Creating a personal budget is critical for controlling spending and saving money. Once you accumulate some savings, there are financial services that can help you invest your funds, so here are five great tools and tips to get you started.

Starter Tips & Finances: Personal Budgeting Guidance from Financial Services Specialists

1. Your Bank Statements and Credit Card Records

Think of yourself as a detective, trying to uncover what has happened with your finances. Pull up your bank statements and credit card activity for the past three months on your computer or mobile device, and get sleuthing!

2. Set Up Areas of Spending

Next, create categories for each area of spending, under two groups. One group will be fixed expenses (car payments, insurance premiums) and the other will be variable expenses (meals and entertainment). This is the easy part, and you can even use a pen and paper if you prefer.

Once you have categories, write down your total spending for each category. Take an average of the last 3 months. You should end up with a monthly amount for each category. Then, put your net pay for the month at the top of the document.

3. Review Your Variable Spending

Now comes the hard part. It’s really important to decide on a specific amount to save each month. Say that you decide to save $150 every month. To have those funds available, you may need to cut your expenses. Zero in on your variable expenses — those costs you can control.

That daily visit to the local coffee shop may mean that you only order black coffee from now on rather than the elegant latte. Do you really need that premium music subscription? Maybe you could consider using a free service. These are the types of tough decisions that you need to make.

4. Manage Your Finances in Excel

Once you decide on a budget, track your spending each month. You can do this in an Excel document. Simply input the spending categories and post your spending. Most people are at least familiar with Excel, making this an easy solution.

5. Ask Financial Services Specialists About Mobile Apps

Since we all use mobile apps, you may find it more convenient to use a personal finance app. The great thing with these apps is that you can usually automatically upload your bank and credit card activity. You can also find great graphics to help you quickly understand where you are financially. Ask a financial services specialist about a good personal finance app.

Setting up a budget is critically important for all consumers. If you can move money into savings, you can then consider working with financial services specialists to make plans for your future.