Here I go mentioning the “B” word again.
Let me get out in front of it and say I love using a google sheets budget template to manage my money.
A Microsoft Excel budget spreadsheet was the primary tool my family and I applied for over four years to track our family budget and $100K debt reduction progress.
However, in recent years, we transitioned to a google sheets budget template. Google Sheets offers more flexibility, and since it's cloud-based, we can access anywhere, even from my phone.
We still use google sheets today to track our net worth, monthly budget, and basically anything to do with our money. Sure there are plenty of budgeting apps or software you can use. But if you enjoy crunching the numbers yourself as I do, a google sheets budget template might be right for you.
The other great thing about a personal budget template is the fact that it is a template, a preset format that gives you a great headstart to capture your income and expenses. Budgeting is hundreds of years old, so why try and reinvent them? It's much easier to use a google sheets budget template, so the format does not have to be recreated each time you used it.
How a Budget Will Help You
A budget in its purest form is a record of your income and expense. It's an excellent money management tool.
How do you define income and expense?
Well it may vary for individuals, but generally, they are:
Income – Money you earn from a job, side hustle freelancing, etc. Income can be made daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
Expenses – Mortgage, rent, food, gas, cable, insurance, phone, electric, student loans, credit cards, medical, self-care, pet care, entertainment, etc.
The simplest way to understand these numbers is to grab your pay stubs, bills, or statements for all income and expenses and begin to organize and document them.
I have created my own google sheets budget template for you to download and get started. Just replace all of the example numbers in either sheet to get started.
By completing this task, you have just created a money foundation. A starting point to understand how much money you make and how much you have outgoing each month. From there, you can begin to make adjustments.
Many people believe creating a budget worksheet will restrict their spending. I think it's just the opposite. You are reviewing and understanding where your money is going, so you can prioritize how you spend it.
The powerful thing about a google sheets budget template is that you can customize it to fit your personal situation. Adding as much detail as possible, color coding, etc. and with some simple formulas, it does all of the calculations, and totaling for you.
I tend to be a detail-oriented person. From a budget category perspective, I could really drill down to the nitty-gritty for all of our expenses. For example, when we had five credit cards, I might list them individually in our google sheets budget template. But in reality, I took a broad stroke and just listed the overall credit card debt in one line item. Here are some common categories you might find in a budget:
- Cell Phone
- Student Loans
- Credit Card
- Cable TV
- Water and Gas
- Home / House Hold
- Medication/ Medical Bills
- Charitable Donations
- Eating Out
- Outside Help
- One time payments
- Savings Account
There's really no wrong or right way to capture your budget categories, other than making sure you've included all income and expenses. But which bucket you put them in or identify them as, is really up to you.
We shop at Costco and purchase things other them food there. But I don't breakdown a single receipt into multiple categories. I lump it into our “food” line item.
I would, however, suggest when first starting with a budget for the first time, that you include as much detail as possible for the first two-three months. Saving receipts, or reviewing bank account transaction is a great way to find those details.
Documenting as much detail as possible gives you a better understanding of where your money is going. Sometimes we fall into spending habits, like a daily cup of coffee & bagel, without realizing we are spending money there.
This early level of detail gives you the information to need to prioritize your spending and make changes.
I'm a fan of the customize budget to fit your personal situation. That's why I like the power of using a google sheets budget template. You can modify it to meet your needs. However, if you are looking for a cookie-cutter solution to get started, there are several popular budget strategies you can use.
The 50/30/20 budget was made famous by Harvard economist Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi.
The duo says you should base your budget on your “take-home” income, your income after taxes, health insurance premiums, and other expenses that are taken out of your paycheck.
Here's the 50/30/20 breakdown:
50% – Half your take-home income should go toward necessities like housing, electricity, gasoline, groceries, and the water bill.
30% – percent can go to discretionary items like restaurant dining, buying a new cell phone, drinking beer, or getting tickets to a sports game.
20% – percent should go towards savings or debt repayment.
The beauty of this 80/20 budget is that you don't have to do any detailed expense-tracking. You simply take your savings off the top and then spend the rest.
So it breaks down:
20% – saving
80% – all other expenses, rent, debt, food, etc.
Pretty simple, right?
Zero-based budgeting is a way of budgeting where your income minus your expenses equal zero, each month. With a zero-based budget, you have to make sure your expenses match your income during the month, and you're giving every dollar a function.
Now that doesn't mean you have zero dollars in your bank account. One of your budgeting categories should be savings. It just means your income minus all your expenses (outgo) equals zero.
That means if you earn $4,000 a month, you want everything you spend, save, donate, or invest to all add up to $4,000. By doing this, you have every dollar account for each month.
A bare-bones budget or a contingency budget is a secondary budget to your first budget. It's in place and set aside for when life's unexpected events occur.
To quote the boxing legend Mike Tyson – “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
The goal of the bare-bones budget is to have a plan for that punch. Let's say you experience a significant house repair, or car accident, or maybe a job loss. How would you handle it? You could lean on your bare-bones budget.
It takes your spending down to the minimum required to survive and fulfill your financial obligations. Think of it as covering all of your needs, and putting a pause on spending on wants. You'll need food, but won't be going to the movies during this time.
The Best google sheets budget template
So now that we've reviewed how a budget can help you, budget categories, and budget strategies, let's get to crunching some numbers already. Here the google sheets budget template out there to get you started. No, Suprise, it's mine!
Debt Discipline – google sheets budget template
Take some time to take this budgeting templates for a spin. Budget tracking is one of the basic principles of personal finance, and it might just be an eye-opening experience when you truly understand where your money is going.
Final Thoughts on Budgeting
Creating a budget is a fundamental key to managing your money. There are two things to remember with your budget. Your income is your biggest wealth-building tool, and debt, of any kind, is a killer of budgets.
Once you have your income and expenses capture in a budgeting template, consider what your budget would look like with more income or the credit card category removed from your expenses.
Adjusting these numbers can give you a glimpse into the future of your budget, money, and life. I find it to be a great motivator to keep my budget in order.
Good luck with creating your household budget, your financial future will thank you. Let me know how I can help.
Brian is a dad, husband, and an IT professional by trade. A Personal Finance Blogger since 2013 who, with his family, has successfully paid off over $100K worth of consumer debt. Now that Brian is debt-free, his mission is to help his three children prepare for their financial lives and educate others to achieved financial success. He blogs at Debt Discipline.