The Cheat Sheet to Budget Spreadsheets You’ve Always Wanted

Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

Budgeting alone can be confusing but then coupled with a spreadsheet it can be an emotional nightmare. Spreadsheets are confusing if you are just learning to use them—there is often too much information online to sort through, and most of the “lessons” do not teach you how to create your budget! Enter this cheatsheet, to save the day.

I’ve created this cheat sheet to help you Budget via a Budget Spreadsheet. 

  • The layout of your budget.
  • Spreadsheet Math. 
  • Keep it simple. 

I’m here to keep things simple, easy, and possibly fun with step-by-step instructions, this cheatsheet is about to become your best friend.

Google Sheets Budget Spreadsheet

There is a lot of different free budgets that you can acquire online such as this one. But how do you make it usable? How do you even use it? Can I make my own? These are common questions that we are going to cover. 

How to make a FREE template usable.

Ahh, the bliss of FREE! But sometimes free comes with a little bit of work. I’ll keep using the Google Sheet I linked above for all of my examples. 

  • Step 1: Make a Copy. 
    • Select the File button at the top left of the screen, then select “Make a Copy”
    • Once you have selected Make a copy you will get the following dialogue box. In this box, you will rename the budget to a name of your choice. 
      • Some options include “MONTH. budget” “YEAR. budget”
    • Now you have your own personal copy of this FREE budget template. 
  • Step 2: Removing Header
    • Now that you have a copy, you realize that the copy instructions have not been removed….I said free did take some work so let’s get to remove this header!
    • You should be able to click and drag this image around the screen. 
    • You can push the Delete button on your keyboard at this point. This will remove the image from row 1. 
    • This leaves you an extra-large empty row 1. 
    • Right-click on the 1, and select delete row. 
      • This will leave you with a sheet that looks like this. 
    • If you are happy with the way this functions then you can continue on to how to use this template. If you don’t like the rows that seem frozen as you scroll then continue to step 3. 
  • Step 3: Unlocking rows. (A student requested this, as they didn’t like the way it functioned.) 
    • This is by request. If you are ok with those title rows always staying at the top of the screen then continue to “How to use a Free template”. 
    • Select View at the top left of the screen.
      • Then select Freeze
        • Then select no rows. 
    • This will fully unlock the spreadsheet so everything will scroll. 

How to use a FREE template. 

Now that we have the perfect template to utilize let’s see how it all works. (If you are using another free template, you will need to play with the numbers and see what each section does and how it affects the spreadsheet. ) 

  • Income and Savings: 
    • Income and Savings are combined within this spreadsheet. Meaning that they directly relate to each other not that they are in the same area. 
    • This spreadsheet is designed to save first. Example:
      • I make $1,800 a month. I automatically save $100 for my emergency fund, $100 for my actual savings account, $100 for investments, and $100 for educational expenses. This means I would subtract $400 from my income. And place each savings amount in its category. 
      • My budget summary would then look like the following
      • If you do not subtract your savings from your income, $400 will be added to your total income. 
  • Expenses: These are on the right-hand side of the spreadsheet. 
    • I highly recommend changing the names of specific expenses if they do not relate to you. For example:
      • Under transportation there is a subcategory called “public transportation”, you may not use this but have to pay for a toll pass or parking pass. Rename this section as Parking Pass Fees. 
    • Continue to add in all of your expenses as needed. 
  • View the budget summary for Projected totals. 
  • Once you start spending money or if your income changes, update the actual column. And this will give you your ‘ACTUAL’ amounts. 

How to create your own. 

So you now have a usable template but you do not like everything about it. Do you want to create your own budget spreadsheet? Great because is pretty easy to create a simple spreadsheet. 

  • Go ahead and select file → new → spreadsheet
    • This gives you a clean blank slate to start your masterpiece. 
  • I always suggest giving your file a heading. In cell A1 type the title of your spreadsheet. For this example…May Budget. 
  • Above the file button, it says “untitled spreadsheet” go ahead and click up there and name your spreadsheet as well. I would use the name May 2022 Budget
  • Once you have your heading typed into A1 Select A1-E1. Select the merge cells button. Then center the text if you would like. 
  • Next, assess your needs. You need an income, savings, expenses, and total section. Do you need an actual vs projected? 
  • Go through the following list and write down ideas that you want on your spreadsheet:
    • Income:
      • Salary
      • Side hustle? 
      • Child Support?
      • Dividends 
      • Refunds/Reimbursements
      • Pension
      • Garage/Rummage Sale
    • Savings:
      • Emergency Fund
      • Cash Savings
      • Investing?
      • Sink Funds?
        • Home improvements
        • New home furnishings
        • Car Repairs
        • New Car
        • Car Registration
        • Vacation
      • Education?
    • Expenses:
      • Rent/Mortgage
      • Electricity
      • Gas
      • Water/Sewer/Trash
      • Phone/Cell Phone
      • Cable/satellite
      • Hulu/Disney+/Netflix
      • Internet
      • Lawn Care
      • Home maintenance
      • Car payment
      • Auto insurance
      • Fuel
      • Car repairs
      • Groceries
      • Child Care
      • Dining out
      • Clothing
      • Dry Cleaning
      • Salon/Barber
      • Pet supplies
      • Pet Health Care/Veterinarian
      • Movies
      • Concerts/Plays
      • Sports equipment
      • Outdoor Recreation
      • Health insurance
      • Gym membership
      • Doctor/Dentist
      • medicine/Prescriptions 
      • Life Insurance
    • Total:
      • Balance
      • Total Income
      • Total Expenses
  • Once you get a list it’s time to start designing your layout. You can look at the free template for design ideas. They kept income, savings, and balance to the left while all expenses were on the right-hand side of the spreadsheet. 
    • For this example, I am going to mimic their layout, but feel free to design as you see fit. 
    • I also am just putting in an actual column, with no difference nor projected columns. 
    • I also do not like subtracting my savings from my income prior to typing my income in, so I am going to be changing that portion. But first…layout. 
    • As you can tell my colors are the same but it looks very different. 
  • Let’s move on to Math→
    • Each section needs to be added together. For example Select B10. Put your cursor in the formula bar at the top of the screen and type =SUM(B3:B9) this will add all of your income together. 
    • Do the same for each section selecting their respective cells. 
    • Once you get to the total of your expenses you will need to select each subtotal independently. Your equation will resemble the following =E10+E16+E24+E30
    • Last but not least we need to link our total expenses and income to their respective spots on the budget summary. 
    • We do this by clicking in the cell and pushing = and then selecting the total expenses or total income. 
      • I like my expenses to include my savings. So my equation for total income will be =E31+B19.
      • My total income will be =B10
    • Net income is total income – total expenses. So my B24 will =B22-B23
    • Now it’s time to plug in what I’m spending. (Normally my expenses are set, except for groceries and clothing. I have a set income. So all this combined makes it easy for me to use a budget that does not include projected vs actual. I normally put in groceries as I purchase each week and other bills as they accrue. Feel free to make any budget that works for you! 
    • Here is my final result assuming May is over.  
Screenshot of my final May Budget

Bookmark this cheat sheet for all your budgeting spreadsheet needs

And there you have it. For a  deeper dive into some of these topics, you may want to check out

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Disclaimer: This blog is for entertainment purposes only and in no way provides financial advice that a person should follow without first contacting money management professionals. I do not provide advice on stocks or investments. 

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