Learning how to make a budget in Google Sheets is an excellent way to start taking a hands on approach to your finances. And because you can customize your Google Sheets budget spreadsheet however you want, you get a budget spreadsheet that’s a perfect fit for your unique financial situation.
Creating a budget in Google Sheets isn’t hard at all. It only takes an hour, even for complete newbies. But here are the best parts of learning how to make a budget in Google Sheets:
- You can save your budget spreadsheet as a template and reuse it each month.
- You can easily adjust it to fit your changing financial situation.
- You learn a lot about your money when you manually enter things in a spreadsheet.
- Google Sheets is completely free to use.
Ready to create your own budget spreadsheet?
This step-by-guide will take you through the whole process so that you have a functional budget built just for you.
Go ahead and log into your Google account and let’s go!
How to make a budget spreadsheet in Google Sheets
Step 1: Open a blank sheet
Once you’re in Google Drive, click on New, then Google Sheets, then Blank spreadsheet. This will open a blank sheet for you to work on.
Don’t forget to name your spreadsheet!
Step 2: Start formatting your budget
Let’s start by labeling your budget.
Select the cells in rows 1-3 of columns A-L and click on the Merge All button. That button is in the middle of your toolbar and is next to the button that looks like a window (the window button is for adding borders and you might use it later).
After you’ve merged those cells, label with the month and year. I also enlarged and centered the font on mine.
Related post: 50/30/20 Budgeting Rule: What It Is and How It Works
Step 3: Format for your income
There are two core components of any budget – income and expenses. This step focuses on that first component. For every source of income, we’re going to list the planned and actual totals, and then find the difference for each.
We’ll be breaking down our expenses/spending like that too because it shows when and where you need to make adjustments to your budget.
Let’s start making room for your income:
- Select the cells in rows 4-5 of columns A-D and merge all.
- Label this block of cells as “Income.”
- Label each column in that section as follows: “Source,” “Planned,” “Actual” and “Difference.”
- You can leave room for as many income sources as you need, but for this Google Sheets budget spreadsheet tutorial, I’m only leaving room for five lines.
- Label cell A12 with “Total.”
- If you want to put borders around this, select the cells in that section, click on the button in your toolbar that looks like a window (Borders button), and format as desired. I also color coding my budget, and the Fill button is to the left of the Borders button.
Step 4: Format for your expenses
You are learning how to make a budget spreadsheet in Google Sheets that separate your expenses into different categories – housing, transportation, food, entertainment, personal, kids, and health.
But do what works for you! You can add or takeaway categories, organize your expenses however you like, etc.
We’ll be setting this section up to the same way we did for income, but I am still going to start walking you through it all:
- Select the cells in rows 13-14 of columns A-D and merge all.
- Label as “Expenses.”
- Label column A in this section as “Housing.”
- Columns B-D are labeled “Planned,” “Actual,” and “Difference.”
- Label cell A24 as “Subtotal.”
- Add any extra formatting like borders and fill colors.
Keep adding your expense categories in like this. You can adjust the number of rows for each category to find what works best for you, but it’s okay to have blank lines, too.
One thing that I’ve found is that I like being able to see everything without having to scroll down, so when I ran out of screen space, I moved to the middle four columns (E-H), then I moved to columns I-L.
After you’ve formatted your budget spreadsheet for those expenses, we’re going to make room for financial obligations like debt and savings, and then make room for our monthly spending totals.
Here’s what the example looks like after I’ve added all of the budgeting categories.
Step 5: Input your income and formulas
I think one of the best parts of learning how to make a budget spreadsheet in Google Sheets is that you can use formulas to do all of the math for you. We’re going to be putting a lot of simple formulas in this spreadsheet, but first, we need to start by inputting some data.
Entering your income:
- Add every single source of income you receive – day job, side hustles, etc.
- Put in the amount you think you’ll be earning under “Planned.”
- Put in the amount you actually earn under “Actual.”
Add the formulas:
- To find the difference for each line of income, we’ll be writing a formula for “Actual” – “Planned” income.
- In our example, the first cell we do that in is D7.
- The formula for that cell is “=SUM(C7-B7).”
You’ll use that same formula for each line of income, but change the name of cells for each income source.
The last part is to total each column of your income:
- Select the cell where that total will go (we’re going to start with the total for our Planned column, which is cell B12).
