Why I am using a spreadsheet for budgeting instead of an app

  • I prefer to use a spreadsheet for my budget rather than an app – it forces me to see where my money is going.
  • Each month my husband and I spend 30 minutes studying and categorizing our expenses.
  • Tracking our spending has helped us identify areas where we can save more to meet our goals.
  • Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.

Budgeting is a dreaded chore for many. But I have come to see a lot of value in my monthly budget spreadsheet session.

A spreadsheet might not be the right budgeting tool for everyone. However, a simple spreadsheet has done wonders for my family’s budget to help us reach our financial goals.

How I use a spreadsheet to budget

I use a simple spreadsheet to track and add up my expenses in each expense category. While there are more handy apps that would do this automatically for me, my spreadsheet habit suits me better.

Some of the categories on our spreadsheet include travel, accommodation, transportation, pets, groceries, dining out, fun splits, and various items. The beauty of a budget spreadsheet is that you can create any number of categories to help you explore the details of your spending.

Once a month I sit down with my husband and we sift through our expenses. We record each expense in the appropriate column; it takes about 30 minutes to complete the process. I’m the first to admit that it seemed a bit tedious at first, but this habit has become a staple of our strong financial foundation.

Why I am using a spreadsheet instead of an app

Of course, there are other more automated ways to track your spending. Apps like Mint can handle moving all of your expenses into categories for you.

But something about recording every expense in a spreadsheet forces me to really see where my money is going. There is no way for expenses to hide in the background if I physically record them in my spreadsheet each month.

In addition, the spreadsheet has become a shared tool for my husband and I. After using this method for two years, I think it has helped us figure out what we’re spending money on and correct as needed throughout the year.

This intentionality is accompanied by an increased awareness of our spending choices. While it didn’t happen overnight, we slowly got to a place that was comfortable with our spending. The spreadsheet has helped us internalize the process of making smart spending decisions that align with our overall goals.

sarah sharkey budget worksheet

An example of the author’s budget spreadsheet.

Sarah sharkey


Our budget worksheet works for us

Since using a spreadsheet to budget, we’ve been able to achieve great financial goals by identifying areas where we can cut expenses and save more. We built up savings for a down payment on our first home and built up an emergency fund of $ 35,000. Plus, we’ve even been able to set aside funds for important goals like retirement.

But we didn’t have to stop spending on things we care about, thanks to monthly reminders of our spending choices.

Is a Budget Worksheet Right for You?

A budget worksheet takes a little longer than a budgeting app. You should be prepared to spend about 30 minutes per month reviewing your spending. But the rewards are plentiful. From the first month, you will quickly see where you are overspending. By reviewing each expense, you will be forced to determine if each purchase was worth it.

If you decide to go ahead with a budget spreadsheet, you can create one with categories that meet your needs. You could have specialized categories for things like “fishing” or “knitting”. Don’t be afraid to explore your specific spending habits to create a spreadsheet that will reflect your true spending choices, including your wants and hobbies.

If you’re not ready to commit to the drudgery of diving deep into your accounts every month, that’s okay. There are many other budgeting strategies available. You just need to find the one that works best for you.


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