Getting your finances organized doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
By harnessing the power of Google Sheets, you’ll be able to effortlessly track your spending and set a realistic budget that’s accessible anywhere you get online.
Let’s take an in-depth look at how Google Sheets can help you see both your financial big picture and the granular details. For this example, we’ll use Tiller Money’s free Monthly Budget Template for Google Sheets.
1. Input Your Transactions into Google Sheets
The first thing you will need to do is import transactions from all of your various financial accounts. That includes your checking account, savings account, credit card accounts and any other income or debt obligations you may have.
For simplicity’s sake, we only used transactions from a sample user’s checking account in the above example.
Tiller automatically imports your financial data directly from your financial institution, making this process a breeze, but you can also download your transaction data from your financial institution as a CSV file. You should then be able to import that data into your Google Sheet.
Once you’ve imported all of your transactions, make sure they’re categorized correctly, making adjustments as needed. Hop over to the “Categories” tab to customize your categories and set your monthly budget numbers.
2. Check Your Cashflow and Track Your Expenses
After you input all your data, you’re ready to check on the bigger financial picture. All the numbers from here on out should auto populate.
Open the “Monthly View” tab to see how you’ve been doing on your budget this month, including a budgeted and actual cashflow number. If that number is green, you’re good! You have money leftover this month. If it’s red, you’re going to need to sit down and figure out where you’re going to come up with the extra funds.
Pro tip: Is your information not showing correctly in the “Monthly View” tab? Double check that you have the correct month and year selected at the top of your Sheet. Otherwise, you risk pulling numbers from the wrong time period.
If you want a more holistic picture, slide back to the “Yearly Budget” tab.
Here, you’ll be able to easily assess if you’re on track with income goals or have a spending area that’s routinely a problem month after month. For example, it might shock you to see how much you’ve spent on subscription services; it seemed innocent enough when you signed up for that free trial!
Now that you’re starting to get a better picture of how you spend your money and bring in income, you’re ready to delve in a little deeper.
3. Get Insights and Modify Your Behavior
The final tab all novice Sheets budgeters should check out is the “Yearly Insights” tab. Here, you’ll be able to see graphics and charts which display how this year has been going for you financially.
Pretend the right bar in the “Income vs Spending” chart is higher than the one on the left. If you’ve found yourself in this scenario, you’ve definitely spent more than you brought in and are probably in some type of debt.
You’ll be able to see not only the categories where you’ve spent the most, but also the individual company you’ve paid the most to.
Seeing this data might not be super fun, but it is an important step in understanding your money. Now that you can see the strengths and weaknesses of your financial situation visually, you can start implementing different strategies to make things better.
4. Compete Against Yourself
Competition can be an extremely useful motivator, but we know it can be hard to disclose your financial situations to your friends or family members–nonetheless openly compete with them for financial positioning.
Instead, compete against yourself. In our example, the sample user went way over on “Misc.” expenses in January.
While a more realistic budget may need to be drawn to accommodate this spending, it would also useful for her to try to bring down her spend in February. Then she would do the same in March and so on until she’s learned how to keep her spending on those random little things at a safer level.
5. Turn Budgeting into a Game
Gamifying your finances can also be an effective strategy. You can create a progress chart to color in every time you manage to bring your debt balance down.
Some people find that striving for a set amount of no-spend days per month helps them get excited about building good money habits—as long as they reward themselves with something they enjoy when they meet their goal.
Experiment with different ideas. As humans, we like to create and play games. Find something that’s fun and motivating to you, and you’ll discover that hitting your money goals isn’t as tedious as you originally thought.
6. Build an Emergency Fund
Hopefully you already have an emergency fund: A stash of money set aside for when your car’s engine suddenly dies or the roof leaks or you get laid off.
But a similar strategy you may not have heard of is the slush fund. This is money you have set aside in case you hit a month where you get a little too spendy. Rather than dip into your emergency fund, you can use the slush money to ameliorate your mistakes.
A good way to start a slush fund is to simply set aside any extra money (or “cashflow”) you may have thanks to unanticipated income or great spending restraint. For example, in January, our sample user has a positive cashflow of $424. Part of this was due to unanticipated income, but the budgeted cashflow was still $378; she conscientiously set up a buffer or slush fund in her budget in case of overspending.
She can now take this actual cashflow of $424 and apply it towards another goal like debt payoff or vacation savings. Or she could carry it over to February so she has slush money available during that month, too.
7. Use Tiller Money to Automate Your Google Sheets
If you’re a newbie to this whole Sheets thing, we can’t lie. Setting up a budget and expense tracking system as pretty and easy-to-use as the one displayed is going to be hard without a pre-formatted template.
Luckily, that’s what we do here at Tiller: We create budgeting templates that link with your financial accounts to make the whole process easier for you. Your expenses will be logged as the financial institution reports them. Your income will be reflected once your bank or credit union reports the ACH deposit.
And the math?
Tiller’s Google Sheets templates come with all the formulas preloaded. Once you’ve made sure your transactions are categorized correctly, all you have to do is log in to assess the state of your finances.
Budgeting with Google Sheets can be revolutionary for your money. Budgeting with Tiller can make your financial revolution way less of a headache.
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Start a free trial of Tiller Money and see why "89% say spreadsheets give them more control over how they track their finances" - Inc. Magazine, "The Science Behind Feeling In Control About Your Money"