How to Quickly Categorize Transactions in Your Finance Worksheet

Have a large group of historical transactions that need to be categorized? Perhaps all those times you got gas over the past several months that Tiller pulls in when you first create a Tiller Sheet? We’ve got an quick and easy way to categorize that lump of transactions using the built in features of Google Sheets.

The first time you create a Tiller Sheet, the Tiller Feedbot may pull up to three months of transaction data into your Transactions tab, or perhaps you want to manually enter transaction data from a CSV export from your bank. In either case, it can be quite a lot of data, and it can feel a bit overwhelming to categorize it all. While we recommend that you start categorizing transactions going forward from today, rather than looking back at old data, for some there’s a desire to keep the Transactions tab tidy and get it all properly tracked. We understand.

A built in feature of Google Sheets makes this a relatively straightforward process. Simply sort your sheet by the “Description” column so that all the transactions with the same description are grouped together.

You can easily sort by the Description column by clicking the sorting and filtering arrow from your Transactions tab and choosing to sort A→ Z or Z→ A. Now we can see that all the Shell Oil Station transactions are grouped in a bunch. Then we can quickly fill multiple cells in the Category column with the appropriate category. For the Shell Oil Station transactions, I will choose the “Gas” category.

After I assign the category for the first Shell Oil Station transaction in the group, I can fill the series of cells below it by using the blue square in the bottom right corner of that first cell when I hover over it. Click, drag and voila. Now I have categorized a large group of transactions.

You can watch the process in the animation below:


What if you didn’t actually buy gas at the Shell station one day, but bought some snacks for the car ride home? First sort by the “Amount” column, then by Description. Now the $2 and $3 charges at Shell are grouped together, and you can categorize them separately.

You can do the same thing for groceries and any other transactions that have the same description. For any purchases from the same place, this is a fast and easy way to assign categories historically.

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