Making a budget can be hard! Sticking to that budget and knowing what and where your money was spent is even harder.
The first month Paul and I created a budget we became frustrated always wondering how much was left in each part and forgetting to add in a random expense here and there.
Not having organization with your money can kill any well intended plan to spend wisely.
We started using Google Spreadsheets to track all of our expenses. This tool is essentially an Excel spreadsheet that we use through Google.
The reason that we prefer to use this over a regular Excel document is the versatility of it. You can access this anywhere. This is a wonderful feature when updating or wanting to review the budget. I can pull the Google doc up on my phone or on a computer, making it user friendly.
From Budget to Spreadsheet
At the beginning of every month Paul and I write out everything we might need to buy for the month to get us to a zero based budget. This is explained more in depth here.
We then plug it into a template Paul created in Google docs for our monthly expenses.
The template is great that it is set for each month with our “fixed” expenses but custamizeable for our “variable” expenses.
- Some examples of fixed expenses would be rent, water, electric, cable, and insurance. These are expenses that are generally not changing from month to month and have to be paid.
- Some examples of variable expenses would be groceries, entertainment, eating out, a trip that is coming up, a Birthday, clothes, and etc. These are all things that can change month to month based on what is happening in your life.
Here is an example of the template we have for June’s budget.[I made it as big as I could. If it is a little grainy you can click on the picture to see it clearer.]
On the next ‘page’ of the Google Spreadsheet we have a breakdown of the variable expenses. This is great in that you can see what you spent during the whole month. I find that this keeps me accountable because there is no hidden purchases or surprises at the end of the month where we have a deficit.
Here is an example of what a variable expense page might look like.
[I made it as big as I could. If it is a little grainy you can click on the picture to see it clearer.]
As you can see above, you make your header the title of the expense with the amount allotted. Then every time you make a purchase in that ‘category’ it subtracts it. At the bottom it shows you what is left.
It is important to not overspend in any category when using a zero based budget because there is no money to pull from anywhere else. We do not rely on credit cards to “get us through” when we have made irresponsible choices, so if we blow the entertainment fund the first weekend of the month then we have nothing for that the rest of the month.
This might sound extreme but it is teaching us to spend wisely and on things that matter. Also, we find that when we do decide to spend money we don’t take it for granted as much as before.
How do you track your expenses?