You’ve decided it’s time to make a family budget. But figuring out how to actually start the budget is your next problem! You used paper and pencil to jot down ideas for budget categories and you have a stack of receipts.
Turning on your computer and getting a budget spreadsheet started is on your next step. You’ve heard it’s not difficult, but it certainly would be easier to make a family budget with step by step directions.
That’s where I come in! I’ve done this before and I’m here to help you.
The last thing you want is to get frustrated and stop before you even make your family budget. I’ll help you set up a basic spreadsheet template to organize your finances. So, grab a cup of coffee and all of your budget materials and let’s get started!
Using Google Sheets to Make a Family Budget
Google Sheets is a spreadsheet found in Google Drive and offering awesome tools to help you make a family budget. As a web-based application, it works from any device no matter where you are.
If you’ve used Excel, Google Sheets has many of the same spreadsheet functions. You can download add-ons and even write custom code if you want. You can also use Google Docs to create and edit budget documents.
And the best news? It’s FREE.
Let’s Get Started On Your Family Budget
Before you can make a family budget, you’ll need to access Google Drive. If you haven’t used Google Drive before, you can access it through a Gmail account or by setting up a Google account. On the computer, go to drive.google.com or go to your apps and find Google Drive on a mobile device.
It would probably be easier for you to make a family budget on a laptop or desktop computer rather than a mobile device. When you are ready to start, go to sheets.google.com or open the Google Drive dashboard and choose Google Sheets. Then open the menu and select File > New > Spreadsheet.
You’ll now have a blank untitled spreadsheet and you can use to make a family budget.
Adding Information to Your Family Budget Spreadsheet
When looking at your new spreadsheet, you’ll see the columns across the top of the screen are labeled with letters and the rows down the left side of your screen are numbered. The rest of your screen is filled with rectangles called cells. The cell in the top-left corner is probably highlighted in blue. If you start typing, the information will go in the highlighted cell.
If you haven’t used Google Sheets or other spreadsheet programs like Excel, take some time to add information to different cells for practice. When you press enter, the data you enter will be saved and you will be moved to the beginning of the next row. If you want to move across the same row, just press tab. You can click on any cell to move to it and use arrow keys on the keyboard to move around the screen.
Rather than typing everything in, you can cut and paste information into cells on your spreadsheet too. Deleting information from a cell is as easy as backspacing within the cell or clicking on the cell and then touching backspace to erase everything in the cell.
How to Make a Family Budget in Google Sheets
This process may look overwhelming but if you follow it step by step, you will have a basic family budget set up in no time! Then you can modify it as needed as you get used to using it.
To make a budget, we’ll organize and track your income and expenses.
1. Start in cell B1 and label the months of the year across the top row of the spreadsheet.
2. Type the word Income in cell A2 and under it label each source of income in your family. After adding all sources of income, type Total Income in the next cell.
3. Now, in the correct month, enter the after-tax income for each source.
4. Next, click on the cell where the Total Income should appear (B7 in this case). Then go up to the tools at the top of the page and look for the Functions tool on the far right (the fancy E symbol). Pull down the menu and choose SUM.
5. Then click on the B3 cell (the first income you entered) and push down the shift key. Drag the box that is highlighted down to the last income you entered. Then push enter. Your total monthly income for the month should now be showing in the Total Income box.
6. Now, skip a row or two under Total Income and type the word Expenses (still in Column A).
7. Enter your family expense categories (housing, taxes, insurance, utilities, food, gas, etc.) After adding all of the expense categories, type Total Expenses in the next cell. If you ever need to add an extra row, right click and a menu pops up allowing you to make many different changes as you work on the spreadsheet.
8. Add up your expenses in each category for the month and enter the total for that category in the correct row.
Pro tip: You can use Google Drive to save copies of your receipts and file them into digital folders! Follow the steps at the bottom of the post.
9. Repeat Step 4 and do the same process for Total Expenses instead of Total Income.
10. Skip a row or two and type the word Balance into Column A.
11. Now, click on the cell where the final Balance should show up and then press the = sign. Next, click on the Total Income cell (B7 in this example) and then press the – (minus) symbol. Finally, click on the Total Expenses (B23 in example), followed by pressing enter. The Balance should show up in the correct box. It is the amount of money you have left after entering your after-tax income and your expenses.
What to Do with the Balance
If the Balance is a positive number in your family budget that’s terrific! But you might be wondering how that could be if you are still living paycheck to paycheck. Go back and make sure you didn’t miss any expense categories and double-check you’ve included all of your receipts.
You may find that all the little purchases you haven’t been tracking really add up. Or maybe you forgot a whole category in your family budget, like eating out, gifts, or your pool service and supplies when making your family budget.
Remember – this is just the start of your budgeting! You can go in and add rows and start organizing and tracking your money much closer now since you’ve learned to make a family budget. Your positive balance will be where you take money to grow (or start) an emergency fund, invest for retirement, or add to college funds.
If the Balance is negative, you may quickly notice which expenses are creating the problem. This gives you a starting place to start reducing expenses, consider growing your income – or both.
When you have all of the numbers in front of you, it’s time to act. Making a family budget is worth the time and effort to take control of your finances, tackle debt, and build wealth. Start today!
Would you rather use an existing family budget spreadsheet template? I’ve got you covered.
You can download the exact budget spreadsheet I use to manage my family’s finances right now!
Pro Tip – How to File Receipts in Google Drive
When I started my family budget, one of the things I struggled with was keeping track of all of my receipts. So here is a tip for you. Take the time to learn how to use Google Drive to file your receipts and you will never lose receipts or have piles of them again! (It looks like a lot of work but I wanted to be super specific so you didn’t get frustrated learning to do it!)
1. Download the Google Drive app on your phone and open it.
3. Select “new folder” from the menu and name the receipts folder
4. Go back to the menu and touch scan
5. Take a picture of your receipt
6. Press the check-mark which converts the picture to a PDF
7. Press down on the PDF file to get a new menu
8. Scroll down the menu and find “move”
9. Touch the folder you want to move the PDF file to and touch move at the bottom of the screen
10. Touch the folder to ensure the file is now in the folder