The biggest complaint I hear from those who are struggling financially is that they don’t have enough money.
When you challenge that, though, something else emerges. It’s not that they don’t have enough money, it’s that they don’t know where their money goes. They look at how much money they have coming in every month and are flabbergasted. What happens to it all?
That’s an excellent question, and it can’t be answered without a budget!
An awful lot of people say they want to get their finances in order but cringe when they hear that “b” word. However, if you want to take control of your money, there are two very important things you need to do:
- Make a plan for your money (a budget)
- Track your progress relative to that plan
If you need step-by-step help with that, check out our complete guide on how to create a personal budget that actually works. On the other hand, if you’re ready to give it a go, we’ve put together this list of budget templates that can help you get started right away!
What Are Budget Templates and How Do They Work?
Budget templates are tools for planning and tracking how you spend your money. Most of them include:
- Spending categories
- A plan for how you’ll spend your money (your budget)
- A place to record how you actually spent your money
- A place to record the difference between the two
In a nutshell, budget templates help you define a plan for your money and track your progress relative to that plan.
They can be as simple or sophisticated as you like. The original budget template is a good old-fashioned pen and paper. While it might not look pretty or do anything fancy, it gets the job done.
If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, though, something from our list is bound to fit the bill. I’ve rounded up 12 budget templates that will help make this budgeting thing a breeze.
Spreadsheet Budget Templates
You can build your own budgeting spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel or Google Docs, but if setting up formulas and formatting columns doesn’t sound like fun, you can use a ready-to-go budget template spreadsheet. Here are three good options.
1. Club Thrifty Monthly Budget Template
Shameless plug: Club Thrifty has its own free budgeting template! We created two linked Excel spreadsheets that make budgeting and tracking your spending a breeze.
True confession: This is the first budget template I ever consistently used. Before I’d even heard of budgeting apps, this baby got me started.
We’ve already set up the formulas, so all you need to do is plug in your own budgets and pop in your spending for each category. Excel calculates your spending totals and shows you where you stand relative to your budget. There’s no math involved whatsoever on your end.
I love that this template prompts you to budget for savings categories, including an emergency fund. Treating these things as expenses is the easiest way to make them a priority.
What are you waiting for? Get your free Club Thrifty budgeting template here.
2. Cash Flow Formula from Money Peach
The Cash Flow Formula from Money Peach helps you plan a zero-sum budget and track how your spending stacks up against your projections.
It’s available in three formats: a printable PDF, an interactive spreadsheet, and a larger version of the spreadsheet. The PDF is great if you want to print your budget template and stick it in a conspicuous place — like on your fridge.
I personally dig the large spreadsheet for two reasons. The first is a given: It saves you time by doing the math for you. Pop in your monthly income and your fixed expenses, and it tells you how much you have left to budget for variable expenses. That can be a real eye opener! After you enter those projections and input spending for each category, the balance tab keeps track of your position. If it’s positive, you have money to spend. If it’s zero, your budget is balanced. If it’s negative, you’ve overspent.
The second reason I like the expanded version of the Cash Flow Formula spreadsheet is that it includes extra blank categories just waiting for your customization. This setup is ideal for people who have a bunch of spending categories or for people who just prefer to track their spending at a very granular level.
Download your copy here.
3. Financial Snapshot and Budget From Budgets Are Sexy
This colorful spreadsheet is available for Excel or Google Docs. It’s great for couples because it includes fields for two paychecks. It includes space to plan savings, credit card payments, and several budgets. It also lets you track your net worth, which is the “financial snapshot” part of the name. Grab your copy here.
4. Google Sheets Monthly Budget
Google Sheets has a free monthly budget and expense tracker spreadsheet that’s ready for your personal touch.
It’s actually two sheets. The first is for planning your budget and the second is for tracking your spending. The budget sheet lists all the standard categories. Plus, you can input your own custom categories. You have one column for your planned spending and one for your actual spending. When you toggle to the expense sheet, you categorize your spending and the actual column in your budget updates. Super easy!
To find this free tool, hit up the template gallery in Google Sheets and look for “monthly budget” in the personal category (Google Sheets>Personal>Search “monthly budget”).
Best Digital Budget Templates
Everyone has their own budgeting style. Some prefer the simplicity of a pen and paper, some like a tried-and-true spreadsheet, and others opt for the convenience of an app. These apps include budgeting templates you can access anywhere, anytime.
