Blogging over 4 years ago by Liz Adams

A Simple Way to Track Your Personal Finances

Hi, everyone! Liz’s assistant, Carolyn, here. I hope this post finds you well and that you’re doing your best to get by while the state of things in the world seems to get wilder by the hour. We’ve all been affected by COVID-19 in ways both big and small, so please know that I’m sending you lots of virtual love and support! 

But back to the topic at hand: personal finances. I’ll be the first to admit that budgeting is not my strong suit, but I’m lucky to be married to someone who’s not only a former auditor and CPA, but sees every purchase in terms of its future impact. My husband first started building me budgeting spreadsheets while we were still dating (at my request!), and now that we are married, we have a shared spreadsheet that we both monitor and update monthly. 

It turns out that tracking your personal finances is way easier than I originally thought it would be, and seeing everything laid out in a spreadsheet has really helped me to develop a healthier mindset about spending. One month, that might mean looking at my current cash flow and rethinking my online shopping cart. Another month, that might mean tracking our travel expenses and feeling really good about budgeting for the vacation we’ve been wanting to take for a while. 

Personal finance looks different for everyone, and we all have varying financial obligations due to family needs, student loans, rent/mortgage, and other personal preferences, hobbies, or investments. I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t publish this post this month, because I know that money is an especially sensitive topic at the moment when so many people are losing their jobs and facing an uncertain future. 

However, I also realized that any time is a good time to start tracking your personal finances, and I know that you all loved Liz and Dave’s post about how they handle their finances (go read it, if you haven’t yet!). This is what works for my household, and if it helps you out in some way, even better! Let’s get into it. 

A Simple Way to Track Your Personal Finances

Start by opening this Personal Finance template in Google spreadsheets. I’ve set the template to give you “view only” access, but if you want to create a version you can edit, just save a copy to your Google Drive. Now you have your own Personal Finance spreadsheet! 

The Cash Flow tab tracks your Revenue, Essential Expenses, and Discretionary Expenses. You probably have a good idea of what these are already, but I’ll give you a brief description of each below: 

Revenue: what you make each month (income)
Essential expenses: rent, utilities, grocery store, gym membership—things you HAVE to pay each month. These numbers really shouldn’t change much month-to-month. 
Discretionary expenses: variable purchases you make each month, such as travel, personal care, clothing, and eating out. My husband also puts our subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify, etc) in the discretionary category, though if I had a spreadsheet to myself, I might count those as an essential expense. 😉 

At the very end of the tab, you’ll see a tally of your total expenses and total savings, as well as the percentage of your revenue you’ve saved. The amount you aim to save each month is up to you, but, of course, you always want this to be a positive number. The “check” column is just a way to make sure that your savings, discretionary, and essential expenses all add up to 100%.
Note: This template is set up for a two-person, two-income household with four paychecks coming in per month, but you can easily add or delete columns to match your needs. I also included dummy data (not our actual income or expenses) so you can see how it all works—just delete my entries and update each cell with your own numbers. 

And that’s about it! We are not financial advisors by any means and you should not be taking this as professional advice, but I do think it’s always helpful to see how other people handle things. Talking about money and budgeting used to be really intimidating to me, but setting up a simple spreadsheet like this made it a lot less scary. Just like other kinds of wellness, the more you do it, the easier it gets!

Thanks for letting me provide my $0.02 on personal finance. If you have any tips of your own, I’d love to hear them!