Simple spreadsheet to track your budget

openoffice_calc_icon I won’t claim that MakesUseOf post about calculating personal budget in Excel had changed my life or got me out of debt (I don’t do debts). Still it managed to pull of what several tools had utterly failed to – made me keep track of my money and not get bored with process.

So how does such DIY spreadsheet compares to other methods?

What it does

Original post covers specific mechanics in details and I pretty much followed that. Only difference was that I used OpenOffice Calc instead of Excel and had no need for credit card balances.

I had also put resulting spreadsheet in Dropbox so that file is more safe from accidental corruption and I could roll back to earlier version if needed.

Advantages

Usually financial software makes one or both of these assumptions:

  1. You know what you are doing.
  2. You are USA citizen and it would be happy to connect with your bank automagically.

I have no incentive to learn and uphold proper financial theory for my measly personal budget. Most of my spending is in cash and very far from USA.

Spreadsheet method won me over with simplicity of organization and flexibility of adapting to my way of doing it. And not trying to make an accountant out of me.

Downsides

Even with nice tool to keep track of money is still manual work. I have to spend some minutes every day to punch in what I spent. It is routine I try to avoid, but there is no avoiding it here. Unless someone invents pants with cash-measuring capability and bluetooth.

Computer part works just fine, it’s human part that requires some self-discipline to keep doing it properly.

Life impact

Since my budgeting is to save myself from trouble and not to get myself out of one – there is lack of inspiring results.

  • my spending is boring and understandable anyway – I feed myself, feed my cat and pay bills every six months in bulk. At least now I know how much cat costs me and how often I can convince myself to a treat of new tech toy I probably don’t really need.
  • mapping income was more practical, some things became time hogs for little money and now I have hard data on what streams I need and what are extras I can get by without.

Overall

So one spreadsheet probably won’t make me rich or anything. On other hand it feels like proper and responsible thing to do. My finances are fine thanks to my boring personality rather than a lot of experience handling money. And I’d like them to stay fine forever – keeping track of them is essential for that.

Do you keep personal (or maybe family) budget? What tools you use and how it works out for you?

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9 Comments

  • Working with a spreadsheet to do my budget is what got me to start one for me. Tried MS Money and quicken, and it was really too heavy for me to understand, so went with Excel spreadsheet instead. It is extremely flexible and allowed me to view data in a way I never saw it before.

    But after one year of entering data, it was becoming veeeeery slooooow to use a spreadsheet. I then searched for some open source software, and found KMyMoney2 (http://kmymoney2.sf.net). It is very easy to understand, and it is also continually updated, which is excellent for a free software! The reports/graphs that kmymoney2 have are also very good! Even with the flexibility that a spreadsheet allows, I don’t think I will be oing back.

  • Debit cards have destroyed the accountant in me, a part of myself that once ruled supreme. Back when I still used a checkbook, I always knew exactly where I stood. And, being mathematically challenged, I faithfully used Excel as my check register. I even enjoyed it. All those tidy columns, adding up and balancing assured me that all was well.

    BUT THEN – my much younger friends (God forgive them) started laughing at me, telling me I had to get with the times, and next thing I knew – I was paying bills online. Then, I found myself with a cell phone – Next came the debit card. Now I’m in trouble. Card sliding is just too easy. It doesn’t come with a place to write down what you spent. A personal budget program? Don’t think so. I am out of the habit. Just can’t do it.

    I should be better than that. I’m not. See how easily I was seduced? Not even thinking of a New Year’s resolution. I’ve given up my high principles forever.

  • @Jonny

    Took a look at spreadsheet. I get impression that it is more for people that already roughly know what they spend and/or to plan budget in general.

    Personally I am more interested to figure out what I earnd and spend exactly and how that fluctuates from month to month.

    @JeeMan

    Bookmarked that app, since your experience sounds so similar to mine I might find it just as fitting. Thanks for suggestion. :)

    @kelltic

    Hm, can’t you just request data on how you use your card from bank? I think electronic transfers are supposed to be easier to track, not harder.

  • Like @Kelltic.
    I tried Ms Money & then Quicken & then found the lightweight but excellent & easy to use AceMoney ( wich i’ve been using for ’bout a year)at http://www.mechcad.net there’s a free lite version for one account or paid for multiple accounts.well worth a look

  • @magickthize

    Bookmarked to check out properly, thanks for suggestion.

    Which might be tricky. :) I figure it takes time to evaluate financial software and that means either using it in parallel or struggling to transfer data between those.

  • @Akim

    Look nice but I don’t use Excel for myself so not a fit. :) Maybe others will find it interesting.

    PS for info that stuff is trialware

  • […] my main (in a limited scope I need it) office suite at home is OpenOffice. It handles things like budget spreadsheet just fine but still lacks in Microsoft Office compatibility department. Especially when opening and […]

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