Many financial planning experts advise that the first step to creating a personal budget is to keep a "spending diary" for a week or month to carefully track "where" your money is going. Relying on a weekly or monthly budget will allow you to gain control of your spending, and hopefully prepare you to save a portion of your assets for future expenses.

There are many free budgeting tools available on the Internet. Here are a few examples:

Financial Education: General Resources

Budgeting Tools


Many financial planners also believe that "living within your means" boils down to one thing: Self-discipline. Reaching financial goals requires self-control, and understanding the difference between wants and needs. Your first step is to determine your financial goals.

When creating a budget, be sure to include

  • Fixed expenses: Expenses in which the amount does not change (such as monthly rent)
  • Variable expenses: Expenses in which the actual amount fluctuates from time to time (your electric bill)
  • Optional expenses: For things like dining out and entertainment

Easy day-to-day tips for saving money:

From InnerLight Incorporated (Kansas City, MO)

  • Clip coupons only for staples (butter, hot dogs, bread, etc.)- many grocery coupons are for new high-priced items, so coupons will not really "save" you money- they will just bring these items down to regular price.
  • Read and use merchant sales flyers.
  • Buy whole rather than cut foods (meats, fruits, and vegetables).
  • Pack a lunch for work.
  • Engage in inexpensive forms of exercise that do not require a gym membership (jogging, biking, free weights).

From Consumer Federation of America, "66 Ways to Save Money" (Washington, DC)

  • Buy generic products.
  • Pay bills ON TIME (to avoid interest payments).
  • Don't pay retail for anything—watch for sales, and ask merchants, "Is that your best price?"
  • When buying a used car, compare the asking price with the "Bluebook" price, or the price found in a reputable pricing guide (available at the Library).
  • Find and use an automotive mechanic who is honest, well-established, and communicates well about repairs.
  • Use a free checking account from a bank which does not charge extraneous fees.
  • Open a savings account at a bank that does not charge extraneous fees and earns the highest interest possible.
  • Use a cell phone plan which saves you the most money based on your calling habits.
  • Cook! Prepared foods are more expensive than ingredients.
  • Pay attention to quantities on food labels; shop for the lowest price per unit weight.
  • Ask your physician about generic prescription drugs, and call several pharmacies to compare prices for prescription drugs.

For additional information, look over these books available at Kansas City Public Library; you can find more books by searching the Library's catalog under the subject headings "Saving and investment," "Budgets, Personal," and "Finance, Personal."

The Debt-Free Spending Plan: An Amazingly Simple Way to Take Control of Your Finances Once and for All. 2013. Call number: 332.024 N14D 2013

The Smartest Money Book You'll Ever Read: Everything You Need to Know About Growing, Spending, and Enjoying Your Money. 2013. Call number: 332.024 S68SM 2013

Digital Smarts: How to Stay Within a Budget When Shopping, Living, and Doing Business Online. 2013. Call number: 332.024 P4853D 2013

Need additional information?

Contact the Library's Career Resource Specialist:

Email | Phone: 816.701.3663