The Comprehensive Guide to Google Sheets Budget Template for Beginners!

Introduction to Google Sheets Budgeting Tutorial

Hello everyone! In this post, I will be sharing the free Google Sheets budget template and demonstrating how I customize it to effectively manage my budget. I believe it can work for you too. I have structured this post to allow you to follow along in real-time and set up your monthly budget. So, let’s dive in! The first step is to locate and open the template.

Locate and Open the Google Sheets Monthly Budget Template

To find the monthly budget template in Google Sheets, simply open Google Sheets on your computer. Look for the monthly budget spreadsheet near the top of the screen. If you don’t see it there, click on the template gallery. From there, navigate to the “Personal” category and you will find the monthly budget template. Open it up, and we can proceed from there.

Start With a Clean Slate

Step two involves starting with a clean slate. The first task is to give the budget template a new name. In the upper left corner, change the name of the spreadsheet from “Monthly Budget” to “Sample Budget to Copy Every Month.” I will explain the importance of this later on.

Next, you should delete the sample amounts on the summary and transaction spreadsheets. However, it is crucial to follow my instructions to avoid breaking the formulas in the spreadsheet. Let’s begin with the transaction spreadsheet. To access it, click on the “Transactions” tab at the bottom of the screen. You will see sample expenses for rent and paycheck, which are there to demonstrate how to use the spreadsheet. We don’t need them, so click on the number five to the left of your screen to select the entire row. Then, go to the “Edit” drop-down menu and click on “Delete” followed by “Values.”

Move to the bottom of the transaction spreadsheet and note that it ends with row 33. If you anticipate having more than 33 transactions in a month, this can be a problem. To avoid issues, click on “Add 1000 more rows at the bottom.” Now you have 1033 rows for transactions. Once you have made these changes, switch back to the summary spreadsheet.

To start with a clean slate on the summary spreadsheet, adjust the starting balance in cell L8 from $1,000 to $0. Next, zero out the sample home and paycheck amounts. Highlight cell D31 (home) and change the value from $950 to $0, then press enter. Do the same for cell J29 (paycheck), changing it from $1,450 to $0. Now everything is zeroed out.

Scroll down to the end of the summary spreadsheet and observe that it ends with row 44. If you think you may need additional expense categories in the future, click on “Add 1000 more rows at the bottom” just like you did in the transaction spreadsheet. This time, you will receive a pop-up warning about editing the spreadsheet. Click “OK.” Now, when you scroll to the bottom of the summary page, you will see 1044 rows.

Let’s move on to step three.

Customize a Sample Monthly Budget

To customize the sample monthly budget, we will focus on the bottom of the summary spreadsheet. First, add a third spreadsheet for fixed expenses. In the lower left corner, click the plus sign to add a sheet and change the name to “Fixed Expenses.” You can also move the sheet to the end, after the transactions sheet. On this sheet, you will have two columns: one for expenses and the other for projected spending. Fixed expenses include items like house payments, cell phone bills, TV bills, utilities, subscriptions, and insurance payments. You can also include irregular expenses, although it’s best to focus on expenses that don’t vary too much from month to month.

Once you have listed all your fixed expenses, highlight the values in the projected column. In the upper right corner, click on “Functions,” select “Sum,” and press enter. This will total all the values in the projected column for you. Remember this total and switch back to the summary spreadsheet.

At the top of the summary spreadsheet, change the first line in the expenses column from “Food” to “Fixed Expenses.” Enter the total from the fixed expenses worksheet into the planned column. The benefit of this is that all your fixed expenses only take up one line on the summary spreadsheet. This allows you to focus more on the variable or flexible spending categories that have a greater impact on your day-to-day spending.

Now is the time to customize your spending categories. You can safely change the shaded expense and income categories on the summary spreadsheet up to line 41. However, don’t fill in the plan column for any of your expense categories yet, except for fixed expenses. If you’re creating your budget in real-time while watching a video, you may want to pause and take some time to determine your spending categories. You can review credit card or bank statements to help you figure them out.

A common stumbling point occurs at row 41 on the expenses side of the summary spreadsheet. If you need additional rows, follow a specific method to avoid breaking the formulas. Go to the last row of the expense column (line 41) and highlight the cells you want to duplicate. Drag down using the blue handle to add the desired number of rows. You can add as many as you want, but for simplicity, adding nine rows stopping at row 50 is recommended. Click “OK” when prompted with the warning pop-up. At this point, the new categories will appear, and you can rename them as desired. Take note of the last row you created.

Switch over to the transactions tab to continue. At the top of the transactions tab, navigate to the category drop-down (E5). Not all the new categories may be reflected here. To fix this, highlight the cell under “Category” on the expenses side (row 5, column E). From the data menu at the top of the screen, select “Data Validation.” In the “Data Validation Rules” section, choose the option at the top with the “E” values. In the criteria summary field, adjust the formula by changing the last two numbers to match the number of your last row from the summary spreadsheet (e.g., change “44” to “50”). Click “OK” and then “Done” at the bottom of the data validation rule screen. Check the category drop-down on the transactions tab to ensure all your categories appear, including custom category 12.

Step four involves making a copy of the budget template.

Make a Copy of the Sample Budget and Plan Your Spending

To create a new budget and plan your spending, we are making fast progress. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to the file menu and select “Make a Copy.”
  2. Rename the budget for the upcoming month. For example, you can use “January 2023 Budget” for this example.
  3. Every month, return to the sample budget and make a new copy. All the categories and the fixed expenses spreadsheet will be automatically copied over.
  4. On the summary spreadsheet, there are two things you need to do:
    • First, plan your spending in all the categories on the expenses side. Enter your numbers in the planned column.
    • Second, estimate your paychecks and other income sources on the income side.
  5. Now that you are on the actual monthly budget and not the sample, your goal is to ensure that your estimated monthly income is greater than or equal to all your planned expenses. This is crucial.
  6. If you need to make any adjustments to your categories or the fixed expenses spreadsheet in the future, make those changes to the sample budget before making a copy. This will save you time. By creating the sample budget, you won’t need to tweak the formulas every month. It simplifies the process.
  7. Proceed to step number five.

Track Your Expenses Throughout the Month

Tracking your expenses throughout the month is the most important step, as it is key to making your budget work effectively. To track your expenses, use the transaction spreadsheet. Start by logging the first transaction of the month, which is for your fixed expenses. Simply enter the total from the fixed expenses worksheet on the transactions tab. This will update the actual column for the fixed expenses category on the summary spreadsheet.

After logging the fixed expenses transaction, you can conveniently do most of your budgeting on the go using the Google Sheets mobile app, which is free. From the app, you can get an overall snapshot of your spending from the summary spreadsheet and enter transactions on the transaction spreadsheet.

Here’s an example: Before going to the grocery store, open the Google Sheets app and check the summary tab to see how much money you have remaining to spend in the groceries category. For instance, if you have $500 remaining at the beginning of the month, you can plan accordingly. After completing your purchase at the store, immediately record the transaction on the transactions tab before leaving the store or the parking lot. Enter the date, amount, description, and category. When you go back to the summary tab, the recent transaction will be reflected. For example, if you spent $100, you can see that you now have $400 left to spend on groceries for the month. Checking your budget before every purchase is your secret weapon and can save you a lot of money.

Using the mobile app makes this process easy, but if you prefer to work on the computer, that’s fine too. You can always log your transactions using a computer. Another great feature of this budget is that you can share it. In the upper right corner, you can find the option to share the budget. If you maintain a budget with a partner, both of you can make changes to the same budget.

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