How a Spreadsheet Changed My Life

by J. Money -

laptop glasses

[Hey guys! Out at the beach this week, but as promised I’ve got a handful of killer guest articles for you starting with this one – on how a reader completely changed his finances around by building out an impressive spreadsheet! He drops screenshots of it, as well as descriptions of what each of the twelve tabs do (yes, 12!!) and it’s all pretty amazing stuff. If you get turned on by numbers, you may want to close the door right now as it’s about to get HOT up in here! Haha… Enjoy!]

I would like to explore the reasons why I focus on my financial world, and what I’ve learned along the way.

For me, it began when I wanted to spend a substantial amount of money every month for 3 years and I did not know if I could float it.

I graduated as an engineer in 2007, and after 2 years of designing commercial HVAC systems I decided I wanted to shift career paths and move into business by getting an MBA at a local university. It would cost $400/mo for around 3 years. I did not track my expenses at the time, and I had no real clue if I had room in my budget for it or not. I was desperate for information so I could better manage my money.

During my MBA program, the most important thing I learned was that you can only manage things which you measure. If you do not measure, there is no feedback to improve upon.

I researched online and ended up at Crown Financial which got me recording every expense for a month to decide whether I could cut enough out of my budget to add the MBA program in.

I was making about $50,000 at the time. I was single, visiting restaurants with friends frequently, and spent a good deal of my money on pocket knives and frivolous things that did not improve my life, nor make me happy. I wanted to start the MBA program as soon as possible and I could not do these things immediately because I was not managing my money well. This made me upset, and I became determined to become a better money manager.

The reason I focus on my finances is because I want to spend my money on things I value, and to do that I need to manage the money and know where it’s going. I don’t want to spend $0 dollars each month, but I want every dollar spent to go towards things I enjoy. That was the ground breaking epiphany that hit me years after I started getting serious about my financial state.

After a month of recording every expense, I came up with a spreadsheet that let me track things easier than writing them down on graph paper. I started to actually enjoy inputting my receipts into the excel spreadsheet and balancing it with what my bank accounts said. All in an attempt to be a good steward of my wealth and use it in better ways.

After I determined I could do the MBA program, it became even more important for me to continually track my income and expenses since my fluff income was eliminated.

This spreadsheet slowly evolved over the last 6 years. At first it was just a budget template. Now it is a massive workbook that has all of my critical updated information, and is extremely useful to me when making financial decisions.

I started out just wanting to make decisions wisely. Now I open my dashboard and strive to increase my net worth monthly, and make decisions that help it increase faster, instead of only making decisions based on whether I can fit things into my budget or not.

I was single when this started, and now I am financially responsible for 4 young children and a homemaker wife. Knowing where our money is going is security for us. We can anticipate our future and plan accordingly. Our plan is never exactly correct, but having a plan is important and measuring our spending has been critical to actually owning our decisions.

My spreadsheet has 12 major tabs that are used regularly.

Here is a brief breakdown of each, accompanied with a screenshot to see how it looks in action.

Tab #1: Dashboard

This sheet lets me look at my net worth, my account values, and my current budget state. Below the chart is a net worth tracking area I update monthly after I pay my mortgage.

budget spreadsheet dashboard

spreadsheet net worth graph

Tab #2: Checkbook

I input every expense into this sheet and reconcile it with my online accounts daily around lunch time. It gets more difficult to reconcile the longer I wait. I track our budget categories weekly, and close out the week on Thursday night when my wife and I discuss the week ahead.

spreadsheet checkbook

Tab #3: Budget

Figuring out how to keep track of monthly and annual payments this way has been huge for helping me budget accurately. You can see items 4 and 5 are monthly and annual Bigs (they are detailed below)

spreadsheet budget section

spreadsheet annual bigs

Tab #4: Forecast

My spreadsheet knows all of my monthly, annual, and weekly expenses, and will forecast as long into the future as I desire. I quit my mortgage bank escrowing my taxes and insurance monthly, and now I pay my taxes / insurance myself. Doing this allows me to make pinpoint decisions like when we’ll be ready to renovate our kitchen, or how buying a vehicle will impact our resource availability later when we need to pay our home tax and insurance.

spreadsheet financial forecastTab #5: Utility

I have to get my utility budget number from somewhere, so I use the last 12 months average. It’s nice having data so I can compare how installing new furnaces / windows will impact my utility bill, and to also make intelligent decisions regarding return on investment when upgrading appliances as well. I usually note on this sheet when certain things happen each year just to keep track of things.

