For my October budget challenge, I decided to try a different way to see my available money -a Google Drive budget. I’ve been using Mint for a few years to create a budget and see all my transactions in one place. My husband and I also have a Google Docs combined budget to see all of our expenses in one place. But I wanted a way to simplify things and know exactly what I have available to spend. So I made a spreadsheet on Google Drive. I started with my take-home pay for both pay periods and wrote down my recurring expenses underneath it. Then I knew what I had left to spend. As I spent money I’d note it underneath so I had a running tally of available money. It looked like this:
|Pay Period 1|
|Description||Money In||Money Out|
Left after recurring:
a-(b+c+d+e+f+g) = h
Left after other expenses
This is a great bottom line indicator. If the question is, “can I afford this?” then this method is a quick and easy way to answer that. It’s also easy to transfer from month to month once you get it going, assuming you have the same monthly pay and recurring expenses. On Google Drive,you can duplicate a tab on a sheet. All you have to do is delete the non-recurring expenses and the sheet is brand new!
It’s kind of a pain to enter all your expenses in if you don’t do it extemporaneously. I had to go into my Mint app every so often and update it to make sure the bottom line was correct. This also won’t help you to know if you’re spending too much on a certain area, it’s just a simple how much is left calculation. Also, this would be more difficult for a freelancer or anyone else who has varying income and expenses. It’s not that you couldn’t make it work but it would require a little more monthly configuration.
In the end, the best budget is the one you’ll stick to. I might not be diligent enough to keep up with this system. I’m glad I did it as an experiment, though. It showed me what I’m really working with after my monthly expenses and inspired me to reduce some of those expenses. (More on that later). What’s your favorite way to track your expenses?