Everybody needs a budget. It’s the easiest way to control your spending, stay on track with your savings plans, and still enjoy the things you want to spend money on.
The problem is, creating and sticking to a budget is trickier than most of us think. Unless you have the right tools, you can fall behind or forget the limits you set for yourself. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available today that can help you out.
Whether you’re just learning to manage your finances, or you need a more sophisticated tool to budget for a business or household, you’ll find the help you need on this list.
Best Budget Templates and Tools
In our world of complicated software, a budget template is one of the most simple and effective tools you can use to save money. Check out this list of the 8 best budget templates and tools to find what works best for you.
1. Google Sheets Budget Template
If you’re like me, you use Google for browsing, work, email, and just about everything else. But did you know Google Sheets also offers a free, easy-to-use budget template?
This is a great resource for someone who is pretty good at managing their budget, and just needs the software to get organized. You will have to enter and track all your spending data by hand – but it’s still a whole lot easier than writing it all down with a pencil and paper.
In fact, a lot of people prefer manually recording their budget data. It’s a good way to really stay on top of your spending; if you have to look through your receipts and bank statements to record every transaction, you’ll be less inclined to overspend on impulse.
How it works
If you have a Google account, just go to “Sheets” in your Google drive, and select “Templates.” You’ll find an annual budget and monthly budget template there.
Request access to the document, then you can make a copy for your personal use. It will automatically save to your Google drive, so you don’t have to worry about losing your data.
As you enter your monthly spending in each category, the application will do the math for you. This is a fairly basic template, but it will give you a bird’s eye view of your spending every month and year.
2. Microsoft Excel Budget Templates
If you have a subscription to Microsoft 365, you have access to their comprehensive budget templates.
Similar to Google Sheets, these templates are fairly basic and easy to use. You will have to enter all your spending and income data manually – it can help a lot to hold onto your receipts and take a look at your bank statements every month.
The templates offered by Microsoft are also adjustable, so you can edit your template for your budget however you need (a student budget, planning for a baby, etc.)
How it works
Open Excel in your computer and click the option for “more templates.” There, you’ll find several budgeting templates, including a personal budget, household budget, and business budget.
Unlike Google documents, you don’t need to be granted access to these spreadsheets. Just click on the template you want to open it and get to work.
If you don’t subscribe to Microsoft 365, you can also create your own budget template with the free version of Excel. Take a look at sample templates online to model your own – it will take a little knowledge of spreadsheets, but once you’ve created your own template, you can save it forever and adjust it as needed.
3. Vertex42 Free Budget Templates
Need a spreadsheet for specific occasions, like budgeting for the holidays or planning a wedding? Check out Vertex42.
This site offers dozens of free downloadable templates to help you stay organized in every aspect of your spending. You can print them out to write by hand, or use them with any compatible software (Google and Microsoft Office will both work).
For someone who wants to track their expenses against a budget, there are more complex spreadsheets on this website that can help you with that. It’s a great tool for a business owner or someone who is planning to launch a startup.
How it works
Head to Vertex42’s website and browse through their available spreadsheets. Select the one you want to download – you can choose a PDF file to print, open it in Google Sheets, or in Microsoft Excel.
Not used to working with spreadsheets? Each file comes with an introductory video to show you how to use it.
4. Tiller Money Spreadsheets
Tiller is an awesome personal budgeting company that allows you to integrate spreadsheets with your bank account, so you can automatically track your finances.
If you aren’t great with spreadsheets, or just don’t want to manually input your spending data, Tiller could be a worthwhile investment. You can subscribe for just under $7 a month and get access to multiple templates that will sync with your bank account and update automatically.
I highly recommend Tiller for a business or large household budget. These spreadsheets will show your overall spending patterns, savings, and trajectories without any effort on your part.
How it works
If you want to try Tiller’s spreadsheets for free, you can sign up for a 30-day trial online.
Once you’ve made your account, just browse through their spreadsheets and select the one you want to use. The templates will work with Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. Link your bank account data (it’s safe and private), and you’re good to go!
The budget template will automatically update. It will be downloaded to your computer, so you can check in on your spending and savings any time.
5. You Need A Budget
This is an easy, intuitive budgeting app that takes all the hard work out of your hands. It will help you build a budget and divide all your spending into categories. Unlike a standard budgeting template, you won’t have to spend your time manually inputting data.
The goal of YNAB is to help its users break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. So, if you’re a business owner looking for more advanced software, it might not be the best choice for you — this app is designed to help new homeowners, young families, and anyone else who needs a simplified personal budget.
How it works
YNAB offers a monthly plan for just under $12, or an annual plan for $87. You can also try out the software for 34 days without paying anything.
