Budgeting

Build Your Budget

Think of your budget as a means of setting and reaching your goals.

Think of your budget as a planning device, a means of setting and reaching your goals. You project future expenditures (including savings), record them when they're made, and see whether your projections were any good. If they aren't, you adjust your planning or your spending, whichever is out of line.

Use the household budget worksheet to enter a month's expenditures; we do the addition and subtraction for you. You can even work a couple of months ahead at first, until you get the hang of it. Then you can budget further ahead. After a while you'll want to apply the same principles to long-term goal setting by forecasting the growth of your net worth and all the little pieces that compose it.

Fixed spending

Some of your projections will be easy: You know what your mortgage or rent payments will be in the months ahead. Same for car payments and the premiums coming due on insurance policies. So why budget for them? Because by recording these and other fixed expenditures as monthly outgo, you can see at a glance how much of your income is committed to current or future expenses. That should stop you from spending it on something else.

Variable spending

Here you'll keep track of the items over which you have some degree of control. This section is the place to test your cost-cutting skills. Watch for patterns that may signal trouble. If the "miscellaneous" line keeps growing bigger, for instance, your recordkeeping may be careless.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In
places to live

The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In

Take a look at our list of American cities with the lowest costs of living. Is one of the cheapest cities in the U.S. right for you?
October 13, 2021
15 U.S. Cities With the Highest Average Home Prices
real estate

15 U.S. Cities With the Highest Average Home Prices

Home prices have rocketed higher across most of the country, but housing costs are acutely painful in these 15 U.S. cities.
October 20, 2021

Recommended

Retiring in Uncertain Times? Try the Bucket Strategy!
Budgeting

Retiring in Uncertain Times? Try the Bucket Strategy!

For retirement savers who want to help make sure their money lasts as long as they do, this very basic planning method is an oldie but a goodie.
October 19, 2021
The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In
places to live

The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In

Take a look at our list of American cities with the lowest costs of living. Is one of the cheapest cities in the U.S. right for you?
October 13, 2021
4 Ways to Earn More From Your Rainy Day Fund
savings

4 Ways to Earn More From Your Rainy Day Fund

You should set aside enough money to cover three to six months of living expenses in case of an emergency. But sticking this cash in a savings account…
October 12, 2021
11 Best Things to Keep in a Safe Deposit Box
savings

11 Best Things to Keep in a Safe Deposit Box

These valuables and documents, along with some items you hold dear, should be stored securely at your bank.
September 25, 2021