Published: June 3, 2020

Creating and maintaining a budget is a great way to help stay organized, pay bills on time and save for unexpected costs. Here are five steps to making a budget.

Person typing on computer, with pen and glasses nearbyStart with your income

The first step to creating a budget is with your total monthly income, after taxes and other deductions. If you receive tips or commission and your paychecks aren’t consistent, base your income on your lowest paycheck so that any extra money that comes can be used for other things, such as increasing your savings or paying off credit card or other debt.

If you don’t have income right now but have an emergency savings account you can draw from, you can create a monthly allowance based on your expenses.

Save what you can

Create a section in your budget for savings, and set an ideal amount that you can reserve for savings each month. Your savings will help if there’s an emergency or if one or more of your bills increase unexpectedly. If you receive more tips or commission than usual, save that for future months when you might have more expenses.

Think about your expenses

Make a list of all of your expenses to better understand where your money is going. This could include things like:

  • Housing: rent/mortgage and utilities
  • Phone and internet
  • Food: groceries and dining out
  • Personal care: clothes, medical care, toiletries, hair cuts, etc.
  • Insurance: health insurance, car insurance, renter’s insurance, etc.
  • Entertainment: streaming services, apps, social events, gifts and travel
  • Loans: personal and student
  • Transportation: gas, car payments, public transportation

Categorize your spending and include the amount you need each month to cover all of your costs.

Track your spending

Find a way to track your spending that works best for you. This can be done with a spreadsheet, notebook/budget journal or financial app.

Mint is a free app that links to your financial accounts to help manage your budget and track spending. After creating your budget in Mint, the app updates your budget based on your spending. It will also send notifications if you are overspending or have a bill due.

Review your budget monthly

Look over your budget at the end of each month and see where you can make adjustments. For example, if you consistently have money leftover in your food category, consider allocating more into your savings instead. If you find yourself overspending in your food category, try these tips to save money on groceries.