Make a Spending Plan

Budget Pie Chart Graphic 600 px

A spending plan (also called a “budget”) is simply a plan you create to help you meet expenses and spend money the way you want to spend it. A good spending plan can help you stop “spending leaks”; in other words, it can keep you from spending money without thinking. It can help you make sure you have money to pay bills on time, even when your bills and income change each month.

A spending plan or budget includes:

  • Money coming in – paychecks, tips, loans, scholarships, child support, and other cash benefits
  • Money going out – regular monthly bills, like housing, groceries, utilities, clothing, child care, car payment, credit cards, doctor bills – well, you get the idea
  • Goals – money set aside for emergencies, replacing your vehicle, a family trip, medical co-pays, retirement, or education



How do we know when it’s good enough? 

Here’s what students in a group spending class said.


Creating a spending plan is a process. Try it, then tweak it to make improvements and try it again.

It is never perfect, but if you keep working at it and improving it, you’ll get to a place where it’s “good enough”.


To learn how to make and follow a spending plan, check out the resources below.  Then take the quiz.

  1. Simple Steps to a Spending Plan  Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to create a spending plan.
  2. Check out a few different spending tools to find one that you like:
      • Basic Spending Plan Template Here’s a form you can print out and use to create your own basic spending plan.
      • UW Spending Plan spreadsheet – You can download this worksheet and save it to your computer to track your monthly spending. Plus it adds up your income and expenses for you.
      • Spending Tracker – Download and save this worksheet to your computer to help you keep track of your expenses each month. It also totals up your monthly spending for you.
      • Budgeting & Planning Tools – Haven’t found anything you like yet? Check out more budgeting worksheets and other tools you can download to help you plan to meet expenses.
    • SMART Goals  Savings goals belong on your spending plan too. Learn how to make goals work for you by turning them into SMART goals.

Ready to review what you learned above? Take this Spending Plan Quiz.

More tips and tools to balance a budget

Here are some more resources that can help with spending plans and balancing a budget.

Managing Money in Tough Times – Are you spending more than your income?  Consider these suggestions to help when money is tight.

Managing spending – Looking for ideas on how to get your spending to match your income. Check out this resource from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Sharon’s Story – Spending doesn’t always go as planned each month! Read about Sharon and see if you can help her improve her spending plan.

Spending Your Money – A summary about spending plans from the UW-Extension Money $mart program.

Certificate of Completion

If you’d like to certify that you’ve completed this module, be sure to contact a UW-Madison Extension Financial Educator to find out about program requirements.