Work Smart: Budget Worksheet & Tips

Your financial picture is foggy without a budget. As part of the Work Smart series, we provide a worksheet you can download to take the guesswork out of budgeting.

January 1, 2008

A realistic budget that includes all of your monthly expenses is the first step to a stronger financial footing. As you create your budget for the year ahead, be on the lookout for areas where you can easily save money — you’ll find that every little thing counts.

For help on your path to budgeting success, read these savings tips and download this budget worksheet from Buffini & Co., a Carlsbad, Calif., coaching organization.

7 Savings Tips

  • Take note of extra income. If you receive regular income from other sources — such as referrals, teaching, or broker price opinions — add line items so can track these income sources and grow them. For example, realizing you've earned $4,000 by teaching a homeownership course at a local college may encourage you to look for additional teaching opportunities.
  • Make smart car decisions. Use online calculators at sites such as or to determine if it’s more cost-effective to own or lease a car. Hint: In a lease, car price is the most negotiable item.
  • Buy in bulk. Many vendors offer a discount for buying in bulk. If you find a closing gift you like, buy all your closing gifts for the year at once to save money, as well as the time for last-minute shopping trips.
  • Change the bulbs! This is an easy one.Reduce your energy costs at home and at work (if you rent space) by using compact fluorescent light bulbs. Each CFL bulb will save you $30 over the life of the bulb, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Factor in depreciation at tax time. Based on IRS calculations, most computers and office equipment should be depreciated over a five-year period. However, office furniture is depreciated over seven years.
  • Rethink your insurance deductibles. If you have a $250 or even $500 auto deductible but haven't made a claim in several years, you'll probably save money by raising your deductible.
  • Stow away money for retirement. If you earn less than $110,000, or you and your spouse earn less than $160,000 annually, you can contribute to a Roth IRA. For the 2007 tax year, each spouse under 49 can contribute $4,000; spouses 50 or over can contribute $5,000.
freelance writer

G.M. Filisko is a Chicago area freelance and former editor for REALTOR® Magazine.