It’s no secret that sticking to a budget can be difficult, but it’s even harder when you don’t have the right tools.
If you want to track your monthly expenses but aren’t sure where to start, spreadsheets and templates can help guide your spending (and saving). Here are four resources you can start using now.
The Federal Trade Commission’s budget worksheet
How it works: The Federal Trade Commission offers a website to educate consumers about money, including how to budget. To get started, consult its “Make a Budget” worksheet. Download the PDF and fill in the fields to see whether you’re making more than you spend or spending more than you make.
What we like: Numbers and formulas can make budgeting a turnoff, but this worksheet is the furthest thing from intimidating. It’s a great jumping-off point if you’ve never budgeted before. Once you see where cash is leaking out, pinpoint areas to cut back.
Where to get it: Download the PDF from Consumer.gov.
Microsoft Office templates
How it works: Maintaining a spreadsheet requires discipline, and creating a spreadsheet from scratch takes time. Save yourself the hassle of setting up rows, columns and formulas by using a pre-made Excel template from Office. Templates include a personal money tracker, family budget planner and event budget.
What we like: There’s a template for just about every budget situation, from simple to complex. Access the Excel app with Office Online for free and collaborate with others in the same document at the same time.
Where to get it: Download an Excel file from the Office templates, or sign in to Microsoft and edit in your desktop browser.
Google Drive spreadsheets
How it works: Google Drive is a file storage service where users can create, upload and share files. Get 15GB of storage for free or upgrade to a paid premium plan. The Sheets app for Drive includes pre-made templates, such as an annual budget and monthly budget.
What we like: You can bring your budget with you by logging into your Google Drive account from your smartphone, tablet or computer. You can also share access to a household budget with other members of your family.
Where to get it: Sign in to Google Drive, then open Google Sheets to browse templates.
Mint lifestyle templates
How it works: Mint is a popular budgeting tool, but in addition to its well-known app, the money manager offers budget templates, too. Choose your desired budget, then use the pre-made format to guide your categorization of spending.
What we like: There are demographic-specific options that fit a variety of life stages. Students will benefit from the college template, while parents of young kids will appreciate the day care template.
Where to get it: Download an Excel file from Mint.
Nerdy tip: Be careful when downloading anything onto your computer. If you click the wrong link, you could invite a phishing virus into your financial picture. Check online reviews and download budget templates only from websites you trust.