With a quick search of the Internet, you can find dozens of free budgeting worksheets to download. There are PDFs and Excel worksheets galore. Some are easier to navigate than others … some look better. So, with all the options out there, which free form should you choose?
Before we get into that, we should step back and get an idea of what you need the budgeting worksheets to do.
Creating and following a budget can be very hard work. It's so hard, in fact, that most people give up after a few short weeks, or even days. There are all kinds of reasons people give up. Perhaps the most commonly overlooked and easiest to correct has to do with the budgeting worksheet or tools they use.
The most common budgeting method used is a blank piece of paper. We've all tried it at one time or another. Income is listed on one side, expenses on the other. The idea is to balance income against expenses so that, hopefully, there is still some money left at the end of the month.
There are at least a couple major problems with this method. First, it's pretty easy to overlook quite a few expenses. Things like that daily stop at the coffee shop, or the cost of a car registration that happens only once a year.
Second, and more importantly, this method does not provide any real guidance on what to do with money as it comes in. You're left to try to figure it out as you go. Mistakes are made … frustration sets it … you give up. That's because your budgeting worksheets are missing the most crucial part of any budget – the spending plan.
A list of your income and expenses, no matter how complete, is not a spending plan, but is the information you need to create a spending plan. And, a paycheck-by-paycheck spending plan will help ensure the success of, or at least help prevent the failure of your budget.
So, back to the original question – which free budgeting worksheet works the best? The answer, sadly, is none. That's because they all basically only allow you to list your income and expenses, and that's about it. Some of them also allow you to record your actual income and expenses. But none of the free budgeting worksheets we could find online allowed you to create a spending plan.
Generally speaking, the ability to generate a paycheck-by-paycheck spending plan is only available in budgeting worksheets packaged for sale.