Budget icon Budget

Learn how to budget like a boss!

Creating and maintaining a budget is important to achieving your financial goals. Knowing how much money you make and how you spend it helps you keep your eye on the prize.

Get tips on how to develop a budget, monitor your spending and set the foundation for financial success.

Military member filling out budget sheet

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s important to find the plan that works for you and your family. Doing a monthly review can be a good target. This way, you get a good sense of your income and monthly spending habits. Some people might do a quick review each pay period. For the military, that’s twice a month. The goal is to check often enough so that you can avoid surprises and stay on top of any changes.

We recommend saving at least 10-15% of your pre-tax income for general savings and retirement.

There’s no one right answer, so you should go with what you feel comfortable with. If you use gross income, then you’ll track your pre-tax savings such as Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contributions. If you start with net income, it’s important to note your pre-tax savings contributions, but your budget will focus on the specific money coming in and going out.

It’s common to include things like housing expenses, car loans, groceries and gas, but be sure to also include things like your cell phone bill and monthly subscriptions to streaming services. You should also include irregular expenses not paid on a monthly basis, so you’re not surprised when they come due.

It’s time to take a critical look at your budget. Identify expenses that satisfy basic needs, like your rent or mortgage or groceries. Then identify extra expenses, like eating out and streaming services. Once you identify the expenses that aren’t critical, you can find ways to cut back. However, you don’t have to cut out ALL fun expenses. For example, if you usually go out to eat once a week, cut it back to twice a month until your spending is on track. Then, reevaluate over time.

It’s critical to at least pay the minimum balance each month. But to make progress paying off debt, you’ve got to have a plan to pay more than the minimum. Visit our Debt Destroyer Learning Guide for more help.

The key is finding what works best for you, so you stick to it. If you feel comfortable in a spreadsheet or using an app, do that. If you are more tactile and like to write things down, that works too. Find something that’s easy for you to update and track periodically.

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