A budget is a manageable plan that helps you decide how your money is saved or spent each month. One way to kick off budget planning is by using a budget calculator to help allocate money for your unique needs.
How to budget money
Whether you’re looking to manage your monthly expenses, or plan on making a big purchase, setting up a budget is an important part of your financial health. Knowing where to allocate your money can give you greater control over your finances. Budgeting is about taking control of your money and making a plan to live within your means. It can help you build better habits, understand your spending and reach your goals.
Generally, budgeting starts with tracking your expenses, managing your debt and building a safety net fund. The key to budgeting is properly allocating your funds and consistently devoting a portion of your paycheck towards your savings when possible. Four steps to help you budget include:
- Assess your situation. Make a list of money coming in and money going out in a given month. You’ll want to take a look at your after-tax income to get an accurate view of your situation.
- Prioritize your spending. Determine your needs and wants so you can budget accordingly.
- Create a budget. Monitor your regular expenses and track your monthly spending with a budget worksheet (PDF). An ideal budget should cover all your needs, some of your wants and savings for emergencies and the future.
- Stay on track. Keep tabs on your spending and adjust your budget as your goals change. Your income, expenses and priorities may change over time, so you’ll need to adjust your budgeting techniques accordingly.
Common budget categories to consider
Some major expense categories that you may want to consider including in your budget are:
Whether you’re paying rent or a mortgage, housing is a consistent expense and basic need. If you’re a homeowner, your housing costs may include not only your mortgage but a budget for home repairs too.
Food and groceries
Food budgeting and planning can be one of the categories that can be the trickiest to manage and may take time to find the ideal figure. Some people include household supplies in this category like toothpaste, paper products and more.
Your monthly utility costs may be different each month depending on your usage. For example, your water and electricity might not always be the same depending on the season. It’s helpful to list them on your budgeting plan and assume that they’ll be higher during the summer and winter, that way you’ll be prepared for those extreme weather months.
This category depends on if and how you commute on a day-to-day basis. If you have a car, you’ll want to include the amount spent on your auto loan payment, if applicable, gas and maintenance costs like oil changes, tires and other fixes. On the other hand, public transportation often has a monthly fee, which can be looped into this category as well.
Insurance policies like medical, auto, life insurance and others typically generate a monthly bill. Depending on your provider, you may be able to bundle several types of insurance as a way to save.
Once all of your basic needs are covered, you’ll want to decide how much money you want to put towards your savings. Having money put aside for your savings and emergencies may be helpful if you have unexpected expenses to take care of.
While a miscellaneous category isn’t necessary, it can give you some room in your budget to allocate your funds to other expenses, like travel, entertainment, gifts and more. This miscellaneous category acts as a buffer from having to deduct from the other categories.
Building a monthly budget planner
Building a monthly budget planner and using apps can help you keep your finances on track. A good tool to use is Budget, a feature in the Chase Mobile® app and on chase.com. Budget helps you go beyond just building a monthly budget planner and hoping to stay on track every month. With this feature, you can set your budget, track your spending and adjust it day-to-day. With Budget you can:
- Calculate your flexible budget (the amount you have to spend or save)
- Track your individual debit and credit card transactions automatically
- Identify money left over from the flexible budget that you may be able to save
How a monthly budget calculator can help
A budget calculator can help those struggling with excess spending or debt, or those who just need some help allocating their funds. This can be a valuable financial tool to help create a working household budget, and they’re usually found online. It reevaluates the components of your budget goals and highlights which areas need improvement.
Using a budget calculator can help you understand the effect of cutting back on your spending. You can customize each category by entering your own expenses and see the upside of saving more and spending less when using a calculator regularly. On the other hand, you may also be surprised if your spending habits are excessive compared to your income and personal savings. This may help you realize that you need to start taking more action to budget and save more money in the long run.
Building a budget can help you achieve long-term personal financial success and using an online budget calculator can help simplify that process. Doing so may also help you feel financially confident as you prepare for the future.