Using an Excel spreadsheet may seem a little old-fashioned, but it is still one of the best tools in helping you make – and stick with – a budget. The Excel budget template takes something that can appear intimidating at first, and makes it simple for anyone to get started. Because getting started is often the most difficult part of budgeting.

Why everyone needs a budget

Everyone needs a budget to keep track of their spending habits each month. This is true regardless of your income and whether it is predictable or not. Many just don’t get started because it seems daunting to figure out what you are spending down to the last dollar. But in reality, it will help to put you on the path to financial independence. And we’ve made it easy to get started.

Budgeting basics

Your budget is broken down into two categories: How much money you bring home each month, or income, and how much you spend, save, give, or invest each month, or your expenses.

Start with your income. For those that have a regular paycheck without a lot of variables, it is pretty easy. Your income is just what you make each month. So just insert the final number after all taxes, insurance, 401(k), or any other expenses have been deducted. If you do a long-term annual budget, just input that figure and divide it evenly (though some months you may bring home more money than others).

Many, however, do not have a regular paycheck. It is important that you still budget, though it can be a little trickier. The best strategy is to look at the past 3-12 months income and pick a conservative income number to build your budget around. That will provide a “base” income. Prioritize the items in your budget and pay the most important expenses first.

Then consider your expenses. What do you buy or pay for each month? Some are simple to project like your mortgage or rent. But a good way to get started is by looking at your bank statements from the past few months. Not only will this help you remember what to include in your budget, it may also help you to identify areas where you can save. The annual Excel budget template is a great resource for really seeing all of your expenses.  

Walking through the Excel budget template

Microsoft Excel can be a tricky program if you do not have prior experience and you never took a class. But we have taken the guesswork, and complicated formulas, out of Excel with our Excel budget template. This makes budgeting easier than ever, and will help you get started immediately.  

1. Start with your income

When you open the spreadsheet, you will see several sections. Start by inserting your take monthly home pay in the income section. Even if you are salaried, this may vary depending on the number of weeks in a month if you are paid every week or every other week. Just make sure the number is current for that month.

2. Determine your expenses

The next step is expenses. The template includes the most common bills we have. As with anything, prioritize. Start by filling in what is most important to you and that probably includes several necessities such as housing, food, transportation, and utilities. Essentially your four walls and your car (or money for public transportation).

You may not have some of these expenses. Perhaps your health insurance just comes out of your paycheck. You can either delete those or just leave them blank. Chances are you may have some other category that is not on the list in the template. Just insert the new categories below.

3. Targets

The template breaks down the percentage of what you are spending in each category. This will help you with goals, such as keeping housing or transportation below a certain percentage of your take home pay.  

It also helps you meet savings, needs, and wants targets. And to make it easier, they are color coded in the spreadsheet so you know what expense fits each category.

4. Identify your goals

Beyond just income and expenses, the annual budget template also helps you with personal financial goals. This is separate from your budget, until you move it to your expenses, but it provides you with the ability to list out your goals. After all, it’s pretty hard to meet or keep a goal if you are not being intentional, thinking about it, and writing it down. Whether it’s savings, college, a wedding, or a car, enter your target savings for those categories. When you’re ready, move them over to the budget.

This can also act as a guide for your sinking fund, which is used for expected, but irregular purchases. If you know you need to pay for auto insurance twice a year, put it in your sinking fund, have the money deducted monthly so you are ready to make the payment without worrying about your budget the month it is due.

5. Reference the spending guidelines for help

And in case you are curious about what should be included in these categories, the template includes a guideline to help you get started. For example, we know housing includes your mortgage or rent, but you should also include maintenance costs or basic upkeep.

6. Transaction log

The template also includes a transaction log (on a new tab below) to keep up with all of your expenses for the month, or over multiple months. You then will choose a category which will help you determine what you are spending in that category each month.

Alternatives to Excel  

If you don’t have Excel, don’t let that be a reason you don’t have a budget. Here are some alternatives.

We also have a Google Sheets budget template that has many of the same features as the Excel budget template. And one of the great benefits of Google Sheets is that it is available at no cost to you.

And if you want to make budgeting even easier, check out the Keepify app. You will get unlimited budgets, the ability to track spending, zero based budgeting options, full reporting, and free consulting.           

Or you can go old school and take out the pen and paper using the same tactics of an app or spreadsheet.

Everyone needs to budget, but we know too many people do not. One of the reasons is because it can be complicated to get started, scaring many people away before they even begin. With this template, you can begin budgeting right now.

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