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NEW! - Keywords For This Page:   Bills - Bookkeeping - Finances

Budgeting Checklist

Feel free to use this tip sheet / checklist as you tackle your own ""do-it-yourself"" organizing projects. If you would like to REPRINT or DISTRIBUTE this information, please click here for reprinting instructions.


  • know what you hope to accomplish before beginning your budget
  • pay off debts? reduce your expenses? save for retirement?
  • list your financial goals for 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10+ years
  • don't worry about feasibility -- where there's a will, there's a way


  • start with a sheet of legal paper (or spreadsheet program)
  • create 12 columns, one for each month of the year
  • label each row for a different living expense
  • think in terms of categories that you can divide in to subcategories
  • ex: "automobile" includes gas, repairs, insurance, registration, etc.


  • create a list of static expenses (cost the same every month)
  • rent, mortgage, car lease, student loan, etc.
  • then evaluate variable expenses (fluctuate every month)
  • groceries, utilities, entertainment, clothing, etc.
  • go through last year's bills to find large and unexpected bills
  • car repairs, medical bills, fines, etc.
  • tally each irregular expense and divide the total by 12
  • gives a clearer idea of how your costs spread over a year's time


  • avoid impulsive spending (proactive rather than reactive behaviors)
  • make conscious decisions about how to invest your resources
  • clear up financial disorganization (interest charges, late fees, etc.)
  • pay attention to how and where we spend money
  • track every single penny you spend for a month
  • look at each expense and ask if you get a tangible benefit from it
  • ask if it is worth the time spent earning the money to pay for it


  • list out all of the balances you owe
  • make note of the interest rate charged by each
  • pay the minimum on all debts except the highest interest rate
  • pay as much as you can on the highest interest rate
  • when that card is paid, apply money to the next-highest rate
  • keep working your way down the ladder until all are paid off


  • you can't create a budget until you know what you earn
  • calculate your income after taxes and Social Security
  • after other withholding (health insurance, 401K, etc.)
  • include only regular sources of income


  • compare income to expenses to see where you stand
  • if you are in the black, you can begin committing some to savings
  • no matter how large or small an amount, savings is a priority
  • build your savings and investments into your budget like a bill
  • pay yourself first before paying anyone else
  • at least 10% of your income going into savings
  • if you are in the red, your goal is reducing your spending
  • decide which expenses are necessary and which waste money
  • start first with incidental expenses (sodas, snacks, magazines)
  • also consider larger expenses (housing, car, vacations)
  • <30% of income each for housing, household, and other bills
  • ask if your money isn't better spent elsewhere
  • ask if you would get more benefit from other spending patterns


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