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A Survival Budget Spreadsheet

Dale recently retired from a forty-year career in electronics and computers. He and his wife Becky enjoy traveling and visiting family.

Monthly Budget Worksheet

Monthly Budget Worksheet

Monthly Budget Worksheet

What I Mean by Survival Budget

By survival budget, I am not talking about planning a budget for living off-grid or after the end of the world as we know it. I am talking about surviving a season of personal adversity that impairs our ability to cope with life in general and with budget issues in particular. The season of adversity could be caused by such things as a layoff, an unexpected disability or life-threatening disease, or by the death of an uninsured or under-insured working spouse, especially if the healthy or surviving spouse was not previously the one handling the budget.

Whatever the nature of the adversity, this article describes some example worksheets and how to use them in a way that can help you survive without having to buy or learn a complicated budget application. A spreadsheet application program (aka spreadsheet app) such as Excel will be helpful. If you can't afford Excel, there are free, open-source alternatives like Open Office and Excel Online, either of which I use depending on the situation. But if necessary, all you really need is a legal pad, a pencil, and the calculator God gave you in your own brain.

With the use of a few formulas, the spreadsheet app makes it possible to easily see the effects of moving a payment to the following payday, and then to easily move the payment back if you don't like the looks of the change.

Don't be Afraid to Seek Professional Help

If you have suffered the kind of adversity described above, and have not already sought advice from a financial and/or legal professional, please consider doing so. Consumer Credit Counseling Services provides counseling that is confidential and initially free, and they may get concessions from your creditors if you commit to a Debt Management Plan with them. Or, if their analysis shows that your situation warrants bankruptcy, they should let you know so you can consult an attorney.

Let your counselors know if there is a medical (or other) situation that is continuing to increase your debt burden. That could affect the recommended timing of a bankruptcy, because any debts incurred after a bankruptcy cannot be forgiven through bankruptcy for another seven years.

Use the Right Tool for the Job

I am not a financial or legal professional, but my wife and I have experienced seasons of financial and health adversity over the decades. I used spreadsheets like the ones presented here to help us survive from one payday to the next, and to eventually get back to the point where we were no longer just surviving.

You might find them useful, too, especially if you are paid biweekly. For those of you who are unfamiliar with, or even intimidated by spreadsheets, I illustrate the underlying ideas with a simple example that you can use to start building your own custom spreadsheets, adding one row at a time until your spreadsheets perfectly match your situation.

In Survival Mode, Fixed Expenses Have to Come First

These budgeting worksheets have to do primarily with monthly fixed expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, credit card bills, and utilities. Tracking of discretionary spending may be done using the envelope method, by using a different debit card and checking account, or by some other method. You could even create a new spreadsheet tab and build a worksheet for your discretionary expenses.

What's left over from each paycheck after the bills are paid is for savings and discretionary spending. Discretionary spending from each paycheck is shown as a single sum of money. If that sum is not enough for you to live on between paydays, then you have a problem to solve. Until you solve it, you will just keep getting further and further behind no matter what budgeting system you use.

Possible solutions include earning more, spending less, consolidating debt, refinancing at a lower rate, selling assets, or reducing liabilities (such as by finding income tax credits or deductions, or through bankruptcy). The purpose of this article is to help you tell how much you will have left to live on after paying your obligations, and to help you plan your obligatory payments in a way that helps you get from one pay period to the next without spending money on wants that you really should be saving for needs.

Include Savings Even If You Can't

When in survival mode, you might think you have nothing available to put in savings, but saving is essential for two kinds of unavoidable expenses, even if you have to reduce your discretionary spending. If this is truly unfeasible, then you really need to solve the cash flow problem described in the last section, and to do so you may need professional help as described earlier.

For now, you can use the same Emergency Fund account to save for both kinds of unavoidable expenses, as described in the following sections.

Some Savings Is for Expenses You Know Are Coming

One type of unavoidable expense is for annual, semi-annual, or quarterly obligations that can be set aside regularly from a number of paychecks.

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For example, if you are paid every other week and have an expense due every three months, you could save one sixth of the bill out of each paycheck, or you could save one third of the bill out of one paycheck each month.

If you have an annual expense, you could set aside one twenty-sixth of the bill each payday. (52 weeks per year means 26 paydays.) If you don't set aside the cash, then you will spend it for discretionary items and find yourself in a bind when it comes time to pay that bill.

Some Savings is Needed for Emergencies

Another type of unavoidable expense is for necessary expenditures you know are coming, but just not when. They are emergencies when they happen, but for budgeting purposes can be thought of as randomly occurring expenses.

