6 Essential Budgeting Spreadsheets & Tools for 2023
Conscious spending is a great way to enjoy life while still building a financially secure future. However, it requires organization. You need to start with a bullet-proof budget, categorizing all of your expenses into one of these four buckets: fixed costs, investments, savings, and guilt-free spending. You then need to decide how much money to allocate to each bucket. Finally, you need to stick to your plan.
Budgeting spreadsheets and tools are great resources for creating a conscious spending plan. Simplified spreadsheets help develop your plan, and budgeting apps, like those that automate expense tracking, help you stick to it. The entire point of these tools is to simplify money management so you can think about your money less, not more.
For many people, budgeting and planning for big expenses like vacations are a struggle. But it doesn’t have to be! I spoke with a couple in episode 114 of my podcast who overspent on holidays because their earnings combined were a lot. But without planning for expenses, a big income can lead to big debt.
3 Budget Spreadsheet Templates to Get You Started
The thought of creating a budget spreadsheet can be intimidating. Does this mean you need to master complex financial formulas? Not at all. When it comes to budget templates, it’s best to keep them simple, and there are many user-friendly tools available to save you time and stress. Here are some of the easiest:
Microsoft Excel budget templates
Microsoft Excel isn’t all about complex formulas. These free budget templates are an easy way to get an overview of your cash flow (monthly expenses versus monthly income). There are even specialty templates, such as a personal monthly budget, a college budget, a home construction budget, and an event planning budget. If you have the Microsoft Office suite, you can access these Excel templates for free.
Google Sheets budget templates
Google Sheets offers another budgeting method. If you have a Google account, you can access free templates covering weekly, monthly, and annual budgets. There are also budget calculators to help you stick to your selected budgeting rule, like the 50/20/30 rule (which dictates that 50% of your budget goes to essential fixed and variable expenses, 20% goes to savings and debts, and 30% goes to the rest).
The Federal Trade Commission’s budget worksheet
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers another handy budgeting tool. The free budget spreadsheet is available to download as a PDF and provides a list of proposed income and expense budget categories; you just have to fill in the dollar amounts. The formula at the end (subtracting expenses from income) provides a picture of your financial health and can help you figure out how to better manage your money.
My 2 Favorite Budgeting Apps and Tools to Help with Money Management
Craft a conscious spending plan with the tools above, then use budgeting apps with simple technology to streamline your efforts.
Here are some of the best budgeting apps to help automate money management, which gives you more control over your cash so you can meet your financial goals while thinking about them less.
Firstly, take advantage of your bank’s features, including apps that connect to your checking account and credit card to effortlessly monitor expenses. For example, you can automate all your transactions. Automation is a great psychological trick to help you save time and gain control of your finances.
If you like having all of your financial data in your hands, Mint is worth a look. You can track spending, monitor subscriptions, create custom budgets, and more. You can connect all of your bank accounts, including investments, so you have a quick financial picture at hand.
If you like the convenience of all of your financial planning tools in one place, Mint is a solid choice and it can stop you from making the five big money mistakes that I talk about in this article with gobankingrates.com
You Need a Budget (YNAB)
YNAB is ideal for people who have debts to pay off or savings goals they want to reach. It helps you spend smarter with tools like budget creation, goal tracking, and reports (including visual graphs and charts). The app also provides personal support, including free live Q&A sessions offered weekly.
Not sure which budgeting app is for you? I break it all down in this blog post article “YNAB vs. Mint: Which Budgeting App is Better?” to provide more details.
How Money Management (and Budgeting Tools) Help You Meet Your Financial Goals
You likely have some financial goals in your life, whether it’s improving your net worth, paying off your college student loans, or achieving FIRE (financial independence, retire early). You might also have smaller, more short-term goals, like saving for your dream wedding or buying a luxury car. Smart money management can help you achieve those objectives.
Many people assume that effective money management means scrounging, saving, and never enjoying life. The truth is that living a life of constantly telling yourself “no” isn’t sustainable (or enjoyable). Instead, consider trying a conscious spending plan. Following this logic, you categorize your expenses into essential fixed costs, important investments, savings goals, and—last but not least—guilt-free spending.
By allocating space in your budget for the fun stuff (minus the guilt), you’re more likely to stick to that budget in the first place. By honing in on your Money Dials—the things you really love to spend on—you can prioritize your spending in a way that makes sense for you. Money Dials could include things like fitness, convenience, luxury items, travel, self-improvement, and social status.
Financial Freedom is Found Beyond Spreadsheets
You don’t have to be a personal finance guru or a professional budget planner to create a workable household budget. The above spreadsheets and tools make it easier to take control of your finances and implement conscious spending habits that work for you. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s a tool to help you get where you want to be financially while ensuring you aren’t going without.
The aim is to create a simple budget that works for you and then automate as much as you can of your money management, from auto-paying bills to setting up automatic deposits for investments and savings. This will ultimately help you think less (and stress less) about money, so you can live the “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” philosophy: “A rich life is lived outside the spreadsheet.”
FAQs About Budgeting Spreadsheets and Tools
How can I stay motivated to stick to my budget using a spreadsheet?
Staying motivated to stick to a budget using a spreadsheet can be challenging, but several strategies can help. Setting realistic goals, celebrating small wins, and tracking spending regularly can help keep you on track. Using visual aids, getting an accountability partner, reviewing your budget regularly, and rewarding yourself for sticking to your budget are additional strategies that can help you stay motivated and achieve your financial goals.
How can I customize my budgeting spreadsheet to fit my specific needs?
Customizing your budgeting spreadsheet can be done in several ways. First, you can add or remove categories based on your unique income and expenses. You can also adjust the formatting to make the spreadsheet easier to read and use. Additionally, you can add conditional formatting, such as color-coding, to help you quickly identify areas where you may need to adjust your spending.
What are the benefits of using a budgeting spreadsheet?
Using a budgeting spreadsheet can help you better organize your finances, increase your awareness of spending habits, and customize the spreadsheet to fit your specific needs. It can also help you set financial goals, make more informed decisions about spending and savings, and facilitate communication with a partner or spouse about shared finances. Overall, a budgeting spreadsheet can provide numerous benefits for managing your money and achieving financial stability.