A budget, or spending plan, is a master plan for managing your family's money.  It guides how much money you/your family will:

  • Spend on fixed expenses such as housing, insurance, and debts
  • Spend for variable expenses such as food, clothing, and entertainment
  • Put into savings for emergencies, short-term goals and long-term goals

Budgeting is important because it helps control spending and helps plan to reach personal/family goals.

  1. First step, make a list of personal/family needs and goals.  Immediate needs are things you/your family can't do without such as food, clothing, housing, utilities, healthcare, and transportation. Goals should be SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely!  
  2. Next, take a look at your income and expenses. Figure out your family's total monthly income from all sources (i.e. salaries and wages, interest and dividends, child support or alimony, social security, etc.). Figure out your total monthly expenses by looking at past bills, receipts, etc. Track spending for a month to see where you actually spend your money. The longer you track it, the more accurate your results will be, helping to create a more solid budget.
  3. Pay Yourself First. Set up a separate account and put at least 10% of your income into savings or investing; ideally, set it up by allotment.  "The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining." John F. Kennedy
  4. Compare your expenses to your income. If income is greater than expenses, there is a surplus. If expenses are greater than income, there is a deficit. Use surplus income to set up an emergency fund.  An emergency fund should be enough to cover 3-8 months of expenses, depending on your family's situation. If expenses are greater than income, look at ways to reduce expenses or increase income.
  5. Revisit your budget often and make adjustments as necessary.  Most budgets take time and careful review. Stick with it and re-evaluate goals as needs change

Sample Financial Goal Worksheet               Sample Monthly Budget   

Sample Expense Tracker                           Sample Expense Tracker
(Simple, Spreadsheet)                               (Detailed, Hardcopy)

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, created the Money Matters website to help tackle some money issues head-on. Use it to find tips and resources on money matters

State-by-State tax information 

USDA Cost of Raising A Child Calculator 

Tax Withholdings Calculator 

Wedding Cost Estimator

Smart About Money - several free online courses. Learn at your own pace.


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