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What are some useful tools to create and maintain a budget?

Preparing A Budget

At Redwood Credit Union, we love to help you succeed and creating, maintaining, and sticking to a budget can be a huge part of your financial success! With that, we thought we'd provide you with a couple of tools to help you build, assess, and keep on top of a budget.

While a budget is generally thought to be a rigid plan on how you can spend your money, thinking of it as a "spending plan" may be beneficial as it does not sound so tedious or restrictive and it better implies how you can use it to build a solid financial foundation and feel more in control of your finances.

Why Is It Important?
Generally speaking, a spending plan will enable you to understand where your money comes from and where it goes. With that understanding, you will be in a better position to make informed financial decisions, to monitor your spending and to potentially identify ways to spend less on some items so you have more to spend on more important things or to save.

The Process of Creating a Spending Plan
Going through the effort to prepare an accurate plan should be a detailed and somewhat time consuming process. The more specific you can get the better, but do not let the thought of preparing a spending plan keep you from trying. Here are some resources that can help.

MyBalance Online Budgeting Tool

This online resource, offered by Balance Financial Fitness, allows you to create a sign-on, input your financial information at your own pace, and will lead you to an overall assessment of your current spending patterns. You may log in and make adjustments at any time from any computer with internet access to check in on how any adjustments or changes you've made affect your monthly financial standing.

Excel Download

This downloadable Excel file allows you to create and save your budget onto your personal computer and will compare your spending plan to the national averages regarding percentage of income paid for household and life expenses.

Printable Expense Tracking

This printable worksheet, offered by Balance Financial Fitness, allows you to print and track your weekly and monthly expenditures in primary budgeting categories.

As you start filling in the blanks in each of these resources, think about how much control you have over your expenses. Things like rent, taxes and insurance are probably pretty well set. Other expenses, like food, entertainment, and gifts are more controllable. Just by thinking about these items, you may be able to find ways to spend less and save more. If nothing else, you can make judgments about which expenses are most important to you.

Finally, it makes sense to go through this exercise on a regular basis. By analyzing your expenses every year (or each time an aspect of your financial life changes), you will be able to see how your spending patterns are changing and you will feel more in control of your financial future.