For example, you know that sooner or later you will have to replace the tires on your car. You just don't know when. Same for brake pads and car batteries. It is wise to save regularly for these kinds of expenses. You can evaluate your situation (such as current tire tread condition and car maintenance history) to factor which of these expenses are likely to occur while in your survival period.

Other types of emergencies might or might not happen to you. Car breakdowns, home plumbing repairs, and medical expenses often come without warning. As soon as possible, start saving something regularly in your emergency fund for these things. Then pray that none of the really big-ticket emergencies (like an automatic transmission or home air-conditioner) happens while you are still in survival mode.

Don't Do Stupid Stuff!

That's one of my favorite mottos.

These worksheets will help you, but they cannot protect you from yourself. Minimize your risks, especially in survival mode, by doing things like putting as few miles as you can on your car, and setting your home thermostat in summer so as to reduce stress on your AC. Drive extra safely to avoid at-fault accidents and stupid traffic tickets that cost money for fines and then increase your auto insurance rates for years to come.

Resist the temptation to go out and spend your last $500 on lottery tickets, splurge on a vacation you can't afford, go on a big shopping spree, or go out partying and drinking your way to oblivion. Stay the course. It's often darkest just before the dawn. Using these worksheets could save you one or two hundred dollars in late fees or overdraft fees each month. Don't throw that away on something stupid.

The monthly budget worksheet provides a place to record the results of your planning and calculations so that you don't forget and spend money that you need to hold for something else. It is useful when you are just beginning the budgeting process, or when your financial situation changes significantly. If you get more than one paycheck a month, it allows you to divide up the bills between two or more paydays (add more columns if needed for more paydays).

Please refer to the Monthly Budget Worksheet shown in the opening illustration for this article. This example is for someone who is paid every other week.

The first column describes the bill or savings purpose.

The second contains the amount to be paid.

The third column contains the number of times per year that amount is to be paid.

The fourth column contains the amount to be paid or set aside each month to meet the obligation.

The fifth column contains a note and/or the date of the month when the item is due.

The next two columns in the example are for the two paydays typically found in each month. Every so often there is a third payday in a month, and each month, except for February, the paydays advance two or three days earlier than the month before. This complicates the budgeting task, especially when you are in survival mode. That third monthly paycheck is not the windfall one might hope for; it will need to provide for many of the next month's expenses.

When in survival mode, you don't have much savings cushion, so you have to carefully look ahead to where future paydays fall in the month. This is so you can move scheduled payments to the next payday whenever possible in order to avoid late charges on one hand and overdraft charges on the other.

Another possibility is a line of credit attached to your checking account. But that only works as long as you are able to pay down the line of credit before you need it again.

Ideally, the need for discretionary funds will not reduce the amount available for fixed expenses. Since life is hardly ever ideal, the budget worksheets make it easier to identify which bills to postpone and what the impact will be on the next paycheck.

The table below shows a simplified monthly budget worksheet to make it easier to understand.

Simplified Monthly Budget Worksheet

Bill to be Paid or Purpose for This AmountScheduled PaymentTimes per YearMonthly Payment or Saving AmountNote or Due DateMonthly Budget Payday 1Monthly Budget Payday 2

Emergency Fund







Discretionary 1st Payday







Discretionary 2nd Payday







Mortgage Payment







Car Payment







Car Insurance




June 14, Dec 14



Electric Utility














Medical Bills














Paycheck Takehome














Explanation of Simplified Monthly Budget Worksheet

The main idea for this worksheet is to plan which expenses to pay out of which paycheck each month so that you can avoid getting yourself in a financial bind by spending money for wants that you should have reserved for needs.

The bills are distributed as evenly as possible between the two monthly paydays. They are made more even by specifying $75 to be saved for the semi-annual auto insurance payment from the first paycheck, while $125, a larger amount, is to be saved from the second.

Because the worksheet shows $25 is left over from each paycheck, we can enter $25 in the Emergency Fund row in both payday columns, F6 and G6. The totals for both paydays will automatically increase to $1300, and the difference in both payday columns will go to $0. So a total of $100 should go into the Emergency Fund account from the first paycheck, and a total of $150 from the second. Be aware of how much should be there for each purpose, but do what you need to do in case of emergency.

This example does not show the row labels, which are numbers beginning at the top with 1, or column labels, which are letters beginning at the left with A. Spreadsheet formula examples are shown in two of the bottom three cells of the second, or B, column. The first formula, in cell B15, sums the amounts in a range of cells in that column, from cell B6, the Emergency Fund, through cell B14, the medical bills. The second formula, in cell B17, subtracts the sum in B15 from the amount contained in cell B16, the paycheck take-home amount.

