Longtime readers of this site know how much of an excel nerd I am. I have been tracking my finances using spreadsheets for close to 20 years now. While there are some things that I outsource, like tracking my investments with Personal Capital, budgeting is something I want more control over.
That I why I created my own spreadsheet budget and shared with you 10 great free spreadsheet budgets. But I’ve always had a problem with spreadsheet budgeting.
That problem was time.
As anyone who knows about budgeting with a spreadsheet, it is a manual process that takes a lot of time.
You have to create the spreadsheet. You have to enter in all of your expenses. Then you have to make sure the formulas work.
With many hobbies and a growing family, my time was beginning to stretch too thin to work with a spreadsheet budget.
So I tried looking at programs, like Mint, Quicken and Microsoft Money Sunset.
All are OK, but they each present various issues.
There had to be a better way. And then one day, I stumbled upon it.
It’s called Tiller.
I know what you might be thinking. Tiller? Since when do I come here to learn about farming?
Tiller is not about being on a farm. It is a financial spreadsheet app solution that will allow you to use a customized spreadsheet to budget your money and automate things, saving you time.
The result is a better, more efficient way to watch your money and stay on budget every month.
Tiller Budget Review
- Ease of Use
- Saves Time
- Customer Support
Tiller budgeting is an excellent option for people who enjoy using spreadsheets to budget their money. Tiller automates your transactions, saving you a ton of time, but still allows for you to completely customize your Tiller spreadsheet to your liking. It's a good starting point too for those just beginning to budget. You can sign up for free here.
Getting To Know The Tiller App
Tiller started as an idea to help you keep track of your finances in a time efficient way so you can enjoy your life and spending time doing things that give you meaning and purpose.
The CEO, Peter Polson, founded Junxion and was the CEO of Dashwire, both successful companies that were bought by larger rivals. He has since spent his time creating and developing Tiller.
And others have noticed how great the Tiller app is. It won the 2017 FinTech Budgeting App of the Year award.
But enough about the background of Tiller. Let’s get into the budgeting software so you can see how amazing it really is.
Overview Of Tiller
A Tiller budget is based in Google Sheets which is the Google alternative to spreadsheet program Microsoft Excel. If you’ve never used Google Sheets before, don’t fear. It is very similar to Excel, but with more options to allow full control over your spreadsheets.
Tiller is customizable. While it has budget spreadsheet templates, you can create a Tiller budget sheet and make your own that fits either your business or personal spending and income categories.
You can make your spreadsheet as general or as detailed as you want. You can delete categories as needed. And Tiller links to your bank accounts and updates your sheet daily with each day’s transactions so you will know every morning where you stand with your money.
And having that real-time progress can absolutely hold you accountable every step of the way.
Now that we have the basics, let’s go into more detail about Tiller and how it works.
In case you are pressed for time, you can check out this great video overview about Tiller below. Otherwise, my full Tiller review follows.
Holy Sheet! (Pardon My French)
For years, when the word “spreadsheet” is mentioned, many of us would automatically think of Microsoft Excel as the clear authority on spreadsheets and the go-to for budgeting. But we all also know that there are things about Excel that are somewhat cumbersome and difficult.
For example, if you don’t know much about how to create the mathematical formulas in Excel that will help you track your budget regularly, it is going to be hard to get a detailed budget set up.
With Tiller, you won’t have to worry about that.
Google Sheets are an easy-to-share and utilize alternative to Excel, and with Tiller the formulas you would need to create your budget are already plugged in by the app.
All you have to do is set up a 30-day free trial and you can work from a Tiller spreadsheet template and create your own income and expense categories. You can also choose a time frame for the budget (monthly, weekly, quarterly, etc.) and then let Tiller program the formulas for each category.
You can also choose to hide certain categories from your monthly budget template in the category tab as well.
Below is a screenshot of the categories tab that your Tiller budget will have.
As Tiller is based directly off Google Sheets, the interface is friendly and the entire app is easy to use, even for those who are new to using spreadsheets of any kind.
But Google Sheets are also as versatile as Excel, which makes it great for the finance nerds who want many detailed categories. Below is a list of the the financial spreadsheet templates that are available, including “Build Your Own.”
Banking On It
Another part of Tiller that works well is its secure linking to your pertinent bank accounts. If you set up a Tiller spreadsheet for your business, you can enter your information about your business accounts that will be part of your budget (your checking account, retained earnings/savings, reserve, etc.).
