Free Excel Budget Tracker

Free Budget Tracker

The new year is always a great time to start a budget or get your existing budget into shape. If you’re anything like me, the excess and chaos of the holidays makes me want to simplify, spend less money, and try to get a handle on everything. Having a solid budget and a solid budget tracker helps me get back on track.

I’ve been using this particular one for several years now. I stumbled upon a version of the “monthly expenses” and then I modified it and turned it into a month-by-month tracker that has all sorts of Excel math magic already built in. Other features include:

  • Formatted to show you the entireĀ year at a glance
  • Completely flexible if things change
  • Month-to-month expenses tracking. There’s a tab for each month where you can add everything from Starbucks to Kindle books, groceries and gas. Whatever you want to track. All expenses are then deducted from the monthly deposit total. The Excel formulas are already built in, so all you have to do is enter your expenses.
  • Off budget expenses tracking for those things that don’t fit your normal budget categories. For example, I don’t exactly budget for charitable contributions like I do for groceries, but I make them every now and again. This tracker allows for that.
  • Savings tracking, including an optional column on expenses for automatic savings transfers. My checking account is set up that every time I use my check card $3 is automatically transferred to my savings account.
  • Automatic balance calculation. At the beginning of every month I input all of my bills, as well as any purchases I know that I will have to make. Right away, I can see what I’m working with for the rest of month and how much I can spend on groceries, gas, etc. Then as I add in expenses, I can see how much I have left. This should probably be the first feature that I list, because this is probably it’s most valuable feature.

I hope this can be helpful to you. It sure has been for me.

Free Excel Budget Tracker

I bought a house

By Rochelle

I bought my first house! Talk about being a big girl. That’s me! I feel so adult. And I really am so happy. I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier. It is a very satisfying feeling. I never knew how much renting stressed me out. I never feel really comfortable. I always felt like I was guest. Strange, huh? But now I have my own place that I can do whatever I like. It’s great! I took a lot of work to make it happen and it’s not nearly as simple as they make it seem on House Hunters, but I believe it can work for a lot of people. If you have never bought a home before, but you’d like to, just talk to a lender. See what’s possible and if you do qualify for something. Turns out I qualified all along, I just didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself. The best part about the house. I am only paying $150 a month more than what I paid in rent and it’s so much more than my old apartment.

 

My Terrible Money Cycle

I’m not one that really feels like I live an excessive life, but I must be doing something wrong. My finances are looking rather crummy these days and I need to make some changes to get everything back on track. I keep having to borrow against a reserve line I have. Then at the beginning of each month, I pay back that reserve, only to come up short later and have to borrow again. I just can’t get ahead. I’ve decided to make April a time for some serious moderation. 30 days, it can be done. Here are some of the things I have in mind to save some cash and get out of this bad cycle I’m in right now.

1. Cutting subscriptions and payments on frivolous things. $10 here and there adds up quickly, and yet I’m always a sucker for stuff that’s cheap because I trick myself into believing that a fun new iPad app is like going out to lunch. I’m also going to examine some of my monthly payments. I can easily cut back on my Netflix subscription.

2. Breakfast and lunch from home. I was totally rocking this lifestyle for a good long while, but somewhere in February I went off course. Strangely, the timing correlates with my diet. You would think that it would actually go hand in hand with dieting, but I have a hard time. If I’m doing one thing right, another thing slips. Sometimes I think I only have the capacity to handle one thing at a time. I have to overcome that.

3. Much like number two, we’ve got to stop eating out for dinner. We’re in a super bad place right now with ordering in for every meal, or ordering take out that we pick up. Somehow I’ve managed to lose weight while doing this, but there are many nights when I’m paying to feed the two of us and two kids and that just isn’t working out so well. This is going to require that I cook, and so I’ve got to get over the lazy factor.

Tonight I’m making this delicious looking pasta dish I found on Pinterest. Adding in some Italian Sausage for Mike, the total cost of this meal will be $15. Not the cheapest, but far cheaper than Carrabbas, which runs me like $50 every time I pick it up.

