Laker Cents: This Budgeting Trick Will Make Your Life Easier

Budgets: the estimates of income and expenses over a set period of time. Sounds simple, right?

Unfortunately, the strategy of budgeting is one that eludes many of us. It sounds a little daunting to sit down, lay out all your income, and mentally face all your expenses. Some don’t know where to start. Today I want to share a secret with you: it starts with a simple spreadsheet.

If you use any type of sheet software such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets (hey, that one’s free!), you’re only a few steps away from making your monthly budget.

Step 1) Create A New Sheet

Step 2) In the top rows and columns, lay out your income for the month. Set the row below your income amounts to automatically calculate by using the formula “=SUM(Cell:Cell)” Example: =SUM(E2:E5).

Step 3) In the lower rows and columns, lay out your expenses. Use multiple columns: Description, Amount, Due Date, and Paid. That way you can check the box when you’ve got the expense paid for the month as a bonus (it’s just a gratifying perk). Set your expense “amount” column to total on it’s own using the same formula in step 2.

Step 4) Find your leftover income by labeling the lowest row “Income Minus Expenses” and doing a formula one cell over that subtracts the expenses total from the income total. Your box might look something like this: “=E2-F2”

Step 5) Voila! By using the formula above, you’ll produce a magic number. After all your income and expenses have been figured in, you’ll be left with additional income (or a deficit).

Have I lost you? Here’s a sample budget I made that you can use to model your own budget spreadsheet after. The auto-calculating cells are great when you are changing amounts in cells repeatedly and duplicating the sheet each month.

Budgeting, even in it’s simplest form,  is a seriously smart way to manage your money and financially prepare for the month. It lets you know if you’ll have enough cash to pay those bills, make that loan payment, OR buy that episode of Game of Thrones, order a pizza on Friday night, or stash a few bucks in your Taylor Swift concert fund (wait, maybe that’s just me).

Either way, knowing where you stand is NEVER a bad idea.