There are two kinds of people in the world: those who use spreadsheets to track their budget and those that don’t. 🙂
I've been tracking our net worth for many years using an Excel spreadsheet. For years, I logged into every single account to pull my data each month. That turned out to be a good thing because it pushed me to simplify our finances because our financial network map was a complete horror show. Even today, manually pulling the data is a time suck, even if you just do this once a month.
As it turns out, the folks at Tiller Money had similar issues and solved it by building a tool to automate the process. They basically give your budgeting spreadsheets, including Google Sheets, the power of automation. It's like magic.
Learn if it might be the tool your budget needs in our Tiller Money review.
Tiller was founded by Peter Polson, who previously founded Junxion (which was acquired by Sierra Wireless) and was CEO of Dashwire (which was acquired by HTC), in Seattle, Washington in 2014. When they first started, their automation tools only worked with Google Sheets but they've since expanded to include Microsoft Excel (currently in a private beta, but it's very close!) as well.
The easiest way to get started is to use their Tiller Money Foundation Template. When you connect your bank accounts and link them into the template, your financial data will get pulled in. It comes with separate tabs for your Transactions, Balances, Monthly Budget, Yearly Budget, and Categories. You can customize it to whatever you want but starting from a template makes it super easy.
If you need help, they have a Tiller Money Feeds Tour in the sidebar that'll walk you through picking things like categories, running the AutoCat, setting budget targets, and updating your sheet. After that, you can use their other templates and tools on the Labs add-on for net worth tracking, debt progress, business reporting, and other little extensions of the sheet. They expand the capabilities but may be intimidating to start.
When most people think of spreadsheets, they think of rows and columns of boxes. If that's your experience, then prepare to be blown away. Spreadsheets can do so much more than a ledger of transactions.
They are more like complex databases, with the ability to produce automatic reports and charts, and they can support all types of budgeting systems. (and if Tiller doesn't have a template you like, you can just download a free budgeting spreadsheet and use their Feeds to make it automated)
For example, the Tiller Envelope Budget spreadsheet (available through a separate Tiller Add-on) can do envelope budgeting based on how you categorize your spending. It can track savings goals and adjust your budgets on the fly in case you go over one area and need to shift things around. If you want to allocate every penny, it can do that too.
The biggest difference is that a spreadsheet is like a tailored suit and many of the other tools are like buying off the rack. It's perfectly fine to buy off the rack, but it won't fit perfectly. To get it just right, you'll need to bring it to a tailor… which you can do with clothes, you can't do that with software. 🙂
So expect to do a little more work setting it up, but then it'll be perfect.
And all the mundane data collection work will be handled by Tiller!
Is Tiller Safe?
Like many similar financial aggregators, Tiller uses Yodlee to securely aggregate banking information. Tiller doesn't store any of your bank transaction locally, everything is handled through Yodlee (which means it supports 16,000 financial institutions) and then Tiller gets read-only tokens. Tiller uses those read-only tokens to pull your data – so Tiller cannot do anything in your accounts, it can only read the transactions and import them into your spreadsheets.
As you'd expect with any company of this nature, there is 256-bit AES encryption as well as Google's built-in 2-step authentication.
In terms of internal controls, no one at Tiller ever sees your data. You log in through Yodlee, Tiller only gets the read-only token, and the data is pulled directly into your spreadsheet. You don't have to worry about someone within Tiller being compromised because no one within Tiller ever sees your data.
How Does Tiller Make Money?
Not ads. Not by selling data. Not by pitching you products.
Tiller does not sell data and does not advertise to you (the classic “ad-supported” business model). A lot of companies, armed with rich transaction data, love to sell this data to third parties as a way to increase revenue. A lot of companies will look at all this financial data and use it to make commission-based offers that will help you but also their bottom line. If you are using a free tool with no premium up-sell, chances are they're making money off the data.
Tiller has a 30-day free trial and then is $79 a year. That's it.
If you are a spreadsheet junkie, then Tiller just might save you a boatload of time every month, if not every day. And it's no surprise that spreadsheets are often considered one of the best personal finance apps out there, albeit time consuming without automation like Tiller.
If you are more of a spreadsheet novice, it can be a little overwhelming at first. The templates have a lot of features and Tiller offers quite a bit of support with their tutorials and libraries, but it will still take some time to get up to speed. If you invest that time, you'll find it to be very rewarding.
Also one thing that's very cool is that Tiller Money offers free live weekly webinars on their Foundation Template to help you get started and ask your questions to their support team, you can sign up here.
When it comes to money management, you really can't get any closer to your money than with a spreadsheet.