Baked Shells with Tomato and Mozzarella

Baked Shells with Tomato and Mazzarella from Big Girls Small Kitchen

4. Coupons and deals. As much as I hate the time it takes, I’m going to need to shop wiser in April. Random trips to the store to feed all four of us when we’re not ordering in is costing me an arm and a leg. Each day I’m faced with the same question from Mike, “what’s for dinner?” He’s an super-planner, but he also hates being the one to make the plan. He also requires perfection when it comes to his meals. If he has a bad food day, he gets very grumpy. Instead of meeting this daily challenge with rolling my eyes, I should embrace it and plan. On the cheap. In a healthy way. Wow this sounds hard. Maybe just maybe I can get him to help.

And that’s it. I really mean it when I say that I don’t live in major excess. The majority of my money goes to bills, then it’s food, then it’s little apps, new dollar books on my kindle, or songs. Somehow, someway I’ve got find some relief. Wish me luck!

Update on those pesky goals

Bad sister note. Marissa sent me this update to post to the blog awhile ago. She’s currently in New York City having a great time. Here’s her update…

Hi Friends. It’s been a hellish two weeks for me. I had a huge brief due at the beginning of last week and a mid-term on Friday. Anyway, here’s where I’m at with those pesky goals.

Money
I only bought lunch at the school once this week, which is pretty good! We did eat out a bit more than we wanted to for dinner. Jimmy Johns is just too good.

Exercise
I worked out four times this week, and three times the week before. I feel better getting back into the grove of the gym.

Eating health
Well, I don’t really know to be honest- which I guess isn’t good! I think I’ve been eating healthier, other than constantly craving sweets. Definitely some room for improvement in this are.

School
I had a hard couple weeks, but I am proud of the work I’ve done. I got everything done on the timeframe I wanted to, even though it meant some days of doing double the reading. I finished my brief with some extra time, which was certainly nice. I didn’t outline or anything, other than for my mid-term.

Domestic
This has been my biggest failing by far. My apartment is pretty clean, but solely thanks to Johnny šŸ™‚ I definitely need to be better at keeping stuff clean.

So that’s about all I have to report. My week goals are to eat in most of the days, so I don’t spend too much money before our trip to NYC. I also want to keep working out and get some outlining in since I’ll be gone for spring break. Wish me luck!.

(Mostly) Free Glasses

Rochelle's new glasses!

Barely one week ago I saw a deal floating around for free glasses from Coastal Contacts. A lot of the coupon blogs I read were calling it “hot” and all that, but I basically dismissed it. My friend Ivy saw the deal too and went for it. She told me about it right after she ordered and it suddenly seemed like the best idea ever (THANKS IVY!). So I did a little digging, got my prescription, etc., found a pair I liked and went for it! I did some upgrading on the lenses, and walked away with new glasses that cost me $40 (including shipping).

All week long I worried that they would show up and look terrible on me, wouldn’t fit, or that I entered my prescription wrong.

A couple of days ago they sent me a message. I was nervous that they were canceling my order, but instead they just wrote to tell me that they were upgrading my shipping, on the house. Beautiful!

So tonight I got my new glasses on my doorstep. I ripped into the package and put them on to check them out. Everything about them is perfect. Prescription, size, weight, style. Just unbelievable.

I highly recommend that you check out Coastal Contacts and “Like” them on Facebook. Apparently this deal comes around every now again, and if you know someone in need, let them know when you see the deal. Good eyesight is invaluable.

Reasonable Coupon Clipping

Did you catch TLC’s show “Extreme Couponing“? I did and I was kind of blown away and frightened at the same time. I had mixed feelings to say the least. Part of me felt stupid for not looking for coupons on products that I buy regularly, and not stocking up when I see a good deal. I suppose, a part of me has dismissed that way of shopping because I don’t like the clutter. I’ve always lived in relatively small spaces before and so traditionally I would argue that I didn’t have the room. That’s not exactly the case today. While my townhouse is a bit small, there’s lots of space that I don’t utilize well.

In a nutshell, what these people do is wait for a really good sale and then if possible stack coupons to end up getting their products at an extremely low price. Then they stock up on those products.

Extreme anything is not good, for obvious reasons, but what about reasonable coupon clipping? I decided to give it a try this past week and see how it went.

The first thing I noticed is that it takes a long time and a little bit of getting used to. On Saturday, most of my day was devoted to finding/printing coupons of products I use and comparing it to weekly ads and then planning a list. This was rather hard to wrangle, but I succeeded and I ended up saving $85 on $253, for a grand total of $168. I came home with lots of things that I eat and use and nothing that would be wasted. Most experienced couponers would scoff at the price, but I consider it a success!

