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Learning how to manage your income and expenses is not easy, but creating a household budget is important at any income level. Tracking what you spend money on is a valuable exercise, and can highlight areas where you can cut back. Focusing on current, as well as future costs, is also helpful. We recommend following these five steps when compiling your own budget.

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Review your paychecks to determine your gross pay (before automatic withdrawals for things like 401K, life and health insurance). If you have income from other sources (child support, second jobs, etc.) be sure to include that in your monthly income as well.



This is a hard one because there are so many different types of expenses for most of us each month. Using an app or an online budgeting calculator can be very helpful. You can track how much is spent on groceries, utilities, car payments, mortgage and much more. Being honest about your expenses and getting as close as you can to an accurate monthly tally is essential to creating a realistic budget.



Spend some time thinking about where you would like to be in six months, twelve months, two years. Do you have accumulated debt (student loans, credit cards)? Paying off debt, particularly high-interest credit cards, should be a priority. Are you saving for a family vacation? If so, setting a savings goal – or a payoff goal – can help jump-start your budgeting. Where can you reduce costs and put the money you save toward paying off debt or saving for a specific event? Also, be sure that you are utilizing employer-matched savings plans to make the most of your contribution.



This is another important piece of budgeting. You need to record every expenditure, large or small. Make note if the expense is a one-time occurrence, like a wedding gift, or a regular purchase like groceries or auto insurance. Be sure to compare spending month-to-month to track progress made.



Sticking to your budget, especially in areas like eating out or buying birthday/holiday gifts, is essential. Look at your expenditures carefully and congratulate yourself when progress is made in cutting costs and paying down debt. Creating a budget is not a quick process, but the results are well worth it!