Because budgeting is so important to any debt consolidation plan, Bankrate has created a household budgeting tool for you to use.
While more sophisticated software is certainly available for purchase online, this downloadable budget spreadsheet is free and will work very well to get you started on mapping out and understanding where your money goes and where you can save.
Dollar amounts on the sheet are merely examples -- delete or enter over them your own budget figures. The spreadsheet will do the math for you.
The spreadsheet is written in Microsoft's Excel format, so you'll either need that program or one that is compatible with it. When you download it, save it in Excel under any title such as "Mary's household budget." Make sure to save the work each time you use it.
The spreadsheet reflects a twice-monthly pay schedule. If you get three checks in one month, add the extra amount in the appropriate half of the month. Cash remaining from a previous pay period rolls into the next.
Similarly, enter your expenses in the appropriate time period. For example, if you pay rent on the first of each month, the amount goes in the column ending on the 15th. If your car payment is the 20th, it goes in the column for the last half of the month. Just use those lines that apply to your situation. You can change the name of the category of any expense or income figure, but don't add new rows because the math won't be done for you.
Once you start regularly entering your income and bills on any budget program, you'll get a good idea of your household cash flow and where you have work to do.
Download the budget spreadsheet as an interactive budget in excel format or as a printable version PDF