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 or opportunities.
  5. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals to guide your budget and better measure your progress.

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.

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.

Monthly Budget Worksheet
Weekly Expense Tracking Sheet

Mobile Apps

There are tons of smartphone apps to help you budget your money. No matter which one you choose to use, make sure that it uses bank-level security if you’re connecting your account and it has features that you care about (automatic categories, budget alerts, net worth calculation, etc.).


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 University of Illinois Extension Money Mentor!

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