If you copy a cell with a formula and paste it in the same cell position in another column, the spreadsheet will automatically change the cell designations in the formula to match the new column (such as using column D, F, or G instead of column B).

Select a cell for editing to see its formula or change it using the input line located just above the row of column labels near the top of the spreadsheet. Select any other cell to see the formula's result.

Cut an amount from one column and paste it in another and see the updated result appear immediately in the column totals.

Plan Ahead

The next three worksheets are each for a biweekly pay period in a three paycheck month. By planning three or four weeks ahead, you can tell if you are going to be able to pay everything, or if you will need to put off paying one or more bills. Weekly and biweekly paycheck dates advance earlier in each succeeding month, which gives you the ability to be constantly deferring a percentage of your bills to the next pay period.

You can easily cut and paste an amount from the "Pay this Payday" column and paste it into the "next Payday" column for any bill you need to put off. Then copy that amount from the "Next Payday" column to the "Pay this Payday" column of the next pay period's worksheet. This will reduce the amount available for your discretionary budget for the following pay period unless you can find enough bills that you can put off from next payday to the payday after next.

In the first Payday Budget Spreadsheet, notice how the $100 for the gas utility has been moved from the “Pay this Payday” column to the "Next Payday" column. There is no late fee for this bill (in this example) as long as you aren't late more than once a year or so.

The $200 for car insurance has also been moved, since it will only be one day late and also has no late fee (this example shows a monthly auto insurance bill). You don't want to be too late with an auto insurance premium though, lest your insurance be canceled. That could also lead to being fined by your state's Department of Motor Vehicles for being an uninsured driver.

Track Your Progress; Check Your Status

As you pay each bill, you can cut the amount paid from the "Pay this Payday" column to the next column to the left, using that as a "Paid" column. The totals in the "Total" row automatically adjust because of the formulas contained in the cells in that row. You can systematically confirm as you pay your bills that each one has either been paid and moved a column to the left, or postponed and moved to the "next Payday" column.

If you cut and paste each amount this way as each bill is either paid or postponed, the total at the bottom of the "Pay this Payday" column automatically drops that amount from the total left to pay for that payday. This makes it easy to compare the total of your remaining bills for that payday to the amount left in your checkbook to pay them with.

Only the current discretionary spending row is shown in each payday worksheet.

Feel free to tailor these spreadsheets to fit your own situation.

Payday Budget Worksheet #1

Payday Budget Spreadsheet #1, for the first payday of a three payday month

Payday Budget Spreadsheet #1, for the first payday of a three payday month

Payday Budget Worksheet #2

Payday Budget Spreadsheet #2, for the second payday of a three payday month

Payday Budget Spreadsheet #2, for the second payday of a three payday month

In the second pay period, two items, the gas utility and the car insurance, are paid after being postponed from the first pay period. And four items, those in rows 9-12, are paid in advance for the next month.

In the third pay period, the mortgage and some other bills are paid for the next month.

$400 is required to live on during each pay period, in this example, regardless of how many paydays are in each month.

Payday Budget Worksheet #3

Payday Budget Spreadsheet #3, for the third payday of a three payday month

Payday Budget Spreadsheet #3, for the third payday of a three payday month

Save Your Spreadsheets Regularly and Add New Tabs as Needed

Remember to save your spreadsheet every time you update it. I like to save it with a new filename after a major update. I include the current date as part of my filename so I can always go back to a recent version if the current one gets messed up.

For each new payday, I copy & move a recent Payday Budget Worksheet tab to the end tab position in the spreadsheet, and then use that as a starting template to edit for the next pay period. If my circumstances change, I copy & move the last version of my Monthly Budget Worksheet to the end tab position, and then edit it to match my new circumstances.

These concepts and worksheets have helped me through some tough times. There are many sources out there of financial wisdom that will help you do more than survive when your season of adversity is over. One source I recommend is Dave Ramsey, whose material is easily found in your search engine.

You don't have to wait until your season of adversity is over to start learning what you need to know to thrive financially. The financial adversity you are surviving now should provide plenty of motivation.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Dale Tinklepaugh (author) from Salem, Virginia on May 08, 2017:

Thanks, Larry.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on May 08, 2017:

Very informative!

Dale Tinklepaugh (author) from Salem, Virginia on May 03, 2017:

Louise, you are welcome. Thank you for the kind words and for taking time to comment. I had barely hit the publish button minutes before seeing your comment! I'm glad you found it helpful.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on May 03, 2017:

Dale, thanks for the help with spreadsheets. I've never been any good at doing spreadsheets, so reading your article has been a big help. The images with the different ways of doing them has been helpful too, thankyou. =)

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