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Do you have spreadsheets?

January 14, 2009

I would imagine most people who are into personal finance do, though with Quicken, Mint, etc., maybe not.

I was visiting with three old high school friends around Christmas time, discussing whether or not we were ready for kids.  Honestly, kids aren’t really on my radar yet, but I assume I’ll have them someday.  One friend has an 8 month old, another said she’s waiting until 30, and another seems like she’ll be ready relatively soon.

Friend 1:  “Mark says we need to make $10k more a year before we can have another kid.  He has a spreadsheet.”
Friend 2:  “Yeah, that sounds familiar.  Tyler has lots of spreadsheet.”
Friend 3:  “My husband too.”
Me:  “……  I have lots of spreadsheets.”

I don’t really have lots, just one per a year with tabs for each month, and tabs for this and that.  And some other rarely used ones that are mostly notes/lists for myself.  I read a lot of personal finance blogs of young 20 something women, so I’m pretty sure I’m not a total freak.

T, to my knowledge, has no spreadsheets (though he probably has a receipt for everything he’s purchased in the past 4 years), no real filing system, and no real budget.  His budget is “spend as little as possible most of the time, but occasionally spend a little extra when needed.”  I suspect this is more because he is a student than anything, but then again I don’t know.   I don’t think it is a really bad system, much more relaxed than mine.  But it just isn’t what I found worked for me.

I wonder if I would be different if I was married before having my first proper job, as all three of those friends were.  I got through college without any spreadsheets, and no one was managing my money but me.  Is it just a personality quirk?  What draws you to tracking your finances in detail?  Are you more interested in finances than your partner, if you are in a relationship?

Anyway, I just found it interesting.  (Also interesting, one of these friends bought a $600 cat and a $1600 dog.  Wow!  They are beautiful animals, but, wow!)

27 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2009 5:48 am

    This comment is not against your friends, but in general (and to my sibling actually)… I don’t get why people spend so much money on having a pet. You have so many great pet shelters with pets that need love, and my brother (for example) paid $5k for his dog, and that’s without shots!!!

    Also, it’s like we treat dogs better than our own fellow human being. I find that odd. 🙂

    Anyway… I’d never spend money on a pet. I’m allergic, for one 🙂

    Back to the point of your post – I LooooooooOOVE spreadsheets. I had to use them a lot in university, and I just taught myself how to use ALL the features in there. Then when I created my budgeting and expense tracking sheet, I went hog wild and spent hours on it lol…

    I think if I were married before working.. it would not have made a difference because I was in business school that forced me to use spreadsheets.

    But if I never entered b-school, then yes. I think I’d be a lot less comfortable with spreadsheets.

    Fabulously Broke in the City
    Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver.

  2. bayoujosh permalink
    January 15, 2009 7:23 am

    SP – If you wait till you can afford kids, you’ll never have them! Kids are no doubt a financial shake-up, but you’ll always find a way to afford them. And, as much as you try to plan ahead, you’ll never be ready. I will say this, we chose to have kids early. I didn’t want to be the 60 year-old dropping my kids off at high school. Yeah, that means we have to put off other things, but, in our eyes, it is worth it.

    As far as the spreadsheets go, yeah, I have my monthly/yearly budget and goals all on a spreadsheet. I also use to keep track of where my spending goes. So, it’s a good combination. The spreadsheet to track things on a larger scale, and for a level of detail that I don’t want to bother with manually.


  3. Becca permalink
    January 15, 2009 7:51 am

    I do all of my stuff in Excel. My current “must have” file has 21 tabs, though some of those can be moved into my historical file and not all are finance stuff. I have my grad school stuff, goals, and other word-type files tucked in there too.

  4. January 15, 2009 8:32 am

    @bayoujosh – There isn’t much wrong with having kids early. I’m not waiting until I can afford them, I am just waiting until I want to have them. Which is… not now.

