If you’ve been putting off getting your finances under control, or organized, or just pointed in the right direction, simply because you’ve been waiting for someone to do it for you, you’re in luck! OK, I’m not going to do all of it for you, but I am offering you the chance to start right now by providing you a simple budgeting tool that anyone can fill out in just a few minutes.
First, let me warn you. This tool is as about as far as you get from fancy. It’s a Google sheet that I literally threw together in just a few minutes. However, where it lacks in sex appeal, it makes up for it in functionality. I’ve linked it below, along with a video explaining how to fill it out (which you probably won’t even need to watch).
What’s the catch? The catch is you need to reach out, grab it, and execute!
No seriously. If you’ve been toying with the thought of buckling down and paying off your debt, or cutting spending, or investing, or just figuring out how much you spend each month (or all four) your time is now! This where you start! A budget.
However, in case you’re not yet fully convinced, I’ve provided some more words below.
Budgets are Important
Developing a budget is probably the most important first step to wrangling in your personal finances. Trying to get your cash flows (i.e. your money) under control without a budget is like dumping all your silverware into a bucket and then trying to count out how many knives you have. Certainly, you have a good idea how many knives you have, but you’ll never be sure. You know why? Because there’s always a couple knives hiding behind the spoons… as they so naturally do.
That’s why budgets are so important. They provide certainty and remove any guesswork from figuring out exactly where all your money goes each month. And of course, until you know exactly how much you’re spending, it’s almost impossible to set goals or limits on that spending.
Budgeting is Not Hard
Unfortunately, for something that everyone understands is so important, there are not many simple and free tools available — especially for those that have never created a budget before. Even the simplest of tools, like for instance, Mint, still left me a little bit uncertain about exactly how much money I bring in and send out each month.
What am I trying to say here? Let’s just say that even the easiest-to-use budgeting apps, like Mint (which I use everyday), still come in at a medium on the easy-medium-hard scale. As a first-time budgeteer, what I wanted was something that was a 1 on the difficulty scale and a 10 on the “yes I understand what these numbers mean” transparency scale.
This tool did not exist. So, I went ahead and made one — along with some instructions. Of course, I’m happy to share both of them with you.
The Super Simple Budgeting Spreadsheet for the Everyman
The spreadsheet is linked below, but please take a moment to consider some ideas on how to “locate” or track all of your monthly expenditures. I’ve listed a few recommendations below, listed in order from least to most tedious:
- Credit card statement. Cash can be hard to accurately track (which is why drug dealers don’t take Visa). If you’re not already in credit card debt (i.e. you pay off your card each month) consider using only your credit card for all purchases for one month. You can then easily use your credit card statement to populate your budget.
- Debit card statement. If you don’t trust yourself with a credit card, consider the same approach as number one above, but using your debit card instead. In my experience, debit cards don’t always capture vendor information as accurately as credit cards do, so keeping receipts and/or capturing a written log of your expenditures is also a good idea.
- Keep a log and/or receipts. This is just what it sounds like. As “a” way of doing this, I’d recommend keeping a box or bag to collect receipts in a conspicuous location to which everyone has access. We kept a ziploc bag underneath our key rack right near the front door — you couldn’t miss it walking in the house.
Open the spreadsheet using this link: Everyman Budgeting Sheet
Heads up! Please be sure to make a copy for yourself first by selecting File > Make a copy…
Note: If you’re not familiar with how to use Google Sheets (which are part of Google’s G Suite of applications), sign up for a free Gmail account here, make sure you’re signed in, and then click the Budgeting Sheet link above. To learn all about the wonderful world of free Google products associated with your Gmail account, check out Google’s G Suite Learning Center.
Here’s the instruction video:
Got questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.