My Finances

How I Budget

This is a sample of what my personal budget spreadsheet looks like.  I’m sharing it with you today to show you how to budget in excel!  Disclaimer: This is not our actual budget, but it is a duplicate of the spreadsheet that I use for our budget.  I’ve been using excel to budget since I first went away to college.  I wish I could dig up my original excel sheet!  It was super basic.  My first semester at college, I didn’t have a job and I lived of savings and a grocery stipend from my parents.  My “budget” consisted of tracking my expenses once or twice a month.

After I got married, my husband and I didn’t really track finances at first.  When we began planning for a baby, we knew things had to change.  We tried the mint app, but ultimately we were still one step too removed from our finances to see what was going on.  (As a side note, I think that mint is a great fit for an overview of your spending, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a primary budget method for beginners.)

I went back to my trusted excel sheet.  We had a few more expenses and two different incomes, so I had to ramp it up quite a bit.  I’m a very visual person, so it wasn’t long before our spreadsheets were color coded.  My degree is in information technology, so over time, I couldn’t help but add some cool functions and graphics to help make things easier.

Each year, I made a new spreadsheet with new features.  The spreadsheet we are using for 2018 took me around six hours to make, and to me, it was totally worth it.  I love the way our budget is set up.  It’s perfectly tailored to me and the way I manage money!

Download my excel budget spreadsheet for FREE!

This spreadsheet works great for me, but it did take me five years of making family budgets to hone it down to what I consider perfection.  Everyone is going to have a different way to budget that works for them.  I’m going to give you a little more detail about my budget, but remember that what works for me might not work for you!  And you do NOT have to spend six hours setting up your budget.  Next week I’ll share a post about setting up an excel budget that will take you less than 10 minutes!

In the meantime, here is a look into how I budget!

Use different pages

For starters, I don’t do everything on one “sheet.”  The image pictured above is my “overview.”  It’s where we sit down at the beginning of the year and write out our ideal budget.  We talk about any big expenses we may have that year.  We write down savings goals and calculate how much we need to save each month to meet them.

I also keep a running total of account balances.  This includes credit cards (how much we owe), how much we have in our savings accounts, retirement account, and the kids’ savings accounts, student loans, etc.  Most of these are with different institutions, so I like to record them here so I can get a more expanded view of our finances.  After the beginning of the year, I don’t use the overview very often besides updating account balances, just when I want to check our numbers or see if we are meeting our saving goals.

Tracking savings

We have several savings accounts set up for different purposes, but the savings account that is linked to our checking account is our catch-all.  Right now it is both our travel, short-term expenses, and emergency savings account, and I don’t want to accidentally use our emergency fund for a travel purchase!  I use the “savings” tab to track our deposits so we know what we are saving for and how much each individual .  (If you’re wondering, short-term expenses for us are things like buying new furniture, car repairs we need to save for, and other things that aren’t wildly expensive but that we can’t afford without a few months of saving first).

We also have a “gift fund” tab that isn’t featured.  This is where we track our gift fund spending and saving.  We put away a certain amount every month to be used for birthdays and holidays.  We started doing this so that we could spend a certain amount on gifts without feeling guilty or going overboard.  Because we save for it, we never max out our credit cards at Christmas or end up wondering how to afford a nice dinner when our anniversary rolls around.  It’s already in the budget!

Tracking monthly income and expenses

Next is the “Monthly” tab, where we actually track our monthly expenses.  This page is really full, so I’ll break it into three sections so you can see better.  At the top, we have the “Remainder” row, which is the income minus saving and expenses.  That shows us how much we earned that month.  Below that is our income section.  My husband is paid twice a month, so I record each paycheck separately.  This is the first year I’ve broken out our income into individual categories.  I’m not really sure if it’s better but my control-freak self likes to see everything laid out nicely.

 Below the Income is the Savings section. You can see that on the left we have an “anticipated” column. This is our goal budget, and these numbers are based on the percentages you see.  Of course, our actual monthly savings depends more on what expenses we end up with that month, but seeing the percentage we want to be saving helps motivate us to work towards our goals.  Some months we put more away than others, but keep the “anticipated” budget there to help us aim high.  Right now we are balancing saving with student loan payments, and we still haven’t found a good balance for paying extra on our loans vs. building up a nest egg.

After savings is the big one – our expenses tracker.  In previous years, we had all the expenses without the subcategories.  However, the subcategories have made it easier to budget because some expenses change month-to-month (like groceries and the water bill) and some expenses stay the same (rent, insurance payments).  This set up makes it easier for me to copy over the categories that stay the same each month.  It also helps me see what “categories” are eating up our budget.

Our monthly expenses, which I should probably rename living expenses, and our housing expenses are our biggest ones.  Our housing is fixed and we can’t do much about it month-to-month, but we can monitor those living expenses and bring them down by finding diaper coupons, forgoing luxury food items, and avoiding those “other” expenses.

Over the years, we have had some categories breakout from “other,” like diapers and hair cuts, because we wanted to budget for them better.  The entertainment budget is something we are still figuring out, but obviously that is also a category we want to pare down and keep moderate.

You might be wondering about monthly insurance!  We only pay our premiums every six months, like most people, but we have a designated savings account so we can set aside a monthly amount.  Amortizing the payments like this saves our butts every six months when we have three different premiums due!  That would kill our January/July budgets if we didn’t have them planned and saved for.

We also don’t track health insurance or taxes, since they comes out of my husbands paycheck before we see it.  We do occasionally have some freelance income, so we set aside money for taxes next year when that happens.

Charitable giving

One other thing that might stand out on this spreadsheet is our tithing and fast offerings.  My husband and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We are encouraged (but not required) to donate 10% of our income to the church.  In addition, once a month we fast for two meals.  We can choose to offer the money that we would have spent on those meals to the church for charitable purposes.

Whether you are donating to your church or to a charity of your choice, I encourage you to find a way to donate a portion of your income.  Here in the the United States, we are surrounded by wealth, and charitable giving helps us appreciate what we have while helping the less fortunate.

Updating the budget

That pretty much sums up our budget!  We have a meeting every week as a couple where we go through our accounts and update the budget together.

Do you have any questions about my budget?  Let me know below and I’ll answer them!



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