Banner: Make a budget

Make a budget

Make a budget

Plan ahead to be sure you can cover your expenses while you’re job searching.

As you job search, you may be without a full-time income for a time. Budgeting can help you plan for your expenses. Even after you start work or enroll in school, a budget can help you make sure your income stays ahead of your costs.

What’s included in a budget?

A budget is a document that helps you plan how to spend your money every month. It includes regular expenses like rent or a mortgage, and costs that may change each month like groceries and electricity. It also includes occasional bills like car insurance or vacations.

Your budget can help ensure you have enough money for your expenses, and even help you save money for long-term goals or emergencies.

How to start

First, write down how much money you make. This includes your paychecks and any other money you get, like unemployment insurance or disability payments. Include your spouse or partner’s income if you share costs.

Next, list out all of your expenses, including housing, food, transportation, medical bills, clothing, etc. If you have a family, include costs for the whole household.

Finally, subtract your expenses from your income. This number should be more than zero. If it is less than zero, you are spending more money than you make. Look at your budget to see what items you could spend less on, or eliminate altogether.

Try using this budget worksheet developed by the Federal Trade Commission, an agency charged with protecting consumers' financial well-being. 

How to use your budget

  • Make your budget as accurate as possible:
  • At the beginning of the month, write down what you think you will earn and spend.
  • During the month, write down what you actually spend. Try to do this every day.
  • At the end of the month, see if you spent what you planned, and use the results to help you plan the next month’s budget.
  • Use the income that your goal career would pay to make a new budget, and see how your finances would work at that pay level.