Once your account is set up, download the app on your computer, iPhone, or Android device. YNAB will help you to divide up your spending into categories on a budgeting template, and sync with your bank account to update automatically.
If you don’t want to pay for your budgeting software, try Mint. This is a simple, easy-to-use app that helps you keep track of all your accounts and manage your finances.
The goal of Mint is to show you all of your finances in a single glance. When you open the app, you’ll see your credit score, the total amount of money in all of your accounts, your monthly spending, and more.
You can also use the app to create and stick to simple budget spreadsheets. Data will automatically update, so you can check on your budget anytime, anywhere.
How it works
It’s free to sign up for Mint and download the app. You can enter your bill cycles and spending patterns to create a simple budget template, which will automatically update as you spend and save.
The software is designed to last for a long time, so you can change and update your budget as your life changes. You can also sign up for mobile alerts to let you know whenever your funds in a certain account are getting low.
7. Personal Capital
Personal Capital goes beyond just budget templates. This comprehensive financial software is perfect for anyone who wants to grow their wealth over time.
When you sign up for Personal Capital, you’ll have access to tons of financial and investment advice. You can track your net worth over time and manage your investment portfolio all in one place.
On top of that, you can also use this software to build and manage your budget. It might not be the best choice if you’re just looking for a simple budget template, but this is an awesome tool for beginning investors and business owners.
How it works
Personal Capital offers tons of financial tools at varying costs. If you’re just starting out, you can access their budgeting software for free.
After making your account, input all of your banking, credit card, and investment data. That way, you’ll be able to see all of your finances in one place just by checking the app.
If you’re interested in growing your wealth through investments, you can get professional advice and counseling from their financial coaches online.
8. Every Dollar
Last up on our list is Every Dollar, the app created by financial guru David Ramsey.
This app is essentially a free, automated budget template – with some special features. You can use it to build a budget, track your spending, and check on all your accounts in one place. It’s super easy, especially if you aren’t used to working with data and spreadsheets.
The format of this app is simple – which means it’s probably not ideal for someone who is interested in investment and growing their wealth, but perfect for someone who wants to plan and manage a simple budget.
How it works
Head to their website and sign up for free. The app will then walk you through the rest of the process: inputting your monthly income, dividing your spending into categories, and tracking your budget.
If you want to connect your bank account, you will have to sign up for Every Dollar Plus, their premium account. You can start out with a free trial to see if the software is worth it for you.
What is a budget template?
A budget template is a tool designed to help you track your monthly expenses by breaking them down into categories.
In the old days, budget templates needed to be created by hand, or at least copied from another model. Today, things are a little different. There are tons of digital budget templates and finance apps that will automatically track your budget for you.
Of course, you do need to put in a little effort to use your budget template – it won’t know everything about your budget and spending habits on its own! But automation makes the whole process easier, so you don’t have to waste your time penciling in the details.
How do they work?
The exact function of your budget template will vary depending on the template you’re using, but they all have the same basic purpose.
A template lets you see all your monthly spending by category: bills, groceries, gas, meals out, etc. Based on your income and the amount you want to save each month, you can allot a certain amount of money for each category.
With that information, an automated budget template will track your spending for you, so you know when you’re getting close to overspending. You’ll also be able to see how your savings and spending change throughout the year – this will help you plan your budget every year and prepare for those more expensive months.
Budget templates vs. budget apps: What’s the difference?
As you probably noticed, there are two categories of budgeting tools on this list: templates, or spreadsheets, and apps. So, what’s the difference?
A budget template is a simple spreadsheet that you use to plan your budget. It doesn’t come with any bells and whistles, but it allows you to track your spending and stick to your monthly budget.
A budget app is an all-encompassing financial tool. Apps will vary in cost and function, but for the most part they are designed to help you create your budget, keep track of your spending in all accounts, and grow your wealth over time. Most of these apps come with a subscription fee, or at least include some paid features.
Which option is best for you? That all depends on your priorities!
If you are comfortable handling data and keeping track of your own spending, I recommend downloading a simple budget template. It will help you map out your budget and stay on top of your finances.
On the other hand, if you have multiple accounts to keep track of or don’t have the time to manually input your data, you should try out a budgeting app. All the apps reviewed on this list come with free trials, so you can test it out and see if it’s right for you.
Budgeting has never been easier
With all the tools available to us today, “budget” isn’t such a scary word anymore. It’s easier than ever to plan, create, and stick to a budget – so you can stay on track toward your financial goals.
Ready to get started? Check out the templates and apps reviewed on this app. They’re all affordable (or free), easy to use, and helpful. There’s no reason not to have a budget!