Managing expenses on Google Spreadsheets – follow up

I wrote about managing expenses on Google spreadsheets earlier this week and offered to share a template. I was admittedly blown away at the response. Unlike other posts where I tend to hear from a few folks I’ve come to know well, long time readers sprang out of nowhere asking about the template (read: it was a delight meeting you all). It is no wonder good blogs on personal finance build up large and engaging readerships. Anyway, I digress.

As promised to those of you wrote in, please find the template here. You should just be able to download the Google sheet as an excel file on your computer or copy the Google sheet. Below are a few notes that might help.

First, I’ve added a few notes on the Google sheet to make the flow of sheets intelligible. The main principle at play is consciousness. We consciously enter every expense on the sheet using the “Sheets” app by Google. We also ensure we track all our subscriptions in one place so we’re being intentional about shutting subscriptions we don’t use. The yearly math sheet just ensures we have a macro view of what’s going on.

Second, we don’t use a budget anymore. The 2012 version had budgets – but, we shelved them a few years back. We realized that we don’t make frivolous spending decisions if we’re conscious about our expenses. So, we didn’t see benefit of the overhead involved with setting and maintaining a budget. That doesn’t mean we haven’t made dumb or and the occasional expense we’ve regretted. But, thanks to this sheet, we discuss it and aim to learn from it. Our biggest lesson from these reflections is to simply pause 24 hours before making a large expense.

Third, while there’s a tab for investments, we don’t use this sheet to manage it. We are fans of the app “Personal Capital” and use the free version to get an overview of how things are going. An important complementary document is a living document called the “Finance Thesis Sheet” that I’ve written about before. I’d co-created a “learnographic” a few years back that synthesizes lessons learnt on personal finance and investing – those principles, for the most part, inform our approach to investments.

Fourth, the paycheck sheet is a very lightweight version of the finance thesis sheet. We’ve tried to maintain conscious boundaries about how we think about our money. The key here is to assume we earn far less than we do, not increase our expenses as our income increases, and to make sure most money goes to longer term investment accounts.

Fifth, as you can tell, this is all (relatively) low tech. We’ve been recommended many fancier apps from time to time. But, the key feature of all these apps is that they do the work for us. And, that’s a problem where we’re concerned. We spend a few mins every week going through our accounts, talk about any anomalies, and look at trends annually to see how we’re doing. Doing the work to understand how we’re spending our money is a feature for us – not a bug.

Hope you find this useful. Look forward to hearing your notes and lessons learnt.