Budget Makeover: Keep Track of Budget using an Excel Spreadsheet


excel spreadsheet budget personal

If you just joined in on the budget makeover today, you may want to go back and figure out how you relate to money, get your bills in order, estimate your monthly costs, start saving for an emergency fund and save for big items before you take a look at the spreadsheet that combines them all.

If you’ve heard of Dave Ramsey, you probably have heard of his envelope system for staying on budget.  The envelope system is simply labeling mailing envelopes with the different categories you decided upon for your budget, such as groceries, out to eat, gas, entertainment, etc.  In each labeled envelope, you put the amount of money you have allotted to the category and you only use the money in that envelope for that envelope.  If you run out of money in an envelope then you are done spending in that category until the next month.  It’s a very simple way to keep yourself on budget.

The envelope system works great for some of our friends, but it wasn’t for us.  We’re apparently both scatterbrained as we couldn’t seem to remember to grab any cash when leaving the house.  If we kept cash in our purse/wallet, it ended up getting spent on something from a different category than from where the cash came and it was a nightmare to try and reconcile the discrepancies. After many many months of trying to abide by the envelope system we gave up because it was creating lots of headaches and confusion.  I’ll say it again – don’t blindly follow someone else’s suggestions for a budget/your finances – do what works for you/your family.

After the envelope system failed to launch, I came up with the idea of using an excel spreadsheet to keep track of our budget.  This way it wouldn’t matter if we used cash or our debit/credit cards making it easy to keep track of our spending, update it, and see it as a whole.  An excel spreadsheet also makes it easy to make adjustments to categories when needed.  Most folks agree that you’re inclined to spend more when using debit/credit cards rather than cash – the reason being cash in the hand is finite and it’s painful giving it away.  We very well may spend a bit more because we use plastic, but we stay inside the bounds of a budget and pay off our credit card each month.

I started out with a blank sheet and added headings/sections for each category.  Next, I entered our recurring bills.  Finally, I started assigning our predetermined dollar figures next to each category until I’d pre-spent every last penny.

excel spreadsheet family budget

Example Budget Spreadsheet

Throughout the month, we write down everything we spend.  If I buy something online, I write it in the budget right away.  If we are out and purchase something, we keep the receipts to help us remember to write it down when we get home.  I also check our online banking about every other day to double check and make sure we didn’t miss anything.  It has become so routine for us that it doesn’t take much time at all.

I know a lot of men take care of the money in a household, but that doesn’t work for us (we’ve tried it).  I am the nerd in our marriage and to be completely honest, I always love a good spreadsheet!  Thus, I create the blank worksheets every month, pre-spend our money, plug in the numbers when they come, check our online account, etc.  What does Jeff do?  Well, he brings home the bacon and receipts from his spending.  Save yourself a lot of arguing and headache by figuring out who is the nerd in your marriage and let him/her take the reigns when it comes to budgeting.

Even though I crunch the numbers, we are both equally involved with making decisions on our spending.  I finally realized though that Jeff doesn’t care about the little details and every last penny.  Plus, we have a budget that works for us now so there isn’t a lot of discussion that needs to occur.  I give him updates on our spending if we’re getting close to maxing out a category or have extra leftover somewhere.  Find what works for you/your marriage and realize that it will probably take several adjustments before you get a good financial flow going.

Here’s the spreadsheet we use.  Plug in some numbers and play around to see how it works.  Then, you can plug in all the numbers you’ve came up with and decided on earlier this week.  I make a new sheet every month and make adjustments before the month starts and sometimes as we go!

excel spreadsheet family budget

Right-click and choose "save" to get my example Excel spreadsheet

What budgeting tips do you have?  What kind of a system do you use?

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