2017’s Best Free Budget Templates
In order to help consumers and small business owners wade their way through the available pool of budget templates and thus better manage their money, WalletHub’s editors compared hundreds of options and selected the best templates for individuals, families, roommates, small business owners and more.
While every budget differs in certain respects, reflecting the personal nature of finance, certain tried-and-true budget blueprints do exist. These templates provide organization to one’s financial transactions, enabling users to quickly track spending and payment habits over time. They were selected not only because of their functionality, but also because each offers a clean look and feel as well as simple, intuitive usability.
It’s also important to note that the templates described below are all based on Microsoft Excel. If you don’t have Excel, you should be able to find a version of the particular template in Google Docs or Open Office.
Budget Templates By Time Period
Best Monthly Budget Template: Vertex42 Money Management
Editor’s Note: While labeled a “yearly” budget planner, this template really allows you to make monthly plans and then track them on a relatively high level. Grouping expenses and transactions into certain categories is more common the longer your budgeting term is, since logging individual transactions would be overly cumbersome. With that being said, the frequency versatility offered by this template is a unique feature and one of the main reasons we picked it as being both the Best Monthly Budget Template and the Best Daily Budget Template.
Best Weekly Budget Template: Vertex 42 Weekly Budget Template
|Weekly View||Transaction View|
Editor's Note: This weekly budget planner enables you to track transactions on a day-to-day basis as well as follow your progress toward weekly goals. We recommend leveraging both components of this budget, logging daily transactions, comparing them to weekly benchmarks and gleaning long-term insights over time. The graphic features of this template will help with that last part.
Best Daily Budget Template: Vertex42 Money Management
Editor’s Note: Perhaps Vertex 42’s most unique offering, this “money manager” template enables users to log items at the transaction level and them group them for weekly and monthly totals as well as actionable spending intelligence. This template – also our pick for the best annual blueprint – therefore provides daily tracking capabilities that lend themselves to long-term insights.
Best Project Budget Template:
Editor’s Note: Offering a simple, customizable design, this project budget provides great versatility and will work for most any job. The pliability of this template does have a downside, however. You’ll need to already have a good idea of the items you need to purchase and their corresponding costs. In other words, this isn’t a budget template that will generate a ton of ideas.
Best Household Budget Template:
Editor’s Note: This monthly family budget template features a very simple, user-friendly design. It is intuitive to use and allows for quick customization – though most of a household’s monthly income and expense items are pre-listed. The fact that common expenses are grouped into clear spending buckets and the emphasis placed on the ultimate difference between budgeted amounts and amounts spent also heightens the financial visibility provided by the template, making personal finance triage much easier.
Best Vacation Budget Template:
Editor’s Note: This spreadsheet enables travelers to easily evaluate and track their expenses. The quick reference graphics are a nice touch as well. Travelers can use them to not only track major expenses at a high level, but also ensure that one does not attribute too much money to a particular aspect of their trip. You could even use this feature to balance spending between multiple destinations.
Best Wedding Budget Template:
Editor’s Note: This template provides a helpful breakdown of the various costs one must consider when planning a wedding and makes it easy to track these expenses over time. Not only does this enable users to plan and constrain costs, but it might also help you foresee costs that wouldn’t otherwise be taken into account until it’s too late.
Best College Student Budget Template:
Editor’s Note: With a clear, intuitive design and line items catered to college students, this template represents a great way for students to save money and boost their financial literacy.
The fact that users are able to categorize expenses and budgeted amounts as being one-offs, monthly benchmarks or annual goals is also uniquely valuable to the college audience.
Tips For Using Budget Templates
Simply selecting the right budget template is only step one. You also need to establish habits conducive from effective budget tracking and money management adjustments. You can find a few tips for doing so below.
- Stay Committed: A budget is a plan, but you should make it a promise. Dutifully log monthly income and expenses, track your performance over time and make necessary adjustments to your day-to-day life. While personal resolve can go a long way in this endeavor, also having a buddy participate in the process, asking questions of experts, and implementing an incentive system could help put you over the top.
- Take Advantage of Excel Alternatives: If you don’t have Microsoft Excel, you can simply use a Google Docs spreadsheet or Open Office to get the basic tracking and organizational features offered by Excel. These programs have their own budget templates, and you may also be able to download a version of one of the aforementioned budget templates for one of these programs.
- Save A Backup: You don’t want all of your hard work to go for naught. So, subscribe to the better-safe-than-sorry school of thought and either photocopy your paper budget or save a second copy on an external drive or the Cloud. Simply creating another file on your computer won’t be enough, since whatever compromises the first file would likely affect the second as well.
- Leverage Excel Formulas: Since the aforementioned budget templates are Excel-based, making use of the program’s various tools will enable you to effectively customize and analyze your budget.Excel can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. The fancier you get with things, the more powerful of a tool this software will become. Using formulas, in particular, will unlock helpful analysis and organizational functionality. Here are a few examples of some of the most effective ones:
- Use The Data: Your budget will only be as useful as you want it to be and, ultimately, make it. You need to not only maintain your budget, but also learn from it. The formulas above will help in this regard, revealing percentage differences and other useful change-based metrics.Once you comprehend the meaning buried within the raw data, you can reassess your objectives and strategies – ultimately forming the basis for day-to-day changes. Then you can see if the numbers reflect this change in approach.
Image: Rinelle / Shutterstock
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