Move over budgeting apps. Tech natives who have used Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets know firsthand that spreadsheets both offer a powerful platform for calculations, task management and business cash flow analysis. But did you know that the spreadsheets are also great for personal and household budget management as well?
Though these spreadsheet programs are great on their own, savvy savers can enhance their sheets with affordable budgeting templates that help make keeping track of your finances less complicated than doing things the old-fashioned way.
Budgeting with spreadsheets doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Use one of Benzinga’s favorite free or low-cost budget spreadsheets to organize your finances, be more mindful of your spending and save more money this year.
Quick Look: The Best Budget Spreadsheets
- Vertex42 Spreadsheets – Free
- Mint Lifestyle Spreadsheet Templates – Free
- It’s Your Money! Free Editions – Free
- Google Sheets Budget Template Gallery – Free
- PearBudget – Free trial
- It’s Your Money Deluxe Envelopes Excel System – $11.95
- You Need a Budget (YNAB) – Free trial
What to Look for in a Budget Spreadsheet
While every budget spreadsheet has a particular type of user in mind, the best budget spreadsheets all share a few common characteristics. Some of the things you should look for when deciding on a budget spreadsheet include:
A Layout that Fits Your Needs
Everyone’s budget looks a little bit different. If you’re a single young woman who’s budgeting only for yourself, you might want a simple budget spreadsheet that isn’t bogged down with categories that you won’t use and don’t need.
On the other hand, if you’re a business owner with childcare expenses, you want a budget spreadsheet that’s a little more comprehensive. Consider your individual needs before you devote storage space or money to a spreadsheet option.
An Affordable Price Tag
One of the best ways to save money is to track your expenses and stay mindful of where you’re spending. If you’re trying to get rid of student loans or pay off credit card debt, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to spend too much on tools that help you budget.
Luckily, there are plenty of free budget spreadsheet options that rival the functionality of their pay-to-play peers. If one of your goals is to find more money in your budget to put toward debt, choose a free spreadsheet option instead of adding another monthly bill to your budget.
Compatibility with Your Platform of Choice
Spreadsheets (especially free spreadsheet options) often have single-platform compatibility, which means that if they’re designed to work with Microsoft Excel, you can’t use them on Google Sheets and vice versa.
Test out a few spreadsheet software options to decide which system is easiest for you to use, then search for spreadsheet choices that work with your favorite platform.
The Best Free Budget Spreadsheets
If you’re managing money on a budget, these spreadsheets can get the job done without a monthly fee.
1. Vertex42 Spreadsheets
If you’re new to spreadsheets or spreadsheet applications, one of the best places to start is through Vertex42. Vertex42
The spreadsheet provider offers all options in the form of free downloads which can then be opened with your spreadsheet program. Most options are available for both Microsoft Excel as well as OpenOffice Calc, but a number of selections are also compatible with Google Docs.
What makes Vertex42 stand out is its simplicity of use. Categories for expenses and income are clearly divided and marked, and you’ll have no trouble manually entering your own custom categories as well. Vertex42 also offers a range of spreadsheet choices that can be personalized for your own needs.
From a monthly household budget to a budgeting spreadsheet just to track what you’re spending on Christmas, Hanukkah, and other holiday gifts, to a money manager spreadsheet for kids, Vertex42 has something for everyone. Simple, straightforward, and free if you have standard budgeting needs, you’ll find everything you could want from a budgeting spreadsheet through Vertex42’s download list.
2. Mint Lifestyle Spreadsheet Templates
Most people already know that Intuit’s Mint is one of the most popular budgeting apps currently available on the market. But did you know that the company also offers a series of free spreadsheets for your laptop or desktop as well? Mint’s Lifestyle budgeting sheets are available as a free download online, and you don’t even need to have an account open with Mint to take advantage of their offerings.
As the name suggests, Mint’s Lifestyle budgeting sheets are a series of individual budget templates that each cater to the unique needs of different lifestyles. For example, they have different spreadsheets for college students, parents, high school students and more. They also offer a general “standard” household budget spreadsheet that can be customized with your individual needs.
Mint’s spreadsheets are very basic — they don’t include any unique calculations beyond adding up your total expenses and income streams. However, if you’re new to budgeting and you want a straightforward (and most importantly, free) spreadsheet template that’s compatible with Microsoft Excel, Mint’s demographic-specific sheets can offer a simple solution so it’s easy to get started on the path to better-managed cash flow.
3. It’s Your Money! Free Editions
It’s Your Money offers a series of both free and low-cost spreadsheets that are great for both household and business cash management. It’s Your Money currently offers ten different free budgeting spreadsheets, many of which are aimed at individuals looking to manage their household budget.
