Budget Calculator

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Struggling to stick to a budget? There's a better way to understand where your money goes. Visualize your monthly cash flow with this free budget calculator.

You got your paycheck! … And, just like that, it's gone.

For many people, budgeting is a huge struggle—and it drains your bank account way faster than you ever expect.

This calculator shows you exactly how much of your money is spent in each category. You might be surprised to find where all your money goes, and that's okay. Adjust the sliders until you can settle on a budget that meets your basic needs and helps you save for your other goals.

Planning a budget is one thing. Sticking to it is another battle altogether. Find out how to actually stay within your budget down below.

Why should I budget?

If bills and expenses seem to sneak up on you, it's a sign your budget needs a little TLC. A budget helps you plan for your expenses so you can avoid surprises. It puts you in control of your money.

Your budget can be flexible. If you spend a little extra one month, don't be too hard on yourself. It might take some trial and error. You might need to adjust your goals. But as long as you keep working on it, you'll have a better handle on your financial life.

Of course, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Saving and budget can be hard. Check out these budgeting tips to stay on track.

How to stay within budget

Struggling to spend less each month? Don't miss these tips to take control of your money.

Housing and Utilities

This might be one of the hardest areas to reduce your spending. Most people can't easily pack their bags and move to a cheaper place. Some areas only have one provider for utilities, so you might not be able to make a switch.

Still, there are some ways you can reduce costs:

  • Find a roommate
    No, it isn't the most glamorous move, especially if you're used to living on your own. But rent eats up such a huge part of your income. Having a roommate cuts down on this dramatically. Even rooming with someone else for a year or two will help a lot as you save for other goals.

  • Join someone else's phone plan
    If you're on a phone plan by yourself, you're overpaying. Phone companies offer lower rates if you have multiple lines sharing a plan. Join someone else's plan or invite some friends or family to hop on yours to save money.

  • Negotiate with your cable/internet provider
    If your provider has hiked prices again, phone in and ask if they can lower the price. It might take some back and forth, but if you're polite and firm, you'll often get a better deal. Be prepared to cancel so they'll make an offer to keep you onboard.


How much of your income does your car payment take? Many people fall into the trap of biting off a bit more car than they can chew. If your car payments, gas, insurance, and maintenance costs take up more than 20% of your take-home pay, it's a sign you might need to trim the fat.

  • Get a used car
    No one wants to downgrade. But if your new car is eating up a lot of money, it might be worth it to sell it for a reliable used car instead. The extra money you save can help you reach bigger savings goals like a down payment for a home or a nice retirement fund.

  • Carpool to work
    You can cut down on gas money if you carpool with a coworker and split the gas money. Another huge plus: It's good for the environment.

  • Shop around for car insurance
    If you're not comparing car insurance prices each year, you're losing out on money. Car insurers aren't very transparent on how they set rates. The only way to get the lowest possible rates is to get quotes from lots of different companies.

Food and Personal

Dining out, entertainment, clothing—these is the easiest spending category to cut down on.

No, we're not saying you have to live like a monk and give up all worldly pleasures. But if you really take a hard, honest look at your spending, there are probably some expenses you can do without.

  • Buy off-brand products
    It's the difference of a few dollars per product, but those dollars really add up. Whenever you shop, look for in-house brands and generic versions of items you use. They often work just as well as the name brand—just without the markup.

  • Plan for home-cooked meals
    Eating out can be convenient, especially when you're tired after work. Try cooking larger batches of food so you can have leftovers on hand when you're too exhausted to cook.

  • Sell stuff you no longer use
    If you're into fashion, tech, or any kind of hobby, you've probably accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. Try selling your old clothes or electronics to make some extra money to spend on fun stuff.

Debt and Loan Repayment

Paying off debt can feel like throwing cash into a bottomless hole. When does it end?

The trick with getting out of debt is to have a solid plan. Try to see if you can make more than the minimum payment every month. Making larger payments will lower the amount of interest you have to pay.

Here are some helpful ways to ditch the debt:

  • Understand your financial goals
    Paying off debt is one big grind. Your goals will keep you motivated even when things get tough.

    Maybe you want to save for your children's education or for that vacation you desperately need. Let those reasons inspire you to continue working hard.

  • Make money for extra payments
    You don't have to pick up another job to make some cash. Consider quick ways to make money like selling old appliances or testing products. Every extra dollar you can put toward your debt counts.

  • Try the debt snowball method
    If you struggle with debt, try putting extra money toward the smallest debts first, then move on to higher debts. Paying off small debts can help motivate you and build momentum so you can tackle other debts.

Bottom line

Budgeting is hard when you're uncertain where your money goes. By creating a plan for your income, you've taken a big first step toward a healthier financial life.

Although sticking to a budget is a challenge, remember to keep your eye on the prize. Your budget will help you reach even bigger and better financial goals.

Even if you make a few mistakes along the way, small steps really do add up. Stick to it and you'll be on your way to financial independence.

Donna Tang is a content associate at CreditDonkey, a personal finance comparison and reviews website. Write to Donna Tang at donna.tang@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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