A lot of financial advice you’ll hear will be quite broad. There are infinite strategies for saving money or reaching financial goals. But how do you put these ideas into action?
To switch things up, we will be looking at one of the best ways to compartmentalize and track all your finances. No broad, unusable advice, and nothing complex. Just a simple series of instructions that will enable you to manage your finances from your laptop.
One of the simplest ways to reset your financial tracking and management is to use Microsoft Excel. It’s an inexpensive program with many uses which comes included with most Microsoft Office packages. But it can easily do everything you need for personal finance management.
You Can Do Everything In Excel
Excel is simple and robust, but it can be fairly dynamic with a few tweaks. To make everything simple, you will need one add-on, and several separate spreadsheets and formulas.
Let’s break it all down.
Money In Excel
Your first step is to get “Money in Excel”.
Money in Excel is an add-in that enables a secure connection to your bank and credit accounts. It will establish an automated system for importing your financial transactions into your spreadsheet. You just need to sign into your bank account to complete the connection.
If you have any Microsoft 365 personal or family subscription, you’re already entitled to use this program. You can download Microsoft’s official template from their secure website.
Once your financial accounts are connected to Money in Excel, your transactions will be imported automatically. You don’t need to do much work, as the template does most of the work for you. That means you don’t need to set any spreadsheets up from scratch yourself.
After you’ve set up the connection, you can simply click the “Update” button to view any recent changes and transactions.
All transactions from accessed bank accounts will appear on the template. Transactions will be filtered into several categories, including checking and credit card debits. So, you can simply click on the dropdown menu at the top of the tab to filter between transaction types. You can view all credit card or checking transactions separately, and so forth. Other filters include expense range, specific account, financial institution, and more.
Money in Excel has a “Snapshot” tab that creates template-based (automated) pie charts and graphs. Here, you can quickly see a visual breakdown of how you’re spending money. You can get these breakdowns for specific checking or credit accounts.
Another useful chart you have access to compares how much money you spend each month. With some quick studying, you can see exactly how much your spending has fluctuated, and where it’s going.
You can add your own filters and categories to either of the tools we’ve gone over. For example, you can:
- Create your own expense categories for the pie charts and graphs
- Add new category types, such as transfers you make to relatives or dependants
These features are more useful for business finance management. But you can access this feature with any Microsoft 365 personal or family subscription.
Using these tools from Money in Excel, you can start setting goals.
It’s easy to record your goals in comments within Microsoft Excel. Worthwhile goals often include:
- Minimizing high-interest transactions such as credit card purchases
- Reducing the total expense of a certain category
- Increasing the total amount of money saved month-by-month
Personalized account alerts can be used to avoid under-achieving on any one of your specific financial goals.
This useful feature of Money in Excel should not be overlooked. Money in Excel will automatically send you alerts for important events like:
- A sudden increase to any regular subscription fee
- Changes to bank charges, including overdraft fees
- Large purchases that are statistically significant to your finances
Alerts are based on changes to normally predictable expenses. But their other major utility comes from their ability to flag new, disproportionally large transactions.
Make sure you take full advantage of the customization that Money in Excel offers. It makes it far easier to prioritize your unique financial goals.
Excel comes with regular highlights for tabs. You can create your own color code to track and highlight outstanding transactions. One great use is to highlight single expenses or time periods that exceed your budget in the red. Likewise, you can highlight monthly spending figures that either exceed or fall short of your goals. You can make this as simple or complex as you’d like, but a simple red, yellow, green system can offer plenty of utility.
Lastly, remember to regularly click the “Update” button. This will make sure you’re always looking at the most recent reports.