Best budgeting spreadsheet for recent graduates

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Hanna Horvath, CFP®Managing Editor & Certified Financial Planner™Hanna Horvath, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and former managing editor at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in NBC News, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, CNBC, Best Company, and HerMoney.

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Congratulations! You have officially graduated college and gotten your very first job. While it’s exciting to move out from under your parents’ roof, it can be scary to live alone (especially when you’re the one paying all the bills). You have to start caring about things like 401(k) contributions and renters insurance. And let’s not forget about student loan payments.

While this responsibility can seem daunting, you can track your expenses and stay organized with — you guessed it — a budget.

This simple template measures income against expenses — you can download the one below and personalize it to fit your lifestyle.

Here's how to use it:

  1. Enter your cash-on-hand and any other sources of income, including take-home-pay from your job and income from your side hustles.

  2. Add your fixed expenses (like your rent or student loan payments) and estimate how much you'll be spending on unfixed but essential expenses (like groceries).

  3. Add spending levels for wants like clothing, travel expenses and entertainment.

  4. Track your spending to see how much you're spending month-to-month. If you find yourself consistently going over budget in a certain category, you may want to tweak your budget or figure out a way to lower your expenses.

Budgeting tips for new graduates

Here are a few ways to get on the road to stellar financial health:

  • Check your credit. You'll need good credit to get affordable financing on a car, home, personal loan or credit card. It also helps when renting an apartment or comparison-shopping for better rates on service contracts, insurance policies and more. You can check your credit reports for free every 12 months via You can see your current credit scores for free each month via various personal finance websites, like Credit Sesame. To build good credit, make all loan payments on time, keep debt levels low and limit new credit inquiries.

  • Build your safety net. Though retirement seems light years away, any money you put into your 401(k) now will get you big returns by the time you're 65, thanks to compounding interest. Also think about getting an emergency fund in place of at least $1,000, because life happens. (You can compare competitive savings account offers through our partner Even Financial.)

  • Protect your biggest asset: You're just starting out in the working world and have decades of earning capital ahead of you. Think about getting long-term disability coverage to protect your income if you aren't able to work.

Though building your financial future can be stressful at times, don't forget to have fun. Budgeting in a 'splurge fund' gives you permission to enjoy your hard-earned cash.

It can be hard keeping track of your new financial responsibilities. Download our Money Calendar to get regular reminders.

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