This app will make you a better budgeter

How to manage a household budget

Key takeaways

Having a holistic view of your money is key to mastering your finances. Learn how to create a household budget with the Empower dashboard.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had wide-ranging impacts on many financial aspects of life, making a household budget that much more important.

Many have lost or changed their jobs. Others are transitioning to remote or hybrid work. Dining out, going to shows and taking vacations may not be happening with the same frequency — but the grocery bill sure has shot up. Inflation is also soaring to new highs.1,2

Why is budgeting important?

Online banking, budgeting software and personal finance apps have made money management easier than ever. People can now categorize and track monthly expenses in a streamlined update to spreadsheets and the paper balance sheet. Still, good budgets are famously hard to create and even harder to stick to.

Other than a few expenses that happen on a regular basis like your car payment, housing expenses or student loans, it can be hard to predict how much you’re likely to spend on variable expenses in a given month. August or September mean back-to-school gear for the kids. December is gift-buying time. There are birthdays and holidays. It’s often difficult to determine how much money you will use for discretionary spending.

Remember, it’s okay to adjust your budget throughout the year or as changes happen. But good savings habits, both in the short run with an emergency fund and long run with retirement savings, helps make your budget more resilient and adaptable.

While budgeting tools are definitely useful, what’s ultimately most important is that you have a sense of your overall saving and spending habits. How does your monthly income balance out against your monthly expenses?

If your spending — or take-home earnings — come from more than one source, it can be hard to keep track of your net savings.

The key to mastering your finances is having a holistic view of everything related to your money — your spending and saving habits, your income sources and your investments. In this article, we’ll show you how to create a realistic budget that you can stick to with the Empower dashboard.

How to create a budget

Having a holistic view of your finances in one centralized location is a great first step to mastering your household budget.

With the Empower dashboard, you can plug in all of your investment and bank accounts — checking, saving, credit cards, 401(k), 529 accounts, loans and investments. This gives you a real sense of how your bottom line has moved by the end of the month.

What do all of your monthly expenses — the mortgage, bills, student loan payments, car payments and groceries — look like against all of your earnings?

How to budget using Empower

Your monthly income vs. monthly expenses statistics are front and center when you log in to your Empower dashboard. You can flip back and forth between viewing your income and viewing expenses. For a deeper dive into each, you can get a more detailed view of your deposits, income and transactions.

The dashboard also shows you transactions from each of your financial accounts. It allows you to adjust the time frame and see which expenses or income take up a given percentage of your personal budget. A bar graph also shows income-vs-spending month by month.

Knowing your spending and saving habits, and understanding where your largest “hot spots” are, is a great springboard for getting a handle on your household budgeting.

This detailed view of all of your finances and transactions will also allow you to determine a realistic monthly budget number. It’s easy to list off all your fixed expenses like rent, car payment, student loans and the like. It’s harder to get a handle on all of the variable spending that happens every month on your different cards and from your different accounts.

On the mobile and tablet app, spending is shown in the “Budgeting” view. A circle chart depicts your transactions by type (ATM withdrawals, groceries, bills, etc.). You can see which transactions account for a given percentage of your monthly budget.

If you want more control over organizing your transactions, you can categorize them either in general groups like “Entertainment” or “Food,” or in customizable fields like “Fido’s dog food” or “Yard Maintenance.” If you charge work expenses to your personal accounts, you can label transactions as reimbursable so they won’t count against your household budget.

Our take

With a 360-degree view of all spending and all income, you can focus on the most important part of responsible budgeting: helping ensure that you are saving more than you’re spending and considering how to invest your extra money.

1 Pew Research Center, “COVID-19 Pandemic Continues To Reshape Work in America,” February 2022.

2 CNBC, “Inflation rose 9.1% in June, even more than expected, as consumer pressures intensify,” July 2022.


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