Marie - Budgeting can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. For most people, including you as a recent widow, I would encourage you to keep things as simple as possible. You can use free tools like Mint.com (www.mint.com) to help you manage and monitor your personal information, but you certainly don't need to use software or other tools.
It can be as simple as sitting down with a piece of paper and a pencil. You should start by establishing where you are currently. How much are your sources of income and how much are all your expenses? And when considering expenses, be sure to include non-recurring expenses for things like auto repairs or housing expenses. Also be sure to include taxes in your numbers.
Once you have established where you are currently, you can begin to track - quickly and simply - each month whether you're spending more or less than your original "baseline" expenses. And depending on whether your income sources can fluctuate, you might need to keep an eye on these too.
Budgeting can be this simple. As you have a better understanding of where your money is coming from and where it's going on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis, you'll find that you can make financial decisions with more confidence because you'll know the impact your financial decisions will make to your ongoing cash flow.
Also, if you don't already, suggest you build up a comfortable "emergency" or reserve savings fund so you're better prepared for unexpected expenses.
If I can help further or answer any specific questions you may have, please contact me or leave a comment below.
Firstly, my condolences for the loss of your spouse. It is certainly difficult to balance losing a loved one with addressing new financial concerns. The fact that you are considering your budget is the first step to ensuring your financial success as you enter this new stage in life.
Because your sources of income may change now that you are a widow, it's important to gain a clear understanding of what your monthly income will look like. Here are some questions to consider when developing your new budget:
• Did your husband have a pension plan from which you will now receive spousal benefits?
• Will you now be receiving Social Security "survivor benefits" based on your spouse's earning record?
• Are you currently working or do you plan to reenter the workforce?
Once you get your monthly income sorted out, you can develop a detailed budget. As the response above mentions, online tools can help you create and stay on track with a personal budget. If you are not accustomed to paying the household bills, enrolling in automatic electronic payments is a hassle-free way to make sure you're submitting them by the due dates and avoiding late fees.
If you're concerned that your new budget is falling short, you may find yourself considering lifestyle changes. For instance, many widows prefer to keep the home they shared with their spouse, while others find comfort in downsizing to smaller (and less expensive) residences. And while it's important to keep meaningful possessions owned by your loved one, this is also a time to consider selling unnecessary possessions, such as vehicles that will go unused.
Because losing a loved one can be a difficult emotional time, many new widows seek the advice of a financial advisor for added clarity when making these and other decisions.