Before you get started, there are a few basics to creating a budget, or spending plan, that should not be overlooked:

  1. Track your expenses/ Collect your monthly bills first.
  2. Prioritize your spending habits: needs > wants.
  3. Your income must exceed your expenses.
  4. Have an emergency fund for unexpected costs that may arise.

Usually, having budget can relieve a lot of stress just by knowing how much you have to work with and where your money must go over the course of the week, month, semester or year.

Budgeting Style...What’s YOURS?

The word “budget” is often associated with punishment and restrictions for some reason. The reality is… budgeting is more a balancing game of challenge, discipline and compromise. Much in the same way athletes, dancers and ultimate fighters develop and adapt styles to create their own, unique way to play the game, dance to the tune or take down their opponent, you can adapt different methods of budgeting to create your own STYLE. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Old Skool – Pen and Paper Budgets

Some people like to create their budgets and track their expenses the old fashioned way – with pen and paper. Here are some example budget templates that you can use to get you started.

SMMC Budget Worksheet
Financial Wellness Expense Tracking Sheet
Dollar Times Free Printable Budget Sheet Downloads

Computer-Based – EXCEL in Your Spending Plan

PC? Mac? Linux? – Whatever system you run, there are plenty of ways to plan your spending using your computer.  Just make sure to back up your data if you intend to use a similar budget every month.

Financial Wellness “Making it on a College Budget” Excel Worksheet
University of Illinois SMMC/Public Engagement Budget Builder

Techies On the Go! - Mobile Phone Apps

Are you someone who likes to stay in tune with the latest technology while on the go? If so, keep your budget "handy" with these mobile apps for your smart phone! (Note: They also make it easier to compare your tracked expenses to your budget.)

Mint.com – for iPhone and Android AND online
10 Personal Finance Apps from PC Mag

Watch and Learn

For those who like to learn from YouTube, check out these videos below to see some unique budgeting styles in action!  Also, don’t forget to check out the SMMC YouTube Channel!

How to Create a Budget
How to Make a Shoe Box Budget
How to Start a Personal Budget

Face to Face

Still confused on how to get started?  Prefer to speak with someone one on one?  We have the perfect solution for you!  Make an appointment with a money management mentor who can assist you in person!  Just send an email to studentmoney@uillinois.edu and we will contact you to set up your budgeting appointment!  

If you're on the Urbana campus, you can always drop in to see the Financial Wellness Peer Educators at the ARC during office hours too!