You can do the same thing for your personal finances as well, and you can develop separate spreadsheets for each, even if you link similar accounts (like maybe you have one savings account where both your personal and business savings go, you could link that same account to both spreadsheets).
You enter your account information that applies to each spreadsheet you have (you can have as many as five), and each day Tiller will upload the latest transactions.
From there you can then place each transaction in the appropriate category in your budget using the drop down menu and the spreadsheet will update automatically.
Tiller currently can link to hundreds of banking institutions, and is adding more all the time, so you can check often to see if your particular bank or credit union can be accessed by Tiller. If not, you can send Tiller an e-mail and let its support team know so they can work on adding it.
If your bank or credit union isn’t available, then you would have to fill in your information by hand until Tiller catches up.
Below is a screenshot of the page that shows the most recent transactions. Tiller pulls all of this information in for you. All you have to do is categorize each one using a drop down menu in column C.
Boosting The Budget
From this point, after you categorize each of your transactions, the information gets automatically posted into the Budgeting tab on your Google Sheet. Deposits and debits are plugged into proper categories, so you don’t have to do anything manually like create new formulas or transfer information from the Transaction tab into the Budgeting tab using copy and paste.
Not only that, but your budget is then automatically updated with up-to-the-minute details of spending in each category, plus the program will produce a brief summary about your spending overall or give you areas in which to monitor especially closely.
Here is what your Monthly Budget tab may look like:
Tiller also has other useful tabs and tools that you can use for whatever area of your financial process in which you reside. For example, if you are looking to get out of debt, there is a debt snowball worksheet that can help you track your debt payoff and allow you to see your progress as you attack the smallest debt. If you are unfamiliar with a debt snowball, check out this detailed post I wrote.
If you are out of debt and you are now in savings mode and you have a big-ticket item that you are saving for, you can use the Savings Goals tab to put in writing what you are saving for (new car, house, vacation, etc.) and see your timeline and how much money you need to save to achieve that goal on time.
Now that you are out of debt and are gaining wealth, you could use the Net Worth tab to track how much your net worth grows as you go each month. Net worth remember, is calculated by taking the value of all you own (house, car, retirement accounts, income) and subtracting what you owe (mortgage, car loan, student loans, credit cards). You can read here how powerful calculating your net worth is.
Finally there is an awesome category detail tab as well. On this tab you can choose the date range and Tiller will categorize all of your spending for you. This is great to look back at the year and see where your money went. You might even be surprised at how much your monthly spending in some categories adds up to!
Embrace The Extras
There are some pretty cool add-ons that can allow you to really use Tiller in a way that can be very customizable for your specific budgeting needs.
For example, do you tend to go to Target or Costco pretty often, and you find yourself buying things that could go in three or four different categories? You can add a “split transaction” add-on so that Costco expense doesn’t all go under “grocery” when you bought a new TV and some back-to-school clothes.
With this add-on, you can break up your transaction into different categories (or sub-categories) so you are able to keep a more accurate record of your spending.
A nice feature is that you can link multiple accounts to the same sheet, multiple accounts to multiple sheets, or one account to multiple sheets. However you need to work it, you can work it.
If you have a couple credit cards and his and hers debit cards, you can link all of those into the same personal spreadsheet, and/or link them also into your business spreadsheet if all those cards have both personal and business transactions.
There are a few tricks that you could use to build out a standard Tiller template how you want, as not all add-ons are currently available. But if you don’t have any significant spreadsheet skills, you can always stick to the default template and it should work just fine.
But if you do have some skills with spreadsheets, there are a number of things you can do to “geek out” your spreadsheet to satisfy that financial nerd inside you.
This includes creating custom reports and developing some tables and trends to see how you are spending over a period of time, so you can make adjustments as needed to ensure you are reaching your goals.
Of course, you can even build your own Tiller spreadsheet as well to budget and track your money.
Summarizing The Advantages Of Tiller
I know that was a lot, so here is a bullet list of the great things you can do with Tiller.
- Fully customized spreadsheet
- Base budget set up from the start – no need to create a template
- Automatic transaction download
- Use for personal accounts, business accounts or both
- Split transactions
- Updated daily
- Ability to create charts
- Ability to create custom reports and tables
- Option to create up to 5 spreadsheets
- Debt snowball to help you get out of debt
- Net worth tracker to help you grow your wealth
- Share budget privately with family or accountant
- Access anywhere you have a cellular or internet connection
- Daily email summaries
Negatives About Tiller
Of course, as good as Tiller is, it’s not perfect. After using Tiller for a bit, here are some of the drawbacks I’ve noticed.
