Determine how much money you have available. This includes your family’s monthly after-tax income from all sources: salaries, part-time work, investments, government payments (e.g. GST credit, Canada Child Tax Benefit, pensions), and any other revenue you receive from miscellaneous sources (gifts, a tax refund, etc.). In each case, show the amount you expect to get in the “Expected” column. When the money comes in, enter the amount in the “Received” column. That will tell you immediately if there are any surprises. A special box on the right side of the spreadsheet will allow you to record all the various sources of additional income you receive in a month, be they from garage sales, boarders, insurance payments, oar anything else. This box will update your Received column as you record the items.
There is also a box for any Investment Income you expect during the month. Dividend cheques, capital gains, and RRIF payouts would all be recorded here as they come in. The box will update your Received column as items are recorded.
To the total income, add your cash in the bank at the start of the new month. Then subtract any credit card payments owing plus all outstanding cheques that have not cleared through your account. The result is your available cash for the current month. It can be adjusted as the month progresses if unexpected income is received.
The total amount of disposable income available will automatically be registered in the last row on the spreadsheet as your budget for the month.
Allocate your monthly expenses. Each row in the speadsheet relates to a specific item. These may vary somewhat in the case of your own family so make appropriate adjustments. We’ve also provided several titled boxes which are linked to the Expected Expenses for each corresponding row. Entires made to these boxes will automatically update the Expected column of your budget. Here’s how to handle each entry.
Savings. Use this row to budget your total savings for each month. There is a Savings box on the right side of the spreadsheet where you can break your savings into several categories. If at all possible, you should set aside an amount each month for non-specific savings. This can also be your emergency fund if an unexpected financial crisis arises. Plan for your RRSP contribution here as well. If you budget a specific amount each month, you won’t be scrambling for cash at the RRSP deadline. The easiest way to do this is to set up an automatic contribution plan at your bank so the money can be deducted directly from your account.
Mortgage payment (or rent). Enter the amount of the monthly payment you’re required to remit to the lender or to your landlord. If you own your home, the mortgage payment will probably include property taxes and may also cover insurance premiums. If you aren’t sure, check with the lending company. If you’re a condominium owner, you should include condo fees here or add a separate budget entry to cover them. Renters should include their monthly payment here plus any other related housing costs.
Note that if property taxes are not covered in your mortgage payment, you can budget for them separately. There are two ways to do this. One is to simply divide the estimated annual property tax bill by 12 and budget the same amount each month. The outstanding balance should be carried forward to the next month, so that the total reserve will grow until you make payment. The alternative approach is to wait until the interim and final statements are received from your municipality and to budget according to the payment schedules they show.
Insurance. This represents a monthly allocation for all your insurance costs, including property, car, and life insurance. Again, there are two possible approaches. The first is to add up the total annual premiums on all policies and divide by twelve to arrive at the monthly figure. Carry forward unspent amounts as a reserve. Alternatively, make provision for each premium in the month when it comes due.
The Insurance box on the right side of the spreadsheet can be used to record each type of insurance you are budgeting for.
Utilities. Make provision here for such expenses as heating bills, telephone, cable, electricity, water, Internet connection, and similar costs. Use the Utilities box on the right side of the spreadsheet to record all of the individual payments.
Transportation. This column should cover the monthly cost of operating a car and/or taking public transit. If you wish, you can also set aside an amount each month to be used for the purchase of a new vehicle in the future. Use the Transportation box on the right side of the spreadsheet to record all the expenses associated with getting around: taxis, bus fare, car washes, gasoline, and repairs.
Food and supplies. This is your monthly budget for food and household necessities, like light bulbs and cleaning supplies. The Groceries box on the right side of the spreadsheet can be used to record your grocery receipts.
Debt Reduction. If you are carrying a credit card balance or any other form of debt that requires monthly payments (not including a mortgage or a car loan), you should use an extra row for debt reduction. If possible, this should be more than the minimum payment required, so that you can reduce and eventually eliminate the loan.
Clothing. This is where you make your monthly clothing allocation for the family. Since spending on clothes tends to be seasonal (new boots for the kids in the fall, etc.), most people find it easier to allocate a set amount each month and allow any unused money to be carried forward.
Charity. Any charitable contributions you wish to make should be budgeted for here.
Allowance. This is the place to budget the personal spending money for each member of your household. Kid's allowances shyould be recorded here too. A separate Allowance box on the right side of the spreadsheet can be used to track these amounts.
Blank rows can be used for unique expenses that aren't mentioned here like dues or membership fees.
Maintenance and repairs. This is a monthly allocation for the upkeep of your home. It should be adequate to cover everything from calling a plumber to fix a burst pipe to having your driveway shovelled in the winter. Money that is not spent can be carried forward if you wish to create a reserve against future major expenditures.
Education. If you have children, or if you are attending classes yourself, you’ll need to include an allocation for the costs involved. You may also wish to earmark a sum for university education savings if your children are young. However, it may be easier to keep track of a university savings fund if you list it as a separate item. There is an Education box provided on the right side of the spreadsheet to record items like courses, tuitions, and specialty classes.
Health care. The amount you allocate here each month will depend on several factors, including the age of your family, the general health of family members, and whether you have extended health insurance. If your monthly health care costs are low, you may want to build a fund to cover possible future expenses for glasses, dental work, non-insured prescriptions, and other health-related costs. Use the Health Care box on the right side of the spreadsheet to record the different medical expenses throughout the month.
Recreation. Recreation comes right after food in the hierarchy of Canadian household spending. So this budget item needs more attention than most people give it. In fact, one of the main reasons why families go over budget is because they don’t realize just how much they are shelling out each month on everything from movies to CDs. Use the Recreation box on the right side of the spreadsheet to record and track these expenses. There will also be special occasions during the year when you’ll require extra money: birthdays, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, Christmas.
Once a week, enter all income received during the previous seven days in the Received column.
Enter all expenses under the appropriate budget heading and in their appropriate boxes, if applicable. Be sure to include credit card charges as well as cash outlays, debit card transactions, and cheques. The balance remaining for the month for that category will automatically appear at the bottom of the row.
The Total Budget row near the end will show at a glance the total amount allocated for the month and the balance remaining to be spent.
Save your budget under a new name that includes the month and the year in the title of the file. This provides you with an ongoing record of your income and expenses that can be very handy when it comes time to prepare your taxes each year.