Excel Is My Homeboy

Note: as most of you know, Erin has accepted a full-time writing position with Nerdwallet.com. This means she will no longer be contributing to Money After Graduation. However, I still have a handful of her posts backlogged, so we will get to enjoy her writing for just a tiny bit longer =) Wishing her luck and lots of success in her new job!!

Like most people with an accounting degree and nerd tendencies, I have a creepishly romantic relationship with Excel.

I love it — it surprises me every day with all its skills and makes tracking my tragically negative net worth almost enjoyable. We spend quality time together on the regular, as I am constantly updating my favorite file ever entitled “Our Finances”.

And by “our” I mean mine and my husband’s, not mine and Excel’s.


For anyone looking to get organized this year, I highly recommend setting up your own version of “Our Finances” and keeping your financials all in one place. Not only is it super convenient to look at all your data in one document, it can be awesome come tax time (especially for irregular income havers/freelancers).

Here’s what I put on mine, by tab:

Net Worth While depressingly low, I like to know how far we are in the red on a regular basis. I list out our assets (retirement accounts) and liabilities (debts), along with interest rates and a note about when it was last updated (usually yesterday).

Monthly Budget I keep a list of our bills and what they should cost in two columns, divided up into pay days. I link our bank balance (which is on another tab) to our remaining monthly expenses to see how much more we need coming in that month or how much I can redirect towards extra debt payments.

I also keep a list of money owed to me on this tab. This may not be relevant to your finances, but as a freelancer, I need to keep tabs on these things.

Available CashWe have two checking accounts (one for regular bills, one for daily expenses), one savings account, and one prepaid debit card (for bonuses given through my husband’s work). I keep the accounts on each of these updated so I know how much cash we have on a daily basis.

Student Loans — Between my husband and I, we have seven student loans. I keep a full tab of all the details, including principal and interest, minimum payments, and interest rates.

Debt Payoff — I keep records of how much debt we are paying off each month because I am a masochist who enjoys watching thousands and thousands of dollars disappear into thin air (aka go towards paying off shit we just couldn’t wait to purchase).

Progress — I like to see how our net worth is increasing and debt is decreasing from month to month. I have a column for our beginning of the year balances, a column for last month’s balances, and a column for the current month’s balances. I actually used the debt-payoff tracker spreadsheet from Man vs. Debt for this tab. You can find it here.

Income — Last but not least, I track our monthly income by category — husband’s full time job, my freelancing, my blog, selling stuff, and found money. This is crazy helpful for a couple of reasons: (1) we both make irregular incomes and (2) it makes it easier to estimate taxes due.

When you make an irregular income, it is imperative to track your profits so you know what a slow month looks like. You should always budget based on your lowest month.

Even if you don’t have the weird love affair relationship with spreadsheets that Bridget and I both have, you could really benefit from setting up your financials in one easy to access place. Get your financial shit together today!

Is Excel your homeboy? How do you track your financial progress?

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  1. Count me in on the Excel groupie list. I have a spreadsheet with very similar tabs as you. I kind of get stuck in a vortex when I start updating it though, which results me wanting to get to the future faster… but it (the money) only comes in so fast.

  2. Yes – I’m a groupie too. (Although, I will confess that I’ve moved a lot over to Google Drive after my laptop died. But that still counts, right?)

    I have a “Master Money” sheet that I update monthly with how much I spent on each category, how much income I had, how much I contributed to savings and how much I spent on debt. But I also have a separate “Debt Repayment” sheet that covers the life of each debt vs. by year. I don’t bother with a Net Worth tracker, because it’s so far in the negative…

    I really like the idea of an “Available Cash” spreadsheet, though! I do a decent job of keeping track in my head, but there have been slip-ups that could have easily been avoided using something like this.

  3. I’m absolutely obsessed with Excel! I have a finance degree but have been an accountant for just under 4 years. It’s amazing what Excel can do, and for the most part people only scratch the surface when they use it.

    I don’t track our net worth, but I do track our income and expenses. Each month I bring every single transaction into Excel and put it into a common format. I have data for almost two years now and put it in a pivot table. It really helps trend our expenses (and income) and make sure there is nothing that stands out.

  4. I love excel too! I use excel at work all the time. Really need to add more excel skills. :)

  5. Your budget file sounds a lot like mine! I also have a tab open that is just a list of goals I want to reach (i.e. EF to $1000, get rid of CC debt, get rid of student loans, etc.) just so I know which goal I’m working on at the moment.

  6. I love Excel. Excel and I are like BFFs. I’m sooo very OCD so I have tabs for:

    SUMMARY – which is a dashboard that amalgamates all collected information and provides a summary in charts/pies/bars/etc. It’s also where I keep track of forms/docs I’ll need for filing taxes (like if I make a donation) as well as my other resolutions/goal keeping.

    TRACKING – which is basically my monthly budgets

    FORECASTING – it’s basically a cash balance of all money coming in and out of my chequing account. It also forecasts into the future.

    VACATION TRACKING – for my vacation budgets which I keep separately

    NETWORTH – self-explanatory

    GIFTING – dates of everyone’s birthdays & celebrations with budgets and gift ideas

    MEAL PLANNING – meal planning + grocery list & expected costs

    POST SCHEDULE – while this isn’t really a personal finance tab, I keep my posting schedule for the blog here.

    WIP – This is my “work in progress” tab. Things that I am working on that I need to “dump” for later use. This may be making pie chart for future use for a blog post or it could be figuring out how my vacation budget, etc.

    Told you I was totally OCD about tracking. ^___^;

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