Need some level of comfort with spreadsheets: This is more for those looking to really make their Tiller budget personal. The templates are great and if you only want a budget, they are as good as it gets and you don’t need a lot of spreadsheet skills. But if you want to create charts or custom reports, you need to have a little knowledge about spreadsheets.
Costs money: I know many people want free stuff, but Tiller does charge for their spreadsheet. But with that said, you do get to try it out for free for 30 days. After that, the price is so small, it really isn’t an issue at all. I’m happy to pay the small amount seeing as how much time it saves me. It’s all about opportunity cost.
Manual entry for some features: If you want to use the net worth and debt snowball trackers, know that this information needs to be entered by you manually. Again, not the end of the world, but I wanted to note it.
No rolling over of data: As is stands now, your monthly budget isn’t rolled over to the next month. For example, let’s say you add in your water bill to your Tiller budget. Each month you allot $50 for water but you only get billed quarterly. When you update your budget for the new month, your unused $50 for water doesn’t get rolled over the current month. It’s not a deal breaker for me, but I have been told they are working on adding this feature.
Tiller Security And Privacy
Privacy and security are utmost importance to you and to Tiller as well.
When it comes to privacy, you are the only one who has access to your Tiller spreadsheet budget, unless you give someone else access to it. Even the people at Tiller cannot see your spreadsheet.
And when it comes to selling your personal information to third parties, Tiller doesn’t. They charge a subscription fee which makes you their customer, not advertisers. All your personal information is kept secure by Tiller and is not shared with anyone or any company.
The same idea holds true to security with Tiller. To access your bank information, Tiller has read-only access. This means no one can make any transactions in your account. They only can see the data.
In addition, Tiller uses Yodlee to for security reasons. Yodlee is used by 9 of the 15 largest banks in the US to run their websites and secure customer data.
Finally, Tiller uses 256-bit AES encryption, which is what most banks use as well. In a nut shell, your data is safe and Tiller takes your privacy and security serious. You can read more information about these topics here.
Alternatives To Tiller
As of this writing, there are a few main alternatives to Tiller. Here they are and why you might want to or not want to consider them.
Quicken: This is a budgeting software program. It costs about $50 to buy and you need to upgrade and buy a new copy every 3 years. It is fully automated, so you just download your transactions and Quicken does the work for you. Graphs and reports are available. You do have some customization control but not much.
The biggest issue could be the number of people that report lost data when they are required to update to a new version.
Mint: Tiller vs Mint is the heavyweight fight as Mint is the most popular option for budgeting out there. You link your accounts and set up a budget. You do have to make sure you categorize transactions at first as many times they will be wrong.
It’s free to use, but you have to understand what you are giving up for free. The app has advertisements throughout, trying to get you to sign up for a bank account, credit card, debt consolidation, etc. This is how Mint makes money.
They basically sell users information (not any personal information) to advertisers so they can show relevant ads to you.
Another downside is reliability. I tried Mint for a few years. Every week it seemed as though they lost connection to a bank account and I needed to reconnect it. It was maddening. All I wanted was my budget but I spent most of my time updating and relinking accounts.
Microsoft Money Sunset: This is the old version of Money, but it has no online access now. This means everything is manual. You can install some computer scripts to pull some information, but this is technical and doesn’t always work.
I tried this product for a few months, but realized it didn’t offer any benefits so I quit using it. You can download and use Money Sunset for free.
Excel Spreadsheets: These are what most people used before Tiller came along. They are great because you can make your budget spreadsheet exactly how you want it. You control it 100%.
The downside to this is that you need to know Excel so you can create the budget in the first place. The other issue is that it is completely manual so you have to enter every single transaction you make.
The Bottom Line
As you are allowed to try it for 30 days for free, there is no harm in trying Tiller out and see for yourself if it’s the right budgeting tool for you. If you have spreadsheet skills and you are a financial nerd, Tiller may be your dream come true.
If you are a basic budgeter and not much of a spreadsheet person, Tiller will work well for you. I love the fact that I can open up my sheet first thing in the morning and see my downloaded transactions. I then just update the category and see where I stand financially in less than 5 minutes.
I also love that I can have a daily or weekly budget update emailed to my wife to keep her up to date as well. Tiller is by far the closest I have to come to complete happiness when it comes to budgeting. And that is important because it increases the likelihood I’ll stick with it.
To get started with Tiller, click here.