How to Easily Budget with a Spreadsheet

By Mark

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, take a look at my disclosure policy.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, take a look at my disclosure policy.

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    Budgeting is what saved my finances and what got me out of debt. And while learning how to budget generally isn't fun, I've got an awesome way to make it a lot easier.

    I've got the BEST budget spreadsheet for you. Even if you suck at spreadsheets – just give this a try. I personally use it, and the students in my course use it as well. And there are several reasons why I recommend using this over some of the more automated budgeting applications out there. More on that later.

    But first – do not be afraid of a spreadsheet! With Tiller (the people who helped me design this spreadsheet), you really don't need to know how to use spreadsheets at all. It's all set up for you – in fact, I worked directly with them, and they designed my very own template.

    How to easily budget using a spreadsheet

    Tiller, who recently just won the FinTech Breakthrough Award for the best personal budgeting service, provides something that no one else does. Your bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial accounts can be linked with transactions fed directly into a google sheet.

    Brilliant, right?

    To be honest, it's what I've always wanted when it comes to budgeting. I like having control of how to categorize and being able to do my own calculations, but I've always hated manually inputting transactions and balances. This solves that with a daily feed of all of your transactions and balances.

    All you have to do is categorize them. And I think that's actually one of the many benefits of this – it doesn't automatically categorize your expenses for you. This gives you 4 distinct advantages:

    1. An ongoing audit – most people don't audit their own spending… and automated budgeting applications don't necessarily encourage it.
    2. By categorizing transactions yourself, it forces you to take a look at each purchase. Not only does this make you take responsibility for your spending, it also serves as a double check on your account, to make sure there isn't anything unexpected going on.
    3. You will find those hidden expenses. Subscriptions that you forgot about, small fees that you didn't know you were paying… you'd be surprised.
    4. You can categorize your expenses any way you'd like.

    Sign up and give it a try HERE!

    NOTE – if you are a current user of Tiller, we've made some updates nad improvements. For directions on how to update your current template to the new one, CLICK HERE.

    Here's how it works:

    1. Get a Google account

    If you already use gmail, then congratulations – you have a google account. If not, it's free and easy to set up.

    2. Link your Accounts

    budget spreadsheet

    Almost every banking institution and credit card will be available. My bank is a small regional bank, and I had no issue getting it linked up. Simply provide your login information for each account.

    The first month is FREE – and if you love it (which I do), there is a very small monthly fee after that.

    3. Set your Categories

    On the ‘Planner' tab, you set your budget, see check your spending for the past few months, and also decide how to categorize your spending. To start with, simply decide the spending categories.

    Tip: keep is simple. Although the program will allow you to create as many categories as you'd like, I'd recommend 10 at the most.

    4. Review your Spending

    budget spreadsheet

    When you initially set up your spreadsheet, this part will take some time. And you probably won't enjoy it. But it's completely necessary. Using the categories that you decided on, go through each transaction on the aptly named ‘transactions' tab, and use the drop down menu to classify them.

    The number of transactions that will initially populate on this tab will vary by banking institution. Some will only import a couple weeks worth of transactions, some will import several months. As a general rule, it would be best to have three months of spending categorized, but do the best with what you have.

    Tip: The “Transfers” category will always be available in the drop-down menu. If you use this category, it will not count that transaction towards your spending. It's very helpful in a couple instances:

    1. When making a credit card payment, 2 transactions will show up on this tab. One will be the payment made from your checking account (negative), and the other will be the credit applied to the card (positive). Classify the payment made from the checking account as a “debt payment”, and the credit applied to the card as a “transfer”.
    2. If you simply transferred money from one account to another, there will again be two transactions on this tab. Classify both as “transfers”.

    5. Set Your Budget

    Phew! Now that you've finished categorizing expenses, let's get started planning your budget prospectively – meaning, planning out the next month's expenses BEFORE you get there. Mark and I have our “Budget Night” on the last Sunday of every month.

    budget spreadsheet

    Using the average of the past 3 months of expenses (which is located in column B on the planner tab), use your best judgment of the upcoming month to give yourself a reasonable spending limit for the upcoming month.

    At the top, you will see if your planned budget is over or under. Make sure to “spend” every bit of income you get. If you have extra, make a plan for it – use it to pay off debt, or put it into savings.

    6. Track Your Spending

    budget spreadsheet

    It's not good enough to make a plan if you're not gonna follow through with it, right? Luckily, tracking your spending is very easy with this spreadsheet. All you gotta do is just categorize your recent transactions as they come in. The spreadsheet does the rest for you.

    After you categorize your transactions, go to the dashboard to see how you're doing. This tab will give you a snapshot of how your income and expenses are progressing. It will also show you your current balances of all linked accounts.

    7. Do whatever else you want

    The awesome thing about spreadsheets is that you can do whatever you want! Do you want to get crazy with some projections of your savings or retirement accounts? Add a tab and do it. Or maybe you just want to do some side calculations to see how long it will take to save up for a vacation. Just do it.

    You can add as many tabs as you'd like, and they won't affect the budgeting tabs that come with the template.

    Here's a video to show you how it all works:

    Me and spreadsheets have a love/hate relationship… mostly hate. But I LOVE my budget spreadsheet! Check it out HERE.

    Budgeting using a spreadsheet is simply the best way to go - and this new tool will feed your transactions directly into the spreadsheet!

    COMMENTS

  • Hi. My husband had said this is a great way to keep track of everything. I agreee. However we do the Dave Ramsey envelope system. So how would this work with that? Since so many things have envelopes and so much cash. There are not a lot of transactions in my account.

    • Hi Tanya, we use the envelope system too. Simply take the cash out in separate transactions, and then categorize them as such in the spreadsheet. It works really well.

      • So you mean if you spend $200 for groceries take that amount out in cash. Then $100 for miscellaneous in another transaction and so on?

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