spreadsheet utility tab

Tab #6: House

This is really just an amortization spreadsheet. Knowing how to do this helped me intelligently compare refinancing options, and showed me how fast changing my mortgage to a 10 year increases our net worth monthly – therefore helping me stomach the pain of eliminating some of my income fluff for good purpose. After seeing the numbers it was impossible to resist. I could talk about this for great lengths, but wouldn’t recommend it without some serious thought. It has added frustration to my life but right now I’m glad we did it.

spreadsheet house tab

Tab #7: Gas

Every time I fill up one of our vehicles, I reset the mileage tracker and record the trip miles and overall miles on the receipts to input here later for posterity. It also tells me when to change my oil.

spreadsheet gas tab

Tab #8: Debt

Our debt has since been cleared, but I assure you there were several accounts here a few years ago while we were steadily hitting them with the snowball method. Here is a snapshot of the last debt we paid off in late November so you can see what the tab looks like:

spreadsheet debt tab

Tab #9: Bigs

I record the expenses on all of our big items (home, pool, van, lawn work, hobby expenses, veterinarian, health and vacations). It’s nice to be able to look back and see things like this. And when you’re selling a vehicle, having this record can justify a higher price.

spreadsheet bigs tab

Tab #10: Retire

This spreadsheet lets me forecast when I’ll be able to retire based on my current actions. I’m aiming for 55 now. The buttons on the right adjust my salary during retirement to keep a minimum balance of 0 by the time I’m 80, 90, and 99. I think planning for a 4% distribution is probably a wiser way to go…

spreadsheet retire tab

spreadsheet retire tab 2

spreadsheet retire graph

Tab #11: Invest

This is just an automatically updated sheet that keeps track of my investments and shoots it back to my dashboard report and retirement calculator. I update the shares weekly by hitting the button to add my weekly investments to the total.

spreadsheet investments tab

Tab #12: College

This lets me calculate how much I need to save for my children’s college. I can hit the button at the top and it will automatically calculate my save/month to make the minimum end balance 0. My current plan involves paying my home off, and then funneling that additional capital over to college savings.

spreadsheet college tab

The Current Situation:

At the end of 2011 I completed my MBA and passed my Professional Engineering exam. I was married in January of that same year, and we had our honeymoon surprise of twin girls shortly thereafter. I was laid off in April of 2012 and ended up in another engineering job I truly enjoy and love.

I used some of the excel skills I learned at my old job, and from constantly tweaking my financial spreadsheet, to solve a really big problem at my new job that quickly caused my salary to increase. I was promoted to senior engineer shortly later and recently accepted another promotion shifting from engineering to management.

We had another child (boy in June, 2013) and our 4th child was just born last month. I’m currently making substantially more than what I was when I was laid off from my old job, and recently was given a company car and enrolled in a golden handcuff program.

Having my MBA turned out to be a key part of why I was promoted to manager from engineering. And tracking my expenses helped get me here.

UPDATE: Within hours this post went viral on Business Insider (over 1.5 million views!!), landed on the home page of Yahoo! Finance, and then went on to hit the top of Reddit getting over 900 comments! Isn’t that incredible?? I knew this was a great post but man… we sure do love our #’s, haha… Thanks again for taking the time, Kyle!

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: I asked our friend here if he could share the template with us in case anyone wants to try it out, but he wasn’t 100% comfortable with it as there was too much sensitive info to be scrubbed off. He did, however, send over a revised template that you can use if you want to give that one a shot! You can download it here :) Though he recommends building one from scratch so you can customize it to your liking. (I do too, however, it can also help starting with a base to work off… That’s how I ended up with my financial snapshot/budget I use, which you can find here, as well as a handful of others since I know you’re now completely turned on, haha… Good luck!]

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Jay loves talking about money, experimenting, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his two beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!

{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Green Swan July 11, 2016 at 5:31 am

Impressive spreadsheet! I love working in excel and have a pretty big file going at this point. I love being able to add a tab and project or show something new. Thanks for sharing your file!

