Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships

Budgeting

Budgeting allows you to manage your finances and set yourself up for a successful financial future.

Create a Budget in Four Easy Steps:

  1. Review your financial goals. One of the crucial steps in creating a budget is creating goals. Write down your short, intermediate, and long-term goals (e.g., things you want to do, places you want to visit, things you want to accomplish, etc.). Consider the financial cost of these goals, and transform your goals into SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound). SMART goals help you plan financially and sustain motivation toward goal achievement.

    • Specific: Define the goal as much as possible with no ambiguous language.

    • Measurable: Can you track the progress and measure the outcome?

    • Attainable: Is the goal reasonable enough to be accomplished? How so?

    • Relevant: Is the goal worthwhile and will it meet your needs?

    • Time-Bound: Your objective should include time limits.

  2. Track your spending. Tracking can help you identify your spending habits. Until you recognize your spending habits, it can be difficult to make an accurate budget. Track all of your expenses for several weeks, then consider these questions:

    • How much did I spend?

    • What did I buy, and why did I buy it?

    • Are there any trends in when and where I made purchases?

    • How much am I spending on my “wants”?

    • What payment methods did I use?

    • Where would I like to cut back spending?

  3. Select a budgeting method. Make sure to choose a method that works for you. Below is a list of a few examples. 

    • The Notebook Method: Write down all your purchases in a notebook, so you can analyze spending habits over periods of time.

    • Budgeting Apps: Using free resources like Mint.com, PocketGuard, Wally, or Level Money, users can link their bank accounts, credit cards, and investments to track their spending. Some banks and credit unions also offer budgeting resources through their own apps.

    • Excel Spreadsheet or Google Sheet: Track your income vs. expenses. Tabs can be added to the document for multiple layers of financial tracking (e.g., loans, investments, taxes, financial goals, etc.).

    • Envelope System: Buy a pack of envelopes, and label each envelope with a spending category (e.g., rent, utilities, groceries, medical, car expenses, emergency, entertainment, eating out, clothing, etc.). Put a set amount of cash from each paycheck into the envelopes. Put the rest of your paycheck into a savings account or make an additional envelope for savings. When you’ve spent all the money from an envelope, stop spending money in that category until the next time money is divvied out. Only use this method if you have a safe place to keep your envelopes!

    • Multiple Accounts: Separate your paycheck (in varying amounts) between four accounts: 1) Monthly living expenses and bills, 2) Long-term savings (e.g., retirement, future home, kids’ college fund, etc.), 3) Emergency fund, and 4) A “fun” account for vacations, eating out, entertainment, gifts, new gadgets, etc.

    • 3-Category Budget: Track your overall spending for a of couple weeks, choose three categories you’d like to control, and consistently monitor your spending in those three categories.

    • Save First: Instead of saving what’s leftover, set aside what you would like to save first, then spend what’s leftover. Make sure you are allowing yourself enough money to pay for your fixed expenses and bills.

    • Budget Sheet: Download a budget sheet and input your expected income and expenses. Keep track of your income and expenses, and fill in your actual amounts at the end of the month.

  4. Review and revise. Analyze how your spending has changed; review and modify your budget regularly.


Budgeting Tips

  • Share your goals with a family member or friend. Sharing goals with others requires additional accountability on your part, and you'll have a network of individuals supporting you in achieving your goals.

  • Keep goals visible. Keep your list of goals somewhere accessible, or post a photo somewhere to remind you of your goals.