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« Not on the same speadsheet | Home | Carnival of Personal Finance »

Expense Tracking: Using Google Spreadsheets

By Saver | June 8, 2008

I’ve always known that tracking your spending and having some kind of budget is a key part of getting your financial house in order. However, I was never actually successful in doing so, and certainly not successful in getting Spender involved with the idea.

At one point, I tried Microsoft Money, but eventually realized I could build a better system by myself in Excel, one that would do exactly what I wanted it to do (and I will admit I spent a lot more energy making the the spreadsheet more and more sophisticated rather than actually keep on top of my spending). I kept the spreadsheet on my laptop, and would occasionally tell Spender “let’s do our finances tonight.” I would copy and paste most of the transactions from both of our accounts, and ask him what else he’d spent money on. We might do this for a few weeks in a row, but it never lasted more than a month. And while we would occasionally discuss what we should budget each month for different categories, we never got to the point of comparing actual spending to the budget.

But now, despite an early kink, we have a new system is up and running, and this time I’m pretty optimistic. I created a Google spreadsheet with a place to enter the every expense, listing the amount spent along with the date, place and category:

One feature of Google spreadsheets is the ability to easily create a form that enters data into your file. We can just go to a website to enter the info.

There is a second page which sums the spending within each category and compares it to our budget for the month.

Now, I know I shouldn’t get too excited after just one week, because budgeting and expense tracking only works if you can follow through for the long term. However, I think we have a few really good things going for us with this system:

1) Both Spender and I can access it at anytime (at least long as we have our computers). We can both add any spending we do, and we can both keep an eye on how close we are to our budgets.

2) It’s simple. We are starting by tracking disposable income and current spending. It will track our income (in Euros) and our daily spending and that’s all. Our student loans are currently being paid out of our US savings accounts, but I’m not going to try to incorporate that into this sheet. Simple is better. However, it is still flexible enough for us to be able to add anything we thing will be useful.

3) I actually really like the idea of entering expenses manually, because it makes you think about your purchases more than if you just download them from the bank. The Google form makes this super easy, and I don’t think it will take more than a few minutes a day (or an hour a week) to keep up.

I’m looking forward to continuing to make this a system that works for both of us.

Topics: Budgets/Expense tracking, Saver's Posts | Related Posts: How to Make a Budget, Pie Chart Check Past, Milestones

12 Responses to “Expense Tracking: Using Google Spreadsheets”

  1. She’s a Saver, He’s a Spender » » How to Make a Budget Says:
    June 15th, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    [...] Expense Tracking: Using Google Spreadsheets [...]

  2. Kristine Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Wow. THANK YOU for posting this. I’ve been using Google spreadsheets to keep track of my expenses but my method was rather clunky and on the verge of being abandoned. it didn’t have the handy form yours has. I’m going to look into this. Thanks again for sharing :)

  3. Nick Says:
    July 11th, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Quick question: What function are you using to sum by category? Thanks!

  4. Is this available? Says:
    August 16th, 2008 at 2:24 am

    Great idea, can it be shared via a link?

  5. Kathy Says:
    November 4th, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    I’m a little frustrated. Which Google template? How do you create the input form? This really seems like the answer to our issues, but Google has so many templates and creating the input form? I’m not that computer literate! I so want something simple and straightforward like this!

  6. Mark Says:
    January 22nd, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Hey, how is this going for you? I think your next post should be a step by step on how to implement this. It’s one thing to tell people about it but it would be nice to know how to.

  7. Meredith Says:
    March 3rd, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Another request here for a step-by-step how-to on this, especially the “second page which sums the spending within each category and compares it to our budget for the month.”

    I would love to be able to do this, but have not been able to figure out exactly how to do it.

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