Putting together a basic budget probably ranks among American's least favorite activities. Money is something we like to spend, not something we're comfortable talking about!  Let's face it, though - if you're interested in building your financial future, a budget is the first tool you're going to use.  You need to know where you are before you can determine where you'd like to go.

Here's what you'll need to get started. Print our  budget template, and gather pencils, erasers, paycheck stubs and recent ATFCU statements. Then follow the guidelines below.

  1. At the top of the first page, calculate your Monthly Gross and Net Income. Your Net Income is your income after income taxes and other withholdings are deducted. Add additional sources of income such as child support or rental income.
  2. The first page is a list of Essential Monthly Expenses. Fill in the estimated dollar account in the blue column labeled Current Spending. Use the blank lines to describe additional expenses that are not already on the list.
  3. Add the expenses on page 1 and enter the figure into the space at the bottom of the page labeled Total Essential Expenses.
  4. The second page contains Other Monthly Expenses.  As on page 1, fill in the estimated dollar account in the blue column labeled Current Spending. Use the blank lines to describe additional expenses that are not already on the list.
  5. Add the expenses shown on page 2 and enter the figure into the space at the bottom of the page labeled Total Other Expenses
  6. Transfer the expense figure from page 1 to the space labeled Total Essential Expenses
  7. Total the two expense figures and enter it in the space labeled Total Living Expenses
  8. Now, subtract your Total Living Expenses from your Total Net Income
    • If the amount is positive, you are living within your means and should consider investing the 'excess' money in a savings account, CD, or paying down debt.
    • If the amount is negative, you are spending more than your income allows. Review each item in the expense list and see which ones might be reduced. Even small changes will add up over time. Write the reductions in the peach column labeled Changes Needed.
    • Write the new values for your monthly expenses in the purple Planned Budget column.

Your Planned Budget represents your goals for next month. Monitor your expenses and at the end of the month compare them with your budget. Make modifications as necessary.

Congratulations on taking your first step to better money management!