by Brad Hoffer
For years, my wife and I have struggled to overcome the trap of spending more than we make. When you sit down to budget and compare your spending vs. your income, it is not much fun when you are perpetually in the hole. No matter how you look at it, it is just depressing. These negative feelings make it very difficult to continue to pay attention to your finances because no one enjoys getting bad news, week after week, month after month, and year after year.
It seemed impossible to break the cycle. Everything we were buying seemed necessary. Now, 'necessary' is a very relative word. I may feel we need to eat out because neither one of us wanted to cook that night and it was 'necessary' for our sanity to just enjoy eating out that night. I may feel we need to replace our vehicle because it is nickel-and-diming us and it is 'necessary' to have reliable transportation. It is 'necessary' to have nice clothes for my job. It is 'necessary' to fix up the house. It is 'necessary' to add a patio to the back yard. It is 'necessary' to upgrade the dishwasher because the dishes just don't seem to come clean anymore. On and on the list of 'necessary' items grows and grows. So what can you do?
I believe the only way out is to become 'fed up'. 'Fed up' with the stress, the worry and most of all, the feeling of helplessness. You then use this frustration to become determined. Determined to spend less than you make, regardless of what that means. This sometimes means taking drastic measures. But no bad habit or routine is easily broken. Changing your heart and mind regarding your money is incredibly difficult. Your way of thinking seems logical and your reasons for spending seem legit. But until you can break down the walls that cause you to continue to fall into the overspending trap, you will not succeed.
But the moment you do break the cycle and start spending less than you earned, suddenly, budgeting becomes fun, that very month! I should clarify what I mean by budgeting. To me, budgeting is the act of comparing your actual results to an accurately prepared budget. When your results are better than your budget, you can't help but be happy. You feel empowered, in control and you feel a sense of freedom.
How many times have you heard the phrase 'financial freedom'. What does this mean to you? I use to think it meant you had so much money you could just purchase whatever you wanted, when you wanted. What is interesting, I know several millionaires, and they just don't spend much money. They set limits and parameters and live within them. Why? Because financial freedom is not being able to buy whatever you want, it is buying what you can afford and living free from uncontrollable spending habits. Overspending is not freedom, whether you can afford it or not.
It is very interesting, when you spend less than you make, you find 'financial freedom', regardless of income. You are free from the financial pressures and stress that come from carrying debt and you feel more prepared for the future.
Fun budgeting is when you sit down, and realize you have some cushion, because you spent wisely, made a plan and stuck to it, or even beat it. If you want budgeting to become fun, stop overspending and you will find true financial freedom.
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.
by Brad Hoffer
When most people think of an Excel Spreadsheet, they think of it as a computerized adding machine. However, when you start learning some of the advanced features, you realize that there are endless possibilities to make Excel do most anything you want. I remember when I first learned a few formulas in Excel and thought I “knew” Excel. Well, 15 years later and I am still learning new things all the time. Those formulas were like discovering a puddle of water beside a swimming pool and thinking that was the pool!At work I have used Excel to create some interesting programs that have solved some very complex problems. I always did my personal finances in Excel, but I never spent hours developing the spreadsheet as a program like I do at work. So about 4 years ago, I decided to tackle building the ultimate personal finance program in Excel. During this process, I have had plenty of doubters who did not understand why I was obsessed with building features into Excel that already existed in other programs. My answer, “those other programs are not Excel!” At the end of the day, most people who use any type of Accounting or finance program, end up exporting their information into Excel. Why? Excel is the best place to store, analyze and summarize data.
I am happy for the opportunity to tell you about the program I created: The xlyourfinances spreadsheet which I now sell at www.xlyourfinances.com
So what are some of the ‘advanced’ features built into the xlyourfinances spreadsheet vs. an ordinary spreadsheet? I have listed some of those features below. All of these features have two goals in mind, to save time and to give you control over your finances.
Time Saving Features:
1. With a click of a button, categories are automatically assigned to transactions based on past purchase history. By the way, you name your own categories.
2. Automatic removal of duplicate entries. When you download transactions from your bank or credit card company, they are verified against past purchase history and duplicates are automatically removed. This keeps your Current Balance in synch with your on-line statements.
3. Formatting and alignment. If you ever downloaded transactions from your bank or credit card company, you know how ugly some of these downloads can be. Downloaded transactions are easy to get into the correct format and alignment with one click column swapping and one click inversing of values when needed.
4. Summarized, Organized and Reconciled. By its design, xlyourfinances spreadsheet simultaneously summarizes your category totals, reconciles your accounts and completely organizes your finances.
Control of Your Finances:
Real-time budget results. Perhaps one of the best features is the simple but powerful design of the budget tool. You simply enter budget amounts for each category and the spreadsheet does the rest. Your actual spending is compared to your desired budget so you can see how you are doing for the month and year to date. And of course, you can go back in time to any year or month.
1. Cash Forecasting. The spreadsheet projects your day by day bank balance from the last posted transaction through the next 30 days based on your normal recurring and/or non-recurring activity. This gives you full confidence that you have all of your expenses covered.
2. Personal Financial Statement. Year to year, are your finances improving? The personal finance statement tab is an annual review of how you’re doing. Setting long-term goals and then seeing your progress is an essential component to gaining control over your finances.
3. Quick Research Tools. You can store virtually a lifetime of finances in one spreadsheet. It is very simple to filter thousands of transactions in an instant to find exactly what you are looking for.
If you own Excel and have a desire to get full control of your finances, go to www.xlyourfinances.com and get your personalized copy today
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.