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Build a Budget

Determine exactly where you stand financially

Know where you are before deciding where you'd like to go

A budget is the first tool you’ll need to build your financial future. This guide will walk you through the process, one step at a time.

Just do it

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    Pencils, erasers, your caffeine of choice and recent account statements.

  • woman on computer


    Download and print our 2-page budget template.

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    Put it on paper

    Follow the guidelines below.

  1. At the top of the first page, calculate your income. Net Income = your earnings after income tax and withholdings are deducted. Add additional income sources such as child support or rental income.
  2. The rest of the first page is a list of basic monthly expenses. Enter your family’s estimated amount in the blue column. Use blank lines for additional essential expenses.
  3. Total the expenses on page 1 and enter that figure into the space labeled Total Essential Expenses.
  4. Page 2 is a list of less crucial expenses. Again, enter your family’s estimated amount in the blue column and use blank lines to add additional expenses.
  5. Total the expenses shown on page 2 and enter that figure into the space labeled Total Other Expenses.
  6. Transfer the Total Essential Expenses figure from page 1 to the space labeled Total Essential Expenses on page 2.
  7. Add Total Other Expenses and Total Essential Expenses. Enter the total in the space labeled Total Living Expenses
  8. Subtract Total Living Expenses from Total Net Income.
    • If the amount is positive, you are living within your means and should consider paying down debt or investing the ‘excess’ money in a savings account or CD.
    • If the amount is negative, you are spending more than your income.
      • Review each item in the expense list to determine which ones might be reduced.
      • Write the reductions in the peach column labeled Changes Needed.
      • Subtract the figure in the peach column from the figure in the blue column and enter the result in the purple Planned Budget column.


You’ve taken the first step towards better money management. Reward yourself with chocolate.

What’s next?

Now that you’ve built your budget, monitor your expenses for the next month. Make modifications as necessary.

Continue this process each month to remain aware of spending habits.

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