When it comes to managing your finances, having a solid budget in place is key.
Budgeting tells your money where to go and by giving your money a purpose, you gain more clarity and control over your finances. Creating and sticking to a budget is easy if you make it realistic.
Tracking your spending and maintaining your budget is another story. Most budgets fail because they are either unrealistic or they haven’t been maintained well.
Sadly, you can’t set it and forget it. You have to actively check-in and make sure you’re on track to meet your goals.
An easy way to do this is by filling out a budget spreadsheet each month and keeping it updated.
When we polled our readers, the best budgeting app wasn't even an app – it was Microsoft Excel! It was a spreadsheet! (and by far)
OK – if you’re not a fan of spreadsheets, hear me out.
Spreadsheets and budgets often go hand-in-hand because it’s a great way to keep everything organized and easily accessible.
Plus, you don’t even have to go through the trouble of designing a functional budget spreadsheet on your own. If you’re looking for a quick and effective solution, you can download a free budget spreadsheet template to get you started then, you can just fill in your numbers.
Below are some of the best free budgeting spreadsheet templates to choose from.
Cashflow Budget Spreadsheet
This spreadsheet is inspired by Dave Ramsey’s budgeting strategy and helps you categorize each expense you have so you can create a zero-sum budget. A zero-sum budget helps you make the most of your income by making sure every dollar you earn has a purpose (and is assigned a budgeting category).
There is an instructions tab which explains how to use the spreadsheet properly. Then, there’s an income and expenses tab.
This spreadsheet is fully customizable and as you list out all your expenses, it automatically calculates what percentage of your income each expense is. For example, this would be a great spreadsheet to use if you’re trying to make sure your housing expenses remain below 30% of your income.
To download this spreadsheet, you need to have Microsoft Word 2003 or higher.
Simple Budget Planner
If you use Google Docs more than other word processing programs, the Google Drive template gallery has a simple budget planner spreadsheet option you can use to list out and track your budget.
This spreadsheet is not as fancy as the other ones, but it gets the job done and is a great starter spreadsheet for anyone who’s new to budgeting. The spreadsheet also calculates the percentage each expense uses out of your total budget.
Another perk about using a budget spreadsheet in Google Drive is that you can access if from your mobile device so you can maintain your budget on the go instead of waiting until you get home to update the numbers in an Excel document on your computer.
SquawkFox Debt Reduction Spreadsheet
If you’re in the process of paying off some debt, this debt reduction spreadsheet is great because it allows you to list out your creditors, the current balance for each account, the interest rate, and your monthly payments.
With this spreadsheet, you can track your total debt amount and total monthly payment, average interest rate, and average monthly interest paid.
This is great to use if you have no idea how much you’re spending on interest each month or how much you’re spending on debt payments in general.
Retirement Budget Spreadsheet Template
Saving for retirement is very important and the earlier you start, the better. What I like about Spreadsheet 123’s retirement budget spreadsheet template is that it also includes an estimated inflation chart so you can determine how much money you’ll need to save to retire by your goal date/age.
The budgeting tab for this spreadsheet allows you to track your income and personal expenses like your housing, daily living expenses, medical expenses, etc. For retirement, you can enter in all your income sources and the spreadsheet will automatically calculate a summary to let you know if you’re on track to hit your retirement savings goal.
To download this free spreadsheet, you may need to take a brief survey beforehand but I didn’t have to when I downloaded it.
Wedding Budget Spreadsheet
Planning a wedding? It’s no secret that traditional weddings aren’t cheap. Regardless of how much you plan to spend on your big day, you’ll want to keep organized and track your spending.
This wedding budget spreadsheet from Young Adult Money covers all the basics including categories like apparel, rings, flower, the ceremony and reception, food, stationery, the rehearsal dinner, and more.
There are two tabs for this spreadsheet including a summary tab that will show you a snapshot of your wedding expenses and a more detailed tab that breaks everything down.
You can list your budgeted amount for each item and the actual amount you spent then, the difference will be calculated.
Pros and Cons
Using a budgeting spreadsheet to get organized and improve your finances may sound like a solid option for some people, while others may be apprehensive. To consider whether budgeting spreadsheets are right for you, you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of using them.
Pros of a Budgeting Spreadsheet
- Budgeting spreadsheet templates make it easy to stay organized and many are free to use.
- You can easily share your budgeting spreadsheet with a spouse or significant other.
- Most templates available online automatically calculate certain figures like your total income and expenses, retirement contributions, and debt payments to make budgeting simpler and allow you to see the overall picture.
- You can tailor it to exactly what you need, rather than relying on what an app developer thinks is important.
Cons of a Budgeting Spreadsheet
- You often have to manually track each expense which can become tedious if you have several budget categories and financial goals. Free apps like Mint and Personal Capital can help you track your spending automatically and monitor your budget.
- If you fall off with tracking, your budget may not match up with your bank account. Budgeting inconsistencies can be the worst, so want to make sure you don’t miss entering in any of your figures.
Budgeting Spreadsheet templates aren’t the best solution for everyone, but they can help you improve your finances as long as you are committed to using a budget and choose a template that is easy to work with.
It’s important to realize that these spreadsheets won’t work unless you do your part. If you’re going to start using a spreadsheet, get into the habit of active budgeting and develop a system that ensures you can keep your numbers updated and accurate.