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2 Fiscally Free July 20, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Tracking your finances is a great thing to do, but doing everything manually in Excel is not the most efficient strategy.
I use Quicken and have recently tried Personal Capital to do the actual tracking, but I did create a very simple spreadsheet to estimate when I can retire. You can check that out here: http://www.fiscallyfree.com/2016/05/retirement-planning-step-2-calculate.html

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3 Josh July 11, 2016 at 5:34 am

Wooooooow! This is YNAB on steroids! Keep up on the good work. And I’m impressed that you have a regression line for your net worth. ;-)

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4 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 8:05 am

I’m an engineer… you should see my work spreadsheets.

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5 NGNEER July 11, 2016 at 10:31 pm

As a fellow engineer, I respect this level of detail.

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6 Josh July 13, 2016 at 7:17 am

I’m daunted by this spreadsheet. I think your work spreadsheet(s) would scare me. :p

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7 Chris @ Flipping a Dollar July 11, 2016 at 5:44 am

We use YNAB for budgeting, and I use a spreadsheet for retirement/mortgage payoff planning. I find that a spreadsheet was too much work to maintain, and YNAB’s web-based sync feature has helped a lot. It’s terrible for net worth calculations though. If you’ve budgeted money to something, then you shouldn’t count it in your NW!

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8 Brian @DebtDiscipline July 11, 2016 at 6:17 am

Impressive excel skills! I love crunching our number in a spreadsheet. I find doing the work myself helps keep me accountable, instead of having it totally automated.

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9 Roy Largo @ Band of Savers July 11, 2016 at 7:05 am

Oh how I love excel. I have two large spreadsheets that I maintain my financials in on a daily basis, one on my work computer to help keep mw focused at work and one at home where I’ve tracked every expense and income we’ve had since mid 2010. I agree that tracking your finances is the best thing someone can do to help their situation and that it needs to be done in a way that they have created so that they fully understand everything that is going on.

Thanks.

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10 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Your turn to share yours? :)

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11 Our Next Life July 11, 2016 at 7:08 am

Holy moly that’s a thorough set of spreadsheets! We definitely don’t track all of that same stuff, but do still have an inordinate amount of love for our multi-tab Excel book. Mostly we track overall net worth (plus all the components, of course), our emergency fund needs (bare bones budget), various savings and interest rate projections for our early retirement and regular retirement funds, multiple budget scenarios (low budget, medium, high, plus things like whether we downsize our house or even go full-time RV), spending by major category, and a tab for tracking the personal loan we made. So it’s still plenty thorough, but this reader’s file puts us to shame. Haha. :-)

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12 Thias @It Pays Dividends July 11, 2016 at 7:09 am

Wow – Incredibly impressive stuff! I have been working on my own spreadsheet for a few months now but it isn’t nearly at this level. You have some nice ideas that I may need to add into mine to customize it a bit further.

I’m curious – Have you ever tried using Tiller to bring your transaction information into the spreadsheet? I have been tempted to try it out as it seems like a nice way to have a more manual system but to have your transactions populate automatically.

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13 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 8:09 am

I’ve never heard of Tiller. I’ve come to enjoy reconciling my checkbook spreadsheet with my online bank websites – it only takes a few minutes every few days during lunch. I feel like it gives me a second check on the banks as well – since my spreadsheet is completely independent from theirs and we both agree on the balance / charges. I also like that it forces me to categorize every expense and income – makes it easier to track categories and go back and see something specific I’m curious about. If you want to automate the input of your expenses you might as well use mint or ynab.

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14 Elliot @ Our Growing Wealth July 11, 2016 at 7:18 am

Wow that is impressive! I have to admit, I do love a good personal finance, expense tracking, budget and wealth tracking spreadsheet! Quite happy with mine at the moment, although it definitely pales in comparison to yours when it comes to the sheer quantity of data you have there! Might borrow a couple of your ideas though if you don’t mind. Keep up the good work!

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15 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 8:12 am

I wish I had kept good records of each iteration – the original spreadsheet was really simple and it had dates going down the left of the page, budget categories across the top – and I would put all expenses in the spreadsheet every month. It would go red when I had spent too much on certain categories. I made a macro that would auto cycle a new month and archive the old month. At some point someone recommended clearcheckbook.com to me, I tried it out for a few weeks and loved the check register and forecast feature so I moved to that. It’s been a pretty organic procession.

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16 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:04 pm

I would have loved to seen that progression too! Reminds me of the WayBack machine with blogs – every now and then I’ll go in there and look at mine or other bloggers I read to remember what they all looked like back in the day :)

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17 Matt @ Distilled Dollar July 11, 2016 at 7:23 am

I also use excel (only have 8 tabs at the moment, hah) – but I’ve started to rely more on automated online tools, such as Mint.com.

