The first step towards taking control of your finances is making a budget. One that clearly, and accurately, reflects how much money you’re making, and where that money is going. Too often, folks will make an honest effort in making a budget, but end up with an untruthful profile of their financial picture.
Despite all of the fancy budgeting tools available, many of us at MoneyUnder30 find that the most effective tool for making a budget is a detailed spreadsheet. I’m an Excel nerd, so mapping out my finances via rows and columns comes easy, but I know there are plenty of folks who would rather eat their shirt if it meant they could avoid making anything with the program.
Luckily, Savvy Spreadsheets offers budget templates that are easy to use for novices, and are also enjoyable for the pros.
Savvy Spreadsheets gives you a basic budget spreadsheet for free, which will let you track one income source and 10 expense categories over a 12 month period.
Here’s a screenshot of the monthly summary screen from the Super Basic Budget:
Springing for their $15 Super Deluxe Budget spreadsheet gets you advanced features that may help keep you more honest with your money.
The Super Deluxe Budget spreadsheet lets you track multiple sources of income and gives you the option to adjust your budget on a month-to-month basis. This is crucial because nobody carries the same expectations for expenses each month.
I like to golf, but in New England, I’m only paying for greens fees and driving range buckets a few months out of the year. Keeping a “Recreation” category in my budget all 12 months won’t give me a realistic picture of how I’m actually spending my money.
The Super Deluxe sheet also gives you 20 expense categories with up to 20 subcategories. This lets you get the big picture on your finances, but also lets you track the minutia of your expenses. Sure, $550 on food and dining sounds reasonable, but after seeing how much you’re actually spending on coffee runs might inspire some changes in your expectations.
Budgeting apps like Mint and others can automate a tedious process, but we challenge you to take the time and draw out your budget manually. It’s an involved process, but the time you take to process your spending and earning will leave you with a fuller, more honest understanding of your finances.
What’s better, for $15 Savvy Spreadsheets can take away the pain of fiddling with Excel yourself. It’s a good investment to force you to spend some time with your money, find out where it’s going, and plan for spending money where you want to, not where you don’t.