Budgets are an important tool for your financial future, and there’s no better time to build one than now. While it can be intimidating to take an honest look at your spending habits, budgeting doesn’t have to be difficult and the decision to budget can significantly reduce your stress.
Free budget templates are a great way to meet any of your financial needs, from tracking your monthly spending to reaching debt-free living goals.
Your first step should be to establish a monthly budget for your fixed expenses and spending habits. As you become a master of budgeting, you can start customizing your budgets to reach other financial goals, like saving for a vacation.
Check out our free budget templates below to decide which are best for your situation and start your new year off right.
General Budgeting Templates
Your first step to start budgeting is to create a monthly budget for your expenses. This can look a little different depending on your lifestyle, so use our free personal budget template to customize based on your needs.
Free Personal Budget Template
The 50/30/20 method is a go-to recommendation for responsible budgeting. It breaks down your after-tax income into percentages by needs, wants, and savings so you know exactly how much you can reasonably spend.
- 50 percent of your budget covers necessities
- 30 percent of your budget goes to wants
- 20 percent of your income contributes to savings goals
Needs include your fixed expenses, like utilities, groceries, and car expenses. Within that, you shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of your income on rent. If you live in an especially expensive area and costs total to more than 50 percent, you should use your “wants” budget to make up the difference.
Wants include all of your personal expenses, like brunch with friends, travel costs, and general shopping. This is where you should take a closer look at your spending habits to make sure you’re not overspending where you could be contributing to savings.
Finally, your 20 percent savings should be split between retirement, rainy day funds, and your debt payments. Saving a portion of your income should always be a priority, but if you need to cut back it’s a good idea to still prioritize retirement contributions.
If you’re still feeling a little intimidated, use our free 50/30/20 budgeting template to track your spending and build a budget.
Free Budget Template for Couples
Money can be a difficult topic to talk through, but it’s vital to the health of your finances and your relationship.
As a couple with shared expenses, you should be open to sharing how much you make, your debt, and what your monthly payments include. This way, you can better build an effective and fair budget for the two of you.
Outline your individual financial details and then come together to see where your needs overlap. Couples living together may be looking to cover rent and date nights fairly, while engaged or married couples may plan for debt repayment and larger savings goals, like buying a house. It’s important to set boundaries for what money you share, how you’ll save, and how you’ll cover common expenses.
Once you’ve outlined your goals and needs, build your budgets together. You can create a separate budget for each of you with an adjusted household budget to reflect only the portion you pay. It’s a good idea to redirect what you’re saving towards debt repayment or your shared savings goals.
Free College Budget Template
College students likely have different budget goals and needs than non-students, but controlling your spending habits is just as important. A student’s budget may include additional income and expenses like:
- Financial aid and grants
- Allowances from family
- Textbooks and class supplies
- Dining hall costs
- End-of-year moving expenses
As a student, you should try to contribute some of your income towards student loan interest and debt while your payments are likely deferred. It’s also a good idea to prioritize saving for costs you know will occur every year, like textbooks and campus meal plans. While financial aid may be able to cover these costs, the less you take out in loans the more you save on interest.
If you work through school and rent off-campus, then you’ll want to follow a standard monthly budget like the 50/30/20 budget. If you live on-campus or use savings from a summer job or allowance to cover your costs, then this free student budget template may serve you best.
Budget Templates for Your Money Goals
An effective budget doesn’t just help you manage your bills — it’s also great for planning your financial future. Planning where your money goes each month helps you ensure you’re saving for your immediate dreams, as well as your long-term goals like retirement.
Budgets to Get Out of Debt
If you have any amount of debt, a budget can help you plan your repayment as well as understand the long-term costs of interest rates.
Your monthly debt payments should come from your savings allowance, but it’s also a good idea to tighten your spending short-term to redirect some of your “wants” spending towards debt.
There are two popular methods of debt-repayment known as debt snowball and debt avalanche.
