By: Revanche

New Year, New Budget Templates!

January 25, 2010

Right on schedule, meaning a month into the year, I’ve put together my new handy-dandy budget tracking template for 2010.  It sounds super fancy, doesn’t it? 

Not at all. It gets simpler every year.

I have so many minor objections to the existing templates out there, and I’m almost positive that it’s because once you start tweaking a template, the temptation to customize the life out of it is irresistable. That way lies madness, you can’t ever stop thinking: this would be perfect if you just changed [insert one more thing you dreamed up overnight].

I used to love Pearbudget BUT…. 
The categories were too limiting.
I couldn’t make a note by every transaction so I’d be able to identify it easily. 
I couldn’t add categories.
I could only add one item per day, per category.

I used to love MSN Money BUT… 
They discontinued it as soon as I started using it.

It’s like account aggregators … everything is just almost good enough.  So this year, I’m just opening up a new Excel Spreadsheet. The first page is the Monthly Summary.

And the following sheets will be 1 sheet per month with all transactions listed. Because I pay for any and all expenses with a credit card for easier tracking, I can easily access 99% of my transactions online. Much quicker than inputting from receipts, even though it’s really the same thing. Doing it this way also means I can ignore all credit card payments and bank transfers.

Most templates keep the summary at the end but I prefer to have the big picture numbers front and center and the drill-downs to follow.  If I get really fancy, I might even figure out how to do more than just use the Sum function to total up the expenses. 

I dropped off the tracking wagon mid-year in 2009, partially because of my travel, but the information that I do have is incredibly helpful in compiling my tax data.  This year, I’ll keep records both on and offline so that I always have access to it and will always keep it updated. Pinky swear!

A few allowances were made in the creation of this new template:

  • I agreed (with myself) to be more “big picture” about this version. Meaning, I’m not going to go back and reconcile six months of expenses and income just to get completely up to speed before starting this sheet.  If I had to do that, I wouldn’t even get started!  Barrier removed.
  • I’m ignoring all the seasonal purchases (Christmas and birthday gifts, eating out), and lump sum expenditures (school related) of last month,
  • But I’m not ignoring the irregular income earned last year and paid this year. It’ll even out within a few months. Again, big picture focus. 

Suggestions for prettifying and formulizing are always welcome, Excel gurus!

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The Carnival of Personal Finance is up at My Journey to Millions!  My article, I don’t want to retire, was included as an Editor’s Pick.

8 Responses to “New Year, New Budget Templates!”

  1. Charlie Park says:

    Hey there! This is Charlie, from PearBudget. I hadn’t seen your story before, but when this post came up, I popped over and checked it out.

    I’m so glad you have a system that’s working for you! In terms of “prettifying” it, the only thing I can think of based off the screenshot above would be to make those number cells into “currency” cells (or, at least, to make them decimal cells, with two decimal points). That way, when you have “15”, it’ll show up as “15.00” and not just “15”, and it’ll line up better with, say, “23.29” or “167.91”.

    Also, about PearBudget: I agree, that those limitations were pretty frustrating in the PearBudget spreadsheet. We fixed all of those in the online version of PearBudget … so you can now have unlimited categories, and you can name them whatever you want, and you can enter as many receipts in on a given day as you want, and every receipt has a “notes / tags” line where you can add comments (and, then, you can click on the tag name to see how much you spent on that tag during the year). I’m not trying to lure you away from your current system … I’m glad you’ve got something that works! I just wanted to let you know that we were on the same page, so the new web based version (http://www.pearbudget.com resolves the frustrations you were having before.

    I’d be happy to give you a comped account, and to give you an 1-year comped account to give away on your blog if you’d like! Just e-mail me at charlie at pearbudget dot com if you’re interested!

    Thanks!

  2. mOOm says:

    Do you know what the real story of MSFT discontinuing “Money” is? I didn’t know that till I read you blogspot.

  3. Interesting move. I’ve decided to do the same thing: abandon Quicken in favor of Excel. Because I don’t use Q. for online banking or investment, the convenience and low cost of using Excel, which runs on any platform and does not require an expensive new “update” every year or two, trumps Quicken.

    The only drawback to Excel is the difficulty of figuring out to operate it. The “Help” file apparently assumes users are all mathematicians, and the language it uses is incomprehensible to English major types, even for the simplest operations. However, you can find plain-English how-to’s on the Web.

    You can make Excel do a running balance.

    Have a column with deposits and a column with withdrawals. Then title a third column “balance.” In the second cell from the top in the “balance” column,” type an “equals” sign; then click on the top cell in the deposits column; then type a “minus” sign; then click on the second cell in the withdrawal column; then click “enter.” This will subtract the withdrawal in the row where you started from the deposit in the previous row.

    Now all you have to do is click on the balance, grab the little “hook” in the bottom right corner of that cell, and drag it down the page. This tells Excel to repeat the same operation in every cell you dragged to.

    Excel will bellyache when you don’t have a value in one of the cells, but it turns out you really don’t have to enter “0” in every blank cell. It works anyway, despite the little “error” tabs that pop up.

  4. Revanche says:

    @Charlie: I think it’s great that all my specific concerns were addressed 😉 Appreciate the input on the currency cells, I hadn’t thought of that.

    Thank you for the generous offer, and I hope my readers will appreciate it too!

    @mOOm: They discontinued MS Money last year, here’s a link to an article about it. I think that it wasn’t competitive enough to be worth the annual upgrades. I liked what little I saw of it, but Intuit had been kicking their butt too long.

    @Funny About Money: I hate to admit it, but I find Excel’s help rather incomprehensible as well. I’m going to test out your mods right now!

  5. One thing I always find helpful in my budgets is tracking expenses by category. There’s a command you can use for that to make it easier.

    I also agree with the commenter who said to have a running account balance. And the comment about changing the formatting to $, but that’s just because I am obsessive!

    Glad to see someone else getting ensnared by my ultimate temptress, MS Excel! Muahahaah!

  6. P.S. Holy shit, you were linked on The Simple Dollar! I couldn’t tell if he agreed with your post or not.

  7. eemusings says:

    I’m in awe of your spreadsheet! It really is hard to find the perfect system – seems the best way is to make your own.

  8. Revanche says:

    @paranoidasteroid: You covered that on your blog, didn’t you? I’m going to have to go back and figure it out.

    And I know! There was a huge traffic spike, but I don’t think his readers were impressed by lil ole me. 🙂

    @eemusings: Oh, shucks, it’s just a simple thing. I’ll be impressed if I get more than the basic balance formula working!

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