In honor of 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. Here are some budgeting options for you depending on your likes and dislikes. If you want a more automated budgeting option, there is Power Wallet or even You Need A Budget. I have used both of these services and highly recommend them.
Power Wallet is 100% free, while You Need A Budget does cost $60 to buy. Note though that you can sign up for a free trial version which lasts 34 days. Also, by using my link above, you get $6 applied to your purchase making it only $54. Hey, it’s better than nothing right?
If you are more interested in a manual budget, then you are in luck! I did a little research and found some great free (and one not free) excel spreadsheet templates for you to try out when completing your budget. Hopefully, after checking them out, you will find a template that you will enjoy using.
8 Great Excel Spreadsheet Templates
Money Smart Guides Excel Spreadsheet Template 1.0
OK, this is a shameless plug here. This is the first budget template I used, so I thought it would make sense to offer it up to my readers. It is pretty straight forward, you just plug in your budget categories and the amount you plan to spend in each. Then you enter in the amount you actually spent and viola!, you see where you need to cut back on spending. Below is a screenshot of the budget and you can access it here.
Money Smart Guides Excel Spreadsheet Template 2.0
I’m all about the shameless promotion today! Here is the second budget I ever used. It’s a modified version of the one above. I created this one because it has a much cleaner look to it and I even added a graph. No one can resist graphs! The screenshot is below and you can access this budget (again, 100% free), here.
Budgets Are Sexy Budget Template
J$ 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 $40 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 the price. Here is a screenshot of the budget:
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 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.
Readers, I’m curious as to what type of budget you use when it comes to budgeting. Let me know in the comments below!
[Photo Credit: photosteve101]