If you’re looking for a quick and easy budgeting tool, the Google Sheets budget template is a great option to track your daily expenses.
For the past few years, I’ve used this free budgeting tool to keep my spending under control.
Google Sheets Budget Template: Step-by-Step Guide
This article and the video below will walk you step-by-step through the process of creating a budget with Google Sheets, including my best tips to customize the template.
- Locate and open the Google Sheets monthly budget template
- Start with a clean slate
- Customize a sample monthly budget
- Make a copy of the sample budget and plan your spending
- Track your expenses with the Google Sheets app
1. Locate and open the Google Sheets monthly budget template
The first step is to find the Google Sheets budget template. When you open Google Sheets from a computer, look for the “Monthly Budget” spreadsheet located near the top of the screen.
If you don’t see a thumbnail for it, click on “Template Gallery” and find it under “Personal.”
2. Start with a clean slate
To start with a clean slate, you need to give the budget template a new name. That’s where we begin step two.
In the upper-left corner, change the name of the spreadsheet from “Monthly budget” to “SAMPLE BUDGET TO COPY EVERY MONTH.” You’ll understand why that’s important later on in this article.
Next, you want to delete sample amounts on the Summary and Transactions spreadsheets. Warning: If you don’t follow the instructions below, it may break the formulas in the spreadsheet.
Let’s begin with the Transactions spreadsheet. You can access it by clicking on the Transactions tab at the bottom of the screen.
To delete the sample expenses for Rent and Paycheck, click on the number 5 to select that entire row. Then, click on Delete values from the Edit dropdown menu.
Next, scroll down to the bottom of the Transactions spreadsheet. You’ll see that it ends with row 33. That will be a problem if you have more than 33 transactions in a month, so click “Add 1000 more rows at bottom” to avoid any issues.
Once you’ve made those changes, flip back to the Summary spreadsheet. To start with a clean slate, adjust the starting balance in cell L8 from $1,000 to $0.
Then, zero out the sample Home (cell D31) and Paycheck (cell J29) amounts shown in the shaded Planned column.
The Summary spreadsheet ends with row 44. If you think that you may need additional expense categories, click “Add 1000 more rows at bottom” just like you did on the Transactions spreadsheet. You’ll get a pop-up that warns about editing the spreadsheet, but go ahead and click OK.
3. Customize a sample monthly budget
The third step is to customize your sample monthly budget. Before you adjust the expense categories on the Summary spreadsheet, I recommend that you add a third spreadsheet for Fixed Expenses.
The purpose of this additional spreadsheet is to separate your fixed and variable expenses. Let me explain how I do it.
In the lower-left corner, click to plus sign for “Add Sheet” and change the tab name to Fixed Expenses. Then, list your fixed expenses and how much you spend on them every month.
Fixed expenses include things like your rent/mortgage, cell phone bill, TV bill, utilities and insurance payments. You may also want to include irregular expenses in this worksheet. (Learn more here)
Total the fixed expenses and flip back over to the Summary spreadsheet.
Next, change the first line on the expenses column from Food to Fixed Expenses and enter the total from the other spreadsheet.
Now, all of those fixed expenses take up only one line on the Summary spreadsheet and you can focus on the variable or flexible spending categories that have a greater impact on your day-to-day budget.
You can safely change the shaded expense and income categories on the Summary spreadsheet through line 41, but don’t fill in the Planned column for your expense categories (except Fixed Expenses) just yet. That’s later.
If you need help determining your budget categories, review your recent credit card and bank statements.
How to add more custom categories in Google Sheets
If you don’t need additional rows of expenses beyond line 41, you can skip ahead to the next step at this point. But if you do want to add extra rows or think you may need to in the future, there’s a specific way to do it to avoid messing up the formulas.
Let me explain what you need to do.
First, determine the number of expense categories that you want to add. It doesn’t hurt to have extra blank rows, so I suggest that you add about 5 or 10 rows even if you won’t use them all. Next, follow these steps:
- Go to the last row of the expense column (Custom category 3, line 41)
- Highlight the cells you want to duplicate
- Drag down using the blue handle
- Click OK when prompted with a pop-up warning
- Rename the new categories anything you want
After that, jot down the last row that you created. In the sample above, it’s row 50. Flip over to the Transactions spreadsheet to continue.
From this spreadsheet, navigate to the category drop-down. You may notice that not all of the new budget categories are reflected. Here’s how to fix that:
- Highlight the first cell under Category on the Expenses side (Row 5, Column E).
- From the Data menu, select Data validation.
- In the Cell Range field, click on the Select Data Range icon and change Transactions!E5 to Transactions!E5:E1000.
- In the Criteria Summary field, change the last two numbers of the =Summary!$B$27:$C$44 formula to match the number of your last row from the Summary spreadsheet. (That would be 50 from the example.)
- Click save and check to see if all categories now appear in the drop-down.
4. Make a copy of the sample budget and plan your spending
Now that you’ve customized the sample monthly budget, the fourth step is to make a copy of it to save the work that you’ve done so far and actually start budgeting for the upcoming month.
Go to the File menu, select Make a Copy and rename the budget for the upcoming month. For example, January 2021 Budget. I go back to the sample budget every single month to make a new copy.
All of your categories and the Fixed Expenses spreadsheet should be copied over. From here, plan your spending in all of your budget categories and make sure that the total amount doesn’t exceed your monthly income.
If you need to make tweaks to your categories or the Fixed Expenses spreadsheet in the future, make those changes to the sample budget before you make a copy. This will save you time.
5. Track your expenses with the Google Sheets app
Once I set up my budget on a laptop at the start of the month, I do the rest of my budgeting on the go with the Google Sheets mobile app. That’s the fifth and final step of this process.
From the free app (available for Apple and Android devices), I can get an overall snapshot of my spending from the Summary spreadsheet and enter transactions from the Transactions spreadsheet.
Here’s an example: Before I go to the grocery store, I open the Google Sheets app and look at the Summary tab to see how much money I have left to spend. After completing my purchase, I immediately record the transaction before I leave the store. All I do is flip over to the Transactions tab and enter the date, amount, description and category.
Checking in with my budget before every purchase has saved me a lot of money. If I realize that I don’t have enough budgeted for something I want to buy, I either skip the purchase or move money from another budget category to cover it.
Let’s say that I have $200 budgeted for groceries and $200 for entertainment. If I’m at risk of going over my budget for groceries, I could pull $50 from the entertainment category. I would then go to the Summary tab and adjust the planned spending to reflect the new budget: $250 for groceries and $150 for entertainment. I’m not changing the overall total planned spending for the month, just the categories.
Another great thing about the Google Sheets budget template is that you can share it. If you maintain a budget with a partner, you can both make changes to the budget from a computer, tablet or smartphone.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting, but the Google Sheets budget template is a simple and powerful tool to take control of your money — and it’s 100% free.
I was thinking about using this space to review the pros and cons of the Google Sheets budget template, but I can’t think of any major cons. Here are the reasons why I really like it:
- Google Sheets is free
- Monthly Budget template can be customized
- Track expenses on the go with the app
- Share your spreadsheet with a partner
- No advertisements or bank information to enter
Do you use Google Sheets to manage your budget? Leave a comment below and let me know how it works for you!