personal budget tracker

Save Money with a Personal Budget Tracker

Lindsay Recknell Work/Life Integration Series Leave a Comment

“Can you spreadsheet this for me?”

My phone rang and this was the question from my sister on the other end of the line. She and my other sister had been doing some high finance – buying and selling clothes from their closets to each other and wanted to keep track of who owed what to whom.

I’m a self-proclaimed “Spreadsheet nerd” so I love it when my friends and family also recognize the usefulness of spreadsheets to keep track of their money. I’ve used a personal budget tracker for years – literally the same version of one since before I got married – and feel like it’s one of my most important assets.

It’s these type of spreadsheets – personal budget trackers – that I want to share with you as my number two strategy to save time and money for the Work/Life Integration series. We’re not talking complicated, multi-tab workbooks tracking spend to the penny (although we could…call me!) but a simple way to understand what, when, why and how much.

How will this save you money?

Because “what gets measured, gets managed.” Not my quote but it’s so true.

If you’re aware of how much you have to spend minus how many obligations you have throughout the month – bills, food, gas for your car – you can manage your money from there. The calculation of income minus expenses might still be in the negative, but at least you’ll know (and keep following along with this series because I’ll show you how to change the result of that calculation) and you can make decisions from there. Not knowing is infinitely worse – if you’re unaware or consciously choosing not to know, a whole host of issues come into play – big money mindset issues potentially too.

To make it easy, here’s a copy of my personal budget tracker – seriously, this template is based on the one I’ve used for years. I changed the values but the sections and the math are the same. It’s available for you to download as an Excel file –> HERE or as a Google Doc –> HERE.

I do my banking every Tuesday. I don’t know about you, but I typically spend the most money on weekends – groceries, gas, entertainment – and since the banks don’t update my online banking over the weekends, I find the most up-to-date info is available Tuesday am.

My process is simple

First, I update the balance of my credit card so I can see how much I’ve spent towards my pre-determined budget for the month. Depending on what date of the month it is, I can estimate if I need to be more cognizant of my spending and reign it in if necessary. I don’t record every transaction, just the current balance owing, although sometimes I will download all transactions from online banking and categorize them so I can see where I’ve spent my money, but that’s a different post 🙂

Next, I look at the details in my bank accounts to see which of my pre-authorized payments have been taken out. At the beginning of the month, I list out all the expenses I have for the month and then as they happen, I take note. My personal budget tracker compares what’s left to how much cash is in the accounts and calculates if I have enough.

If I don’t, I move money between accounts or figure out that I need to find extra cash from somewhere if I’m short. Either way, I know the current situation every week and I can take action from there.

It’s not complicated.

And it definitely doesn’t take very long. But it’s worth the time because it gives me control over my next actions, awareness to save (or indulge, maybe!) and makes sure I’ve covered all the expenses that will be automatically paid from my accounts.

I totally believe that what gets measured, gets managed. You probably report on financials or numbers at your work so why wouldn’t you also manage your personal finances in the same way. It doesn’t have to be complicated but you do need to be consistent with it so there are less and less surprises. Surprises in your finances steal precious time (not to mention, money!) and can create so much stress, that the benefit I derive from the 20 minutes I spend on my budget each week far outweighs the time.

I save money because I’m aware of how much I’m spending and how much (or how little!) I can still spend for the month. It’s truly just about the awareness – if you know what’s what and you’re staying within the confines of the monthly budget you set for yourself, you will absolutely start to make different choices about how to spend and save your money.

Personal Budget Tracker download

As I mentioned, a simple version of a personal budget tracker is –> HERE as an Excel download or –> HERE as a Google Doc. You can edit and customize for your situation. For sure, it’ll take some time to set-up and you’ll probably have to make changes to the format for a while as you start to use it but do use it or something like it and let me know the impact it has on your finances.

Not sure how to use it or even where to start?

I’ve booked a day of 15 minute time slots to help you out! On Thursday, July 15th, if you’d like to spend 15 minutes with me getting your version all set up, click to my scheduler –> HERE and lets get at it. There’s only eight (8) of these time slots available though so don’t wait. Looking forward to connecting!

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