In honor of the upcoming America Saves Week, I want to talk about budgeting today. I know, I know, budgeting isn’t the most glamorous thing in the world. But it is needed if you ever want to attain financial freedom. Too many people are stuck in life because they have no clue where their money is going. Honestly, how many times have you logged into your bank account, saw your balance and were surprised because it is much lower than you expected? Heck, I’ve been there plenty of times myself.
The way you overcome this is by budgeting. To some reading this, you might shudder at the thought of a budget. After all, it is limiting your spending right? Wrong!
Stop looking at a budget as a short term tactic to stop you from spending and start looking at it as a tool that will help you reach your wildest financial dreams. Want to retire early? A budget can help you achieve it. Want to go on a killer vacation? A budget can help you here too. Once you see how a budget benefits you and doesn’t limit you, you can begin using one to get you to where you want to go.
Finding The Right Budget Template
OK, so I’ve got you interested in budgeting. We are getting somewhere. Now the trick is to find the best option for you when it comes to budgeting. After all, if you don’t like eating peas, it doesn’t make sense to make them a staple of your diet right? You should make broccoli a staple since you enjoy eating it. This will make sticking to a diet that much easier.
The same idea holds true for budgeting. When you choose the best budget tool for you, you increase the odds of your success. This is where you need to think about yourself for a few minutes.
Are you more into automation or the manual route? Do you enjoy analyzing numbers or do you want that done for you? Take a minute now to think things through. Don’t worry, I have the time to wait.
Great you are back. Since most of you are hear because you are interested in the manual excel approach, I’ll only quickly mention a few automated options for those looking for something else.
Power Wallet is 100% free, and is a good option for beginners. Unfortunately with other options, this one has fallen down on the list.
You Need A Budget has a cult like following and does take some time to get used to. With that said, it is powerful and many users swear by it. Also know that You Need A Budget costs $50 a year.
Another option is Personal Capital. While the budgeting side is good, it really excels at investment tracking. What I do like about the budget aspect of it, is that you can choose to track a couple categories. This is great for beginners that want to watch their grocery or dining out expenses or want to make sure their entertainment budget isn’t out of control. It’s free to use, so there is no harm giving it a shot if you want to do some basic budgeting.
If you are more interested in a manual budget, then you are in luck! I did a little research and found some great free (and one not free) excel spreadsheet templates for you to try out when completing your budget. Hopefully, after checking them out, you will find a template that you will enjoy using.
And on the off-chance you are interested in a hybrid version, something that is partly manual and partly automated, I have an option here too.
9 Great Excel Spreadsheet Templates
Money Smart Guides Excel Spreadsheet Template 1.0
OK, this is a shameless plug here. This is the first budget template I used, so I thought it would make sense to offer it up to my readers. It is pretty straight forward. You just plug in your budget categories and the amount you plan to spend in each. Then you enter in the amount you actually spent and viola!, you see where you need to cut back on spending. Below is a screenshot of the budget and you can access it here.
Money Smart Guides Excel Spreadsheet Template 2.0
I’m all about the shameless promotion today! Here is the second budget I ever used. It’s a modified version of the one above. I created this one because it has a much cleaner look to it and I even added a graph. No one can resist graphs! The screenshot is below and you can access this budget (again, 100% free), here
Budgets Are Sexy Budget Template
J$ over at Budgets Are Sexy has a great free excel spreadsheet budget for you to use as well. This one is cool because it allows you to break out your income by check. So if you have multiple sources of income, you can earmark one to pay the mortgage and other bills and the other paycheck can be used for savings. Here is a screenshot of his budget.
Budget Planner Excel Spreadsheet Template
Of all of the budget templates I am suggesting, this is the only one that costs money. The one time purchase price is $15.95 which might sound crazy for an excel spreadsheet template, but this one is really cool. First, you have a daily spending tab that allows you to insert your spending by category every day. This information is then linked to the rest of the budget to auto-fill (though you don’t have to use this feature, it makes sense to).
From there, there is a comparison tab that looks at your budget versus how you are spending up to this point in the month. This lets you see a “real-time” snapshot of where you might be getting into trouble. You also have a tab that looks at your budget on a monthly basis so you can see the year in total.
