Keeping a record of your expenses using a budget planner is a good way to manage your finances from month to month. You could write out your expenses by hand, but a spreadsheet may be easier for viewing expenses in one place and tracking your bills. If you don't know how to create a budget spreadsheet, this guide walks you through it step by step, complete with a downloadable template to get you started.
Make a Budget Planner Sheet
Before you get started making your budget planner, here's what you'll need:
- A spreadsheet software program, such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets
- A list of your fixed monthly expenses
- A list of your variable monthly expenses
- Income records for everything you make each month, including money you earn at your job, business income, child support, or money you make side hustling
Once you have those things, you can get to work making your budget planning spreadsheet. If you would prefer to work from our template, you can download it below.
1. Open a New Spreadsheet
The first thing you'll need to do is create a new spreadsheet file for your budget planner. You can do this by opening a new workbook in your spreadsheet software program. Give your budget planner a name. Something simple like "Monthly Budget" works just fine.
If you have more than one spreadsheet program available, try opening up new budget planner files in each one to see how the overall layout, design, and features compare.
2. Decide Your Budget Planner Organization
Figure out which organization strategy works best for how you like to budget. For example, you can keep track of your expenses for each month in a single spreadsheet page or create new tabs for each month if you'd prefer them to be separate.
Let's assume you're going to track your entire budget for the year on a single spreadsheet page. Move to column B and type in “January,” then “February” in column C, continuing horizontally on the sheet until you've got all 12 months filled into each column.
3. Track Your Income Sources
Go back to column A and enter “Income” on line two. Beneath “Income,” enter labels for each source of income you have every month in a different row. This might include:
- Your regular paychecks
- Investment income
- Business income
- Side gig income
- Child support or alimony payments received
- Disability or other government benefits
At the bottom of the income list, enter “Income Total” on the line immediately below it. Now you can create a simple formula for adding up your income automatically as you enter it into the cells.
Click the empty cell directly to the right of “Income Total.” Next, click “Autosum or Sum” from the main menu at the top. Next, click and drag your mouse to highlight the empty cells in column B (to the right of each income source you added) and hit enter. When you add the values of your income to each cell, the Autosum formula will total it for you. Repeat this step for each month, moving to the right in the same row.
4. Enter Your Expenses
In column A, about two cells below your “Income Total,” type in “Projected Expenses.” Underneath it, add a label for each expense category you want to include. Use your bank statement, credit card statement, or any other record of your last month’s transactions to find everything you spend in a normal month. This might include:
- Rent/mortgage payments
- Internet and cell phone service
- Health insurance
- Personal care
- Car insurance and gas
- Subscription services
- Dining out
- Pet care
- Child care and after-school activities
- Recreation and entertainment
Once you've listed each expense category, you'll finish off the column A list by adding in “Total Expenses.” Now create the same Autosum formula for your expenses as you did for your income, and repeat it across the 12 months in your spreadsheet. When you fill in the values for your previous month’s expenses, you’ll be able to see how much you spent per category and in total.
It may be hard to tell where and how you spend money until you track a month’s actual expenses. Your actual expenses may be more than projected expenses. If you wish, insert a column to the right of each month to calculate final or actual expenses, so “January Projected” and “January Actual” would be column headings. Copy the income total, spending total, and difference formulas into your new columns, then use your actual expenses to adjust your budget every month.
5. Compare Your Income and Expenses
You're almost done making your budget planner. There's just one more step.
Two cells below “Total Expenses,” add a new label. You can call it something like “Difference,” meaning the difference between your monthly income and expenses.
Click on the empty cell to the right of this label. Next, click the Autosum button and click the first number you want to include in your formula, which would be the number in the cell that states your “Income Total.” Then, click the minus or dash key on your keyboard. Now, press the control key and hold it down, then click on the number in your “Total Expenses” cell. Let go of those keys and click enter to automatically subtract your expenses from your income.
You'll need to copy the Autosum formulas for income and expenses in each column to automatically add up or subtract the totals for the month.
The Bottom Line
Using a spreadsheet to make your budget can take some getting used to if you've previously done it some other way.
To further break down spending to find your biggest money wasters, consider creating a separate budget sheet for tracking daily expenses, which are then grouped into larger budget categories.
Remember to update your income and expense categories if you need to add new ones or remove categories that don't fit your spending anymore. Finally, do a year-end summary so you have something to use as a guide when planning your budget for the new year.