    @FB – We learned basic excel stuff in jr high. I know there is a lot of powerful stuff excell can do, but for budgeting you can pretty much get by with sums and stuff. I don’t think that people can’t do it, they just find it boring. And about pets… yeah, I don’t know. I’m not ready for a pet yet either. 🙂

  5. January 15, 2009 8:51 am

    Yeah, I didn’t pay all that much attention to my finances when I was a student either. I had a campus job that paid for my food (my roommates and I cooked for ourselves), and my parents gave me a thousand dollars or so a year to live on. Everything else was part of the college bill, which my parents, along with financial aid, paid for. I was pretty frugal, but I didn’t really pay that much attention to how or where I was spending my money.

    The spreadsheets started popping up when I got my first real job, and actually started earning more than $100 a week. I also collared my parents and made them tell me what an IRA was. I believe my exact words were, “Now that I have money, what am I supposed to do with it?” It was kind of a shock to realize that there was a whole arena of basic life skills that I didn’t have.

  6. January 15, 2009 10:12 am

    I have several spreadsheets, what self respecting pf blogger doesn’t. Nothing complex, just budget, projections and net worth. Also I handle all our finances. Mr M has zero interest and would spend every dime.

    I have three boston terriers, one from a breeder and two from shelters. All of them have cost a fortune, the vet bills dwarf what I paid for them. Depending on the breed $1600 might be cheap. I love my boys, it’s one of those non-financial decisions like kids.

  7. January 15, 2009 10:40 am

    I’m a management consultant by day, so I live and breath spreadsheets! The irony is, I’ve kept a financial spreadsheet for years and it only served to show me exactly how badly we were heading in the wrong direction.

    I’m not sure what snapped for me, but now, in addition to my spreadsheet which I use for “what if” scenarios, I’ve gone totally old school. I have my revolving credit on a big white board and keep a Budget Box with envelopes, which by the way has been working great!

  8. January 15, 2009 10:45 am

    I will ocassionally pop into my excel spreadsheet to see if I can afford something large but I don’t input every expense. This is probably due to my not being broke or saving for anything in particular right now.

  9. January 15, 2009 10:53 am

    My wife and I definitely have spreadsheets; in fact, we’re not into Quicken, Mint, YouNeedaBudget, Mvelopes, or any of the other budgeting software programs.

    A good ol’ fashioned Excel spreadsheet with tabs for the months at the bottom does it for us. Excel is such an amazing tool anyway, and you can do ANYTHING you want with it- customize, program, format, etc…

    I love it.

  10. January 15, 2009 11:00 am

    I have always been a spreadsheet lover. I even attempted to put one together in college, which was sort of silly since I had no income. I might not have gotten serious about it without my mini financial mess when I first started working, though.

    Chad doesn’t track anything, but it sounds like he & T adhere to the same philosophy. It doesn’t hurt that past rent/utilities/food, he has no other obligations (e.g. car loan, student loans).

  11. January 15, 2009 11:15 am

    This is an interesting question. It is so easy to give control to other people when it comes to finances (and too many women do it!). I think I would still end up with spreadsheets because it is important for me to be independent and honestly I’m a bit of a control freak.

    I actually never used spreadsheets in college (an English major) and rarely used them in my first job. In fact I learned what I know most about excel because I decided to use it for my budget. I also have a account, but that is mainly so I can pull up the balances in all my accounts at one time. I prefer to manually enter my receipts into my spreadsheet. It keeps me honest and aware.

    Oh and I do have a handful, the more I use them the more I love them!

  12. courtneyryan369 permalink
    January 15, 2009 11:21 am

    I have a spreadsheet I’m guessing that is much like yours. Multiple tabs for various things, all interlinked and whatnot. I’m a geek. I know this.

    I do it out of necessity right now. I have to see what money I have (or don’t have) and where it’s going because I’m making so little right now.

    When I was dating my ex, he took care of both of our finances because he was “Anal Retentive” about it and I was more of “Whatever” about it.

    Oddly, I’m more like him now and I hear he’s more like me. Haha.

    I can say I won’t ever hand over control like that again. I really had little idea of what was being done back then. Live and Learn.

  13. January 15, 2009 12:38 pm

    i have spreadsheets, my girlfriend does not.

    although I have more fun making the spreadsheet than actually following them.

