expenses, but tracking them, enter them as they occur. Add total and average columns at the end of the document, to the side and below, if you want to see your average or total monthly and annual spending.
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.