How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (2024)

Are you ready to take control of your money by creating a monthly budget? If so, you’ve come to the right place! Budgeting sounds daunting, but once you get the hang of it, it’s absolutely life-changing. Budgeting will help you pay off debt, save more, reach your financial goals faster, and feel more organized. Today, I’m going to teach you how to make a monthly budget that you can use for the rest of your life.

I also have a free excel template you can download to plug your new budget into!

In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to do spreadsheet budgeting on Excel or Google Sheets. I like this method better than pen and paper because it’s fast, accurate, and easy to edit on-the-go.

How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (1)

Before I dive into teaching you how to make a budget, I recommend you download my FREE Digital Budgeting Spreadsheet. Once you have it downloaded on Excel or Google Sheets, read through these instructions and you’ll be able to build your budget on the spreadsheet as you go!

This is the exact budgeting method and spreadsheet we used to pay of $71k of debt in less than 3 years on a single income. It was a wild ride, but it was so worth it! For us, budgeting has been absolutely life-changing! We still use it to this day to help us plan our money, save more, and live within our means.

Related reading: How We Paid Off $71k of Debt in Less Than 3 Years on a Single Income

Ready? Let’s dive in!


Step 1- Understand What a Zero-based Budget is

You are going to be creating a zero-based budget.

A zero-based budget means that you make a plan forevery single dollarthat you earn, down to the penny, before the month starts. Zero dollars will be left unbudgeted!

Typically, you might plan out all your expenses and then have some money leftover. Don’t leave that money unbudgeted. Plan for it to go to savings or toward your debt, and then you’ll have a zero-based budget!Anyoutgoing money is considered an expense, even extra debt payments or savings.

To summarize:


Remember, this does not mean you are spending all your money. We are simply including all outgoing money (bills, spending, savings, extra debt payments, etc.) in our expenses so that every single dollar that comes in, goes out and right where it belongs instead of sitting in your bank account tempting you to spend it!

Step 2- Gather Your Budgeting Materials

Now, let’s gather the materials we will need in order to budget propoerly.

Materials You Will Need to Make Your Budget:

1. Excel or Google Sheets Budget Template (Download my FREE Digital Budgeting Spreadsheet)

How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (2)

2. Spending Tracker

You should use a spending tracker to keep track of each of your transactions during the month. It’s very important to track every transaction!

I personally use the paid app Every Dollar (on my 3rd year). The app costs me $10 a month but it’s worth every penny! It’s very intuitive. It connects to my bank accounts and every time I spend or earn money, a bubble pops up in my app which I can then sort into its proper budget category. This is how I keep track of each of my transactions each month. There is a free version too that many people love! It has the same interface, it just doesn’t connect to your bank accounts and pull in transactions automatically.

How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (3)
How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (4)

You can also track your spending on the free Mint app, on a piece of paper, or do it directly on your budget spreadsheet in the bottom lines I’ve provided on the FREE Digital Budgeting Spreadsheet).

How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (5)

All of them work. Find the one that works best for you!

3. Bank records from last 3 months (printed out, recommended)

Make sure you print out every single record from the last 3 months, including all credit card statements, checking account statements, etc. Print everything that has any record of your money that came in our went out.

4. Calculator (I use my phone)

5. Pen and paper (I use a cheap $.98 notebook)

Step 3- Setting up Your Budget

Next, I am going to show you how to set up your budget. Feel free to skip to my video tutorial if you are a visual person. Once you’ve watched it, come back here and finish reading so you don’t miss any important details!

Budget Out Each Paycheck Individually

This is the best way to budget because you will be determining what the dollars from each paycheck areactually and literallygoing to be paying for. It is so much easier to keep track of your dollars when you think of it this way! You are basically going to budget by paycheck, or do paycheck budgeting.

Follow these steps for each paycheck.

On your digital budgeting spreadsheet, for each paycheck, fill out the following:

1. Write in Your Income.Using your Budget Spreadsheet, write down yourexpected incomeunder the “income” section. List each paycheck out separately in the sections provided.

2. Create Categories.Moving down to the expenses section, write down all thecategoriesyou typically spend money in. Be specific here. Vague categories make your spending harder to track. Include categories for all bills, spending, debt payments, and savings. See below for common budget categories.

3. Estimate Your Expenses.Now that you have categories, list out the amount youexpectto spend ineach category in the “budgeted” column. Keep reading for how to determine how much to plan in each category.

Related reading: How to Budget Your Irregular Income

Common Budget Categories:

Auto Insurance
Health Insurance
Life Insurance
Other Insurance
Mobile Phone Bill

Personal Allowance
Date Night

Write in a category for any expense unique to the month you are currently budgeting for that doesn’t tend to repeat.

Mom’s Birthday Gift
Johnny’s School Supplies
Tree Trimming
New Office Chair

Step 4- Determine How Much to Budget in Each Category

Hopefully you printed out yourlast3 monthsworth of bank statements. Go through every single transaction and label it with the budget category it falls into. Then, add up the total of each category and divide it by three to get theaverage spent in each categoryover the last three months.


$2475 spent on groceries the last 3 months

$2475 ÷ 3 months = $825/month spent on groceries

Next,determine where you need to cut back. If you are struggling to make ends meet or spending more than you make every month, look at the categories you feel are the least essential and where your spending is the least controlled.

Typically, you’ll be able to make big cuts in your restaurant, personal spending, groceries, entertainment, and miscellaneous categories.Try cutting back at least 10%in each one and setting that as your new budget. Don’t be afraid to cut back more if you know you’re spending way too much.


