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It can be difficult to manage your spending and keep up with your budget, but there are ways to make it easier, ultimately helping you reach your financial goals and improve your financial well-being.

This worksheet will aid you in recognizing common spending challenges, and coming up with proactive ways to manage them. Once you have your spending under control, you should be able to:

  • Have more control over day-to-day, month-to-month finances
  • Have a greater cushion to absorb a financial shock
  • Get on track to meet your financial goals; and
  • Make choices that allow you to enjoy life.

Step 1: Identify spending challenges

Put a check beside the common spending challenges apply to you.

𛲣▢ I don’t track or budget my income and spending because it’s a hassle.

𛲣▢ I have tried to use a budget, but tracking my income and spending is too complicated and/or takes too much time.

𛲣▢ I struggle to pay my bills and expenses because I have inadequate or irregular income.

𛲣▢ When I overspend, I often think I can spend less later to make up for it, but I find it hard to do.

𛲣▢ I don’t think about the money I spend when using my debit or credit card to make purchases.

𛲣▢ I like to treat myself and others occasionally, even if I can’t afford it.

𛲣▢ My financial situation is discouraging, so I avoid thinking about it.

If you’ve checked one or more of these boxes, try out some of the tips in Step 2 to better manage your spending.

Step 2: Address spending challenges

A. Track your spending. To get a handle on where all your money goes, document your spending for a week or a month, and see how much you’re spending in different categories. (Need help? There are multiple apps for that.)

B. Establish a budget. First, create a household budget – try this easy-to-use budget worksheet if you need guidance. Then, decide how much money you can set aside for special occasions, so that you can enjoy life without overspending.

C. Decide how much to spend. Based on your budget, set a weekly spending limit for the small purchases that can add up and keep you from achieving your aspirations. Consider setting aside cash for these purchases at the beginning of the week, and not spending more than you set aside. Before going shopping, check your balances and set a spending limit based on your budget.

Set a weekly spending limit for the small purchases that can add up… Consider setting aside cash for these purchases at the beginning of the week.

D. Keep track of where you are. Compare your actual spending to your budget, either monthly or more frequently. Make adjustments to your budget if it is regularly out of line.

Check your balances regularly for checking accounts, credit cards, and prepaid cards. You can check them online, at an ATM, on your smartphone, or by calling your bank or credit union. Be aware that these services may incur fees – check with your financial service provider. Consider signing up for “balance alert” text message services from your financial institution.

E. Create a personal plan for managing spending. Commit to the steps you will take to manage your spending, by picking one or more of the above solutions – or come up with your own ideas – and hold yourself accountable by listing them:

  1. _______________________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________
  4. _______________________________________________________________

Adapted from the this article by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.


On budgets and spending
My new money goal worksheet (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
My spending rule to live by (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
Not sure how to handle your finances and student aid (grants, scholarships, loans, work-study) while you’re in school? (Office of Federal Student Aid)
The 8 best budgeting apps to download in 2018 (The Balance)
8 best personal finance apps (Investopedia)

The content on provides general information and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information; do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here; and take no liability for your use of this information.

© Georgia Center for Nonprofits 2019

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