You can also use the calculator in full screen.
- 1 Free budget calculator
- 2 Getting started with budgeting
- 3 Budgeting is about goals
- 4 Start with a percentage concept
- 5 Ignore advice that isn’t helpful for you
- 6 How do you make a budget spreadsheet?
- 7 How do you calculate a budget?
- 8 How do you map out a budget?
- 9 How do you start a budget if you’re already behind?
- 10 How can I stick to my budget?
Free budget calculator
This is a great place to get started visualizing and understanding your monthly budget. It isn’t important to make the most complete or the best budget possible the first time out. It’s critical to just get started.
Getting started with budgeting
We have a section on our budget templates page for getting started that can help you build up your confidence and skills, but if you do only one thing today make sure you punch in the numbers you do know and make a list of what you’re not sure about. It helps to have a tool like this calculator or a spreadsheet to handle the math, but you do need to make sure you’re keeping track of your expenses or your budget will be like a leaky boat: not very dependable.
Budgeting is about goals
Whether you’re budgeting for a family, for retirement, or just to start a positive habit you need to have some goals to make sure you keep at it. Is there a vacation or a purchase you want to begin saving for? Would you like to map out a way to buy a home with a comfortable downpayment? Budgeting can help you do that. It can help you learn a lot more about your finances and saving your hard-earned money.
Start with a percentage concept
I like the 50/30/20 budget if you need a starting point for how to divide your finances and you’re new to budgeting. 50% of your total budget (or thereabouts) should be devoted to needs like groceries, housing, utilities, insurance, transportation, etc. 30% of your total budget should be things you want like shopping, hobbies, restaurant dining, etc. 20% of your budget should be savings. This is a comfortable and reasonable place to start.
Ignore advice that isn’t helpful for you
It is easy to give advice about money and there is plenty to be had, but you can safely discard most of it. Keep the ideas and approaches that work for you. Life is a journey and money is not the end in itself. Neither is a budget. We don’t get up in the morning to grind on a budget spreadsheet…well most of us don’t. Find a method and approach that you enjoy and works for you.
How do you make a budget spreadsheet?
The easy way to create a spreadsheet would be to get started with one of our budget templates for whichever type of template you need. There are budget templates for monthly personal finances, weddings, students, zero-based, envelope, simplistic, etc.
Those templates are available for both Excel and Google Sheets.
You can also use a budget app like ours, Keepify, to jumpstart the process. It’s sharable, mobile first, and helps folks out that need to use an envelope style budget as well as people just looking to track a problem category or travel expenses together.
How do you calculate a budget?
You’ve come to the right page. You can use the widget above to enter your expenses and monthly after-tax income which will calculate your budget on the spot.
I like the 50/30/20 budget if you need a starting point for how to divide your finances and you’re new to budgeting. It’s a great starting point for organizing which categories should get what percentages of your budget.
Keepify, our budgeting app, starts with ten different categories or envelopes and breaks them out as follows.
|Savings||Investments, 401k, IRA, Roth IRA, educational expenses|
|Housing||Rent, mortgage, maintenance costs|
|Transportation||Fuel, vehicle payment, train ticket, muni/bus pass|
|Utilities||Phone, Internet, electricity, water, gas, trash, sewer|
|Medical/Health||Gym, doctor visits, medical bills, dental, vision|
|Insurance||Health insurance, life insurance, home insurance, car insurance, umbrella policy|
|Recreation||Hobbies, drinks, going out, movies|
|Clothing||Clothes, jackets, shoes|
|Personal||Toiletries, makeup, hair care, etc.|
|Travel||Travel and vacation expenses|
How do you map out a budget?
See the question above with a sample 50/30/20 breakdown and category explanation.
The important part, once you have a foundation like this, is to get actual past spending amounts or reasonable guesses to begin your budget. You can use past transactions in your checking account, past bills in your mail or email, and general estimates to get started.
All budgets are living things that adapt to changes. Maybe you overestimated your need for fuel, but would really like a new pair of jeans. That’s fine. Update the categories accordingly and rock’n roll.
The finest budgets are usually aged like wine. You learn what you spend in many categories by maintaining a budget over months or years. It gets easier to adjust and easier to anticipate budget items that are seasonal or hidden. You learn to budget early for Christmas spending and account for more fuel costs in the summer with your vacation looming and the pump prices climbing.
How do you start a budget if you’re already behind?
The basis for your budget can be pulled out of the answers to the two questions above. We also address this question on our budget templates page, but we want to offer something more here.
If you’re starting behind, the most important thing is to first start. The next most important thing you can get going is to collect an emergency fund of cash reserves. How much you need varies a little, but $1000 is a great rule of thumb if you’re starting from nothing. That should be enough money to insulate you from an unexpected car repair or doctor visit.
The first time you have need of an emergency fund and you actually have the funds, you’ll be struck with how much peace of mind it adds to your life. As you shed debts and get your budget under control you’ll want to expand the fund to three to six months of expenses.
How can I stick to my budget?
Our best suggestion is to share your budget. You can do that with a Google Sheet — even on your phones with the mobile app. We think our budgeting app, Keepify, makes sharing even easier and more mobile friendly.
Keepify also lets you share a read-only version of your budget or only certain categories which helps single folks get the same benefit of accountability as couples often have.
The next best way I’ve found to stick to a budget is to have goals you want to meet. It might be getting rid of debt, taking an awesome trip, buying a special gift, or saving a little more for retirement but tangible goals that you can see make a big difference.
Lastly, try using cash or an envelope system style budget. You can do this in Google Sheets or Keepify by entering each transaction as you make it. There are studies that show you spend 20% less when you spend cash. I think this is because you have to see and feel the dollars in each transaction. Entering those transactions into your budget has much the same impact as cash in my experience.