- Enter the formula “=SUM(” ← make sure you add the left side of the parentheses.
- Select the cells you are totaling. In our example that’s B7-B11.
- Close the parentheses, and hit “Enter.”
Do that for each column of your income.
If you’d like to add conditional formatting, which helps you visualize what’s happening with your money, here’s how you can do that:
- Right-click on the cell you want to format and click “Conditional Formatting.” It’s close to the bottom.
- Set your conditions, under “Format rules.” I’m using the “less than” condition, using $0 as my value.
- Choose what happens when that condition is met. I’ve chosen to change the font to red.
Now you can easily see places in your budget that you need to compensate for. I’ll be adding conditional formatting to the cells for difference and difference total/subtotal.
Step 6: Input your expenses and formulas
This is when you start putting all of your expenses in. You can categorize in whatever way makes sense to you.
Our example has all of the utilities lumped together in one line, but you can separate into things like water, sewer, electric, gas, etc. Remember, this is your budget spreadsheet, so you set the rules!
After you’ve added your expenses, it’s time to add the formulas:
- Use a formula that subtracts the “Actual” from the “Planned” amount.
- Do this for every line.
- Auto sum the subtotal of each expense column.
You’re going to do this for all of your expense categories, even your financial obligations.
Step 7: Find your monthly spending totals
This is the final step in learning how to make a budget spreadsheet in Google Sheets, and it’s when your whole budget comes together.
We’re going to add together the “Planned” and “Actual” subtotals for each expense category. Here’s how:
- Go to the section labeled “Monthly Spending Totals.”
- Click on the cell labeled “Planned.”
- Insert the auto sum formula “=SUM(” ← don’t forget the left parentheses.
- Fill the parentheses by clicking on each subtotal cell for each expense category, separating them all with a +.
- Close the parentheses and hit “Enter.”
Google Sheets with highlight each of the individual cells as you go, and here’s what it looks like in our example right before I hit “Enter.”
Do the same for the “Actual” subtotals of each spending/expense category.
Find your difference by subtracting the “Actual” from the “Planned” total.
We can see that Megan and Tom did pretty well for the month, with $75 leftover despite bringing in $200 less this month than they had planned.
How to turn your Google Sheets budget spreadsheet into a template
By turning the spreadsheet you just made into a template, you can use it for subsequent months. You can even share it with your friends after telling them about your awesome new budgeting superpower.
Here’s how you do it:
- Open a new blank spreadsheet, and label with something like “Family Budget Template” or whatever you’d like.
- Go back to the budget spreadsheet you just made and select everything.
- Copy and paste it into your new, blank spreadsheet.
- Now working in your new spreadsheet, change the month to “Template” or whatever you’d like.
- Delete the numbers in the “Planned” and “Actual” columns, but do not delete the numbers in the “Difference,” “Total,” and “Subtotal” cells. That would delete the formulas.
You’ll notice that the totals and subtotals are reset to $0 – that’s good! The formulas and conditional formatting are still there, just waiting for you to put new information in there.
When you’re ready to use this for a new month, just open a new sheet, then copy and paste the template you just made into your new sheet.
If you want even more budget templates, check out these posts:
- Best Free Google Sheets Templates (and How to Use Them)
- How to Make a Budget In Excel: How-To Guide and Free Templates!
- 12 Free Budget Templates to Get Your Money Under Control
The final word on how to make a budget spreadsheet in Google Sheets
When I was first introduced to DIY budget spreadsheets, I wasn’t sure that I would really like it. I was very used to checking my monthly budget in Mint… I mean, they did the work for me!
Once I switched to creating and using my own spreadsheets, I found that I was more interested and involved in where my money was going each month. It’s also really empowering to see how little changes, like earning just an extra $200/month can make an impact on individual spending categories.
When you put everything in your budget in one place, like debt payments and savings along with expenses, you get a nice visualization of how paying off that debt will give you more to put towards other long-term goals like retirement.
And if you really want to work towards retirement, Personal Capital is a free money tracking tool that aggregates all of your accounts to show you your net worth and where you’re at for retirement savings.
Personal Capital would be a great companion to your Google Sheets budget spreadsheets because it keeps track of your investments and gives you robust analysis tools.