Financial Literacy for Everyone

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If you’re new to budgeting, it’s important to understand what a budget is and how it helps you examine what you earn and how you are spending that income. A budget is a financial plan that takes income and expenses into account and provides estimates for how much you make and spend over a given period of time.

Budgeting Basics

Addressing your financial situation and distinguishing between needs and wants is an important first step before creating your annual budget. Acknowledging areas where you are overspending can be an eye-opening experience. Creating a budget and sticking to it can help you save and reach your short- and long-term financial goals. This is not a one-time exercise. Revisit and rework your budget if you have a financial windfall or setback so it reflects your current situation.

Ready to get started? Understanding the following key components will help you as you begin to build a monthly or annual budget:

  • Fixed expenses are expenses that stay the same from month to month, such as rent payments.
  • Flexible expenses are expenses that change from month to month, such as how much you spend on utilities.
  • Total expenses are the combined amount of your fixed and flexible expenses.
  • Total monthly income is the income from your job or other resources including investment dividends, pensions, Social Security benefits, rental income and more.
  • Disposable income is the money you have left over after you subtract your income taxes from your income.

The next step is to create your monthly budget using this basic Budget Worksheet. If you find you are not able to stick to your budget, it may mean you are spending beyond your means or that your budget is not flexible enough. Take the time to review and readjust your budget monthly until you find a plan that works for you.

If you’re looking to budget for specific goals, check out our budgeting calculators — they’re powerful tools for exploring ways to manage your finances:

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