When it comes to making a personal budget, you have a range of options, from a pen and paper and a calculator to free budget worksheets that you can find online. Typically, budget worksheets are spreadsheet templates with spaces for income and expenses; they are a good middle ground for those who don't wish to rely exclusively on their own math skills, yet don't want to trust all their household finances to complex software. If budget worksheets sound like an option you might be interested in, read on.
The Internet offers a number of different free budget worksheet or spreadsheet templates. You may be able to find templates for download from the websites of office software manufacturers, such as Open Office or Microsoft. A number of personal finance websites or personal finance bloggers also make worksheets available for free download.
Although you can most likely customize a budget worksheet as much as you like once you download it, you should look for a few key items. The worksheet should have space for you to record your monthly income if you're using it as a personal budget. It should also include standard expenses, such as housing, groceries, utilities and transportation. Ideally, the worksheet will let you track expenses and income from month to month and see how you stand at the end of the year.
The worksheet should also work on the type of software you have. For example, most worksheets are in spreadsheet format. While many people have some sort of spreadsheet software, such as Excel, you may not. You can download some types of spreadsheet software for free, such as Open Office or use a cloud-based program like Google Docs.
Everyone has different budgeting needs. You may be on a budget because you're noticing a shortfall between income and expenses each month and want to see where you are spending too much money. You may be trying to save for a dream vacation or new car. Or you may need to plan a budget for an event, such as a wedding. Make sure the worksheet does what you need it to before deciding to stick with it. For example, a worksheet that doesn't let you clearly see difference between income and expenses or that doesn't clearly delineate expenses won't help you see where you're overspending. If you're simply budgeting for an event, you won't really need to track your income but will need to compare actual expenses to estimated ones.
Once you've downloaded a budget worksheet that seems ideal, start personalizing it. Fill in your estimated income and expenses for each month and fill in any actual numbers you have. Save the worksheet on your computer, giving it a personal name such as "Budget 2011" or "Family budget." If you'd rather write the numbers in as they occur, print out a copy of the worksheet and keep it near where you store receipts. If you feel really organized, you can fold up the print-out and take it along with you when you go shopping, so that you always have a reminder of your budget.