You can spend a lot of money on a fancy budgeting software program, or you can build a budget spreadsheet that meets your needs. If you are not comfortable with building your own spreadsheet, a number of templates are available for download. The best family budget spreadsheet is one that you'll actually use and that lets you clearly see how you spend your money each month.
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Monthly expenses vary from family to family, so an ideal budget spreadsheet will give you space to personalise it. Most families have expenses such as housing, utilities and groceries. Some may have high transportation expenses, while a family that is based in the city may not own a car and will have considerably lower transportation expenses. A family with children will also have to allot funds for educational expenses, day care or baby necessities. Make a list of all your expenses and estimate what you spend on each category each month, then input the estimated amount into the spreadsheet.
Include an estimate of your family's monthly income on the spreadsheet. Income can vary from month to month depending on the type of employment you have and who works in your family. You may want to look at your previous year's tax return and divide the income on that by 12 to get an approximate monthly amount. If you find that you have extra income one month, simply roll it forward toward the next month's budget or put it into savings.
Actual vs. Projected
In most cases, you'll find that your actual spending or income differs from the estimated amount. Include a column for actual expenses and actual income next to the estimated or projected amounts so that you're keeping an accurate budget. After six months or so, go back and compare your projected expenses to the actual expenses. Adjust the projected amounts on the spreadsheet to more closely aligned with the actual expenses going forward. An accurate spreadsheet lets you see the categories in which you are overspending each month or whether you need to increase your monthly income.
Annual vs. Monthly
Make one large spreadsheet that tracks your annual income and expenses versus a separate budget for each month. According to Kimberly Palmer at U.S. News and World Reports, people tend to underestimate their monthly expenses when building a monthly budget and overestimate their expenses when building a yearly budget. Play it safe and choose a spreadsheet that plots out your yearly expenses one a single page. To make an annual spreadsheet, you'll need to review your expenses from the previous year to give you an idea of what you actually spend. Look over your credit card and bank statements from the previous year to see where you spent money. Use your previous year's tax return to determine your income. Even if you anticipate making more money this year, use last year's figure to be on the safe side. Put any extra money into savings.
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