When searching on-line for a free excel budget template, there are literally thousands of templates available. Most of them are simple templates where you need to know how much you are spending in each category and you type in the amount. This is asking a lot considering that the average family has nearly a thousand transactions a year. The goal is to make Excel do these calculations for you. The problem is that no one wants to manually track every transaction in order for Excel to add them up. Fortunately, your bank and credit card companies have what is called a .csv download, which stands for "Comma-Separated Values". I have yet to find a bank or credit card that doesn't make this available. A .csv download will open in Excel, however, the new problem that results is that they don't all use the same column order and formatting. This is where XLYourFinances Automated Template makes importing your bank and credit card transactions easy because it has macro buttons that make re-arranging a .csv download simple. What is a macro button? A macro button is a button that you can click on that causes a programmed event to happen. These macro buttons is what differentiates a normal template and an automated template. The purpose of these macros is to save you time, lots of time.
So now that you have downloaded your transactions into Excel and into the right order and format, the next issue is removing those transactions that you downloaded previously. If you have ever done this manually, you know this can be time consuming. XLYourFinances instantly analyzes every transaction and identifies those transactions that are already posted. You click the button "Remove Already Posted" and they are automatically deleted. Now you can glance at your running balance at the right and see that you are in balance with your bank or credit cards "Current Balance".
At this point, the next thing to do is to categorize your transactions. Again, this can be a time consuming activity, however, XLYourFinances will automatically label your transactions based on how you labeled them in the past, leaving only those truly new items for you to categorize. The process is quick and easy, as you begin to type, Excel auto-completes the category and you just hit enter. Once you are satisfied with the labeling of your transactions, you click the "Post" macro button and your transactions are automatically added to the transactions tab where you now can use auto-filter to search and find any specific transaction or group of transactions that you have ever posted. If you are familiar with auto-filter you know that it allows you to search by date or ranges of dates, a phrase or word and it will find everything that contains that word etc. It is very powerful and is the reason why XLYourFinances puts all of your transactions in one page, so that you get the full benefit of auto-filter.
What's next? You now want to be able to see, by your categories, the balance by month and/or by year. This helps you see where your money came from and where it went. XLYourFinances accomplishes this on one tab. You can click a macro button and it will toggle between comparing month to month or comparing year to year. This makes understanding what has happened to your finances easier to comprehend and can be motivating to not repeat the same past mistakes.
The ultimate payoff for downloading your transactions is the budget tab. On this tab you can first establish your budget by comparing to any past three year period to arrive at your goal by category for the year. The transactions you download are automatically compared by category to your goals month and year to date. The comparison of your budget to your actual spending allows you to know if you are achieving your goals or not. You now know exactly how you got to your current position and can make adjustments if needed.
When I hear people talking about their finances, there seems to be a degree of mystery and confusion about 'where the money went?'. There are thousands of apps and programs available for working on your finances, but at the end of the day, to truly know what is happening, you need the detail, you need it summarized, and you need it compared to a budget. Yes, there is a little bit of work to get your information into the template, but in doing so you receive the added benefit that comes from looking over each transaction before you post it. You may uncover fraudulent charges, you might see items you forgot about, and at the very least, you see how much you spend and that is always sobering.
In conclusion, an automated excel budget template helps simplify the process of downloading your transactions, automatically removes duplicates, verifies you are reconciled to your on-line account balances, categorizes transactions using the categories you want, consolidates them to one tab for easy filtering, summarizes them month to month, year to year and compares your spending to your budget by category. XLYourFinances is confident that once you get comfortable with this routine, you will not know how you ever did finances before.
Christie heard about XLYourFinances (xlyf) from a mutual friend. She has been using the spreadsheet for approximately 18 months. I followed up with Christie to see if she would be willing to do a personal finance interview and she agreed.
Tell me about your personal finance journey and where you think you are on that journey?
How did you handle your personal finances before you started using xlyourfinances?
What do you like about the spreadsheet. Any favorite features?
How has your view of your finances changed since you started using xlyourfinances?
Were there any surprises or 'a-ha' moments once you started using xlyourfinances?
What advice would you give for someone who is struggling with their finances?
Any other thoughts or ideas you would like to share?
Thank you Christie for taking the time to share your experiences with us!
I have been an Auditor, Analyst, Accounting Manager, Business Systems Manager, Controller, School Board Vice President, Director of Finance and CFO over the past 19 years of work experience. In my free time I developed the XLYourFinances spreadsheet and website I enjoy golf and spending time with my family. We attend church at LCBC.