A Frugal Family Budget
The Greutmans are big fans of spreadsheets, and this one shares their approach to managing their budget. This page provides an overview of the spreadsheet and some best practices for getting the most from it.
Every day, Tiller pulls your latest transactions and bank balances from any linked accounts and adds that data to this spreadsheet. You can link credit cards, checking and savings accounts, mortgages, car loans, and many other financial accounts with Tiller.
Because this is a Google Sheets spreadsheet, it’s meant to be interactive. Our built-in reports make it easy to get started and you can can manipulate them by entering information into the green cells. If you’re comfortable with spreadsheets, you can add your own sheets that build on top of these reports and the transaction data.
1) Establish your categories
Your first step will be to customize the categories on the Planner sheet. Several sample categories are provided in the green cells. You can replace, edit and add your own. How do you want to classify your spending?
2) Build your current month’s budget
As you build your first budget, start with the rows marked for the Current Month for each category. You can use the scratch pad to estimate your Utility category, for example, knowing that water is likely to be $60, garbage $30, and electricity $90. The sheet will automatically add these together for a combined Utility budget of $180.
3) Begin categorizing
Visit the Transactions sheet and categorize your transactions starting from the beginning of this month. Don’t worry yet about older transactions. You can get to those later.
3) Review your Dashboard
The Dashboard is where you’ll track your progress against your budget. The Current Month budget rows on the Planner Sheet feed into the Dashboard sheet. If you make changes to the current month lines on the Planner sheet these will be reflected on the Dashboard.
4) Build for next month or alternate scenarios
You can use the Next Month lines on the Planner sheet to build a budget for next month or use it as a place to build out an alternate scenario for this month. Once your Next Month budget is ready, click the Roll Budget Forward button to delete the Current Month budget numbers in the Planner sheet and replace them with the Next Month budget numbers. (The first time you click, it will ask for permission to run.)
Sticking to a budget is an everyday activity
Your most important job is to categorize new spending and income on your Transactions sheet. Tiller intentionally doesn’t categorize these transactions for you because everyone’s categories are different. Also, the simple act of categorizing transactions creates awareness.
In addition to categorizing, you are welcome to modify the descriptions on the Transactions sheet, add new rows for cash expenses, or add notes. Tiller also provides an add-on that makes it easy to split transactions. You can find the add-on in the Google Chrome Store.
Managing transfers between accounts
If you transfer money between accounts, it’s not really an expense nor is it income. You can mark those transactions with the “Transfer” category which excludes those figures from your budget.
For example, if you withdraw money from your checking account and move it to your savings account, you will see two new transactions in your Transactions sheet. You might decide to categorize the checking account withdrawal as Savings if that’s one of your categories because you have a goal to save a certain amount.
You can then mark the corresponding transaction that appears for your savings account as Transfer since you don’t want to double count this transaction.
Watch your Progress
Your Dashboard sheet will show your progress throughout the month. Choose which month you want to review with the green cells up top for month and year. You can quickly see your progress against your overall budget as well as your budget for each category.
The Dashboard sheet will also remind you if you have transactions this month that are not yet categorized.
Your account balances are available on the Dashboard sheet as well. If you unlink an account from Tiller, it will disappear from this Account Balances report a week after the last update from Tiller. If Tiller makes an error by marking a negative balance as positive, you can correct it by choosing Positive or Negative in the Asset/Liability column to override Tiller’s data.