One question – I can see you are measuring your net worth progress in tab 1, but are you also measuring your savings rate? For me, I track both, but I focus on my savings rate since my net worth will fluctuate based on my investment returns.

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18 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 8:17 am

I don’t measure my savings rate. My goal is to spend less than $400 every week in my main categories of food, eat out, personal, gas, maintenance and healthcare (I ignore things I don’t have any control over like utilities, annual and monthly expenses that are recurring. If we accomplish that the 401k, mortgage and my annual bonus is as much as I could hope for. With this spreadsheet though I’ll usually crunch numbers at the end of the year and look at what my average weekly spending was, then use that to adjust my forecasting to make it more accurate.

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19 Apathy Ends July 11, 2016 at 7:34 am

Impressed that you have the discipline to update the spreadsheet so regularly – totally agree with you on the vehicle part, no one will have to guess if you maintained the car or not!

Most of the automated tools I have tried don’t categorize purchases accurately enough right now – you definitely solve that problem – I just know I wouldn’t stick to this method for the long haul

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20 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 8:20 am

I recently sold my wife’s 2009 civic and the couple that ended up buying it had a car dealer friend run a car history check on the car and noticed it hadn’t had the oil changed since we had gotten married (apparently when you take a car to valvoline or anywhere like that they’ll report it on the records). I smiled and gave him a print out of the maintenance records and he was blown away and came back with money that night.

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21 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:06 pm

BEAUTIFUL!!

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22 Aaron @IncomeHoncho July 11, 2016 at 7:40 am

That is one solid spreadsheet! I need to look into this, it’s so detailed! I especially like Prov 3 in your budget ;)

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23 Lindsay @ The Notorious D.E.B.T. July 11, 2016 at 7:44 am

Hot damn! This is the Excel spreadsheet to end all Excel spreadsheets. I love a good spreadsheet, but strangely enough I’ve never made one like this for my finances. I usually just use YNAB (that’s why I love it – it’s more like a spreadsheet). Thanks for the inspiration!

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24 [email protected] Smarter Decisions July 11, 2016 at 8:07 am

Wow – we have never done any of that! And I don’t know how to use Excel very well either (thanks Google Spreadsheets). I totally agree about having data to improve upon so this is just awesome. I’m not sure I could ever do this but I choosing a few key categories to track would have been incredibly helpful to advance us to FI. Thanks for sharing your work – impressive!

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25 ZJ Thorne July 11, 2016 at 8:11 am

This is beautiful! I love that everything is so easily available with all information you need for any decision.

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26 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 8:23 am

I’d like to do another article at some point about some major decisions I’ve made over the last few years and how we ended up making the decisions using data from the spreadsheet – I’m puzzled how other people do it, it seems like you’d have to wing it if you didn’t have a little data to look back on. The biggest ones that this helped with that come to mind are paying 380/month to let our twins go to preschool, timing a major kitchen / house renovation (roughly $10,000), swapping from a 30yr mortgage to a 15yr and finally to a 10yr, and of course making sure whatever we do we maintain a minimum safety fund throughout the year.

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27 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:08 pm

That’s exactly what many of us do – wing it, haha… Myself included at times, though I’m ashamed to admit it ;) Looks like we’ll have to have you back on later!

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28 Jen July 11, 2016 at 8:49 am

Wow!Amazing! I love how you keep track of maintenance on the big items I think im going to copy that!

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29 Brian Lund July 11, 2016 at 9:04 am

Wow, very helpful to see what he’s done here. A big take away I got from this post is “if it can be tracked, it can be improved upon”. He obviously understands if he wants to improve something, he needs to start tracking it. Which it looks like is exactly what he’s done. Very cool! It’s awesome to be surrounded by people who have common goals. Thanks for the post J. Money.

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30 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 9:34 am

I paid close to $20,000 bucks to get that lesson. That’s the most useful thing I learned getting my MBA.

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31 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:12 pm

If you started reading personal finance blogs earlier you would have learned it for free :) Though sadly it wouldn’t have been a good replacement for the moving up the corporate ladder part. (Maybe we need a blog reading certification or something?)

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32 Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor July 11, 2016 at 9:05 am

Thanks for sharing the ins and outs of your spreadsheet. That is definitely how we track and stay motivated for financial goals! I had to look up how many tabs we have…25! Although some are out-dated and not used frequently. We probably use about a dozen regularly, too.

