First things first, I am not a professional finance guru. I am merely a woman that has spent her nearly 26 years on Earth trying her best to grow her financial future.
Secondly, this in itself is not a budget. Can it be used as a reference for creating a budget? Absolutely! However, the purpose of this article is to walk you through some of the key components of a financial sheet for beginners that are interested in tracking their income, their bills, and other expenses over time.
This data can be used to then decide how you want to budget your income moving forward or where you want to try to cut back on expenses. We’ll get into that later, though.
The financial sheet that I will be referencing and linking below for you all to give a try is one I created myself. The reason I decided to make my own financial sheet is because the templates weren’t working for me. A lot of them had aspects of finance that didn’t relate to my life and deleting them messed up the whole sheet’s layout and/or formula.
So, I decided that the best way to go about it would be to create a sheet that covered the expenses I do have, ranging from monthly bills to savings goals.
I encourage you to try out the template included and make any adjustments suitable to your own income and expenses, as necessary!
In the meantime, let’s go through the sections included in this financial sheet. Each of the images below come from the sample template provided. Any information inputted are simply there for reference and are meant to be deleted upon use yourself!
This is probably the easiest tab to fill out to get started.
We all get paid in different intervals. I get paid weekly and biweekly, depending on which job we’re talking about. My boyfriend gets paid monthly. What this means is that how we track our income and allot money to necessary expenses differs. Tracking your income may seem unnecessary if you’re a salaried employee, as you expect the same amount each paycheck. However, I still recommend it as a reference for seeing where the money you’ve received each week, bi-weekly, or monthly goes as you continue filling out your finance sheet.
Plus, don’t forget about extra income! I like to track any tax refunds I receive, money back from school if appropriate, and holiday/birthday cash received. Every penny counts!
The bills tab focuses on the necessary monthly payments: rent, utilities, car payments, etc. A lot of these payments may be the same monthly, or at whichever interval you’re required to pay them, but there are some fluctuations. This is a helpful way to track the changes in your electric bill, water bill, or cable bill. Obviously, there will be spikes in gas or electric bills in the winter, but it’s still necessary to keep an eye on for overall financial health. This way, over many months and years of tracking your finances, you know when to expect any spikes or changes.
Another key component under the bills tab is unexpected payments. Ideally, you’ll never have to use it Sometimes, though, things arise that we didn’t anticipate. You may expect to spend your normal amount in the month and suddenly find yourself facing a medical bill or car expense you didn’t expense. Factor that into your bills, as it is still being taken out of your income and/or savings.
I truly believe that this section of the finance sheet is one of the most important to keep track of. We live in a world where it is way too easy to just “throw it on a card” and worry about paying it later. Ever since I began tracking all of my credit card statement balances and payments made, I have lowered my credit card usage drastically. I found myself making payments that totaled nearly what I made in that entire month – and I don’t even use my credit cards to pay any necessary bills! Now, I know that’s not the case for everyone since a lot of people use their cards to pay certain bills. I still recommend taking a look at how much you’re paying each month just in credit card payments – especially if you don’t pay it off fully, since interest charges can occur and add to the balance you’re trying to pay off.
I cannot stress enough how crucial this section of your finance sheet is. I know you’ve heard it before, especially if you’re familiar with Better Financial Inspiration articles, that keeping an emergency fund is crucial. Tracking your savings and setting monthly savings goals is a simple and effective way to help build that fund, as well as any other savings account you wish to have.
Start simply. Write out how much you have saved up so far and set a realistic goal for yourself. Then, at the end of each month, check in with how much is saved. I track my savings on the last day of every month when my interest payments are paid out. Once that total is calculated, I compare how much was saved (or not) to my goal and keep myself accountable for my monthly goal.
Some of you may choose to factor certain subscriptions or memberships into the bill category, which is perfectly acceptable if it is a service you deem absolutely necessary. This section focuses more on fees for things like Netflix, Hulu, wholesale clubs, or anything else that requires monthly or semi-regular payments to keep its service.
The reason I like to factor these into a finance sheet is for when using the file as a reference for a budget. If you find yourself needing to cut back on expenses, this is typically the first stop. You technically don’t need Netflix. So, if you find yourself looking to save anywhere from $108 to $150 in a year, maybe you can consider cutting out Netflix for a while.
As I mentioned before, this in itself is not a budget. It can be used as a reference when creating a budget to what typically needs to be allotted for certain payments to then see how much you have left over to use for other activities.
I’m not a professional, this is just a system that has worked really well for me. It is the bare bones of keeping yourself accountable and tracking your progress to a prosperous financial future!