Low-Cost Budgeting: Using Spreadsheet Programs

If you would like to budget for yourself instead of consulting an adviser, you can find a number of low cost budgeting solutions through the Internet or various software programs.

Computer Knowledge Required

First, it is important to realize these options will only work if you are comfortable with general computer functions. Most of the programs are automated, meaning you will have to do a limited amount of complicated functions. However, some comfort is essential so you can move through the process without confusion. In order to properly use a spreadsheet, you should know how to:

  • Navigate through different rows and cells on a spreadsheet
  • Delete, change or modify the amount in a particular cell
  • Save your work and back up your work to an external server
  • Perform moderate problem solving or trouble shooting functions, just in case you do encounter an error in your spreadsheet

Software Options

The two most popular computer software programs for budgeting tend to be QuickBooks, which is an advanced accounting program, and Microsoft Excel. With QuickBooks, you will be dealing with actual software designed to set and keep budgets. You can purchase this program anywhere computer software is sold, or you can download the program online for a fee. The program costs between $100 and $300 depending on the model and source you are using to purchase the program. Excel is a program designed to build and edit spreadsheets. In this case, you will want to download a budget spreadsheet from the Internet or create your own. Downloading a spreadsheet can save a lot of time; online spreadsheet templates also come with formulas already in place, limiting the amount of knowledge you need to perform the operations required. This option is free if you already have Microsoft Excel on your computer. Simply use an online search engine to seek free budgeting spreadsheets.

Catering to Your Needs

Either option you choose will have generic templates. You will want to cater these to your needs by eliminating areas you will not use and building in areas that are not included. For example, you may be able to delete the area for "student debts" if you do not have any. Instead, however, you may have to replace this with "child support" or another fixed expense you have. Do this first to set the sheet up right. Then, working with the option is as simple as updating the spreadsheet one a day, week or month.

Educating Yourself

Spending about $200 on a simple budgeting class can be very effective in terms of cost and time savings in the future. Consider looking into classes at a community college or training facility on using the software. Often, these classes have a number of useful tips you will begin implementing immediately. They can also provide you with a level of knowledge about the program that allows you to address common problems without fear. This can be essential when you are dealing with an item as important as your budget. Personal finance courses that use the software option you selected are a great choice. They teach you the skills to not only use the program but also budget your money effectively.



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