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33 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 9:32 am

I hide them if I don’t use them often, delete them when they’re no longer useful – I currently have 18 active and 9 hidden. It’s a bit like evernote for finances, I just put everything in here and if I ever need anything I can find it pretty easily.

Active: Dashboard, Checklist, Lists (just for the categories / stores drop down menus), weekly (keeps track of how much over / under $400 for each week we spent), budget, forecast, utility, house, gas, med bills, bigs, retire, college, invest, paycheck, renovation budget, DCP (deferred comp plan).

Hidden: Wishlist, Cashflow 2015 (analysis of 2015 financial data), 1st mortgage, 2nd mortgage, health, IRS house credit, home repair contacts, 2014 analysis, changelog

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34 FinanceSuperhero July 11, 2016 at 9:19 am

Very impressive spreadsheets! I maintain one of my own for retirement projections, but it is nowhere near as detailed.

I’ve used Gazelle Budget and Personal Capital in tandem to keep an eye on the big picture. However, more data couldn’t hurt.

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35 Stefan @Mllnnlbudget July 11, 2016 at 9:42 am

Woahhh these are some of the most detailed personal finance spreadsheets I have seen. I have a simple budget and use Personal Capital combined with Mint to track everything else. This may be something I should look into as I will be using Excel everyday once I begin working.

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36 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 10:06 am

I’ve used skills i’ve learned with the financial spreadsheets in my job pretty often – I enjoy using excel to do things nobody would think is possible, practice is the only way to get better.

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37 Fervent Finance July 11, 2016 at 9:54 am

Tracking is everything. Makes you so much more conscious of your spending and money in general. Just by tracking my expenses have gone down and net worth up :)

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38 Joe July 11, 2016 at 10:40 am

Oh wow, that’s an impressive spreadsheet. I’ve been tracking our finance since 2009 and my spreadsheet is a lot simpler. Nice job and congratulation with the new baby.
I love updating my financial spreadsheet too. It tells me how we’re doing and remind me how I spent our money. Automatic is nice, but you just forget what you spent your money on.

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39 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Yup! Same here… I go back and forth from watching closely to being more lax, and anytime I’m in the latter phase I almost always spend more than intended… I don’t mind the trade off as long as it’s just a *little* more, but when it starts becoming a LOT I always know it’s time to sit down and get back to the basics. I also want to try using *only cash* for a month too and see how that affects your money/mindset! I’ve heard it does wonders!

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40 Kyle July 21, 2016 at 5:04 pm

After things got more relaxed with our budget I figured I’d stop tracking it for a month or so – I just wanted to see if it would change anything. After a couple weeks I really kinda missed doing it so I ended up back filling my data and kept it up since. After I had a year and a half of data I just wanted to continue… guess it’s just a habit now. I usually update it when I’m bored at work and need a few minutes of downtime. Everyone just thinks it’s work anyways….

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41 Amanda @centsiblyrich July 11, 2016 at 10:56 am

Wow! Incredible. I thought I was doing good with my two spreadsheets (one for net worth, one for tracking monthly expenses), but this makes mine look wimpy! Great work! Maybe someday I’ll get there!

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42 Jon July 11, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Wow, that is a serious spreadsheet! I love your analytical approach and glad to hear how it has been so helpful to you – as a former engineer, I really love a good spreadsheet!

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43 Dani July 11, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Yay for the spreadsheet! I was REALLY looking forward to the utilities tab, tho. I wanted to see how the formula is written to show that mean/average line on the graphs LOL! Good thing Google is my verybestfriend, so I can do some nerdy research.

Honestly, a spreadsheet never worked for me–and you can just forget it ever working for hubby AND me, but YNAB tracks my spending, and I just started using Personal Capital to track our net worth (yes, I used an affiliate link!) instead of a spreadsheet that had to be manually updated. I work with some engineers, tho, and I can totally see how it would work for an engineer! YNAB serves as my dashboard (I manually adjust the off-budget accounts based on the Personal Capital figures), my budget tab, my checkbook register, the categories, etc. I like the idea of a spreadsheet to track The Bigs–I have a page in my bullet journal, but I like having a printable page that could be shown to a prospective buyer down the road.

