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Money: Budget with a spreadsheet

We’ve given you tips on how to budget but we’re not going to leave you to it. James Rhodes, a full time database and spreadsheet administrator has devised a spreadsheet to help you keep track of your finances.

The weekly finances that we all struggle to balance are a doddle to the spreadsheet, and unlike financially savvy friends, relatives and bank managers it won’t pass judgement on you for not wanting to take on an extra part-time job.

Now, before we start I should make clear that using a spreadsheet will not make you any richer. What it will do is stop you from being so completely broke that you have to eat cup-a-soup as a main meal. It should even allow you to start saving a little every week as long as you can stick to the budget it suggests.

Download a copy of the budgeting spreadsheet

The painful bit

There is one initially tough and soul-destroying element to creating a weekly finances spreadsheet and that is going through all your bills and working out what day of the month you have to pay them. Most bills are at a fixed amount and will come out on roughly the same day each month so the good news is that you only have to do this once. Then, do the same with your income. What this allows the spreadsheet to do is to provide you with an actual balance for the week as opposed to the ever-treacherous available balance that the ATM provides. With both sets of figures in hand you are ready to start your spreadsheet.

Photo: spreadsheet


The spreadsheet: incoming

A finance spreadsheet is best laid out in four weekly periods set out over a month, I begin mine in the middle of the month however the actual dates are unimportant as long as all the information is there. As in the illustration, lay out the dates of the weeks at the top and then the source of incoming and outgoing debts along the left hand side. You will notice that on the illustration this begins with, ‘available at week start’. This is to factor available overdrafts and student loans in to your weekly budget (rather than just blowing them as quickly as possible). You will need to check your bank balance and add the first one of these in yourself. However after that the spreadsheet can work it out for you.

Directly underneath ‘available at week start’ is ‘incoming’ and this number is an automatically generated summary of all the forms of income listed below. Those of you who are lucky enough to receive a weekly allowance from your parents should add a field for that too. The formula to create a summary on Microsoft Excel is really easy, on my spreadsheet it looks like this: =sum(c5:c7). The equals sign tells excel that it needs to do a sum, the word ‘sum’ tells it that it is going to do a summary and the figures in parentheses (c5:c7) is the range of fields it is going to tally up.

The spreadsheet: outgoing

The ‘outgoing’ field works in the exact same way as the ‘incoming’. It’s a formula generated summary of all your outgoing expenses. The formula on my spreadsheet is: =sum(c12:c28). Now that you have the figures for your total incoming and outgoing finances you need only minus the outgoing from the incoming. ‘Incoming’ is on field C4 and ‘outgoing’ is on field C10 so the formula is simply: =(c4-c10). Now you have an ‘actual available balance for the week’ so you know how much you have left, after your bills are paid, to spend on food, books and fun.

The spreadsheet: everything else

On my template you will notice a row entitled ‘available to save’. As a student your bank should have automatically offered you an ISA savings account. This is quite a handy thing to have and even putting a tiny amount away can help you out of a tight spot when something unexpected happens. I suggest putting aside 25% of your wages into this account and have generated a formula on the template to deduct that automatically from your weekly wages. The formula just works out the 25% by dividing your wages (which are in field c5) by 100 and then multiplying them by 25. The formula to do that looks like this: =(c5)/100*25. If you wish to save less you need only change the multiplier, for instance to save 5% the formula would be: =(c5)/100*5. Easy.

The row entitled ‘remainder’ simply shows what is left after you have spent and saved for the week. It is calculated by taking ‘available to save‘ which is in field c30 away from ‘actual available balance’ which is in field c29. The formula is simply: =(c29-c30). The remainder is important to have because it’s also next week’s ‘available at week start’.

That is everything you need to know to manage your weekly finances on a spreadsheet, I told you it was easy and, what’s better is that if you download the template all the formulas have been done for you. And I’ve even added functions to let you know how much you are saving a month and how much your overdraft is shrinking.


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