Guide to Weekly Budgets

By Kim Franke-Folstad · August 25, 2023 · 10 minute read

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Guide to Weekly Budgets

A budget can be a great and necessary way to take control of your finances. It helps you track money coming in and going out, which could mean your spending on necessities, fun experiences, and saving for the future.

While many people prefer a monthly budget, a weekly budget can be a better option for others. It gives added control and flexibility in wrangling your finances. For instance, if you get hit with a bigger than expected bill in the first week of a month, you can take steps to accommodate that. Or, if you wind up getting a rebate, you might decide to allocate that towards debt ASAP.

Here, you’ll learn more about this process, including:

•   What is a weekly budget?

•   How do you budget weekly?

•   What are the pros and cons of a weekly budget?

What Is a Weekly Budget

A weekly budget is a way to organize your finances and manage your money on a weekly cycle. It can help show you the money you have coming in, how much you’ll need for the necessities of life (housing, food, utilities, healthcare, etc.), how much you can spend on the wants in your world (dining out, entertainment, travel, cool gear), and how much should be set aside for savings.

For many people, a weekly guardrail like this helps them ensure their cash is tracking properly.

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How Weekly Budgets Work

Here’s how a weekly budget works:

•   Figure out your take-home pay per week. This likely requires a bit of basic division since many people are paid bi-weekly or at another cadence.

•   Next, look at your spending on necessities, such as housing, utilities, basic food (but not dining out or those vanilla lattes), minimum debt payments, healthcare, and insurance.

•   Subtract those expenses from your income. See how much is left.

•   From this remaining amount, allocate how much you can spend on “fun” items, such as dining out or takeout, clothing that isn’t vital, entertainment, travel, and the like.

•   Also remember to allocate funds for savings. Many experts recommend a figure of 20% but that may vary depending on your cost of living, debt, and other factors.

•   Now that you see how much money is coming in and how much remains for spending after the needs of life are paid for, you can track and manage your spending and saving weekly to make sure you are hitting your marks.

Benefits of a Weekly Budget

If you think tracking your money with a monthly household budget is a pain, the idea of putting even more effort into the process — and breaking it down by the week — may feel like overkill. But there could be some benefits to be had from the effort.

Here are a few pros and cons to consider:

Pro: More Flexibility

Life doesn’t always follow a schedule. A monthly budget can be a good fit for fixed expenses that are paid once a month (rent and car payments, student loan payments, etc.), or even quarterly or annual bills (insurance payments, subscriptions, and memberships). But other costs can be less predictable, such as dining out with friends, unexpected car repairs, clothing purchases; gifts; or an occasional massage or pedicure splurge.

Especially when it comes to discretionary expenses, using a weekly budget could help you spot when, where, and why you overspent in a certain category. And you can react more quickly to make changes to get back on track. In these ways, living on a budget can be a real advantage.

If you sit down to review your spending every week, instead of just once a month, you may be able to run through your transactions more quickly. And the less time-consuming and tedious your budget routine is, the less annoying it may be — which might make it easier to stay with it.

Pro: Planning Around Paychecks

If, like most Americans, you’re paid every week or every other week — or your spouse is — a weekly or biweekly budget could offer more flexibility for saving and spending.

People who are paid weekly have some months with four paychecks and some months with five. Those who are paid every other week have some months with two paychecks and some months with three.

A weekly budget could help pinpoint those extra paydays so you can take advantage of the opportunity to work on a short- or long-term goal. You might stockpile a few grocery-store staples that could help tide you over during leaner months, for example. Or you may want to set aside the money to start an emergency fund. Or you could use it to save for a wedding, honeymoon, or vacation.

Pro: Simplifying Savings

Switching to a budget that aligns with weekly or biweekly paydays also could make saving more manageable.

If you’re enrolled in a 401(k) or similar investment savings plan at work, you may already be making contributions each payday. You could do the same thing with your savings account by using a direct deposit from your paycheck. Or you could set up automatic transfers and move money from your checking account to your savings account each week.

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Downsides of a Weekly Budget

As you might expect, there are also some cons of a weekly budget. Consider the following:

Con: Too Much Temptation

The added flexibility that can make a weekly budget appealing also could make it easier for some individuals and households to be tempted off course — especially when it comes to discretionary spending. Telling yourself that you’ll spend less “next week” to justify getting what you want right now could become a habit. An important part of successful budgeting is sticking to the budget.

With that in mind, you might want to tuck each week’s discretionary money into an envelope …and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Using a tracking app to keep track of your expenses on your phone or tablet also could help.

