5 Reasons to Use a Spreadsheet to Manage Your Money and 3 Reasons Not To

We’ll say it outright; our preference is to manage money with a spreadsheet. That’s right, we love them!

We do acknowledge that spreadsheets aren’t for everyone - some people look at them and shudder at the thought. However, it’s our suspicion that if you have beef with spreadsheets for finance, it may just be that you haven’t had a great experience with getting one set up. (That’s the primary reason we offer a free 30 day trial of Tiller).

In our experience, people who manage their money with a well designed finance spreadsheet wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are a number of “pros” for budgeting with a spreadsheet, but at the same time, there are a few reasons you may steer clear of spreadsheets. These are our thoughts on both sides of the coin:

5 Reasons to use a spreadsheet for financial tracking

#1. Finance spreadsheets are customizable for your unique needs

Spreadsheets are super-adaptable. They can be as simple or as complex as you need them to be and include multiple reports and financial dashboards. That’s why we offer a variety of template options. From budgeting to tracking your net worth there are many flavors of finance spreadsheets. The sky’s the limit!

Excel finance spreadsheets are powerful and adaptable too, but they’re a pain to keep updated. Tiller-powered Google Sheets give you a secure daily data feed that’s always current, and you can access them from any device. In short, you have the adaptability of a spreadsheet with the automation of an app without being locked into the limited feature set available in most online budgeting apps.

With these two powers combined you can create your own financial management workflow. Using Google Sheets is especially powerful because abundance of tutorials or add-on that can expand your knowledge of spreadsheets and enhance your sheet with additional features. For example, the Tiller transaction splitter Google Sheets add-on gives you a quick and easy way to split a financial transaction across multiple categories.

#2. Finance spreadsheets are easy to review

Ask any spreadsheet aficionado and they are quick to point out how easily they can find and digest the information they want to review. They’ll also probably mention how easy it is to create basic charts, reports, and tables to get at other data they might want to or need. It is that easy. You don’t need to have advanced skills to make it work.

For example, filtering or sorting a sheet is super-simple and gives you the convenience of narrowing down or quickly organizing your data to get the most relevant information. Many online budgeting apps don’t offer this easy filter option.

Spreadsheets can be a great resource for showing you a big picture view of your financial situation. If you want to get more granular, it’s easy to create pivot tables to dig deeper and get certain insights, like monthly spending across specific categories for the last year.

#3. Powerful collaboration options

We especially say this with Google Sheets in mind. There are many situations where you need to collaborate with someone else to manage your finances, in fact, those in successful relationships tend to be transparent about money matters.

The cloud-based nature of Google Sheets makes it inherently easy to collaborate with anyone else who needs to be involved. Explicit permissions can be set for those who need edit versus view only access.

App permissions tend to be less flexible. You might be able to give someone else access to your account, but it’s usually not “view only” access. Google Sheets not only ensures that you can collaborate in a way that makes sense, but also that you can do so on separate devices at the same time with real time updates. If anything doesn’t seem right, you can access a full revision history at any time.

#4. Easier to stay engaged

Since you can customize your sheet just the way you want, easily review your data, and collaborate with others you’re more likely to stay engaged in tracking your finances using a spreadsheet. With a Tiller-powered Google Sheet we don’t automatically categorize transactions for you, which means you spend time actually reviewing your finances and building awareness about where your money is going and the intent behind each purchase.

You can fine tune your finance spreadsheet to meet your needs so it feels more personal, and you’re more likely to get into a solid habit of checking in on your finances. We’ve said it time and time again, and we’ll probably keep saying it, but engagement is the #1 rule for financial success.

#5. They work

Plain and simple, we believe spreadsheets are the best tool for managing your finances. This is really the number #1 reason to use a finance spreadsheet. We’ve talked with, financial columnists, experts, and the most financial engaged individuals. The bottom line is that they like them because they work. Folks who use Tiller echo this sentiment.

Some of the benefits our customers have noted include:

  • A better awareness of where their money is really going.
  • Greater flexibility for their individual tracking needs, especially as compared to other apps.
  • Having multiple sheets for different tracking purposes means better overall management.
  • Strong awareness in relationships with others around how money is being managed.

3 Reasons not to use a spreadsheet

We have all these really great reasons vouching for the benefits of using spreadsheets, but what about the reasons not to use a financial spreadsheet? We realize they’re not for everyone and might not be the best tool for some.

#1. You already have a tool that’s working for you

You might already be using a budgeting app that works for you, so why switch? We’re strong advocates of “do what works for you.” If you have a solid workflow that gives you the awareness and peace of mind you need to feel great about your financial situation stick with it! Above all, we want to empower folks with financial confidence. That doesn’t mean that you’re not in debt or that you have a surplus of extra cash at the end of each month. It means you’re aware and engaged around your finances. If some other tool gives you that, by all means, use it and don’t divert!

#2. You’re allergic to spreadsheets

Some of our Tiller customers include 80 year old grandmas who are new to using spreadsheets for finance. They’ve got the hang of it, but if they’re just not your thing, we get it. Some people have a high aversion to spreadsheets, and if using one makes you break out in hives, finance spreadsheets are not the tool for you. If that’s you, we hope you’ll visit our blog for awesome content, but we understand you might not use our sheets and that’s okay. Per our first point, find a tool that works.

#3. You simply don’t want to know

Everyone’s financial and life situation is different. Perhaps you’re at a point in life where you don’t want to pay attention to your spending for whatever reason, and that’s okay. Spreadsheets give you really wonderful and potentially very detailed insights into your spending and earnings. If you’re not ready for that level of engagement with your finances, for whatever reason, maybe right now isn’t the time for you to dive in with a sheet. That’s totally okay, too. You don’t have to use Tiller, but definitely check out the financial fitness section of our blog for inspiration to build the motivation to start getting engaged with your finances.

Finance Spreadsheets made easy, but only when you’re ready

Using a spreadsheet to manage your money has manage benefits. They’re customizable, flexible, and collaborative. They’ve been proven to work. In fact we found that 92% of people who switch from using an app to using a spreadsheet to manage their money feel they’re more aware of where they’re money is going. We’re excited about them, and the opportunity to empower people with their financial data.