The next day I got two Sunday newspapers and went through looking at weekly ads and clipping coupons. This took a rather long time and made a pretty big mess. So much of it is planning and looking at weekly ads and fishing for in-store coupons as well. I now have a pretty good game plan for three more trips this week (Safeway, Target, and Walgreens). After this trip, I should be pretty well stocked. For example, I’ll be coming home with six sticks of Secret deodorant for roughly $10. That should last me at least six more months, probably 10. There are plenty of extreme couponers that never pay for deodorant, but I’m not that extreme and I’m brand and kind loyal. I’m also going to be getting six packs of Reach floss for free (there’s a $1 off Reach floss and they are now on sale at Target and Walmart for .97). Also, because of a promotion at Safeway (not even coupons), I’m going to get five Lunchable fun packs (which I love to eat, because I’m like a child) for $.50 each.

I love a reasonable bargain.

So overall, I’m kind of liking this. I can see how it can get out of hand, but thankfully I don’t have enough time for that. I do believe, however, that it’s probably pretty ridiculous to pay full price for something that you use all the time when there are so many deals.

So are you interested in starting a little coupon clipping? Here’s what I found to get you started.

1. Check out these websites to get an idea of the deals. Most of the time, they do the work for you.

2. See if your grocery store has in-store coupons.

  • Safeway is awesome. They let you add coupons to your Safeway loyalty card. It’s all automatic and you don’t have to print anything out. Love this! It’s very easy to do.
  • Target offers a lot of coupons that you can print out. The great thing about their coupons is that you can stack the in-store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon. For example, I have a Target in-store coupon for $1 off GE lighbulbs and a $1 off manufacturer coupon. That’s $2 off.

3. Look at the weekly ads for the stores you shop at.

  • This may seem like a no-brainer, but I don’t do it terribly often. I was always a “let’s hope something like what I want is marked down” kind of gal. Looking at the weekly ads can jump start a plan and a good list. Combine that ad with coupons found on Coupons.com, SmartSource, or in-store coupons and you’re going to save quite a bit.
  • You can see all the weekly ads online at the merchant’s website. Don’t worry about finding it in the mail or picking it up in the store. Just look for the Weekly Ad button on the website.
  • Compare across stores. I probably have the biggest issue with this fact. Going to multiple stores sounds hard and unnecessary, and in most cases I’d much rather pay the difference for the convenience of only going to one store. However, since I’ve made such a careful plan and list, each trip should be short and to the point and worth what I walk away with. I’m going to try this out and see what happens. My suggestion is to focus on two stores and compare prices. That seems reasonable.
  • Check out the websites I listed above (like KCL), they take all the information out of the weekly ads at Target, Safeway, and Walgreens and list which coupons you can use on the deal. That makes it super easy!

4. You can do almost everything online.

  • If you’re just looking to get started, know that you can do almost everything online. You can look at the weekly ads online at your grocer’s website or at coupon websites like KCL. You can print coupons from online places. You probably don’t need to go out of your way to get a Sunday paper. I found that at least three quarters of the coupons I have, I was able to print from online places like Coupons.com,Ā SmartSource, or in-store sites. You may want to pick up a Sunday newspaper on particular days for the Proctor & Gamble insert. Those aren’t weekly, and you can learn on P&G’s website when it will be in your newspaper. For example, the next one is scheduled for 1/16. If you use a lot of P&G products, and chances are that you do, that might be a good week to pick it up.

Here’s how to get free floss!

  • Target and Walmart have Reach floss on sale for $0.97 cents.
  • Use $1 off Reach floss found on Coupons.com
  • Since the coupon is worth more than the price, they will have to adjust it, which is in their coupon policy and they will do.
Day 8 - Not Incredibly Extreme Couponing

I featured my coupons in my Project 365.

It's that special time of year

Tax time!

Okay, I know a lot of people hate tax time and I don’t blame them. First, paying taxes is never fun, even though it goes toward making our country a better place. Second, the preparation is annoying, and the filing, and the math, all icky.

