I used to be a spreadsheet hater. As fellow personal finance bloggers talked about their favorite sheet setups or the latest versions of Excel, I turned the other way with disgust.
This year though, I really took to spreadsheets. Having closed out my Mvelopes account, I was looking for new ways to organize my financial information.
I created a bunch of spreadsheets with different functions, and I’ve discovered that there are some great benefits to “the sheet.” Here are a few of my favorites:
1. One of the Simplest Tools Around
There are very few things that beat a spreadsheet in the simplicity department. It’s tough to do when you’re built on the basis of an empty grid of boxes.
Spreadsheets have all the hallmarks of a simple system—a laser focus on your data, few essential features, simple formatting, and universal portability from system to system.
What spreadsheets may lack in built-in functionality, they make up in…the lack of built-in functionality. Sometimes simpler really is better.
The benefits, of course, are a cleaner and faster understanding of your financial picture than you could get anywhere else.
2. Customize Your Heart Out
There really are many ways to skin a cat. You may also have heard that you should make your money system your own if you want to be successful.
Spreadsheets make that not only easy, but default. It’s tough to do anything on a sheet without actually customizing it.
Customization means you can tailor exactly how you enter and display your data, controlling both the inputs and outputs. That means easier and more intuitive data entry based on your own account and account-ing system, and better and more accurate insights on trends and “big-picture” items that you want to see.
One of the primary reason I gave spreadsheets a try was the low cost of entry—zero. In a world increasingly filled with complicated, high-cost software options for tracking your finances, a spreadsheet is refreshingly accessible as the “universal” money manager.
One of the other benefits of the open-source nature of spreadsheets is the wide availability of templates for various money tasks, most created by people just like you, who are “in the trenches” and use them every day!
Spreadsheets…Cool People Use Them
Really, I thought they were just for math nerds (ironically, I think I’m in the group), but spreadsheets are really easy to grasp with a little practice.
Here are a few collections put together by fellow bloggers of useful templates for Excel and other spreadsheet programs:
- by Budgets are Sexy
- by Google Docs (via Get Rich Slowly)
- by Green Panda Treehouse
- by Christian PF
- by Money Under 30 (scroll down a bit)
Teaser: I’ll be releasing another spreadsheet template very soon, this one specifically developed for envelope budgeting. Stay tuned!
Today’s photo by Arbron