  14. flightgirl78 permalink
    January 15, 2009 12:48 pm

    I have spreadsheets. I owe $570K and have a $750K+ real estate portfolio that generates lots of income and lots of expenses. I would be absolutely lost without it, and back it up, email it to myself, and save it often!

  15. Bonnie permalink
    January 15, 2009 1:38 pm

    The only people I know who use anything like a spreadsheet are married couples. I’ve been thinking of using Mint or something similar in the new year.

  16. January 15, 2009 4:36 pm

    Of course I have spreadsheets!! How could you even ask?! 😉
    I’ve never really talked to anyone (outside of blogging) about my spreadsheets too much, but if I’d have to guess I’d guess they (the women, especially) don’t have any.

    I can’t even imagine completely handing over the reigns to someone else when it comes to finances….but that could just be a result of my personality (control freak) and my history (my dad is terrible with managing money). I figure if I don’t track it, no one else will do it for me.

  17. January 15, 2009 9:58 pm

    I LOVE my spreadsheets!! I do the same thing – I have one per year, with a tab for each month & the occasional extra tab. 🙂 My parents know that I track my money very well, but none of my friends do anything of that sort – that I know of, at least!

    I’m glad I found the PF world where I can be a nerd about my finances and spreadsheets and all that good stuff. 🙂

  18. January 15, 2009 11:18 pm

    I have a few spreadsheets, but they’re not too fancy. I let a lot of online trackers do the work for me (Mint, BofA’s My Portfolio, Walletproof). Most of my spreadsheets are there to do things the online sites can’t do for me (or just aren’t doing well enough). I think I’m of the finance mindset of “spend as little as possible” as well…A few times I’ve tried to budget out things in spreadsheets, but I’ve found that Walletproof keeps track of my expenses pretty well (granted that I enter everything in) but I can keep tabs on how much I’m spending in each category. And it will kindly turn red when I hit my limit!

  19. January 16, 2009 8:01 am

    We have spreadsheet, but that’s mainly because I handle our finances and got tired of questions all of time. It also helps us see our trends and helps me stay on top of the extra bills since buying hte house. I do two tabs/month for assets/debts and 1 tab for bills.

    There has been an explosion of babies in my life. In my husband’s main group of friends there are 3 wives (me being one of them) that don’t have kids or aren’t pregnant. Same thing at work and with my friends. We’re not ready (combo of having some more ‘us’ time & meeting a few more financial goals) and are doing ok with the social pressure.

  20. January 16, 2009 8:22 am

    I have a growing fondness for spread sheets. I also use Mint and compare my spreadsheets to it. I am a visual person, so spread sheets work great when I take the time to use them.

  21. January 16, 2009 9:58 am

    oh you KNOW i love me some spreadsheets 😉 i actually do the same thing you do though – 1 file w/ a dozen tabs + extra ones like “xmas stuff” and the like.

    but hey, everyone has their own method that works.

  22. tom permalink
    January 16, 2009 2:09 pm

    OH yes… got a few spreadsheets… but most of my stuff is handled through Mint. To steal a line from my boy J Money, I love me some Mint.

  23. January 17, 2009 6:20 pm

    I have a spreadsheet to track monthly housing expenses. That’s how I know that I spend $379/month average on utilities. Otherwise I don’t use them at the moment because I just put a pre-designated amount of money into various accounts: new car fund, property tax, home improvement, vacation, etc. But I do love spreadsheets, I think they are fun!

  24. January 22, 2009 6:48 am

    Maybe it’s the accountant in me talking, but I seriously can’t manage without spreadsheets! Without fail, if I don’t use my spreadsheets, my debt increases!

    I wonder though, if I were to make charts as well, if that would help, too.

  25. June 20, 2010 11:02 pm

    A $600 cat!? Wow! I thought my $120 cat was expensive! 🙂

    I’m more interested in finances than my husband, and I think it’s really the result of me having big financial goals while he, well, doesn’t. I mean, when you want to pay off $25,000 in student loans in two years, you need to be tracking your spending and creating a budget to keep yourself on schedule. If your goal is just “buy a house…someday,” you’re not going to be as crazy obsessed with tracking things.


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