If you’re following a specific debt-management plan (like Dave Ramsey’s famous debt snowball method), chances are that It’s Your Money offers a complementing spreadsheet that’s specifically tooled to follow the “rules” of the plan. However, what really sets the spreadsheet site apart from the rest is its free business management sheets.
It’s Your Money is one of the only spreadsheet providers that offers small business tools alongside individual budgeting options. Through the site, you can download an easy invoicing calculation tool that has an easily editable formula to switch up to fit your business needs and an accounts receivable and payable spreadsheet to manage cash flow and client payments.
There’s even a simple Etsy seller’s budgeting template. With a number of unique offerings and tools for business owners, It’s Your Money is an excellent choice if you’re looking for an option that’s a little more in-depth but still available for free online. All spreadsheets from It’s Your Money are currently available with Microsoft Excel only.
4. Google Sheets Free Budget Template Gallery
Google Sheets is a cloud-based file storage system that allows users to create, upload, and share spreadsheets. When you create a Gmail account, you’re automatically given 15 MBs of storage for free. Though you can upgrade to a premium account for more storage space, this is more than enough for most users.
Google Sheets offers a free series of budgeting templates. From travel planning spreadsheets to assignment grading sheets for teachers, there are tons of unique and functional tools available online through Google Sheets.
Monthly budgeting sheets make great use of Google’s formulas and calculation tools and automatically calculate percent changes and spending goals without the need to know or understand how to program these commands into the program. You can also easily share your Google Sheets with other members of your family who have Gmail accounts, which makes it simple to turn budgeting into a team effort with a spouse or child.
Google Sheets budget offerings are simple but effective, and they’re a great option for someone who doesn’t already have Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet application installed on desktop or laptop.
The Best Low-Cost Budget Spreadsheets
Looking for a little more functionality than your standard free sheets? These spreadsheets offer cool tools with affordable pricing.
PearBudget is a comprehensive household finance management spreadsheet that uses an online or mobile budgeting platform without downloading any files. PearBudget is easier to use than Quicken or Microsoft Money but offers a large suite of tools that anyone can use and manage.
The company offers a mobile app that makes it easy to upload and input expenses on-the-go, and the app syncs with your online sheets for a streamlined experience. PearBudget even allows you to enter and manage multiple currency types, which is a unique feature that’s great for business owners who accept payments in multiple currencies or men and women with family members abroad who they send money to.
PearBudget is free for 30 days and costs about $5 a month after the trial period has ended. Though the company is temporarily not accepting new signups, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to be the first one to know when signups open again.
2. It’s Your Money! Deluxe Envelopes Excel System
In addition to its free offerings, It’s Your Money also offers a few premium spreadsheets and the most impressive is by far the Deluxe Envelope Excel system.
The envelopes system of budgeting is a simple concept that’s much older than the idea of spreadsheet applications. At the beginning of the month, savers divide their money between a series of envelopes, each with a defined purpose. For example, you might have an envelope for rent, an envelope for emergency expenses, an envelope for entertainment, an envelope for groceries, etc. Throughout the month, you can take money out of the envelope as expenses pop up — but once the envelope is empty, you can’t take money from another envelope. This system discourages impulse purchases and encourages you to think about where your money is going ahead of time.
The Deluxe Envelope Excel system basically takes this process and digitizes it. Using Excel, you can create your “envelopes” and assign money to them at the beginning of the month. As you record deductions, the spreadsheet will automatically deduct money from your envelope and show you how much money you have left at a quick glance. The system even automatically generates a “spending report” so you can compare your spending on a month-by-month basis.
The Deluxe Envelope Excel system costs $11.95 for a one-time download, meaning you don’t need to worry about paying per month.
3. You Need A Budget (YNAB)
You Need A Budget (YNAB) is an online budgeting tool that syncs with your banking data and makes it easy to understand how much you’re spending across multiple accounts.
YNAB offers a mobile app that allows you to enter cash purchases on the go, and the app continuously syncs with your online spreadsheet so you can accurately measure your spending no matter which platform you’re using. You can also easily adjust spending categories and move budget allocations from one category to another for a truly individual solution to overspending.
YNAB is free to use for 34 days. After your trial period has ended, it costs $6.99 a month or $83.99 a year. While this is a little more expensive than other budgeting spreadsheets, you might find YNAB’s impressive suite of tools to be worth the price.
Take Control of Your Spending
No matter which budgeting spreadsheet you decide is best for you, the number one way to limit your spending is to know exactly how much money you have coming in and where you’re spending the most. Take an afternoon to sit down with your budget and calculate how much you’d like to save each month.
Then, use your spreadsheet of choice to track your spending and move more confidently toward your goals. Whether you’re looking to build a nest egg, pay down your student loans, or just to be more mindful of your spending, it’s never a bad time to build a better budget.
Want to learn more? Check out Benzinga’s guides to the best wedding budget spreadsheets, the best budget apps for couples and how to pay off credit card debt.