How To Run Your Household Budget: Step 1

{via @Snow0326 on Instagram}

I have lots of respect for the spreadsheet wielding, printable downloading folk amongst us. But I am not one of them.

I do manage our household budget though, and I do this using some revolutionary yet often overlooked tools:

  • a pen
  • paper
  • envelopes
  • post-it notes

These simple tools work for me, and if you think they might work for you too, then read on.

Step One: Look at and list your income and expenses – honestly.

    1. Grab a piece of paper and write at the top of it your combined household income per week/fortnight/month (generally whatever cycle your pay/s enter your account).
    2. I personally round it down to the closest hundred, to give us a small amount of wiggle room. (Optional)
    3. On the same sheet, list every expense you currently have. If you know the amount per week/fortnight/month then add that too, otherwise you can figure it out once we’ve completed the list.

The Most Common Household Expenses:

  • mortgage/rent
  • groceries
  • car loan
  • personal loans
  • credit card minimum repayment
  • phone/internet
  • mobile phones
  • pay tv
  • gas
  • water
  • electricity
  • petrol
  • charitable donations
  • emergency fund
  • transport costs (train, bus tickets etc)
  • car insurance
  • health insurance
  • home/contents insurance
  • life insurance
  • council rates
  • eating out
  • beer/entertainment
  • extras
  • misc spending
  • school fees
  • ongoing medical costs (medication etc)
  • pet costs (vet appointments etc)
  • savings


    1. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck right now, this is possibly a little bit uncomfortable to do, but absolutely necessary. If you’re not aware of your expenses, there is no way you can adequately prepare for them
    2. At this step you should also note down expenses that aren’t every week, but that still happen regularly:
      • birthday presents
      • haircuts
      • facials/beauty treatments
      • dentist visits
      • car servicing
      • car registration
      • CTP green slip

(*Depending on your financial situation, you may be best to put a small amount aside each pay for these, or, if you have enough disposable income simply pay for them as needed. Either way though, you need to note them down here.*)

  1. Complete the amounts for each of the expenses you’ve listed. Some (such as your mortgage or rent should stay the same) and things like phone bills, electricity, pay TV, school fees etc should be roughly the same too.
  2. To calculate your electricity or other quarterly expenses, look at your most recent bill, add 10% and divide it by 3 if you’re paid monthly (6 if you’re paid fortnightly or 12 if you’re paid weekly). This will give you the amount you need to put away each pay to ensure you have enough to cover your bills when they roll in.
  3. Continue to add these amounts to your list until complete.
  4. Prepare to put a zero next to some things (such as savings) until you have a firm idea of your expenses and have spent a month or two living with these amounts.
  5. Add the amounts together to get your total expense figure. If it’s less than the amount of your income – well done, you’re quite possibly living within your means. If not, don’t panic.


We’ll look at what to do next when we tackle Step 2.

In the meantime, just let this list roll around in your head for a few days, making sure you haven’t forgotten anything.


You can find How to Manage Your Household Budget: Step 2 here.

And How to Manage Your Household Budget: Step 3 here.


101 Responses to How To Run Your Household Budget: Step 1

  1. I’m so happy to see this post from you! This is exactly what I’ve been planning to do all weekend, mostly because I am realizing we have about two months during the year where we make considerably less and I never seem to prepare for those. I see you’re all eliminating lots of stuff. I have a 1000 items a year challenge. Could not do 2012. Good luck!

    • Thanks, Daryl! It’s so helpful to have it all there in black and white, isn’t it? Once we know where we are, in terms of income and expenses, it’s so much easier to see where we need to go.

      Let me know how you go with your 1000-thing challenge!

  2. An online resource I’ve used is There are some things about it I don’t like, but it really helped me get a handle on where my money was going–how much I was really spending on various things. The beauty of it for me was that I didn’t have to write every single thing down to help me see it.

    • Funny you should mention as I was just reading about it! I’m more of a pencil and paper girl myself, but I like the idea of having everything linked to the one service. It would surely make tracking expenses much easier. And I’ve found that if I know where we are, in great detail, then it’s much easier to see what’s costing us, where we’re leaking money (coffee!) and what our real debt is.

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