A Beginner's Guide to Making a Budget (for People Who Can't Stick to One)


There are a few things in life we wish came with a template. One of them is budgeting. We know that managing money should be tailored and individual, but drafting a financial plan from scratch can be a daunting task. If you've never made a budget before or simply can't stick to one, you're not alone. According to a Gallup poll, two in three Americans don't have a detailed household budget.

If you've been putting off this crucial task, now's the time to quit procrastinating and start mapping out your financial future. It's not as intimidating as it seems: We've created a simple weekly budget spreadsheet for you to fill out your personal details. Just save the template, customize the categories, and stick to the 50/30/20 rule. Yes, it's that easy. Take control of your finances with one easy-to-use budget template.

Step One: Save the Template

If you find yourself staring at a blank spreadsheet wondering how to get started, don't worry. We've done the hard part for you and created a simple starter budget: Think of it as a basic framework to customize to your spending and saving needs.

Copy and paste the contents into your own spreadsheet and review the expense categories. Customize these expenses by adding other categories, such as subscription services (Netflix, Amazon, etc.) and debt repayments.

Access the budget template or pin the graphic below.

Design by Stephanie DeAngelis

Step Two: Use the 50/30/20 Rule

Deciding how to allocate your money can seem like the most confusing part of the budgeting process. Knowing how much you should be saving or putting toward personal expenses doesn't always feel cut-and-dried, so if you're unsure, try the 50/30/20 rule.

Put simply, the budgeting rule suggests that 50% of your income should be allocated to essential expenses such as rent, transportation, and utilities; 30% should go toward personal expenses such as a Netflix account or clothes shopping, and 20% should be transferred into a savings account or used to pay down debt. There's no "one size fits all" when it comes to budgeting, so use this as a guide and adjust it to suit your lifestyle and savings goals.

Step Three: Set a Review Reminder

This final step is crucial. It doesn't matter if you've drafted an ironclad budget—it's pointless if you forget to input data and review your progress. Set yourself a calendar reminder on Sunday night and take 15 minutes to review your expenses from the past week. Ask yourself: Where did you exceed the budget? Why did that happen? What could you do next week to avoid the same mistake?

The key to managing your money isn't to aim for perfection—it's about consistency. There will be weeks where you bust your budget and weeks when you hit the target. Either way, the most important part is that you're completely aware of where your money is going.

Now, pop that bottle of bubbly—your first budget is done!

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Article Sources
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  1. One in Three Americans Prepare a Detailed Household Budget. Gallup. June 3, 2013.

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