If you’re looking to find a good spreadsheet to help with your budgeting, then you’ve come to the right place. We took a look at dozens of free spreadsheets from other sites and then downloaded and tested them ourselves.
What we found is that each one has something unique about it. For example, one of them breaks out costs for each month. One shows actual versus projected. One has very detailed expense categories. And one has calculations that break down necessary versus discretionary spending. The key to creating the right budget for yourself is finding the one that most closely matches your needs and your way of thinking. If you like to project and then compare to actual, then you should use one that accounts for that. If you like to just put in actual figures each month and compare them over time, then you should use one that covers an entire year.
And remember, all of these budgets can be freely modified by you. That means that if you find the one that is closest to what you need, that you can change the rows, columns and calculations to make it exactly what you want.
Before you start, make sure you’ve picked out some spreadsheet software. Most people prefer Excel, but to save money, I use OpenOffice, which is not only a spreadsheet program that is almost identical to Excel, but it also includes a word processor and Powerpoint type program, and it’s completely free. You can also open any of these documents in Google Docs for free. Once you have your spreadsheet software ready, go ahead and read on.
A Household Budget Spreadsheet from Microsoft Office
A great place to start is by turning to the Microsoft Office home budget templates. They offer dozens of free budget spreadsheets that can be downloaded and saved to your desktop. We visited their site and found that many of the spreadsheets are poor quality, have trouble downloading, or are still tied to external sheets that aren’t included in the download. However, we did find one good family budget that might fit your needs.
A picture of the analysis can be seen at the right. The spreadsheet breaks down expenses into dozens of categories and subcategories, so it is pretty thorough in that respect. There are three columns that it uses to analyze your budget. The first is projected budget, the second is actual, and the third is the difference between the two.
Basically, you can use this spreadsheet to compare your actual to projected budget. However, you could also modify it to meet whatever you need. You can download this budget template here.
Spreadsheet123 Personal Budget
Spreadsheet123 offers a free download of their personal budget, as the picture to the right shows. It is a rather simple worksheet that lists income and another 60-70 expense categories that you can use to input your actual expenses each month. There is a column for each month of the year, so you can use it to compare your actual spending month after month.
This type of budget is useful because it is fairly detailed and it spans for an entire year. It is easy to make a copy of the worksheet for each year, so that you can store your information for several years.
There is no type of analysis in this budget that calculates discretionary versus non-discretionary spending, or anything similar. The only calculations are the total expenses and the amount of extra or short cash each month. However, other calculations could be easily added. You can download this personal budget here.
Practical SpreadSheets Fixed Vs Variable Budget
This free spreadsheet, like most others, has its advantages and disadvantages. A big advantage is that it breaks out the expenses into fixed, semi variable, and highly variable. The disadvantage is that it is not as detailed in the number of categories (that can be modified though). Also, the spreadsheet lets you enter expenses in two columns. One for the amount you projected or budgeted, and the second for actual expenses. A third column automatically computes your variance (overspending or savings).
It’s nice to have the expenses broken down by variable and fixed, as it helps you focus on which expenses can be more easily reduced. However, there are no calculations added to the spreadsheet that calculate your percentage fixed versus variable. It wouldn’t be hard to add some calculations that show the percent of your total budget that each category consists of. If you decide to use it, you’ll also have to add in more specific categories, which you can easily do if you know how to use Excel. You can download this household budget sheet here.
Our Own Free Household Budget Template
How could we make a list of top spreadsheets and not include our own? Honestly, I may be a little biased, but I think this spreadsheet has more to offer than most of the others. Of course, it all comes down to what you are using it for and your own personal preference.
There are a few reasons I think this is a great one. First, our spreadsheet has a rather detailed breakout of expenses. Second, it lists them as discretionary versus necessary expenses. Also, it gives you a way to plan for expenses that only come up once or twice a year. For example, you can put you annual salary in and it allocates it across each month. Similarily, you can enter your annual real estate taxes and insurance, and it will allocate them to a monthly figure. Also, there is a section to account for the payroll deductions from your salary, as well as contributions to savings and other investments. And when all is said and done, there are calculations at the top that break out the percentage spent on necessary and discretionary expenses, as well as the percent of your income that was invested and saved. You can find a copy of our household budget spreadsheet here.
Do you have a favorite budget or other financial spreadsheet that you want to share? Or, do you have any comments about the spreadsheets mentioned above? Please leave us a comment.