The Budget in the program is an automatic spreadsheet. It organizes your household finances into twice monthly columns that are dated on the 1st and 15th. (The column days can be changed in Options.)

The money that you manage with a budget flows through one checking account.

When you first start A Real Budget, 6 months of the Budget are shown. You can change the number of displayed months at any time by clicking on Spreadsheet and selecting the number of Months from 1 to 12.

Each spreadsheet column shows you on the column date:

  1. "Expected to be available" - how much unallocated money you expect to have available in your checking account
  2. "Cash payments & set asides" - the total amount of money that you:
  3. "Net cash flow" - how much unallocated money will be left in your checking account after you pay the bills and do the set asides

Instead of planning how you will be spending your dollars, in A Real Budget you plan how you will be using your income so that your "Net cash flow" stays "in the black." A red, or negative net cash flow in any column indicates that on the column date you plan on spending more money than you expect to have available. When your net cash flow is "in the red" you fix it by making sensible adjustments to your budget.

Budgets are organized into budget spaces. Each budget space contains one budget including the checking account that is managed with the budget.

You can add and delete an unlimited number of budget spaces. To start a new budget, you add a new budget space.

When you started A Real Budget, the Primary budget space was created to contain your first budget. You can rename the Primary budget space, but you may not delete it.

Preparing a new budget is a three step process.

  1. Get started
  2. Pay your bills the first time with A Real Budget
  3. Use your budget

While getting started, the budget is inactive. The column dates will update to stay in sync with the calendar, but nothing else will happen. There is no pressure to complete getting started quickly. By paying bills for the first time, the budget is activated for your use.

While getting started, you can open this guide at any time by clicking on Help and then Getting Started.