At Tiller, we didn’t originally set out to automate personal finance spreadsheets. We set out to build a new personal finance app.
But our research kept finding that spreadsheets were already the tool of choice for people who felt most in control of their money.
Additionally, when we interviewed people who tracked their money in a spreadsheet despite having tried personal finance apps, we found:
- 92% are more aware of their spending habits now that they’re using a spreadsheet
- 89% say spreadsheets give them more control over how they track their finances
- 83% think spreadsheets are easier and simpler to use than the app/s they tried
“Bottom line: spreadsheets + money = a sense of control.”Ben Hardy, Inc Magazine, “The Science Behind Feeling In Control About Your Money“
Why do people who feel in control of their money love spreadsheets?
For one, unlike personal finance apps, spreadsheets are extremely customizable. You can add any off-the-wall spending category you’d like to track and remove the ones that simply don’t apply to your lifestyle.
Spreadsheet are also extremely flexible, allowing you to do things like divvy up expenses and create charts using whatever data you’d like to visualize.
Let’s take a deeper look into why the aspects of customization and flexibility are so important when you’re sitting down to create your budget.
1. Different Templates for Different Money Needs
There are so many spreadsheet template options out there that you’re nearly guaranteed to find one suited to your needs.
Maybe you want a one-sheet, displaying all of your expenses, income, and investments in one fell swoop. Or maybe you want to take a more granular look at each aspect of your financial situation, charting your spending on one sheet while monitoring your income on another.
Whatever your preferences, you’ll be able to get it done without a headache thanks to a variety of spreadsheet template choices. With apps, you don’t typically have this same freedom as you must use the template built into the program.
2. Ability to Split Transactions
Anyone who has ever shopped at Walmart understands that just because you get one receipt doesn’t mean you’ve only spent money in one budget category.
With spreadsheets, you can use add-ons like the one below provided by Tiller to split transactions across multiple budget categories, keeping your tallies accurate as you evaluate how much money you have left to spend in each given area before the end of the month.
Let’s take Walmart as an example. Maybe you spent $120 on groceries, but you also spent $50 on clothes and $60 on presents for your child’s birthday. Your transaction will pop up as $230, but by splitting the transaction, you can divvy it up according to category so it doesn’t look like you spent an extra $110 on groceries when that money was actually allotted for clothing and gifts.
3. Sort and Filter Transactions
If you’re trying to spend less money and want to track how much you spent on dining out last month, spreadsheets allow you to filter out all other expenditures.
Once you see how much you spent last month, you can now set a realistic goal to improve upon in this category moving forward.
You can also sort your transactions, allowing you to visualize how many times you made a purchase at an individual store or within a specific category without losing sight of your spending in other areas.
4. Create a Pivot Table
A pivot table is an advanced version of sorting and filtering. Pivot tables allow you to notate your spending across categories in any given month without detailing each individual purchase. They’re quick, easy and 1incredibly helpful as you set budget goals moving forward.
5. Write Your Own Formulas
Because you can write your own formulas for a spreadsheet, the ways in which you can analyze your data are limitless. You can get totals per category, project future spending, translate foreign languages and add images to your sheet all with a few keystrokes.
Financial apps simply don’t have this same flexibility.
6. Easy Visualization
Some of us learn best from reading and analyzing numbers, while others among us learn best from visuals like charts and graphs.
When you use a spreadsheet, you’re able to quickly and easily create a visual to help you realize just how big of a toll all that money you’re spending on concert tickets is taking on your budget, or how incredibly important it is for you to not put off saving for your child’s 2019/2020 private school tuition.
While many apps offer charts and graphs, they are not nearly as customizable as the ones you can create in a spreadsheet. Within a spreadsheet, you have the ability to compare and contrast any data set, allowing visual learners to get the most out of their budgeting efforts.
7. Rename Your Accounts
Do you and your partner both have separate accounts at the same bank? It may be a little difficult, then, to keep track of whose “PNC Checking Account” is whose.
When you use a spreadsheet you can rename these accounts to help you keep better track of where you’re stashing your money—or where you’re pulling it from.
8. Keep Track of Your Cash
It’s great to see that you withdrew $60 in cash from the ATM the last time you went out on the town, but that doesn’t tell you where you spent that money. In all reality, not all of it went towards entertainment. While $35 did go to drinks, you put the remaining $25 towards your grocery bill the next day.
Because spreadsheets allow you to detail how you spent that cash, your final budget numbers will be more accurate than if you simply counted the entire $60 withdrawal as an entertainment expense.
9. Joint Money Management
Many apps—though not all—do not allow you to share your budget with your partner or another party. This can be a problem if you’re managing a joint bank account or working together with your spouse on a big money goal.
Spreadsheets like the Google Sheets system on which Tiller operates ameliorate that issue. Because of cloud storage, you can open your budget spreadsheet anywhere, and invite your partner to do the same as an equal contributor.
If you have a purchase you need to communicate about, Google Sheets allows you to tag the other person via email, alerting them to the need for further communication.
Using a spreadsheet gives you the flexibility you need to manage joint accounts and successfully reach your money goals together.
10. Integration with Other Programs
With spreadsheets, you can import data from certain outside budgeting apps. That means if you have one app to track spending and another to keep an eye on your investment data, you can gather it all in one place using your spreadsheet.
It also means you can import purchases from certain retailers. For example, if you make a purchase at Amazon, you can break down each line item—much like splitting your receipt from Walmart in the example above.