1. Personal Capital
Personal Capital offers a robust (and free!) set of financial tracking tools. Included in that mix is a digital budget template.
Unlike with Excel spreadsheets or pen-and-paper budget templates, Personal Capital’s tool doesn’t require you to manually input your spending.
Instead, you create your spending categories, set your budget for each one, and link your bank accounts and credit cards. Personal Capital will automatically track your spending and show you where are you are relative to your budget. You can dig in here.
Tiller is sort of a hybrid product. It’s a financial tracking app that automatically imports and sorts your spending, populating a Google or Excel spreadsheet with that data. Some people consider it the best of both worlds — you get the familiarity and power of a spreadsheet, but none of the manual data entry drudgery.
Tiller costs $59 per year, but you can try it for free for 30 days.
YNAB is a paid budgeting app that offers a simple, automated budget template.
YNAB is great for people who use a zero-sum budget because it prompts you to give every dollar of income a job. When you treat all of your expenditures and savings as budgeted expenses, income minus expenses should equal zero. If you overspend in one category, YNAB prompts you to take the overage from another category so that your budget stays balanced.
You can manually enter your income and transactions if you want, but it’s easier to connect to your bank account and let YNAB import them.
YNAB is on the pricier side at $83.99 per year, but you can try it out with their free 34-day trial.
PocketSmith is another financial management app that helps you master budgeting and tracking your cash flow.
The two paid plans connect to your bank accounts, but the free version requires you to manually enter your transactions. All plans allow you to create custom budgets and see how your spending aligns with them.
PocketSmith’s claim to fame is its financial projection feature. Depending on your plan, it shows how your financial picture will look six months, 10 years, or 30 years in the future based on your budgets. We think that’s pretty neat! Get started here.
Best Printable Monthly Budget Templates
Apps are great, but if you like to keep things simple, you might prefer a printable budget template you can stick on the fridge.
1. Frugal Fanatic Budget Template
This free budget template from Frugal Fanatic gives you space to budget your income, the standard expenses, and three savings goals. Yes, it’s basic, but it might be just what you need to get started.
Tip: If the categories don’t quite fit your situation, you can always white one out and write in a new one. For example, internet didn’t make the list, but cable and phone did. I don’t have cable or a home phone, so I would change one of those to internet.
2. Printable Crush Budget Template
Printable Crush’s free budget template groups spending categories into sections, so everything related to housing, transportation, etc. is together.
It’s visually appealing, but one thing I don’t like is that there’s no space to record any difference between your budget and your spending. If you’re using a zero-sum budget, we hope that difference is zero, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
3. Federal Trade Commission Budget Worksheet
Well, this sounds official! The Federal Trade Commission provides a free two-page budget template on their website.
It’s very straightforward: Add up your income, tally your expenses by category, and do the math. If income minus expenses equals zero, your budget is balanced. If you have a surplus, you can save or spend. If you’re in the negative, you need to increase your income or reduce your expenses.
Note that this budget template doesn’t include a category for savings. If that’s one of your goals (and it should be), you’ll want to earmark some funds for savings.
4. Dave Ramsey Monthly Cash Flow Plan
You don’t need to subscribe to all of Dave Ramsey’s philosophies to appreciate this monthly cash-flow plan.
Like other monthly budget templates, this one gives you space to budget for each category and record your spending. It’s more comprehensive than most printable templates — there are 16 lines for debts, not including mortgage or rent!
It also includes a few Dave Ramsey touches. One is a suggestion for how much of your income should be spent on each category. For example, he recommends sending 5 to 15 percent of your take-home pay on food.
Besides some of the categories, you’ll see an envelope icon. That means it’s a good candidate for a cash envelope, if you’re using the envelope budgeting system. If you’re not, just ignore it.
There you have it – 12 budget templates that make money easy.
Which one is the best? As always, the best budgeting tool is the one you’ll use consistently. Just pick one and give it a go! If it doesn’t work for you, you can always change things up.
Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to find the best fit. The good news is that most of these monthly budget templates are free, and almost all of the paid apps all have free trials. So what are you waiting for? Grab one of these awesome budget templates and take control of your money today!
Do you have a favorite budget template or tool? Don’t keep it to yourself — let us know in the comments!