Free Budget Planner: Tips For Getting Started

Add your income and expenses to this monthly budget planner, and we'll show how your spending aligns with the 50/30/20 rule.
Lauren Schwahn
By Lauren Schwahn 
Edited by Rick VanderKnyff

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What is a budget planner?

A budget planner is a tool, such as a worksheet, that you can use to design your budget. A successful budget planner helps you decide how to best spend your money while avoiding or reducing debt. NerdWallet recommends the 50/30/20 budget, which suggests that 50% of your income goes toward needs, 30% toward wants and 20% toward savings and debt repayment.

Before you build a budget
NerdWallet breaks down your spending and shows you ways to save.

Create a budget plan that works for you

Before choosing a budget planner, you want to decide on a budgeting system. As mentioned, you could get started with the 50/30/20 budget, if it resonates with you. There are also other budgeting systems that organize your spending in different ways. The zero-based budget, for example, accounts for every dollar in your budget until there are zero remaining.

Once you’ve chosen your system, you can move on to picking a budget planner to help break down your budget and put the numbers into perspective. The best budget planner is one that’s easy to use and stick with. No matter which budget planner you decide to use, take some time to tweak your approach and adjust your spending as needed until you reach your ideal budget.

And if a hands-on monthly budget planner isn’t working for you, consider one of these budget apps. Most of them sync with your financial accounts, so they can track and categorize expenses for you. Keep in mind that some budgeting apps are free, while others charge a monthly or annual fee.

If you can’t make your ideal budget a reality, or if you’re struggling to get a handle on your finances, budgeting might not be enough for you. Explore other options, such as seeking expert financial advice or resources that can help you pay bills.

Budget planner

Use the free printable budget worksheet below to see how your spending compares with the 50/30/20 budget guide.

If this budget sheet isn’t right for you, try another tool. Explore other budget spreadsheets and templates, or download a budget app. For a more simplified snapshot, try our budget calculator.

For other money matters, check out more financial calculators from NerdWallet.

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