We’re debt-free, but I used to have the debt snowball in a spreadsheet; now I only have to keep track of the mortgage, and we’re gonna be whacking at THAT thing with a pickax every chance we get! I love your transparency about how to track how long the money is going to last… I don’t have that in spreadsheets anywhere, but I have seen it when I use calculators to estimate how much we’re going to need before we reach FI, using a 4% distribution strategy.

My husband thinks I’m an expert at Excel (I use it a ton, but at more the advanced intermediate level, both at work and at home), but your mad skillz are wowing me!

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44 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 4:05 pm

you can just right click the line and add a trendline to get that average line down the middle, thanks for the comment!

I think 4% is a better way to go for retirement, I was just having fun with goal seek and I’m in my early 30’s – so I know It’s a far way off for my wife and I.

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45 Stephen July 11, 2016 at 2:54 pm

This is awesome! Thanks for sharing and letting us get a look at it. I noticed in one of the comments that you mentioned clearcheckbook.com. Are there any other tools or sites you used or reference for your spreadsheets?

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46 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 4:11 pm

When I was starting to get into this ynab didn’t exist. I think the best thing available was yodlee moneycenter (which I got pretty excited about for a long time). I used mint for a little while and I tried out quicken too. With everything I just had the urge to tweak it and customize and nothing really lets me do that like excel. In my old job I worked with excel a lot – processing temperature data logger reports and other pretty mundane stuff, so in my spare time when I wasn’t busy I would play with my budget spreadsheet – adding features over time. It really hasn’t changed much in the last 4 years, but prior to that it was changing pretty often. I think I’m pretty content with it as it is – and I don’t have nearly as much time now to tweak it as I used to. Most of the latest changes were directly tied to making a system that worked for my wife and I – we tried a bunch of different things and finally found something that worked for both of us pretty well. Trying to figure that out – a coworker told me about clearcheckbook and said he and his wife had abandoned their spreadsheets for that and they loved it. I tried it out and really liked some aspects of it that I eventually had the urge to tweak so I brought them into my spreadsheet.

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47 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:23 pm

I remember Yodlee! I used it for like two months and then went back to my original spreadsheet too :) Though after seeing yours I now have plans on beefing it up and spending more time on it… I’ve missed it.

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48 Kyle July 21, 2016 at 5:01 pm

clearcheckbook.com really gave me inspiration – prior to seeing some of the features he was trying to make work my spreadsheet wasn’t 20% as cool as it is now :) I love thinking of something I want a spreadsheet to do, then getting some coffee – putting the tron soundtrack on and focusing on it for an hour or so while… don’t tell my boss. One of the cooler things it can do I really didn’t highlight much, but I can click the dropdown and select a week and it will automatically filter out that week of data – comes in handy when discussing money weekly with my wife. We usually sort it and look through it pretty quickly to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

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49 Millennial Moola July 11, 2016 at 3:45 pm

Major respect for following the tithing discipline. I worked up to about 3% of income, but I need to actually get serious about generosity. It’s the biggest selfish thing I struggle with is keeping my savings rate high at the expense of funding the church

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50 Kyle July 11, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Having a Godly spouse helps. My wife keeps me in-line and reminds me of what’s important when I forget. Treasure Principles by Randy Alcorn is a really good short read I enjoyed that discussed finances from a Christian viewpoint. We’ve found when the temptation to not give is strongest and you overcome it and give anyway pretty cool things happen that might seem like a coincidence (not to imply that it will happen) – we’ve just had a few experiences when I was really tempted to pause or postpone and we didn’t end up needing as much money as we thought we would for something and after happening so many times just seemed rather too coincidental for me to believe. I tend to think of tithing as God’s prescribed medicine for materialism, just like fasting is for food addiction.

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51 Brad July 12, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Really helpful…I appreciated the biblical perspective!

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52 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:29 pm

This was great to read, Kyle – thx for the book rec! I also struggle with giving, at least cash. The only thing that’s really helped so far is a rule I put in place that says I have to say “yes” anytime anyone asks me for money (for charitable reasons). I still forget here and there, but by and large I stick with it and has helped me give back wayyyyyy more than I normally would have. And gives you micro-amounts of happiness bursts almost weekly vs a one-time thing :)

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53 Tyler DeBroux July 11, 2016 at 4:58 pm

That’s one hell of a spreadsheet! Keep up the good work!