- The debt snowball prioritizes paying off your lowest debts to create momentum and reward your efforts.
- The debt avalanche helps you save more by paying towards the debt with the highest interest rate.
If the idea of skipping a few dinners out to pay your loans makes you blue, then the rewards of the debt snowball method may work best. However, if you’re serious about your finances and have strict budget goals, then try the debt avalanche.
Explore how much interest you’d pay with each payment method using our debt-repayment budget template and decide what works best for you.
Budget Plans for Saving Goals
If you have big plans that require significant savings, then it’s a good idea to outline your specific savings strategy in your budget.
You have at least 20 percent to split among your savings goals, and it’s recommended that 75 percent of that (15 percent total) goes towards retirement. Additionally, you should have three to six months of salary reserved for an emergency and an additional $1,000 or more for a rainy day.
With those savings secured, you have about five percent of your monthly budget left to contribute to your other savings goals. Now you can outline your goals by deciding how much money you need and how long you have to save. This will help you establish a priority for which fund gets the largest contribution each month.
Next, it’s a good idea to set dedicated savings accounts for each of these goals. Your emergency and rainy day fund should be tied to your primary checking account for easy access. Your other savings goals will likely do best in a high-yield savings account where you can earn more from interest.
Now that you have your accounts, goals, and budget set up, consider setting up an auto-deposit so you don’t have to worry about manually transferring your investments each month. Plus, this helps prevent you from overspending with extra cash in your primary accounts.
Free Wedding Budget Templates
If you’re saving for a wedding, then you likely have a specific time you need your money by. Work backward to determine how many months you have until the big day and figure how much you can reasonably save each month to finalize a wedding budget. Don’t forget to talk with your parents about the wedding plan, as they may want to contribute, too.
Once you have your overall budget, decide what event details are most important to you and your partner. Compare these details with average wedding costs to help you see where you should compromise and help you choose wedding vendors.
If you’re just beginning your wedding planning, don’t stress! Our free wedding budget template will help you estimate your costs, monitor your spending, and track your vendor payments.
Budget For a Vacation
Planning a vacation is usually a bit more flexible than wedding planning, plus there are plenty of ways to save. When you start planning a getaway, consider which activities, locations, and seasons are most affordable. International summer vacations are going to be much more costly than a roadtrip in the fall.
When you’ve chosen your travel location, you’ll want to find estimate costs including:
- Hotels and lodging
- Air travel
- Car rentals
- Public transport
These will help you build a more accurate budget and help you determine how long it will take to save. Be sure you find average costs and work on how you can save money later. You don’t want to low-ball your estimates and find yourself short the cash you need to enjoy your vacation without stress.
If you’re not one for detailed budgets, consider an all-inclusive vacation instead. Cruises, resorts, and amusement parks usually have fewer extras to budget for since the entertainment, ground travel, and lodging are included or available at a fixed price.
Savings Budget to Buy a Home
Saving to buy a home is the ultimate long-term savings goal. Typically, you should aim to place a 20 percent down payment on a home before you get a mortgage. This helps you save on interest costs and improves your chances of being approved for the loan.
In addition to the 20 percent down payment, you need to save enough money to cover closing costs, home inspections, and home insurance. Of course, you’ll also need cash to buy home decor and furniture, even if you plan to buy with payments. All of this adds up to an additional 15 percent of your home’s final costs, excluding your down payment.
Just like budgeting for your other savings goals, you’ll want this money in a specific account so you don’t accidentally spend it in other places. Consider that you can reasonably afford to spend 30 percent of your income on a mortgage to determine how much home you can afford. Then you can determine how much you need to save knowing that you’ll have to have 25–35 percent of the home’s cost saved and budget accordingly.
Accurate budgets and savings goals can help you live your life to the fullest with minimal financial stress. Start practicing with our free budget templates to become a personal finance pro, then level up with custom budgets to meet your savings goals. Don’t forget there are plenty of ways to save along the way with great deals and coupons on everything from vacations to dining out.