For me, I personally like it because I get a decent refund. People hate to hear this, understandably, but I like to remind them that I fork over at least a quarter of my pay check each month. So it’s not like I don’t pay my very fare share.

Anyway, let’s not debate taxes, let’s talk about strategies to prepare them.

I personally love love love TurboTax online. If you have the ability to prepare and file your own taxes, I highly recommend this service. I’ve been using it for about five or six years now and even used it when I had a side business. I love how straight forward it is and how well it guides me. I personally cannot deal with filling out the forms on my own. I’m way too freaked out that I’m messing it up and that the IRS is going to hunt me down and cart me off to jail. I know that I’m such small potatoes that that would never happen, but still…I’m a lawyer’s daughter and I am forever trained to pay very close attention to paperwork.

My taxes are done and that makes me feel like a big girl.

February 2010

Do you have any tax advice to share, or a program you like to use?

The pants brought me closer to you

I found the perfect pair of jeans and it was glorious. Not magical like bringing people together magical but magical like went to Savers and found a pair of designer jeans that fit me perfectly, even if they are a bit loose in the waist, which happens to be the waist size I had in high school but haven’t fit into in years magical. And maybe they are magical enough to be Sisterhood of the Traveling pants, little girl talking about the pants on her deathbed, magical- they are THAT good.

Bailey of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, makes me and ro cry everytime

So here’s the story, I really wanted a cigarette. I called our mom to make me feel better, she started smoking when she was 15 and quit at the age of 22, sound familiar? So anyway, she was super sweet and told me to go shopping. I decided to go to Savers, as I’m unemployed so money is tight. There I found the PERFECT pants. First of all, they were Sevens, normally about $180.00. Back in the day, I bought a pair of Sevens for full price- unfortunately, the idea of buying designer pants went out the door a long time ago when stuff like putting gas in my car and buying groceries became priorities.

Second of all, they were my size. In fact, they were a size smaller than my normal waist size. So trying them on and finding them to be a bit loose in the waist was a great feeling! Third, all Sevens are hemmed to be a 34-36 inch leg and then expected to be tailored. I am super short, I only have about a 30 inch leg- which is very hard to find. Anyway, they were the exact right length- no need to be hemmed! The fourth and best part of the story was the price- $14.00! It was a pants miracle!

So here are the lovely pants, as well as a great new pair of shoes I bought. The shoes are Steve Madden- originally $90.00, I bought them at Ross on clearance for $10.00. I am so surprised by my great deal finding ability.

January 18 2010

January 18 2010

Wise gift card choice and a delicious first meal

For Christmas, my dad gave me a Williams-Sonoma gift card. He know how much I love that place, and he loves it too. We sort of exchange gifts from there all the time.

Well I had been racking my brain trying to figure out what to use it on, and even looked over at Pottery Barn. Truth is, I’m pretty much set. I have all the kitchen appliances and tools that I need, and I don’t need more in the way of decor. So instead of forcing myself to get something like that I opted for….FOOD.

Sure, it feels like my dad bought me groceries, but Williams-Sonoma food isn’t your typical Walmart canned goods and dry mixes, so it still feels special. Plus, my recipe repitoire is a bit on the stale side. I’ve been recycling dishes for awhile now, and what better way to try something new.

So here’s what I got….

January 18 2010

It's definitely not the economical choice to buy this stuff on my own. Each item averaged about $12.

I wanted to try it immediately, and so Marissa came over for dinner. We decided to use Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Indian Simmering sauce (the small jar). She’s vegetarian, so it seemed like a good option. We split the simmering sauce between her tofu, my chicken, and some potatoes. We also picked up some Jasmine rice at Walmart (Uncle Ben’s 90-second microwave stuff), and some fresh baked naan from the Walmart bakery (good find!).

It turned out so delicious! The flavor was amazing.

January 18 2010

Please excuse the messy plating. I was starving!

And there was enough for the two of us last night, and enough for her to take home her tofu leftovers, and for me to bring the chicken leftovers to split between two people for lunch!

Easy as can be and simply delicious.

More about Maya Kaimal:

How to Help Haiti

Even though we’re both working hard to save money and be better with personal finance, there’s always money to give, especially in the wake of such a complete tragedy.

We’ve donated to the Red Cross.

Here’s how you can help too:

And here’s the President’s remarks on the US Relief Effort.