I’m a storyteller.
But not in the usual sense. I tell my stories through data.
In order to tell better stories, it requires better data. My full-time job involves tracking and analyzing data in order to make key decisions for the company. It’s not just about better and more accurate data, but also about better organized data. Poorly organized data tells a poor story, leaving the valuable insights hidden.
For example, if you were to write down all your purchases on sticky notes, how useful would that data be? How easy would it be to see how much you spent in a month? Or how much you spent on groceries in the year? It’s doable, but certainly not efficient.
I’ve previously shown a very easy way to track expenses. I used this method for years. Until it dawned on me — this data was not easy to manipulate. I didn’t know the current balance on any account at any given moment. My net worth still had to be calculated manually. It was tedious to compare spending or income month over month. For all these reasons, I decided to completely revamp my method. I decided to think about my personal finances with a business mentality and create the ultimate personal finance spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is like your own personal Quickbooks.
For the past year, I’ve continuously tested and improved this spreadsheet to where it provides the greatest amount of information with the least amount of work. I’ve done all the hard work to build it. In this one single spreadsheet, you have everything you need to not only take control of your personal finances — but to master them. To top it off – I’m giving this spreadsheet away completely FREE!
Here is everything that’s included:
1. Monthly Budget
A monthly budget lists all your expected incomes and likely expenses. It’s a plan for all your spending so that you can be intentional about where your money goes. In order to get the most out of your budget, it should be designed so you fully understand the impact of your budget items on your net worth. Most budgets never factor that into the equation. With my budget template, you are fully aware of your net income and net cash flow, which is the whole purpose of the budget in the first place.
2. General Ledger
This is the most used tab on the spreadsheet. It’s where you enter every single financial transaction as if you were a business. Every income, purchase, debt payment, withdrawal, transfer, asset appreciation, reimbursement, and anything else.
It sounds like a lot but once you’re all set up and understand the accounting basics involved, all you need is 5 minutes per day. That’s it. Five minutes per day to enter each transaction in the past 24 hours. That way everything is fresh in your mind. It’s like doing the dishes. The sooner you clean the easier it is. I’ve designed this spreadsheet purposely to minimize the time needed to keep everything up-to-date. Entering all the transactions is absolutely critical because the data from this tab drives the information and reports on the other tabs.
3. Trial Balance
The Trial Balance lists the balance for each General Ledger account. This allows you to easily see the current balance on any asset or liability or the amount of revenue or expenses incurred.
It has a built-in date functionality, so you can also see the change in balance during any period of time instead of only seeing the current balance. The Trial Balance helps to ensure that all the entries in the General Ledger have been recorded correctly by clearly showing whether total debits equal total credits.
4. Balance Sheet
The Balance Sheet is similar to the Trial Balance, but the major difference is that it only lists the balances for Asset and Liability accounts. It does not show any Revenue or Expense accounts. This gives you a snapshot of your net worth (Total Assets minus Total Liabilities) at any given point in time. The Balance Sheet is completely automated after you set up all your accounts, so you always know your current net worth.
5. Net Worth Tracker
The Net Worth Tracker, or Equity Curve, is similar to your Balance Sheet. Instead of showing a snapshot of net worth at a single point in time, it shows your net worth OVER time. I have it pre-built to update at the 15th and last day of each month, but you can determine your own periodic intervals if you prefer. I would recommend at least always updating your net worth at the conclusion of each month to see the total impact of your financial decisions in the past month.
By tracking your net worth over time, you can see which way it is trending. The trend is even more significant than the absolute amount because it tells you whether your lifestyle is sustainable. In the end, you’re left with a single chart that tells the big picture story of your financial life. It’s your financial scoreboard — the most important metric in personal finance.
6. Budget Tracker
More important than setting a budget is knowing whether or not you’re actually sticking to it. The budget tracker gives you an easy, clear way to see exactly how much money you’ve spent in each category compared to how much you budgeted. Wouldn’t it be nice to know how much you can spend on groceries while you’re IN the grocery store? By utilizing Google Sheets vs Excel for your finances, you can access the spreadsheet anywhere on your phone with the Google Sheets app.
The Budget Tracker breaks down the detail of your performance for the month. It also lets you see the impact of your spending on your monthly net income and cash flow. At the end of each month, you can assess and adjust your budget as necessary. Sometimes budgets need to be raised. Other times lowered. Situations change. As do habits. The important thing is having a plan that will help you reach your goals.
7. Net Income / Net Cash Flow Summary
This tab gives a summary of your Net Income and Net Cash Flow for each month. It’s the high-level data from the Budget Tracker, but includes every month’s summary instead of the nitty gritty detail of a single month.
8. Bill Tracker
My easy-to-use bill tracker is a simple way to organize all your bills in one location so you never miss a payment. It’s a monthly rolling list where you build in a little cushion period for scheduling, giving you a system to track all your bills that keeps your mind at ease.
9. Credit Score Tracker
Today there are lots of different options to obtain your credit scores for free. You should not be paying for a service because it’s, quite frankly, a waste of money. Besides options such as Credit Karma or Mint, most banks now offer monthly credit scores to their customers and now banks such as Discover and Capital One have even started offering it to anyone for free – not just customers. This is a simple way to track all your credit scores, so you know your expected range and which way it’s trending.
As you can see, this spreadsheet has a lot of information. But it doesn’t require a significant amount of maintenance. Once you’re up to speed on how it all works, it only takes 5 minutes of finances per day to maintain. I usually do it in the evening before bed where I simply enter the transactions for the day. Since I use credit cards to pay for everything and maximize points, I don’t even have to remember the transactions. My credit card and bank accounts list them for me. I just copy them over so all the data is in one organized location that can be manipulated into all the various financial reports.
This is literally the only spreadsheet I use for personal finances. I’m confident it’s the only spreadsheet you’ll ever need for yours. In fact, it would even work for a small business as it was designed to think of yourself as a small business. I consider it the “One Spreadsheet to Rule Them All” and you can get the entire spreadsheet completely free when you subscribe.
It includes detailed notes to guide you along the way. Plus I’m here to help you with any and all questions to get you up and running. I challenge you to track every penny for 30 days. What story would your data tell?