Create a Budget in 5 Simple Steps.

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Do you ever get to the end of the month and think: “Where did all my money go?” You're not alone!

Creating and following a budget is a great way to get a handle on how much money is coming in and going out each month. Here's how you can do it in five simple steps.

Step 1: Figure out what you take home each month (after taxes).

Step 2: Subtract the amount you're putting toward saving and investing.

Step 3: Figure out and then subtract your essential, or “must-have,” expenses—things like your rent or mortgage, utilities, food and even a car or student loan payment.

Step 4: Subtract how much you spend monthly on discretionary, or “nice to have,” expenses, like entertainment, clothes, going out and traveling.

Not sure how much you're spending? Track these expenses for at least three months to get a clearer picture.

Step 5: Now compare what you're spending to where you should be.

A good rule of thumb to follow is 20/60/20. At least 20 percent of your income should be put toward saving and investing. At most, 60 percent should be spent on essential expenses. And finally, no more than 20 percent of your income should be spent on discretionary expenses.

So … are you saving enough? Are you spending more than you have? Do you need to find places to cut costs? Commit to a budget that allows you to save for the future, afford the things you need and still have money left for what you want.

Once you've finalized your budget, set it—but don't forget it. Life happens. You get a raise, lose your job, get married or divorced or have kids. That's why it's important to track your expenses monthly and adjust your budget along the way, so you'll be in a better place to reach your goals.

Need help getting started? Talk to a Northwestern Mutual financial advisor to help you live life differently.