Creating and Maintaining a Budget

Help with personal budgeting is one of the highest ranked reasons that students pursue a financial coaching relationship. Last year frugal-community hosted a three-part summer budget challenge that looked at tracking your spending, aligning your spending with your values and creating a budget. Here are some other great resources to help students create and maintain a budget:

Tracking Spending:  There are a variety of ways to track one’s spending. It is important that students find an option that will work for them:

  • Journal Method: Carry around a small notebook or journal and track every purchase you make whether with cash, credit or check. On another page track your income.
  • Excel Method: Instead of using a journal, you track all of your income and expenses in an excel spreadsheet. Microsoft provides a variety of personal budgeting templates. Luther Seminary’s Financial Aid Office also offers a robust spending tracker that is an Excel worksheet specifically geared towards Luther students.
  • Software Method: There are a variety of different computer programs out there one of the most popular is Quicken.
  • Online Method: There are a variety of sites that can help you track your income and expenses as well as create a budget. Mint.com is one of the most popular because it syncs with your bank account, categorizes transactions and tracks budgets all in one place for free. Mint also offers a free app for iphone and android phones and tablets that helps you track your spending on the go.

Aligning Spending with Values: Check out this article on frugal-community that gives a step-by-step process for aligning spending with your values. This would be a great process to go through in a coaching session.

Creating a Budget: Like tracking spending, there are also a variety of methods for creating a budget. This frugal-community article walks you through the steps of creating a budget as well as gives you some key things to think about with your student as they are creating their budget like occasional expenses and emergency funds: . In addition to the online and software methods listed in the “tracking your spending” section here are some other helpful methods for creating your budget:

  • Worksheet: Some people still enjoy putting pen to paper, if that is you check out this worksheet.
  • Spreadsheet: Excel and Google Docs are also helpful in creating a budget. This site lists a variety of helpful templates. The Luther Seminary Financial Aid Office has also created a student budget spreadsheet template.

Maintaining a Budget: There are many good tools for maintaining your budget. All of the methods above whether paper, spreadsheet, online, or even an app can help a student maintain their budget. Here are a few additional suggestions:

  • Envelope System: Create your budget then take out cash for all of your expenses and put cash in specific envelopes. You can only spend what is in the envelope. There is also an online/app based envelope system called Easy Envelope Budget Aid that works in a similar way to mint.com with a variety of pricing and plans.
  • Tips: This frugal-community article offers some helpful tips for maintaining a budget.