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How do you spreadsheet?

At one time, Microsoft Excel was the only real contender for your spreadsheets. But now Google has created its own version of Excel called Google Sheets. Although their overall functionality and purpose are pretty identical, each offers slightly different usability and features.

If you’re deciding which spreadsheet to use at your job, the better option will depend on your job functionality. I’m going to focus on which spreadsheet is better to track personal expenses and to keep your budget. We’ll compare the two through that lens in five key areas:

Accessibility

With Microsoft Excel, you save files on your local drive and then access them from that computer. With Google Sheets, you save files on your Google Drive which you can access from any computer. Work or home — doesn’t matter. You can also access the files on your smartphone by downloading the Google Sheets App. This allows you to pull up your spreadsheet wherever you are to check your budget, track your bills, or enter a transaction. From the store. The gas station. Even the toilet.

Many things are bought online today, but many purchases are also made offline. Having access to your personal finance spreadsheet offers a lot of value as a huge part of staying on budget is awareness. Better accessibility leads to better awareness.

Winner: Google Sheets

Collaboration

If you’re collaborating with multiple people in Excel, only one person can be in the spreadsheet editing at any given time. Other people must access the file as a read-only or different versions of the file must be created. Google Sheets allows multiple users to edit simultaneously in the same document. Or even the same user. You can be in a spreadsheet on your computer and phone at the same time.

For work purposes, collaboration may offer greater value, but for personal finances it can still offer value if you and your spouse share fiscal responsibilities. You may both want to be able to enter purchases. Or even if one person enters all the finances, the other may want to be able to view it to monitor the budget status.

Winner: Google Sheets

Speed

Google Sheets requires internet access to work while Excel does not. When accessing Google Sheets files from a smartphone, it typically takes a little bit longer to load and update than it would on a computer. If your files are large and involve lots of formulas, it may take a second or two for the Google Sheets file to update. For an Excel file of comparable size, it would usually update almost instantaneously.

Winner: Microsoft Excel

Features

Google Sheets is intentionally a stripped-down version of Excel. You can tell just by looking at the menu bars — Excel has a lot more options. Charting options, analytical tools, and add-ons such as Solver are missing in Google Sheets. But unless you are trying to run macros on your spreadsheets, Google Sheets still has all the functionality you need for personal finances.

One feature Google Sheets has that Excel does not is integration with Google Finance so that you can pull current stock prices using the GOOGLEFINANCE function. This gives you the capability to track your stock portfolio in your spreadsheet and have it automatically update.

Winner: Microsoft Excel

Cost

Microsoft does actually have its own version of Google Drive called OneDrive. With OneDrive you can create web-powered Excel spreadsheets to access on any device and share with others. The difference is that OneDrive is part of Office 365, which requires a monthly or yearly subscription. On the other hand, Google Sheets is completely free. All you need is a Google Account (if you have a gmail address, you have it).

Winner: Google Sheets

google sheets vs microsoft excel

Bottom Line

The easy accessibility of Google Sheets, especially at no cost, puts it clearly ahead of Microsoft Excel in my opinion for the purposes of personal finances. The marginal benefits of the slightly increased speed and more extensive features of Excel are almost negligible for tracking expenses and keeping a budget. If you are creating complex financial models, that would be a different story. The value of collaboration depends on your own personal situation as to whether or not it’s relevant.

In the past year, I converted all my personal finance spreadsheets from Excel to Google Sheets. My only regret is not doing it sooner. It has made tracking and monitoring significantly easier. If you currently use Excel for your finances, consider making the switch to Google Sheets.

Big Winner: Google Sheets

Google Sheets Better


3 thoughts on “Microsoft Excel vs Google Sheets: Which is Better?

  1. To be honest, there are a lot of easy formulas in Gsheets that Excel just cant do. I managed to build something in sheets that I was unable to recreate in Excel (An automated boolean string builder based on the choices you made in variable dropdown lists). And though the ribbon in sheets may be less extensive there are a bunch of formulas you can find online to be used. The only thing sheets lacks is speed, the rest is equal or even superior.

  2. And to add to that. It is ridiculous how complex it is to create a dropdown list in Excel, based on a data validation but without duplicates. In Sheets you are done with one simple formula (=unique). In Excel you need to create tables and pivot tables and multiformulas and more lists just to get that one dropdown menu.

    1. Yes there are many things that Google Sheets makes easier. One thing I love is the ability to grab and move rows/columns. On the other hand, Excel offers lots of tools that aren’t available in Sheets. I use both extensively and it really depends on which is better suited for the task. Thanks for reading!

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