We would cut the $825/mo we have been spending on groceries back by 10% for a new grocery budget of $740/mo.

Now you have a budget set up with all the categories you’ll need, and you’ve made a plan to cut back a bit going forward! Great job.

Sample Budget

Let’s take a look at a sample budget and put all of this information into practice. Scan through these numbers and then we’ll break them down!

How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (6)

Next, let’s break this down to make sure we really understand what we’re looking at.

How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (7)

Step 5- Balance Your Budget Each Week to Stay on Track

It’s important to balance your budget regularly to make sure your budget is on track.

What is Balancing the Budget?

Balancing the budget means making sure the money you actually have remaining (your bank balance) matches what you think you have (what your budget says you should have). In order to do this, you need to update your budget with all of your transactions. Then, they should match.

Note: If you have any pending transactions, they may not match 100%. You will have to do some math to figure out what your bank balance would be after all the pending transactions go through.

How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (8)

How to Balance Your Budget:

Once you get paid and begin to spend money during the month, use your spending tracker to keep track of each transaction, both incoming and outgoing.

To balance your budget, pull up all your materials and start filling out your Budget Spreadsheet’s “spent” column with how much you’ve spentup until that point. Your spending tracker will itemize each purchase you’ve made in each category. Your Budget Spreadsheet will only show the totals.

Now you can see how much of your money you’ve spent!

How Often to Balance Your Budget

You should balance your budget very regularly. I do it weekly, and I recommend you do it weekly too. If you go much longer than that, you may find it harder to balance because there will be more transactions to muddle it. To put it simply, wait too long and it gets messy!

Why You Should Always Balance the Budget the Day Before Payday

Make sure you always balance the budget the day before you get paid again. Zero out your account by sending any unspent money toward your main goal, e.g. debt payoff or savings. Make sure your bank account doesn’t actually hit $0, though. Leave a buffer in there or wait to actually move the money until after you’ve gotten paid again.

Will you need that money to cover your expenses for the next pay period? If so, let the leftover money roll over into the next pay period to cover your expenses. Mark the leftover money as income on your budget for the next payperiod so that your master budget will match your bank account. Only let it roll over to the next pay period if you know you’re going to need it for an upcoming expense.

If this seems like a lot at first, you aren’t alone. Budgeting takes a little practice to figure out.Watch the tutorial below to see all of this in action.

How to Make a Budget on Excel or Google Sheets: Video Tutorial

And that’s it!

I hope you have found this tutorial on how to make a budget helpful and that you’ve downloaded my free budget template on Excel or Google Sheets. It’s a fan favorite that my readers rave about and love and I really enjoy seeing people use it!

If you don’t already, make sure you follow me on Instagram at @easy_budget! I have a tribe of over 93k followers and share tips, inspiration, and education daily.

Do you still have questions about getting a budget started? Please reach out to me in the comments section below!

How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (9)

Did you enjoy this post? Save it to Pinterest for later!

How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (10)
How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (11)

I am a financial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in budgeting and personal finance. I've successfully helped individuals and families manage their finances, pay off debt, and achieve their financial goals. My expertise is backed by practical results, such as paying off $71k of debt in less than 3 years on a single income, using the exact budgeting method and spreadsheet I'll be discussing here.

Now, let's delve into the concepts used in the article about creating a monthly budget:

  1. Zero-based Budget:

    • A zero-based budget involves planning for every single dollar earned, down to the penny, before the month starts. The goal is to have no money left unbudgeted.
    • All outgoing money, including bills, spending, savings, and extra debt payments, is considered an expense in this budgeting method.
    • The formula is: INCOME – EXPENSES = $0
  2. Budgeting Materials:

    • The article suggests using Excel or Google Sheets along with a digital budgeting spreadsheet. A free template is provided for download.
    • A spending tracker is recommended to track every transaction during the month.
    • Bank records from the last 3 months are essential for reviewing past transactions.
    • A calculator, pen, and paper are also mentioned as tools for the budgeting process.
  3. Setting up Your Budget:

    • The article recommends budgeting each paycheck individually for better tracking.
    • Steps involve writing down expected income, creating specific categories for expenses, and estimating expenses for each category.
  4. Determining How Much to Budget:

    • Analyzing the last 3 months' bank statements to categorize and total expenses.
    • Calculating the average spent in each category over the last three months.
    • Identifying areas to cut back if necessary.
  5. Balancing Your Budget:

    • Regularly balancing the budget by updating it with all transactions, both incoming and outgoing.
    • Balancing should be done weekly to avoid complications with a large number of transactions.
    • The importance of balancing the budget the day before payday is highlighted.
  6. Video Tutorial:

    • The article includes a video tutorial on how to make a budget using Excel or Google Sheets.

By following these steps and principles, individuals can create an effective monthly budget, track their spending, and work towards financial goals. If you have any questions or need further clarification, feel free to ask.

How to Make a Budget: Step-by-Step Guide + FREE Excel Template! - Easy Budget (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Margart Wisoky

Last Updated:

Views: 6057

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Margart Wisoky

Birthday: 1993-05-13

Address: 2113 Abernathy Knoll, New Tamerafurt, CT 66893-2169

Phone: +25815234346805

Job: Central Developer

Hobby: Machining, Pottery, Rafting, Cosplaying, Jogging, Taekwondo, Scouting

Introduction: My name is Margart Wisoky, I am a gorgeous, shiny, successful, beautiful, adventurous, excited, pleasant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.