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54 Bruce W July 11, 2016 at 7:44 pm

Big deal. What a revelation. I’ve been tracking expenses daily for over 41 years. and doing it for as many as 34 expense categories. On top of that, for semi-annual and annual expense accruals, i.e. auto insurance, home insurance, etc. I “charge” my monthly budgets for 1/12 of the annual expense amounts, and send those amounts to savings each month, so that when the related bills actually need to be paid, the money is there.

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55 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:57 pm

If you’re looking for a pat on the back, here you go…

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56 Scott @ Couple of Sense July 11, 2016 at 9:37 pm

Very awesome spreadsheet – there are a lot of mirrors to the one I created but you’ve given me some ideas on expansion. I love the concept that you need to track things in order to effectively manage them. I usually end up recording massive amounts of raw data just so I have the ability to develop analysis tools later. But in all honesty, I’d like to take your spreadsheet out for a steak dinner and then promptly enter that receipt into that same spreadsheet.

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57 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Hahaha… Quote of the day right there!

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58 madhusudan July 12, 2016 at 6:21 am

i clicked on page….just scrolled down and down ….i mean who has that much time to read……………………………………………………aah

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59 Pengepugeren July 12, 2016 at 8:00 am

Nice. That’s the kind of detailed numbers geekery that makes me all warm and fluffy inside.

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60 Steven July 12, 2016 at 9:15 am

Under your utilities tab, you should track not just the cost, but how much usage you have. For example, here in New England, oil heat is very common. So tracking you gallons of usage every month/season is useful. For electricity, keeping track of your Kilowatt Hours is also useful. So now if you do make changes to your home/equipment, you can see the effect.

Just a thought.

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61 Kyle July 13, 2016 at 7:28 am

I have in the past, it’s over to the right. I use to work in HVAC industry, so I’m familiar with that stuff and was curious.

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62 James July 12, 2016 at 10:45 am

I have a spreadsheet like this that I’ve spent about 4 years on, but mine is not focused on individual transactions. Instead everything is aggregated monthly. I import my spending category totals from Mint and project those forward. Then I determine my current and projected monthly income with annual income/payroll tax calculations within the spreadsheet including all the deductions and credits that I take. With the tax stuff I can correctly model future 401k and Roth IRA contributions, health insurance premiums, etc.

The net cash I will collect in future months is then run through a set of tabs with a stochastic investment model with capital gains fed back into my income tax model. I generally use median or 95th %ile yields to run the model with. This is projected out for the next 41 years (I’m 26), with inflation adjustments on every metric, so I have a decent confidence interval for what my inflation adjusted net worth and net worth multiplier is at any point in my life.

I’m a big data nerd so it’s just fund to play with, but honestly the best use for this spreadsheet is that I can model any large purchase such as an expensive car or rental property and it’s exact quantitative impact on my projected net worth. I’ve definitely used it to convince myself not to purchase said expensive car.

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63 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Love it!

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64 Dustin Cole July 12, 2016 at 1:41 pm

What is that JIVED column? I can’t seem to figure that out.

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65 Kyle July 13, 2016 at 7:27 am

after I see it post online I put JIVED in there – so I know what’s posted and what hasn’t. Can’t say it’s super helpful but I just left it in. I thought about having it show me what the total is unJived and Jived so I could easily reconcile it with “pending” stuff online but I never ended up doing it and I’m not sure it would be that great anyway.

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66 Keith "Shin" Schindler July 12, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Wow!! Impressive!

I really admire your attention to detail and determination. I’m not quite that person, but I have been using a spreadsheet to keep track on expenses and net worth, and they’ve both helped me dramatically in my finances.

Thanks for sharing with Budgets are Sexy!

Oh, thanks J. Money for putting the word out there on Twitter!

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67 Kim Hanson July 12, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Awesome post! I love all the spread sheets. I really would love taking an excel class because I only know how to utilize a few of its functions. Thanks for the inspiration.

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68 Rose July 13, 2016 at 8:36 am

TMI – TMI – that kind of nitty gritty will never happen in this household:), but I may try to integrate a couple of your spreadsheets into my financial life – love it, but honestly, this is the definition of TMI:)

The epiphany of figuring out how to manage your initial financial requirement – an extra $400 each month is a good starting point. I think that is how many of us start to have a real financial life – the trick is – once you paid off that $400, immediately dedicate it to your next goal. ’cause, you did without it all that time and you were fine – so just keep on truckin’ and tweaking.

