Best Excel Budget Templates

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Points of Interest

Build a budgeting habit now so you’re financially ready when opportunities present themselves.

If you’re new to budgeting, Microsoft Excel is a great place to start: It offers over 50 budget spreadsheet templates that can be fully customized to your situation. These Excel budget templates are an excellent way to bring your balance sheet to life by visualizing changes in spending habits and forecasting expenses.

Templates are helpful tools, particularly if you’re new to either budgeting or Excel. Templates are preprogrammed Excel sheets built for whatever you’re tracking. No Excel formulas or design experience needed! Choose the template that works for you, then enter your data – the template will do everything else!

Excel templates can range from personal monthly budgets to specific scenarios like tracking wedding expenses or saving up for a vacation.

Why you should care about budgeting

You work hard for your money! If you turn budgeting into a habit, you’re making sure your money works hard for you. Budgeting puts you in control of your financial goals.

Have you ever had a trip pop up where you ended up using a credit card because you didn’t have enough cash on hand? Budgeting can make sure you have enough money on hand for the day-to-day expenses you expect as well as the surprise expenses that life has a way of throwing our way.

Budgeting can help you stay out of debt, work your way out of debt, save for your child’s college tuition, save money for unexpected expenses like car or home repairs (that A/C unit has a way of blowing out on the hottest day of the summer!), or save money for a vacation.

You don’t know what the future holds, but once-in-a-lifetime opportunities can come your way. It’s not enough to find them though – you need to be able to afford pulling the trigger! Building a budgeting habit now means you’ll be ready in the future when opportunities present themselves.

How to get started

If you’re brand new to budgeting, don’t try to over-engineer it. You need to get a sense of your spending habits over the past few months to establish a baseline. Then, take a look at where your money is going. Are you saving a lot each month, but spending just as much on your credit card? Are you dining out more than you thought (those Chipotle burritos add up!)? Are you paying nuisance fees?

Once you establish a baseline, set realistic and achievable goals. One popular framework is 50/30/20: 50% for needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for saving/debt reduction.

Pick the Excel template that appeals to you, enter your data, and review the results.

If you’re new to Excel, be careful not to mess with the formula bar. Unlike a website or a phone app, the guts of the template are in the formula bar. Mess with it too much, and you may have to re-do work. As many experienced Excel users know, Excel will do precisely what you tell it to do, for good or bad.

The best Excel budget templates

There are over 50 budgeting templates for you to choose from that come pre-loaded in Excel. You can also find a bunch of options with a simple Google search. This list highlights just a few:

Household Monthly Budget (preloaded Excel template)

  • Good for: Reviewing your budget at a glance
  • Pros: The layout is friendly for new Excel users and includes customizable categories
  • Cons: Won’t display trends or document spending month-over-month
  • Key features: A straightforward approach to budgeting

It’s Your Money Cash-Flow Budget

  • Good for: Fans of the envelope approach to budgeting
  • Pros: Captures the envelope system in an easy-to-use Excel template
  • Cons: The layout will probably be confusing if you’re unfamiliar with the envelope budgeting approach
  • Key feature: Budget envelopes are laid out and ready to use

Vertex42 Family Budget

  • Good for: Visualizing changes in month-over-month habits
  • Pros: Straightforward, one-tab sheet
  • Cons: You need to enter expenses for each month manually
  • Key feature: Free to use and comes with support videos on how to keep it updated

Make your own budget spreadsheet

  • Good for: DIY-minded person who also wants to learn Excel functions
  • Pros: Fully customized budget based on Excel techniques you taught yourself
  • Cons: Excel can be a steep learning curve. If you’re going to build a budget yourself from the ground up, you’ll need a few hours to set it up, particularly if you want to include more advanced formulas and techniques like macros, pivot tables, or ‘if’ functions
  • Key feature: Maximum flexibility, plut the satisfaction of knowing you built something yourself

Alternatives to consider

Generally, Excel templates are good for those who want to enter things manually and are very detail-oriented. There’s a very good chance you’ll need to dig into Excel’s formula bar, even if you’re using a template. Excel can handle some interaction with other applications, but it can get messy quickly. Fortunately, for anyone who wants things to be a little more automated, there are plenty of excellent budgeting applications available.

Mint

  • Good for: Detail-oriented budgeters who want one place to go for everything
  • Pros: Mint’s API (application programming interface) means it can talk to pretty much any institution you have a relationship with. It will auto-categorize everything you let it look at and will adjust as you use it more.
  • Cons: It’s not perfect; you will likely spend an hour or so recategorizing transactions the app missed.
  • Key features: Autocategorization of expenses and integration with most institutions

Personal Capital

  • Good for: Investment-focused budgeters
  • Pros: Great visualizations, easy to use, and, like Mint, it integrates with most institutions
  • Cons: May be too much for someone new to budgeting
  • Key feature: Robust visualization tools for more visually-oriented budgeters

Good Budget

  • Good for: Simple layouts for budgeters who prefer ‘envelopes’ approach
  • Pros: Great representation of the envelopes approach
  • Cons: Free version limits you to 10 envelopes; the paid version costs $50 per year; doesn’t integrate with any institutions
  • Key feature: Captures the envelope approach as an app

The final word

Budgeting is critical to achieve your financial goals as well as ensure you’re financially ready for whatever life throws at you. Excel’s budgeting templates can be a great starting point if you’re new to budgeting, but keeping the spreadsheet up to date requires manual entry. Applications like Mint, Personal Capital, and Good Budget typically offer a more accessible interface (especially if they integrate with your institutions), but that means turning over your financial information.

Don’t let the time it will take to set up your budget stop you from building your budgeting habit. Try a few different applications to see which works for you. If you don’t feel like any of them meet your needs, you can always make your own Excel budget spreadsheet!

Alexander Clark

Personal Finance Contributing Writer