Cash Flow Planning for Uncertain Times With Google Sheets and Tiller Money

Understanding cash flow during uncertain times can be a huge stress relief. Here's a Google Sheets workflow to model cash flow scenarios based on custom inputs.

Understanding your cash flow during times of financial uncertainty can be a huge stress relief.

Knowing where your money is coming and going can help you plan for the future. Financial preparedness begins with knowing where you stand.

Read: What you imagine is always scarier than what you know. 

It’s often helpful to run cash flow scenarios to plan for potential changes in circumstances.

For example, a cash flow scenario can help you navigate a reduction of income from job loss, or help you understand outcomes if you cut spending in different categories.

In this tutorial, we’re going to demonstrate how to plan cash flow with Tiller Money’s Foundation Template for Google Sheets.

The Foundation Temple really shines with yearly budgeting and cash flow options. It’s easily adaptable to build multiple scenarios and explore potential outcomes of your financial situation on the road ahead. 

The Foundation Template is included with every Tiller Money subscription. You can get the template free along with a 30-day trial of Tiller Money Feeds right here.

Video Walkthrough

Preparing your first cash flow scenario

1. Start with the Foundation Template. From the Tiller Money Console click “create a spreadsheet” and then choose “Start with Google Sheets” to open a preview of the Foundation template. 

2. Click “Use template” in the upper right and then use the Tiller Money Feeds add-on to link it to your Tiller Console and then connect the accounts you want to track. Click here for more help with this step.

3. Spend some time thinking about your Categories. How do you earn and spend money? What is necessary as far as spending goes, especially if you’re facing financial challenges?

4. Set a group and type for each category. Use the example categories if they make sense for your situation. Most of the example spending categories are grouped by Living, Bills, and Discretionary.

Using a simple structure like this for groups allows you to understand what’s necessary versus what you would like to spend.

Feel free to overwrite or delete any example categories and customize this for your needs, but simple is better for planning purposes. You can also hide categories that you don’t need right now, but might need later. 

5. Set the budget amount for each category in the appropriate month column to the right. By default the budget amounts entered into the Jan column will cascade to the right using simple formulas so you can create a 12 month budget in minutes.

Adjust any specific month as needed by typing into that month’s category budget cell and then correct the cascading as needed in subsequent months. Read more on this step here.

If you’re facing financial challenges, focus on reducing or eliminating the budget amount for categories in the Discretionary group. 

6. Review the Yearly Budget sheet to see how you’re doing. This is your first scenario. Tweak the budgets on the Categories sheet to make sure that you have a positive or $0 Budgeted Cashflow for each month.

If you have a negative budgeted cash flow amount for most or all months more tuning is needed. Where can you cut spending? Are there other income options available?

Saving your scenario

When you’ve played around with the numbers and are happy with the scenario and want to experiment with something new you can easily “save” the scenario. The steps here will allow you to reuse the categories in your first scenario at a later time, and give you a static version of the Yearly Budget for reference. 

1. Right-click the Categories tab and choose “Duplicate” 

2. Double click the tab name “Copy of Categories” and rename it “Scenario 1 Cat” 

3. Right-click the Yearly Budget tab and choose “Duplicate”

4. Double click the tab name “Copy of Yearly Budget” and rename it “Scenario 1”

5. Click the gray square in the upper left corner of the Scenario 1 sheet (below the fx symbol where the rows and columns meet) and then right-click it again and choose “Copy”

6. Right-click the gray square again and choose “Paste Special > Values Only” – this step makes sure that this is a static view of the scenario and that it does not change when you start modifying the budget amounts on the Categories sheet. 

You can now work on another scenario directly in the Categories sheet and use the same steps above to “save” it for future reference. 

If you decide to go with any particular scenario, all you need to do is copy and paste the contents of the “Scenario X Cat” tab (a duplicated categories sheet from steps 3 and 4 above) from that sheet into your existing Categories sheet. 

Note: do not change the name of the original Categories tab. This will break the formula links between the other dashboard sheets. Do not try to rename a duplicated scenario categories tab to “Categories” just use copy/paste. 

Build insights with your actual spending data

Once you’ve spent some time building a scenario or two, visit the Transactions sheet to start categorizing transactions. This will help you build insights into how you need to cut back spending to make your cash flow scenarios work. 

Planning for future cash flow shortages

If you expect to have more bills in one month in the future you can also plan for this in a scenario by entering the value for that specific month and then reviewing the cash flow and then make adjustments. 

For example, if your car insurance is due in June, your Auto & Gas category might be higher that month, and you’ll need to plan for taking a higher withdrawal from savings, plan to sell more items on Etsy that month, or make reductions in other spending categories if possible if increasing income isn’t an option.

Cash Flow Planning Google Sheets

Join the Conversation

Have questions or ideas about this workflow? Want to share your own cash flow planning workflow? Join the conversion in the Tiller Money Community.

Start Your Free Trial

Try Tiller free and track all your accounts in one place, always know where your money goes, and confidently plan your financial future.

Heather Phillips

Heather Phillips

Heather comes from a background of user experience design & customer support. She loves helping others learn, explore and discover better ways to use applications and products that improve their lives. When she’s not coaching customers on Tiller best practices, tweeting or writing blogs, she’s probably at a yoga class, out for a hike in the Blue Ridge, or off volunteering for a variety of non-profits.