As it is the start of a new year, many people began to get their minds refocused on all-things-budgeting. I love starting of the new year right with organized finances, and I want to show you that it is not hard at all with the right framework! The framework that I’m referring to is the 50/30/20 Budget.
I’ve been using this method to track my expenses for several years, and it is just so easy to follow! In this post I’ll explain what this budget is, how to use it, and provide a FREE 50/30/20 budget spreadsheet and calculator that you can use to get started right away!
The Budget Spreadsheet
If you just want the download and don’t want to wait until the end – you can grab your 50/30/20 spreadsheet below. For more information / instructions – keep reading!
Why Set a Budget?
Maybe the most important question of them all, as I’ve mentioned in this post :). For those of you who have been following me for a while, you may wonder why I’m focusing on this topic at all. As part of my (in-progress) re branding, I’ll be incorporating some money tips from time to time, as it is a major factor in traveling as much as possible.
If you know where your money is going and track expenses, you are put in a position where you can allocate your money to the things you like to do too. And if you stick to your budget, you are very likely to hit still hit your savings targets / reduce debt without any issues. Isn’t that a place where we all want to be? The 50/30/20 budget spreadsheet that I’ll provide in this post will help you do just that.
The 50/30/20 Budget Explained
The 50/30/20 Budget is one that was made popular by the book “All Your Worth: The Ulitmate Lifetime Money Plan”, written by Senator Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi. The intention of this book is to help the reader master their finances by allocating a set percentage to three categories of money:
50% – Needs or Must-Haves
The “needs” are the items that you have to purchase in order to survive and those bills that you have to pay off each month. This may vary a bit from person to person, but here are a few examples:
- Rent / Mortgage / Car Payments
- Health Insurance
- Minimum Debt Payments
Note that this category does not include seemingly related items, such as restaurants, as eating out is not necessary but eating is. Keep that in mind as you make the budget your own.
30% – Wants
The “wants” category includes all the expenses you make to enhance your quality of life. Example categories include:
- Entertainment (Movies, concerts, etc.)
- Cable TV
- Eating Out
- Travel 😉
This category will vary the most as “wants” are very particular to the individual. Add what’s most important to you here when you personalize your spreadsheet.
20% – Savings / Debt
This category is entirely devoted to increasing the size of your bank account. The smallest of the three categories, this one includes the following:
- Saving Accounts (Includes building an emergency fund)
- Retirement Accounts
- Investments (ETFs, Stocks, Real Estate, etc.)
- Debt Repayment (Anything greater than the minimum)
The last item may seem like it doesn’t fit, but keep in mind that any payments that you make greater than the principal will give you savings in the long run.
The FREE 50/30/20 Budget Spreadsheet
So now that you know what the budget is, let’s start taking action to put this budget into use now! In the download below, you’ll access a Google Sheets spreadsheet. This spreadsheet has two tabs: The first helps you calculate the amount of money that goes into each category, while the second is an automated template that you can use to keep track of your monthly budget.
Note: It does not matter if you are starting in January or December, it’s never to late in the year to start budgeting!
How to Use the Calculator
The first tab of the spreadsheet includes the 50/30/20 Calculator. To use this form, just add in your total after-tax income, and the rest of the budget will be calculated for you automatically!
If you don’t make a standard income from month-to-month, calculate your average income for the past three months and add that value to the form.
How to Use the Spreadsheet
The second tab of the spreadsheet includes the monthly budget tracker. To use this form, you must first review the categories in each budget group, and update based on your personal expenses. There are open categories (marked other) that you can use to add additional categories, if necessary. If you do need to do this, be sure to make the same updates on the list on the “dropdown” tab so that expenses pull in appropriately.
Once the categories are updated, add in the values for each one. As you do this, make sure your total for each group does not exceed the amounts set on the “50 30 20 Calculator” tab.
You are now ready to start adding your expenses in the “Tracking Expenses” table. The most important thing here is to use the drop down to elect the proper category for each expense. That will pull in each value automatically to the totals on the left-hand side.
If you have questions at any time, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Few Budgeting Tips
As you build your budget, there are a few important to keep a few things in mind.
- Set realistic goals – Don’t set savings goals that you can’t reach, for example
- Understand your spending habits – As a best practice, it’s a great idea to average out your expenses for the past few months to get a realistic picture of how you spend money. This is particularly useful for informing the “wants” group of your budget.
- Keep track of your expenses regularly – I recommend tracking your expenses at least bi-weekly, and more if you know you are a spender.
- Modify the percentages of each group, if necessary – If you are really focused on paying down debt, for example, you may want to increase the amount of money allocated to the “savings/debt” group and decrease the “wants” group.
Planning for the Year Ahead
Now that you have the information and the tools you need to start your 50/30/20 Budget, get started tracking your budget today! Once you know where you money is going, you will be amazed how you can refocus your expenses on the things that you want to do or the places that you want to go.