If you want to save money or pay off debt, the main thing you need to do is budget and track your spending. And you don’t even need an app for that, given the number of great free templates available online.
There are some great budgeting apps for getting your finances in order. But there is a privacy and security issue with the transmission of your financial data to applications. Plus, a spreadsheet lets you customize it to your liking, which an app would never do.
1. Budget for Life (Google Sheets): powerful tool for tracking expenses and compatible with mobile devices
Budget For Life (BFL) is on a mission to provide a powerful budget manager and expense tracker in Google Sheets that feels like using a personal finance app like YNAB or Mint. It is completely free and easy to install and offers several surprising features.
Follow the directions on the website to install the add-on in Google Sheets and budget based on your income and expenses. After that, it’s just a matter of tracking any money coming in or going out in the journal, where you also add a date, description, and category to the transaction. BFL will update the main dashboard and other charts to get a quick overview of your financial situation.
In the Control Panel sheet, you will find the mobile-friendly Google BFL form, which you can bookmark on your phone or computer to quickly add any transaction without opening the entire sheet. It’s a smart innovation that makes it one of the best budget and finance sheets we’ve seen in a long time.
BFL’s Control Panel sheet includes many other cool features that most budget sheets don’t have. For example, you can design a plan to see your future financial projections, set monthly savings goals, and add a notepad to jot down your thoughts on your budget sheet.
2. PearBudget (MS Excel): Simple annual, month by month budget spreadsheet template
PearBudget is one of the best budget calculator apps on the internet, but it costs $ 8.99 per month. Many don’t know that the app started out as a popular spreadsheet on the internet, and you can still download the original template for free.
As the sheet notes, it takes about 20 minutes to set up your finances the first time you use it. After that, it will only take 10 minutes each month to set your budget. PearBudget guides even complete novices every step of the way, showing how to divide your spending into regular, irregular, and variable spending.
Each month has its own sheet in the Excel file, with a summary analysis, an overview of income versus expenses, and how variable expenses affected your budget. There’s a deeper analysis sheet for a quick look at each month and how you’ve spent your money.
3. Finance Tracker (Notion): Simple Tracker of current money
Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel aren’t the only tools you can use to create a customizable financial planner. Notion is great for productivity, and it has one of the best free financial trackers we’ve seen.
The tracker almost looks like a professional app, and you won’t feel like you’re in Notion to begin with. It follows three elements: accounts (where your money is), budget (amounts set for categories of expenses), transactions (all income and expenses).
It’s pretty straightforward to use and operate, as the journal updates automatically based on any transaction you add. You will see a dashboard of your current finances, such as your budgets appearing in a neat progress bar. There are no monthly or annual breakdowns; it’s about knowing and constantly analyzing your financial situation.
To customize the sheet or talk to the developer, you can ask a question on this Reddit post.
4. Monshare (Google Sheets): budget and expense tracking for couples
Monshare is a great app for couples to track finances, split bills, and budget. But before it was made, its maker Olga relied on a simple spreadsheet for all of this. And in a lovely gesture, she shared this online for any couple to use for free.
The sheet allows a couple to add their income and track their expenses for common household finances. With spaces to know who paid for what and what everyone’s fair share is, you’ll be able to build a fair partnership.
Before using the sheet, it would be wise to read Olga’s blog post on its optimal use. It has good information on how couples should track their spending and what can go wrong in the process.
5. Budget sheets (Google Sheets): Automatic addition of the date to income and expenses
A thorny problem with all budgeting worksheets is adding dates to your income and expenses and matching them to the month. Budget Sheets addresses this problem with an automated add-on for Google Sheets.
Once you install the add-on, you will need to activate it based on the values you choose from the sheet. If that’s too complex for you, you can use their default spreadsheet, make a copy of it, and use the defaults for the add-on.
Whenever you add an entry in Expense or Income, the Budget Sheets add-on will automatically add today’s date. The date then automatically corresponds to the count for the month (based on the add-on). Essentially, you just add the expenses or income for the day, and Budget Sheets will keep the rest of your budget tracking.
Without automatic updates, discipline is key
Although spreadsheets have several advantages, it is difficult to get them to automatically retrieve transaction data from your bank or credit card accounts. And without this automatic update, it’s your job to keep tracking every transaction.
The good part is that you control your data and your privacy this way. But you’ll need discipline to keep tracking trades, or it just won’t work.
Don’t feel like counting the pennies and tracking your money? These budgeting tools and methods take your effort away and make it easier to manage your money.
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