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September 04, 2017
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Budgeting is so much fun... said no one ever. But look, we all should adhere to a budget, if for no other reason than to learn more about our spending habits over time. I am, still to this day, shocked how the little things add up.

When I am constantly updating my budget spreadsheet, not only can I visually see where my money is going, but I can also plan for upcoming big-ticket expenditures. For example, if I know my son’s birthday is coming up next month, I will push that new outfit out until the following month. We also know that we should hold off on date nights and eating lunch out to account for the extra bills.


If you are a visual learner like me, seeing the inflows and outflows month by month really gives insight about what times of year my family tends to spend the most and the least. Below I will go over how I developed our family’s budget spreadsheet to give some inspiration as you develop your own budget spreadsheet.

Here is the breakdown of how I segment my expenses on a monthly basis:

  1. I create a template in Excel or Google Sheets - I love Google Sheets because I can collaborate with my husband in real time. Then, I create my main categories on the far-left column. Here’s an example: 
    • Living: Mortgage, home maintenance, HOA, cable/internet, cell phones, electricity, etc.
    • Food: Groceries, eating out, coffee, and any food or wine subscriptions I have.
    • Auto: Insurance, gas, Uber rides, car washes, repairs, payments
    • Kids: Daycare costs, after school care, sports, clothing/shoes, entertainment, birthday gifts, doctor/dentist, babysitters, winter/summer break care, and any supplies.
    • Pets: Dog walker, vet, grooming
    • Fitness: Gym memberships or any app purchases
    • Health: Vitamins, doctors/dentist, life insurance, prescriptions
    • Educational Expenses: Any personal development classes we may take, software, books, work expenses.
    • Personal: Hair, make up, toiletries, clothing (his and hers) shoes, movies, music, dry cleaning, charity
    • Vacations: Events, airfare, hotel, dining out, skiing

*Note: I also keep a separate space at the bottom for Christmas expenses including holiday cards, professional photographs, and naturally décor and gifts.

  1. Using really helps when I update my spreadsheet a couple times a month, so, I am essentially using two budgeting methods. 

On the top row of the spreadsheet, I write out the months for the entire year; this helps us visualize what we spend on groceries each month. For example, If I go over in some categories in the month of June, I'll find ways to go under budget in the same category in July, so to create a monthly average over time.

Once you learn your own spending weaknesses, it actually becomes fun to see where you can tweak your budget in the coming months. I try to do monthly challenges where I'll see if it’s possible to spend say less than $1,000 on food and groceries for the family in a month. Sometimes I am able to do it, sometimes not, but when I don’t succeed at the challenge, just being conscious of my goal I tend to get very close to that goal amount.

Learning your own spending patterns can give great insight on categories you can eliminate or reduce to save some extra money. Little personal challenges in particular categories can ignite that competitive spirit to hit your goals and, visually seeing trends month over month, can help you better plan for the following years.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The websites listed are not affiliated with or endorsed by LPL Financial.