There are lots of ways to budget, but if you pick a spreadsheet, where do you even start? Staring at a blank budget spreadsheet can be daunting.
You don’t have to go it alone though. A spreadsheet template can help you get started by laying out an easy road map to follow. Someone else has done the tricky work of setting up the spreadsheet. You just have to put in your numbers.
Budget spreadsheets can keep your banking and spending information offline if you want, offer more customization than apps, and there’s a free budgeting template for most methods.
Whether you use Microsoft Office Excel, Google Sheets or Apple Numbers, there’s a free spreadsheet for you. These budgeting templates will give you a head start from simple monthly and yearly budgets to 50/30/20 and zero-based budgets.
4 Steps to Preparing Any Budget
How you prefer to budget will affect what you want in a spreadsheet template. Figure out how you walk through these basic budgeting steps to know what you want from one.
1. Identify Your Goals
Is your primary goal to pay off debt? Then you might like a zero-based budget. Do you have a stable income and are just trying to organize your finances? You might like the 50/30/20 method. Or maybe you’d like to be able to see your entire year in one sheet.
2. Calculate Your Monthly Income
How much money do you have coming in each month or week? You can make a more strict budget if you have a stable salary and a clearer view of your total income.
Alternatively, if your take-home pay fluctuates or you get paid in tips, you’ll need a budget worksheet that’s more adaptable. Don’t forget supplemental sources of income like child support or alimony.
3. List All Your Expenses
The easiest way to do this is to go through your credit card and bank statements for the last few months and list all your transactions — both fixed costs and variable expenses — on a monthly basis. From there, you’ll need to decide if you want your budget categories to be broad, transaction-specific or a mix of both.
4. Organize and Prioritize
Different people prefer different things when it comes to the organization of a budget. Is it essential for you to see your entire year at a glance? Or do you want to see only a week-by-week view?
Prioritize expense categories how you prefer. Maybe the most important budget categories are on top, or perhaps you put the most frequently used categories there.
6 Free Budget Template Spreadsheets
There are many fish in the sea, and we promise there’s a budget spreadsheet out there for you. Here are our picks based on budgeting personality types one might fall into.
Best yearly budget template: Vertex42
Best monthly budget template: Vertex42
Best weekly budget template: Spreadsheet123
Best 50/30/20 budget template: Sapience Financial
Best zero-based budget template: Smartsheet
Best wedding budget template: Bridal Musings
Best Free Yearly Budget Spreadsheet
For the planner and goal-oriented go-getter, there is the personal budget spreadsheet from Vertex42. Available as an Excel or Google Sheets template, this budget worksheet has categories that are specific without getting too far into the weeds.
There’s no place to track transactions if you’re looking for that, but if you record only once or twice per week, it’ll work for you.
You’re also able to compare your spending month over month to track progress toward reaching financial goals. Whether you’re trying to pay off debt, increase your savings rate or eat out less, this budget will hold you accountable.
Best Free Template for a Monthly Budget
Vertex42 gave us our favorite yearly budget template, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it also offers an excellent personal monthly budget option. You can download this household budget template spreadsheet as a native file for either Excel or Google Sheets and get right to work.
The template will help you plan monthly expenses, but our favorite feature is tracking actual spending. The template will automatically calculate the difference between the amount of money you have budgeted — your actual costs — and how much you are spending.
Monthly budgets are perfect for those who need a bit of a closer look at their spending and need to know if they are staying on track.
Need an even more in-depth look at your spending habits? Check out our next pick for a weekly budgeting template.
Best Free Weekly Budget Template
We love the weekly budget worksheet from Spreadsheet123 because you can use it as a weekly, biweekly or even a monthly budget. The categories are in depth, and the categories column is “frozen,” so you can see it even if you’re looking at week four.
This budget will keep you up to date every week all month long, and it’s perfect for college students on a budget or anyone who wants a detailed budget for a variable income.
Best 50/30/20 Budget Template
Available for Excel and Google Sheets, the 50/30/20 spreadsheet from Sapience Financial is a simple yet effective monthly budget spreadsheet.
A percentage-based budgeting model like the 50/30/20 method allows for more flexibility than a zero-based budget, so the spreadsheet doesn’t need to be as complex.
The columns on the left tell you the category of each item that you add to your 50/30/20 budget — needs, wants or savings. All you need to do is adjust your allocations to each category until your percentages are where you want them.
Best Free Spreadsheet for a Zero-Based Budget
We like that the zero-based budget template from Smartsheet has a separate column for tracking your actual spending. It doesn’t allow for individual transactions, but simply being able to monitor your progress against your plan is helpful.
This budget also keeps a running total at the bottom to tell you when you’re at zero. Categories go down to line 57, but you always have the option of not using every line. The budget is available as an Excel template and a Google Sheets template.
Best Free Wedding Budget Template
This wedding budget spreadsheet from Bridal Musings was made by a wedding planner, so you can rest assured that you won’t miss a thing. It’s also clean, easy to read and available in Excel and Google Sheets.
And Bridal Musings doesn’t just plop categories in column 1. They note what you can expect from that category, so you can make decisions faster and budget better.
How to Make a Budget Spreadsheet Template
If you can’t find the personal budget template of your dreams, you can always make your own. We explain — in plain speak — how the pros assemble their budget spreadsheets in Excel and how you can do the same.
Even if you don’t want to make your own from scratch, knowing how to do some simple functions can help you customize any template to fit your needs.
Just make sure you’re including everything in your DIY budget. There are hundreds of categories for your budget. (We have a list of 101). But in its simplest form, your actual budget will contain five categories.
Goals (financial or otherwise)
You can break one category (like “transportation”) into subcategories (like “car” or “public transportation”). You can even break those down further into transactional categories like “car insurance” and “car payment.”
A free-spirited spender might like more broad categories and stop at five. Or maybe you want to account for every transaction in subcategories within subcategories. Choose what fits your spending style.
Where to Find Free Budget Spreadsheets
Before you spend time jumping into the wild west of the web to find a personal budget template, check within your spreadsheet application. Microsoft Office Excel, Google Sheets and Apple Numbers all include excellent built-in spreadsheet templates.
If the provided templates aren’t enough, you can find more options online. Here are some of our favorite sources to find additional budgeting templates.
Microsoft Office Templates
Wealth of Geeks
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If you’re getting started with a personal budget template, there are lots of options available. Some of our favorite templates include yearly and monthly templates from Vertex42 and a weekly option from Spreadsheet123.
Other options include the 50/30/20 budget template from Sapience Financial and the zero-based budget template from Spreadsheet123.
Yes, Microsoft Excel does include a number of budget templates. Which templates you get will depend on the version of Office that you use. Additional budget templates for Excel can be downloaded from Microsoft’s website.
Creating your own budget spreadsheet template will give you the most control over your finances. Check out our detailed guide about how to create a budget template in Microsoft Excel. The process is easier than you might think.
Michael Archambault is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder specializing in technology. Former staff writer Jen Smith contributed.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.