Learn to Budget

Unless you have parents that just hand you money every time you need something (and even if you do), you need to have a saving and spending plan or, as it’s more often called, a budget.

Make your own budget worksheet by using our budget worksheet form. Think of your budget in terms of two things: money and time. Money is divided into its own two categories: Income and Expenses.

Follow these steps to make your budget worksheet:

1.a. List your income in a vertical column down the left side of the page. Think of all the sources of income (including paychecks and interest) that you receive. Also, consider how often this income becomes available to you. For example, are you paid weekly or every other week?

b. List your expenses below your income in that same column. Begin with major expenses such as a food (including school lunches), clothing, and entertainment.

2. List the related timeframes in a row across the top of the page. For instance, does the expense or income occur weekly, per paycheck, monthly, quarterly, or yearly? Is the expense tax-deductible (such as money that you donate to charity)? If so, add a heading for this in your horizontal row.

When you are finished you should have the beginning of a grid or chart. Use this as a worksheet to help you categorize and plan. When you first start using your budget worksheet, you might find you'll change it often. That’s good! Your worksheet should be a working document.

3. Add anticipated expenses to your “skeleton” worksheet. Are you planning to go to college? This will require that you spend a lot of money. Hint: Anticipate that you will have to spend more than you’d prefer, and budget accordingly. Better to be prepared than shocked.

You can also consider anticipated sources of income, such as the yearly birthday check from your Aunt Mary. Be careful; though; don’t spend the money before you have it!

4. Don’t forget the “small stuff”! Do you buy soda pop, eat lunch out, or buy snacks from the vending machine? If so, keep track of how often you do—and how much you spend. All of these purchases add up throughout the week, the month, and the year. So budget for these, or do without!

Remember: Use your budget as a tool to help you achieve your goals. Once you set up your categories and make it a point to record the appropriate dollar amounts, you’ll see how easy it is to continue recording your income and expenses.