Recommended: Envelope Budgeting Method

Con: Weekly Check-ins Could Become Overwhelming

Taking the time each week to review your purchases and update your budget may not be realistic for some people. If finding time to check in with your budget each week feels too overwhelming you may want to try a bi-weekly or monthly approach.

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4 Steps To Create a Weekly Budget

Making a budget — whether it’s set up to be weekly, biweekly, monthly, or a bit of a combo — can be a good way to get control of your finances. Here’s are some steps to setting up a weekly budget template:

1. Pull Together Your Paperwork

If you want your budget to be useful, it should be as accurate as possible. So you’ll probably want to pull together some paperwork to help get it right, including your most recent pay stubs, bank statements, utility bills, insurance bills, credit card bills and loan statements, and any other recurring bills you can think of. You may also find it helps to have tracked your spending (on paper or with an app) for a while before you sit down to create your budget. Or you may want to collect recent grocery store, drug store, and restaurant receipts to help you estimate those costs.

2. Calculate Your Weekly Income

Write down all your income sources for a month. (If you’re married, include your spouse’s income sources. If you’re a freelancer or your income is unpredictable, you may want to calculate the average over the past three or four months.) Find your take-home amount (what you get after taxes and other payroll deductions) and divide it by four.

3. Make a Realistic List of Your Expenses

Using a budgeting program or app, a spreadsheet, or maybe just a notebook, write down all your expenses for the month. It can help to break down those costs by categories, such as:

•   Housing costs. Things like your rent or mortgage, utilities, or other expenses

•   Transportation. Costs like car payments, insurance, gas, and maintenance

•   Food and groceries

•   If you have children, costs like child care, tuition, activities, and more

•   Financial expenses, such as bank fees or taxes

•   Savings and investing. Contributions to 401(k) or IRA, emergency fund

•   Health Care. Prescriptions, dental care, co-pays, and more

•   Personal spending. Clothes, shoes, gym membership

•   Entertainment. Movies, special events, streaming services, books, and more

Keep in mind that the categories you include in your budget will be influenced by your wants, needs, and spending habits.

You may decide you want to use a monthly budget for some expenses (utility bills and other fixed expenses) and a weekly budget for others (such as discretionary expenses, debt payments, and savings). But if you want to go weekly with everything, the math isn’t all that complicated. To convert monthly amounts into weekly spend amounts, multiply the monthly figure by 12 and then divide by 52.

4. Deduct Expenses from Income

Add up your weekly expenses and subtract that number from your weekly income. If you come out ahead, you could add more to your savings and investments, pay down debt even faster, or add more of a cushion to another category on your list. If you come out even, you may want to adjust your discretionary spending a bit, so an unexpected cost doesn’t throw you off track.

If you come out with a negative number, you may have to make some decisions about what costs you can cut or even get rid of.

Especially when you’re starting out, it may help to use a budget framework similar to the 50/30/20 budget rule, which suggests keeping essential costs to 50% or less, discretionary costs to 30% or less, and setting at least 20% aside for savings if you can. If your percentages are where you want them, you have a budget.

Recommended: See how your money is categorized using the 50/30/20 budget calculator.

Test the Budget and Adjust

Once you have a budget you feel comfortable with, it’s time to test your new spending and savings strategy. You might decide to use a tracking app to see how you’re doing, but you also may benefit from actually sitting down to go over the numbers once a week. (This could be particularly helpful for married couples who are sharing a couples budget.)

If you spot any problem areas or realize you forgot something, you can always make adjustments. If something happens to change your income or expenses (a raise, a new job, a job loss, a big purchase, or a baby), you can adjust again.

Don’t be discouraged if the budget you built doesn’t work out the first time you use it. You may have to develop new habits. Or you may need to get some help with ditching your debt or determining your financial goals.

The Takeaway

Setting up a weekly budget could make it easier to stay on top of your spending by streamlining the number of transactions you have to track and helping you spotlight any areas you may be overspending in. However, for some, checking in and tracking your spending and transaction each week could become overwhelming. An app, possibly provided by your bank, could help.

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What should a weekly budget include?

A weekly budget should include your income, your necessary expenses (housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and more), your discretionary expenses (eating out, travel, entertainment), and your savings.

How do you budget weekly money?

To budget money weekly, you will need to divide your take-home pay into weekly amounts and then do the same with your spending on needs and wants, as well as savings. You want to be sure your weekly income can cover those expenditures.

What does having a weekly budget mean?

Having a weekly budget means you are balancing your income, spending, and saving on a weekly basis. This can be a good way to stay in close touch with your money, though for some people it might feel like overkill vs. monthly budgeting.

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