A simple, free Google sheets budget templateBY Robert Graham
Budgeting doesn’t need to be complicated and it doesn’t take more math than simple addition and subtraction. This template is a great starting point for the uninitiated budgeters out there and a good way to start fresh for any wary veterans.
Here are a few tips for budgeting success:
- Check-in on your budget at least weekly
- Build up a small emergency fund of $1000 to start and work towards 6 months expenses.
- Use fewer budget categories
- Call to consolidate your billing dates
- Use cash stuck in envelopes for discretionary categories like eating out so when you’re out, you’re out. Or use a budgeting app you can share with your partner.
- Try to put all your banking, retirement, etc. into fewer accounts at fewer companies
Google Sheets is a great platform to get started with a free budget that you can share. It’s a great place to get some inspiration for your style of budgeting and how it develops. You can build it into whatever it needs to be for you.
Too many Americans do not budget, and many choose not to because they think it is too complicated or too time consuming.
But the truth is budgeting isn’t complicated and it doesn’t take more math than simple addition and subtraction. This Google Sheets template is a great starting point for the uninitiated budgeters out there and a good way to start fresh for any wary veterans. And it is a completely free option. All the math is done for you!
Remember, everyone needs a budget, regardless of your income. And it does not matter if you have a standard monthly income or it changes every couple weeks because of commissions, tips, or because you are self-employed.
By directing your money and telling it where it needs to go, a budget is one of the best tools available to win with money.
About this Google Sheets template
This template organizes things into a 50/30/20 structure with guidelines on spending. You pick how you divide your money between immediate spending needs and longer term goals. You’ll be amazed how quickly keeping track of your money will change your spending habits. If you want a budget that includes some ability to track transactions and total expenses as you go, you should check out our zero based budget template. It will provide you with exactly what you want.
The basics of budgeting
It is pretty easy to understand a budget. It is your income minus expenses. But the great part about the budget is that it gives every dollar a name. Without a budget, it is easy to effortlessly spend money. And by the end of the month, you are then wondering where your money went. With a budget, you won’t have that problem.
1. Start with Why
A good rule of thumb when you begin budgeting is to know your why. Meaning, why are you budgeting? Why are you trying to change your financial picture? Is it to save for a new house, maybe kid’s college, or to get your retirement on the right track? Or maybe it’s a short-term goal, like saving for a vacation or a new car. All good reasons to get started.
Whenever you enter something new or something outside of your comfort zone, you are much more likely to stick around if you understand the reason you are taking on the task. Budgeting is no different. Because when the days get difficult or your financial picture temporarily worsens, understanding why you are doing something will be what is needed to help you continue.
As you open the Google sheets template, you will see the annual income in the top-left corner. Start there. And if you are unsure of your take home pay, the template makes it easy to calculate your taxes. Just enter your pre-tax income, and choose filing single or jointly. It will then give you a post-tax estimate. But if you already know it, just enter that number in the post-tax estimate cell and you’ll be good to go.
If you have a variable income, look at the past 3-12 months and pick a conservative income number to build your budget around. This will serve as your base budget to pay your priority items, like housing and utilities, food, and transportation. Then when you are bringing in additional income, you can spend money on the items further down your priority list.
This will work best for you if all of your income is included, so if you have any side hustles, make sure they are in the budget.
After your income is finalized, start entering your expenses. The template includes the most common expenses most people have. If you have anything else, just enter it in the cells at the bottom of expenses. And if you don’t spend anything on one of the default categories, just delete it or leave it blank.
If you are unsure of your expenses, or how much you spend in each category, look at your bank statements from the past few months. This will give you a better idea of what you are spending and perhaps it will help you to see if you are spending too much on non-essential items you can cut out of your life, even if it’s just temporarily.
And as you are entering your expenses, you will notice another helpful tool of this template. It will track the percentage you are spending in each category. So if you are trying to keep your housing expenses below a certain percent of your income, this will show you how you are doing toward that goal.
If you are unsure what should go in each category, just reference the spending guidelines with examples of what should go in each category. Beyond that, it also calculates savings, needs, and wants while making it easy to insert personal financial goals.
Here are a few tips for budgeting success
1. Check-in on your budget at least weekly
You can’t just set it and forget it when it comes to your budget, especially in the beginning. Check in weekly to see how you are doing and remember that it is okay to adjust at any time. Just make sure your budget and your actual spending habits are aligned.
2. Build up a small emergency fund of $1000 to start and work towards 6 months expenses.
A recent survey found that just 40% of Americans would be able to cover an unexpected emergency without having to go into debt. Do not be like the 60%. If you don’t have any money saved, start today with a goal of saving $1,000. After you hit that goal, extend it to 6 months of savings. Because we never know when life will happen.
3. Use fewer budget categories
The Google Sheets template includes spending guidelines to help you get started with each category. Use that as a reference and you will make budgeting easier with fewer categories.
4. Call to consolidate your billing dates
By consolidating your billing dates, your bill money would come out of your account at the same time so you won’t spend it on anything else. This is a great tool to help you stay disciplined.
5. Use cash stuck in envelopes for discretionary categories like eating out so when you’re out, you’re out. Or use a budgeting app you can share with your partner.
A great way to help you spend within your budget is by using cash. It is no secret that it is easier to use a card, but there is a certain amount of pain when it comes to cash. After you have decided what will be in each category, put that cash in an envelope. And when the envelope is empty, you know you are out of money for the month. At the same time, you won’t feel bad about spending money on discretionary items because you have the money set aside for those purchases.
6. Put all your banking, retirement, etc. into fewer accounts at fewer companies
Many people try to make finances more complicated than it has to be. One way to make things easier, and a good way to save valuable time, is by having fewer accounts at fewer companies.
Why choose Google Sheets
Google Sheets is a great platform to get started with a free budget that you can share. It’s a great place to get some inspiration for your style of budgeting and how it develops. And you can build it into whatever it needs to be for you.
So if you are not budgeting yet or are not sticking with your budget, check out the Google Sheets budget template. And set yourself and your family on the path to financial freedom.
There’s a great template from a redditor that covers your bases.
20somethingfinance also has a template with a guide that can help you get started.