Keeping track of your budget can feel intimidating at first, but it doesn’t need to be difficult. It just takes a bit of organization and commitment — which is much easier with the help of a budget spreadsheet/template.
You can use our simple and 100% free budget template to quickly create a spending plan that works for you and track your progress.
50/30/20 monthly budget template
Our Google Sheets budget template lets you plug in your income and expenses to automatically calculate how much you have left to spend each month. It helps you see exactly what your income is going toward and shows you if you’re under or over budget as you track your spending.
To get the template, simply enter your name and email address below and we’ll send the Google Sheets link right to your inbox!
50/30/20 budgeting explained
This template follows the 50/30/20 budgeting method. This is a widely used strategy that’s easy to apply and remember.
Basically, it helps you set priorities in your budget and categorize expenses by breaking your spending into three types: needs, wants, and savings. Then, it gives a different percentage of your income to each of these expense categories.
Here’s how the 50/30/20 budget works:
- 50% is for needs. This includes household expenses that may fluctuate (think: groceries and utilities) as well as fixed costs, like insurance premiums or car payments, and other non-negotiables.
- 30% is for wants. This includes the things you do for fun, such as going to concerts or dining out, and other things that are important to you, like updating your seasonal wardrobe or donating to charity.
- 20% is for saving. This includes putting money into your emergency fund, investing in retirement accounts, and saving for big financial goals — like the down payment on a car or house.
You can think of your budget as a spending plan. By breaking your total income down into categories, you’re telling yourself how much you can spend in each category — not focusing on what you shouldn’t spend. This can be a helpful perspective if you’ve ever found budgeting to be too restrictive.
Now that you know how a 50/30/20 budget works, the next step is to personalize the budget template.
How to create your personal monthly budget template
Using the budget template is easy. Follow these steps to make it your own:
- Enter your monthly income (after taxes) at the top of the template.
- Fill in the blanks for your monthly expenses by putting your typical costs in the “Budgeted” column for each category.
- Add any categories we missed in the “Other” rows.
- Track your actual spending throughout the month in the “Spent” column.
- Use the “Leftover Income To Budget” box at the bottom of the template to see how much of your total cash you haven’t yet allocated to a budget category (make sure you’re using all of your income!)
What if you don’t really know how much you spend? No worries, just use your transaction history and bank statements to make your best guess for any expenses you’re not sure about.
Once you’ve entered all the values, the template will tell you how much you have left at the end of the month. The “Actual Spend” boxes will be green if you’re under budget or red if you’re over budget. If you’re over budget, look for ways to save money and spend less.
There are two fields for your actual spend: one that compares your spending to your budget and one that compares your actual spending to your overall income. This is an important difference. Actual spend vs. your budget subtracts how much you’ve spent from how much you’ve budgeted or put into the different budgeting fields. Actual spend vs. your income subtracts how much you’ve spent from your total monthly income.
If you budget all of your income (which you should), these two fields should be the same.
Why you should budget your whole income
Budgeting all of your income is a strategy known as zero-based budgeting and it’s a good way to use your money more efficiently.
If you split 100% of your income across your categories — 50% for needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for saving/debt repayment — you’ll know exactly what happens to every dollar at the end of the month so you can feel confident you’ve put all your money to good use. You won’t have to worry about ending up with “leftover” cash and having to decide what to do with it.
What if you’ve budgeted for your wants and needs and don’t know how to use the rest of your money? Try adding it to your emergency fund, investing it, or repaying more of your debt.
Figuring out your wants vs. needs
All of our wants and needs are different, and you might have to tweak the template to make it work for you.
For example, maybe travel expenses are actually a “need” for you because you travel for work or a gym membership is non-negotiable. Feel free to play around with the categories and make sure to update them regularly as your personal and financial needs change.
Tips for making the most of your monthly budget template
Once you have your spreadsheet set up, it’s important to make the most of it all year long. Here are a few tips to help you apply your spending plan every month.
Review your budget on a monthly basis
At the beginning of the month, review the money you have for each category and adjust your spending accordingly. If a recurring expense changes or you need to update your income, do it right away.
Track your spending
Log your spending every time you pay a bill or make a purchase. Checking the spreadsheet often is a good way to avoid overspending and save money.
Check in each week
Check in with your remaining totals at the start of each week and identify areas where you might need to cut back. Your budget will only work if your income and expenses are accurate.
Adjust as needed
If your actual costs turn out to regularly be more or less than you estimated, update your budget accordingly. And if something comes up that you didn’t budget for, like an unexpected repair or medical bill, make adjustments to your spending. For example, if you overspend in one category for one month, try to spend less in another.
If you do go over budget one month, don’t let it discourage you. Just do what you can to balance your spending and start fresh next month. Sticking to a budget is hard, but you’ve got this. Remember, it’s about progress not perfection.
Don’t like using a spreadsheet? Try these apps instead
If you already know budget templates just don’t work for you, you can try an app instead.
There are a number of excellent budgeting apps to help you create a budget, track expenses, and see your cash flow. Many connect directly to your bank accounts to automate your budgeting and categorize your transactions, so there’s very little setup required.
Here are two of our favorite budgeting apps.
PocketSmith is a beginner-friendly budgeting app and money management tool. It makes it easy to look at your spending habits and think “big picture” about your money.
One way PocketSmith helps you do this is with future forecasting. As you set up your next month’s budget, you can take a look at how small decisions impact your finances six months down the road. Then you can play around with budget categories and read reports to understand how you’re really spending rather than just how you want to be using your money.
You Need A Budget (YNAB)
YNAB is a more extensive solution that helps you create a zero-based budget. Zero-based budgeting requires you to give every dollar a job and take tracking your spending to the next level.
To use this app, you’ll set some goals and log your transactions throughout the month. Then, YNAB‘s reporting tools will help you monitor how you’re doing and show you your full financial picture. This is an especially great option for anyone focused on reducing their debt.
The bottom line
Budgeting can be as simple — or as complicated — as you want to make it. Our free monthly budget template is designed to be as easy to use as possible and to take the guesswork out of creating a budget. Get out of debt, understand your habits, and meet your savings goals by taking care of your budgeting.