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69 Beth July 13, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Wow! This is a sick spreadsheet! If you saw mine you’d laugh your butt off. Haha! But it works for me I guess. I’m totally going to download it and THANKS!

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70 Taylor July 13, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Is there any chance the author would be willing to share some of the formulas behind the retirement calculator? It seems very thorough and well thought out, but I’m having trouble replicating the formulas with the small font in the picture combined with inaccurate formulas on my end.

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71 Michael Carter July 13, 2016 at 4:01 pm

I have a very similar spreadsheet that has over 10 years of data in it now :) Being able to customize the spreadsheet to your preferences is far superior than using things like mint (if you are a nerd like us and enjoy it). I also put in my expenses daily.

One question — where did you get your retirement spreadsheet tab from? It looks like an Office template one similar to their Loan Amortization one. I’m looking to make a similar tab to this in my spreadsheet, and would like to use your Retirement one as a starting point.

Thanks! And Great Work!!

Michael

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72 Peter Blanchette July 13, 2016 at 9:15 pm

Very impressive spreadsheets. However, it seems that this gentleman is expending a lot of effort to get a handle on his spending. Has he ever heard of the internet? You can download the transactions from any credit cards and checking accounts on a monthly basis. Then it is simply a matter of coalescing the data in a spreadsheet by labeling the transactions and sorting once they are grouped. Admittedly, if something is paid for in cash to keep track of those transactions it is necessary to keep the receipts. However, this type of transaction should be minimized anyway. The focus should be in paying for as many transactions as possible via check or credit card so that collecting the data is much easier. The gentleman is clearly not an efficiency engineer.

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73 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Automation doesn’t work for everyone, and don’t forget that some people love manually tracking this stuff as he does. So if this guy’s turned around his whole finances through it why give him a hard time?

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74 Rastko July 13, 2016 at 10:37 pm

Can you share the template with all the tabs? The one you have available has only 3…thanks!

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75 bamfmoney July 14, 2016 at 11:59 am

more detailed than mine. The link above goes to articles that have my various spreadsheets for anyone interested. One thing I also like track is my dividend income over time.

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76 Kacy July 16, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Does anyone else care to share their spreadsheet? I appreciate this, but it seems like a selfish thing to me. Here is my awesome spreadsheet that changed my budget/life..but I am only going to share a fraction of it…

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77 J. Money July 19, 2016 at 2:49 pm

Selfish? He’s spent hours writing this all out and taking screenshots and responding to handfuls of comments here so we can learn from it all, and he got paid exactly $0.00 to do so. Not to mention how blogs are free of charge as well for all the info you get, whether good or bad. Yes, it would be awesome to see the full spreadsheet as I’d like to personally as well, but if it makes him uncomfortable then it makes him uncomfortable.

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78 Stacking Dollars July 20, 2016 at 10:50 am

Holy crap. This is very detailed. I like spreadsheets, but I couldn’t live my days like this. Seems like a lot of worry, but if it works for him, keep doing it.

I may even incorporate some of these for myself. I really only track “after expenses” money. That’s the money “left over” after all my bills are paid, including what I save.

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79 Investment Hunting July 23, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Very impressive. I’m so happy for you that this went viral. Well done.

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80 David @ Thinking Thrifty July 25, 2016 at 5:00 am

That first spreadsheet I made was the thing that turned my whole life around financially. Although I never went into quite this much detail, one day maybe! Ha!

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81 Financial Samurai July 25, 2016 at 10:18 am

So cool you got picked up by BI! How did that happen? Do they just e-mail you and ask to republish with you giving various terms?

I used to love spreadsheets until the invention of fintech. Now I just upload everything and forget about it. Not as fun though!

Sam

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82 J. Money July 25, 2016 at 10:38 am

Haha yeah – fintech making us all lazy :)

I ping BI with articles I think their audience will like and sometimes they run with them and others (most of them) not. Then every now and then they’ll pluck off some too since I’m on their radar (and same with all the articles/blogs we put on Rockstar Finance too fyi – they get picked up every week from one media or another!)

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83 Financial Samurai July 25, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Very smart being proactive! I don’t do jack shizzle…. and need to work on reaching out more. Too wrapped up in writing.

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84 Diane C January 10, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Spreadsheet, smedsheet. What I want to know is where to buy those cool glasses in the lead photo. Anybody recognize them? Thanks!

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85 J. Money January 15, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Haha… I do not, but I will keep my EYES open for them.

(see what I did there?)

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