Reconciling Your Monthly Expenses

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Last week, we learned how to use our spreadsheet to build a savings account or rainy day fund.  This week, we will use our spreadsheet to reconcile our monthly balance of the new checking account.

Let’s begin by labeling our tabs.  I’ve labeled our current worksheet ‘Projections’ and then labeled a new worksheet ‘Checking’.

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Open the Checking account tab and begin by building the headers.  I started my labels in cell A1 and used the following labels:
A1: Date
B1: Transactions
C1: Amount
D1: Running Total

I also made my row 1 Bold because I find it easier to read the table if my headers are bold.

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From there, we will add the information from our ‘Projections’ tab into our checking account.  It is assumed that all transactions that occur throughout the month are done through the checking account.

The order of the transactions here doesn’t need to match the order of the transactions in the projection’s tab.  Use the transaction date to create the order for your transactions.

To enter the amounts, I use a function rather than entering them by hand to avoid errors in typing.  For income, I type the equals sign, click on the projections tab, then click the cell I want.

  • For Paycheck 1, the equation would look like this:  =Projections!B3

For expenses, I use the same process but add a negative before clicking projections so the amounts will be debited from the account

  • For January’s Rent, the equation would look like this: =-Projections!B8
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To fill in the running total (I made all of column D bold), we need to start by pulling our first transaction.  To do this, type the equals sign, then click on C2 in the same tab. You can also type the equation =C2.  This is the only cell you will use this equation.

In cell D3, type =D2+C3 or click on the cells to add the cell numbers to the equation.  This will take the previous balance in the checking account and the new transaction.  Fill down using the methods discussed earlier in the excel budgeting series to complete your running totals.

Make sure that your end balance for the month is the same as the end balance for the month in the Projections tab.  (This example’s end balance is $475.20).  If they are not the same, your account does not balance and the transactions need to be double checked for accuracy.
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Use the same process to add additional months, making sure to double check your totals. In the above example, I added February and March.  Next week, I will show how to include the transfer to the savings account that happens in April of our example.

Side Note:  I also like to use colors to separate my months so I can quickly glance and see the entire month.

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Using Your Excel Spreadsheet to Build Rainy Day Savings

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Now that we have our savings account created and have determined our saving schedule, we can use our spreadsheet to predict how long it will take to build a Rainy Day Savings.

It is good practice to always have six months worth of expenses in your savings account just in case something unexpected happens.  We could also include the money in the checking account, but I would always prefer to air on the side of caution because my motto is ‘better safe than sorry’.  Because of this, I will only include the savings account total.

In our example, we know that the monthly expenses are roughly $1050.  Six months of expenses would be $6300.  By looking at the savings account total in column M: December, we see that the total amount in the savings account is $3900.  This is not enough to last six months.

To project further, we will need to add another year to our example.

Using the techniques from before, we will highlight all of the the December column (M1:M21) and drag across to column Y.  Highlight all cells in the sheet by pressing the Triangle in the top left corner then double click on  line between the column headers to widen the fields and remove the pound signs.  *If you have trouble with this step, please refer to the first tutorial’s video.

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Next, add a column between December and January to separate the years.  You can add the year in this column if you would like.  Example: 2016.

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Now that we have our projections extended for another year, we can see that the savings account will reach $6300 in June of year two.

If we were including the checking account, the savings account will reach $6300 in February.  None the less, the more savings the better because you never know what will happen next.

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Working with Your Excel Budgeting Spreadsheet

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Last week we made our spreadsheet a bit more robust by adding in a Checking account and Savings account rows.  If you need to review, you can find the post here.

This week, I will explain how to use this spreadsheet on an ongoing basis as your expense tracking tool in addition to being a budgeting and projecting tool.

Let’s start with the most fool-proof way of sticking to your budget and meeting your projections. Each month, in our example, remove $300 (the incidentals) from your checking account.  You can do this all at once at the beginning of the month or split it up.  Maybe $150 on the 1st and $150 on the 15th.  This all depends on your comfort level with managing your spending.  Here’s the kicker:  DO NOT TAKE ANY ADDITIONAL MONEY OUT OF YOUR ACCOUNT.  Period.  Of course, occasionally there are emergencies such as a blown tire or a medical bill but, if it’s not an emergency, don’t do it!

This money is yours for the month.  Use it however you please remembering that you will need to buy gas and groceries out of this money at some point. If you do not use all of the money in the month, decide what is best for you.  Would you rather hold it as your spending money just in case, save for a larger treat, or put it in your savings account.

If you are trying to build credit but can’t get approved, consider opening a secure credit card where you deposit your money into the account and you can only use how much you have.  With this option, you can have an automatic transfer that takes the money out of your checking account for you and deposits it to the secure account.

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Tracking your expenses is more than entering in about what you think your expenses will be for the month.  While this is a great tool for predicting, it only acts as a placeholder when it comes to utilization of your spreadsheet.

My suggestion for tracking your expenses is to color code your cells.  For all income and expenses where the amounts change each time they occur, I change the text to Blue.  For all of the expenses with set amounts, I keep the text Black.

As I get my bills and paychecks, I add the correct amount over the blue estimated amount and change the color to black.  This shows me that I have already accounted for the item and helps me track where I’m at in the spreadsheet so I don’t have to look up to the months each time.  Once the month is complete, there should be no blue words left.

1. Take the incidentals money out of your checking account.
2. Update your spreadsheet with every new income or expense.

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