A few months ago on Twitter, I asked y’all what New Years Resolutions were hardest to keep. Thirty percent had responded with “Money/Finances,” which brings me to today’s post. Today, I will be sharing with you the exact method I use to manage my expenses using Excel. I adapted my method from how Tucker uses Excel to track his expenses and I hope that you adapt my method to help you manage your expenses. You’re in for an extra informative post (with lots of pictures). Grab your coffee and a snack and enjoy!
Before I get started with the logistics of the system I use, I want to let you know that you don’t need to use Microsoft’s Excel. You can use Google Spreadsheets and I’m almost positive that a free Excel alternative comes standard on most MacBooks. Each software has their own pros and cons, use the software that you are most comfortable with.
Okay now onto the good stuff: how you can actually manage your expenses.
Create Different Sheets to Track Different Expenses
For example, on the very first sheet in Excel, I keep track of my fixed expenses like rent, utilities, etc. I label the first sheet “Fixed Expenses” so as I’m flipping from one sheet to the next, I always have a sense of what I’m looking at.
Now that you’ve labeled the sheets, it’s time to start filling them out with, you guessed it, your expenses.
Organizing Your Expenses Within Each Sheet
Within each sheet, I like to organize expenses by month. I like to have every month look and function in the same way – there is a running total next to the month that shows me how much I’ve spent already that month. This is the layout I typically use to organize my expenses:
The first thing I always include is the month for which I am recording expenses. Next to that I have the total sum I spent in that category during that time period. **I merged the two B and C cells in order to create the one long cell for the running total.** Under that, I record each individual expense. While this may seem time consuming, it helps me understand where the heck my money is going. I include the date, where I spent money and how much I spent. In the future, this can help you better allocate more or less of your budget and help you see where you could potentially save money altogether.
“But Kristine, I don’t know Excel all that well. How do I make Excel add up all of the expenses for me?” Boy, am I glad you asked. It’s quite simple.
The first thing you need to do is click on the cell in which you want the running total to appear. Done? Perfect. Next, type in an equal sign (=) – DO NOT PRESS ENTER YET. Next, click on the first dollar amount you want to be included in the total (cell C2 for me). The cell of the dollar amount will be highlighted in a color. Click in the text area next to fx (right above cells C and D) so your cursor appears and enter a plus sign (+). Click on the next dollar amount you want to include in the total and repeat the process until you have all of your expenses highlighted. Once you have clicked on the last expense, do not type in a plus sign, rather hit “Enter.” The first cell should now contain the sum of the expenses you indicated.
If you receive an error message or #VALUE! appears where the total should be, double check that the plus signs are placed in between each cell in the text box.
This takes a little bit of getting used to, however, once you complete one sheet, it’ll seem like the other sheets complete themselves.
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Organizing Your Fixed Expenses
Since fixed expenses don’t change every month (hello, they’re fixed), I like to organize them in a typical table format. I write down each month in the A column and then write the different expenses across the first row. Fill in each of the expenses that you know – I left my water section empty because I only get notified of the charge at the end of the month. As each month passes, I highlight the expenses I’ve already paid in a different color, similarly to how you check a checkbox to signify a completed task.
Other Things You May Want to Include:
- Income tracker
Similarly to how you have been managing your expenses, it may be wise to also keep track of your income. Don’t worry, it’s the exact same process we went through before, only you should label this sheet ‘Income’ rather than a different expense. You can also show totals of your monthly income like we did for our total monthly expenses.
You can also create a sheet to help you manage your savings. This doesn’t just pertain to a savings account, but can also apply to saving up for something. Every month that you have income that you don’t spend, write down total surplus income in your new sheet labeled ‘Savings.’
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Excel can become quickly confusing and thankfully, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that can break these steps down further. YouTube is also one of my favorite resources for learning new tricks on Excel. Seriously, the Internet is a wonderful place.
I hope you found this post helpful – let me know if you are interested in more finance or New Years Resolution posts!
How do you keep track of your expenses?