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Top 7 Zero Based Budget Templates and Apps (2020)

*This post may contain affiliate links, please see my disclosure

Create a budget that works is the #1 way to fix your money situation. And finding the right budget template can help you figure out exactly how to spend your money each month

I’m a big fan of Zero-Based Budgeting, and have collected my favorite budget templates and apps on the internet available right now.

Check out our top zero-based budget templates, and let me know which one you are going to try!

What Is Zero-Based Budgeting?

Zero-Based Budgeting (also known as zero-sum budgeting) is simply creating a plan for every dollar you earn.

The idea is that you create a budget, input your total income for the month, and then assign those dollars a job.

This makes sure that no money “slips through the cracks”, and any and all extra money after your expenses goes toward your goals.

The best part about zero-based budgeting is that you get a full picture of how your money *should* be used during the month. It also shows you how much you can save!

Note: To properly use a zero-based budget template, you need to know your expected income, and spending throughout the month. Most people know their income, but if you don’t know your average spending, the best way is to simply look at your spending over the past few months (we go over this exercise in complete detail in our Money Management Masterclass).

How Do I Create A Zero-Sum Budget?

To create a zero-sum budget, you need to follow the below basic formula:

  • Step 1:  Enter your Income at the top
  • Step 2: Enter your fixed expenses (bills, subscriptions, etc.)
  • Step 3: Enter your daily expenses (Groceries, gas, shopping, restaurants, entertainment, etc.)
  • Step 4: Enter your Saving Buckets (infrequent expenses like Christmas, birthdays, car maintenance, etc.)
  • Step 5: Put the rest toward your goals (Emergency Fund, Debt Payoff, Saving, Investing, etc.)

The idea is that your money should be allocated in order. Bills and Daily Spending first, then save for infrequent expenses.

With your basics covered, the rest of your income should go toward your next goal. (check out my recommended 5 Steps on how to use your extra funds.)

And that’s it! You simply need to assign every dollar a job, and then stick to it.

Top 7 Zero Based Budget Templates and Apps

Here are my favorite zero-based budget templates and apps that you can get on the internet today!

There’s something for EVERY type of budget in this list! Pick your favorite and try it out!

My Free Budget Template

Of course, I’m a big fan of my FREE budget template. It follows my 5 steps for zero-based budgeting above, and works on Google Sheets.

My favorite part about the Google Sheets version is that it is mobile friendly (designed to work on your phone), and you can SHARE it with your spouse to stay in sync at all times.

You can also try our printable PDF version as well if that’s more your speed.

Grab a copy of both by signing up below!

Best Zero-Based Budget Template For Debt Payoff

This budget template by Ellie Mondelli is wonderfully designed, and a fantastic template to start your zero-based budget.

It basically follows my same steps above, but prioritizes your debt payoff first.

It uses Google Sheets, and you can follow her step-by-step instructions for getting it set up for yourself.

If you want a pretty spreadsheet, and have some debt to payoff, grab your copy of this zero-based budget template today!

Best Detail Oriented Zero-Based Budget Template

Vertex42 has a fantastic zero-based budget template that gives you a TON of details. Then split out all of your expenses into sub-sections, and try to help you think of EVERY expense that may come up.

As you can see in their example template, they have you input your income at the top, then go through all of your expenses.

The goal at the END of this budget is to end up with a $0 in the “Final Budget” section. If you have any money leftover (or a NEGATIVE balance), you will need to adjust.

You can grab a copy of their budget template in either Excel, Google Sheets, or PDF.

Best Printable Zero-Based Budget Template

If you’re a sucker for simple, elegant printables, look no further than Mom On Purpose’s printable zero-based budget template.

This template comes as a PDF that you can print at home, and could NOT be easier! You simply input your income at the top, put your giving and saving away first, then account for your daily spending (cash envelopes) and monthly expenses.

The best part? She does the math for you. No matter what your budget looks like, you MUST end up with a $0.00 balance at the end!

Grab your copy of her printable PDF template today!

Top Zero-Based Budget Apps

I’m a spreadsheet nerd, but I’m also a sucker for a good budgeting app. I’ve tested almost ALL of them on the market (I’ve got 6 on my phone right now!), and here are the best ones that follow the zero-based budgeting principles.

Tiller Money

Tiller Money turns your simple spreadsheet budget into a complete budget app by connecting your budget to your bank accounts! It works with both Google Sheets and Excel, and is the most customizable budgeting software out there.

Check out our full Tiller Money Review here.

Tiller money has their own “Foundation Template” included, and allows you to budget every dollar of your income toward your expenses and your goals.

Then it automatically brings in all your transactions throughout the month, so you can stay on track and NOT have to manually input your expenses.

Tiller Money Logo

Tiller money has a FREE 30 day trial to test it out before you buy ($79/year after that).

YNAB

YNAB (You Need A Budget) is a fan-favorite budgeting app that is built on the principle that you should ONLY spend money that you have. It is a true zero-based budgeting app, that makes you account for every dollar you earn.

YNAB is best known for its awesome support community, and fantastic training and support. They have a cult-like following for a reason!

I’ve been using YNAB for years, and highly recommend you try it out.

You can test YNAB for FREE for 34 days before you buy ($84 per year after that).

EveryDollar

Dave Ramsey is world-famous for his budgeting tips and tools, and he finally released a budgeting app to pair with his 7 Baby Steps.

Dave Ramsey is a fan of zero-based budgeting, and his app follows the principles of giving every dollar a job

In fact, his app is called EveryDollar for that very reason!

His app is super simple to set up, and has both a FREE and a paid version.

You can manually track using the FREE version, or sync your accounts (and access other features) for $129.99 per year.

Final Thoughts

Zero-based budgeting is my favorite way to budget. I believe every dollar you earn should be put to work.

I have always budgeted based on the zero-sum principles, and will continue to help people use this method to start building Financial Freedom in their own lives.

Grab your favorite template (or app) and start your budget today. You will NOT regret spending some time getting your financial life on track!And if you want to learn more about budgeting and my favorite apps, check out our budgeting resource page!

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

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