Lastly, the budget allows you to specify the frequency of the budget categories. So, if you pay your car insurance semi-annually, you can set this category up for semi-annual and the spreadsheet does the rest. I wouldn’t normally suggest paying for an excel budget, but this one is worth consideration. Here is a screenshot of the budget.
Mixing Maroons Budget Template
Mrs. Maroon recently posted how much she is an Excel geek, and I loved reading every last word. She created this in-depth excel budget spreadsheet from scratch and being a fellow Excel nerd, had to check it out. It is definitely amazing. For some it might be overkill, but I still recommend it as you can just use the parts that make sense now. In time, when you want to track more things, you can keep using the same template, since it has the added features.
So why is this budget great? It is broken down monthly and has a summary page to see everything in one snapshot. From there, you can track your income, net worth, and even detailed spending.
For example, how much did you spend on fruit at the grocery store last month? That is how detailed you can get. It even has a mortgage amortization sheet too! Here is a screenshot of the summary page.
Vertex 42 Excel Spreadsheet Template
Vertex42 has a ton of excel spreadsheet templates. Too many to list here in fact. If the template below isn’t you cup of tea, my guess is that you will find one from Vertex42. Their excel spreadsheet templates are free as well. They look great (easy on the eyes) and are super easy to use. Here is a screen-shot of the budget.
4 Step Budget Template
This excel spreadsheet template can be found on Life After College. What’s nice about this template is that after you fill in your income, and important expenses, it gives you your allowance to spend on discretionary items. Here is a screen-shot of the budget.
Before I was using my current budget, the excel spreadsheet template I used was Pear Budget. All of the instructions to use it are listed on the first tab of this template. You really need to read through it first before using it to get the whole picture of how it works. This isn’t to say that it is difficult to use, you just have to understand it in order to get maximum benefit from it.
Make sure you use my link here to access the budget. If you go to the Pear Budget website, they offer it free for 30 days and then charge you a monthly fee. I’m not a fan of that at all! Here is a screen-shot of the budget.
Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet Templates
If none of the above tickle your fancy, there is Microsoft itself. They have over 100 free excel spreadsheet templates to choose from. If you can’t find one there, then I don’t know what to tell you! I guess you could always spend the time to manually create one yourself. Here is a screen-shot of the budget.
A Hybrid Spreadsheet Budget
My biggest gripe with budgeting had been finding one that did what I wanted. I tried automated services, but they never met my needs 100% of the time. They were set up to use the way the developer wanted, not how I wanted. So I switched over to excel spreadsheets and created my own custom budget.
This worked great. But there was one downside: time. It wasn’t an issue before, but once I got married and had a kid, manually entering everything into an excel spreadsheet budget took a lot of time. But, it was the best option I had.
That was until I stumbled upon something else over the summer. It is called Tiller. It is a hybrid spreadsheet budget. When you sign up, Tiller creates a secure budget template for you and automatically updates your transactions.
You have 100% control over the look and feel of the budget and the categories you want to track. You can add graphs, create pivot tables and more. They simply pull that data for you to save you time. All you do is verify everything is correct.
I have to note that Tiller works off of Google Spreadsheets and not excel. At first I was nervous but I’ve found Google Sheets to be a breeze to use. And, I love how easily I can share the spreadsheet with my wife. No more updating the excel spreadsheet budget, saving it to dropbox and having my wife go there to look at it. With Tiller, my wife can easily access the budget anywhere she has an internet connection.
Tiller is free for 30 days and then $5 a month. I highly recommend you try it out. Coming from an excel geek, I’ve found it amazingly useful and easy to use. It saves me so much time. Below is a screenshot of the budget.
A budget is a key tool in making certain that you are living within your means. As a result, you need to find one that you will enjoy using and that you understand. Since everyone is different, there are lots of free excel spreadsheet templates to choose from as well as more automated options as well.
Just remember to start looking at a budget as a tool to help you reach financial freedom and not as something that is stopping you from buying something today. When you follow a budget, it helps you to reach your goal of affording an amazing vacation or saving for a house or retirement. Without a budget, you are left spinning your wheels, never making any progress towards reaching your financial goals.
Start budgeting today and start making progress on your goals.
[Photo Credit: photosteve101]