Information from the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

How To Build A Successful Budget

Steps to creating a budget and resources to help you along the way.

What's A Budget?

A game plan for telling your money what to do.

Why Is Budgeting Important?

It helps you take control of your money, avoid overspending, and allocate your money to things that matter to you.

Steps to Budgeting

  • Add Up Your Income
    Tally up your take-home income. If your earnings vary from month to month, use the numbers from a lower income month.
  • Track Your Spending for One Month
    You can typically review your transactions for the previous month via online banking. Sort your expenditures into categories to see where your money is going.
  • Identify Your Monthly Expenses
    Identify your monthly fixed expenses (rent, car payments, etc). Then identify your monthly variable expenses (entertainment, eating out, etc.)
  • Build Your Budget
    Taking your expenses and income, build your budget. Determine whether a spreadsheet, online tool such as mint.com, or app for your phone is best for you.
  • Look for Ways to Cut Expenses
    Look for expenses that can be scaled back to help you save more money.
  • Check In With Your Budget Every 3 Months
    Review you spending, income, and budget every 3 months. Pinpoint problems and make adjustments as necessary.

Helpful Budgeting Worksheets

Monthly Budget Worksheet
Good worksheet from the Federal Trade Commission to help you develop a monthly spending plan.

Monthly Income Worksheet
Use this worksheet to calculate your monthly income. Look at all of the money you have incoming each month (jobs, child support, part time jobs, dividends, etc)

Monthly Expenses Worksheet
Review your past few bank statements and determine your monthly fixed (cable bill), variable (electricity bill), and discretionary (clothing) expenses.

Net Income Worksheet
Calculate your net income: your monthly income minus your total expenses.

Debt Identification Worksheet
If you have debts that you need to pay down, identify those and develop a plan for paying those down.

Debt Reduction Plan Worksheet
Once your debts have been identified, use this worksheet to develop a plan to reduce them.

Helpful Budgeting Calculators

Budget Calculator
Calculator from Clearpoint Credit Counseling.

Retirement Ballpark E$timate
This online calculator from the American Savings Education Counsel can help you get started with understanding your retirement needs.

Net Worth Calculator
Net worth calculator from Clearpoint Credit Counseling.

Payroll Deduction Calculator
This calculator from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants will help you determine the impact of changing your payroll deductions.

Emergency Savings Calculator
This calculator from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants will help you determine your emergency savings needs.

Helpful Resources and Websites

Budgeting Apps
Apps to help you create a budget.

Meal Planning, Shopping, and Budgeting
Information from the United States Department of Agriculture

Living On A Budget - Tips and Resources
Articles and resources from AARP.

66 Ways to Save Money
Helpful information from the Consumer Literacy Consortium.