ReadyForZero Budgeting Spreadsheet

Budget spreadsheet

A couple of weeks ago at the ReadyForZero HQ, a few of us were talking about budgeting and how we keep track of our expenses so that we don’t over spend. During this discussion, I decided to share the budgeting spreadsheet that I created for myself years ago with the team and they really liked it!

This got us thinking: Maybe our ReadyForZero users and readers will find it useful as well. So, I spent sometime transferring my budgeting spreadsheet from Excel to Google Docs and sprucing it up a bit so that I can share it with you.

Here is the link to the Google Doc: ReadyForZero Budgeting Spreadsheet 

The spreadsheet has view only access, meaning anyone with a link can look at it, but it won’t allow you to make any changes. This is to avoid accidental changes made by anyone.  If you’d like to play around with it and use it for yourself, you can do it one of two ways:

1) Download it to Excel from the ‘File’ drop-down menu. It will preserve the formatting and formulas.

2) Make a copy and use it as a private Google Docs spreadsheet of your own that you can edit and customize. Click the “File” menu and then click “Make a copy” (you will have to be signed into your Google account for this to work). A new copy of the spreadsheet will open in a new window and you can use that one privately.

How it works:

The RFZ Expense Budget spreadsheet  has two major aspects to it:

1) The Summary sheet tracks and shows you an over view of your budget, your spending (which you enter yourself) and your remaining balance for each month of the year for various categories such as rent, groceries, gas etc. Via various spreadsheet formulas, I’ve set it up so that all your totals and balances are reflected on this sheet. If you over spend in any category or on your over all budget, I’ve formatted the Summary sheet to reflect that by highlighting the negative balance in bright red.

2) The Details sheets are for the budget categories that don’t have a flat or fixed cost associated with them such as dining out, groceries and clothing. In these sheets, you can record your exact, itemized spending for the categories on a regular basis.  I’ve set up formulas so that the  totals for your spending get automatically updated on the Summary sheet, which goes in the red if you exceed your budget for the month. For one time cost categories such as rent or your utilities bill, you can manually update the ‘spent’ field in the Summary sheet once you pay that bill.

One thing that I’ve personally found is that if I  force myself to enter my spending daily or at the very least 3-4 times a week, I really feel the pain if I enter something that I know is bad for my budget or if I go red in a category. This helps me make smarter purchasing decisions and avoid over spending. Alternatively, it feels great when I do make my budget for the month or only ‘stray’ within a few dollars. It’s almost like a game that helps me accomplish my goals.

This budget works for me partly because I’ve customized the spending categories to my liking and I want you to be able to do the same. So I’m going to show you how you can add and take out various categories to turn this into a personalized budget that works for you.

These instructions are for Google Docs and should be fairly similar if you’re using Excel instead. Be careful to not accidentally erase the formulas that make this budget work and feel free to email me if you have any questions!

How to add a budget category:

This process has a lot of steps, but if you follow the instructions, it should hopefully take you about 5 minutes to add a new category. (You can use our How to Create a Budget post as a companion piece)

We’ll start by creating a new worksheet for the new category, assuming that you’d like to track itemized expenses for this category. If this is a ‘one time’ cost category such as health insurance,  follow the instructions from step 4 onwards. For those of you who are Excel/Google Docs pros, feel free to use your own keyboard shortcuts in place of the drop down menu instructions I’ve provided.

Step 1. Click the ‘+’ sign at the bottom left corner of the spreadsheet. This will automatically add an ‘unnamed’ sheet to your spreadsheet. You’ll want to rename this sheet with the name of the budget category you’d like to add such as Entertainment. To rename, simply click on the sheet tab (sheet 10 in this case), and click ‘rename’. In excel, double click the label to rename.

Step 2. Next, we’ll use an existing worksheet to copy and paste the formatting. Simply click on an existing worksheet (such as Gas Details), highlight the rows with the formatting and select ‘copy’ (or hit command C/Control C).

Step 3. Click on the new worksheet, Entertainment Details in this case, select cell ‘A1’ and then  select ‘paste’ from the ‘Edit’ drop down menu. Delete the itemized spending information that got copied over from the existing worksheet, but be careful not to erase the formulas for the ‘totals’,  which is in row 17 here.

In steps 4-5, we’ll make space for the Entertainment category in the Summary sheet.

Step 4. Click on the Summary sheet. Highlight the entire row above which you’d like to add you category. Click the ‘insert’ drop down menu, then select ‘row above’. In Excel, it’ll say ‘rows’ instead of ‘row above’.

Step 5. Write  the label for your category, Entertainment  in this case, and set your budget amount. Then in the ‘balance’ cell, type in the subtraction formula to subtract the amount spent (column c) from the amount budgeted (column b).

In the last few steps (6-9) we’ll rig up the totals from the Entertainment Details into the Summary sheet and extend the budget for the category to the rest of the year.

Step 6. Click on the blank cell in the ‘spent’ column for the Entertainment Category and type in the ‘equals’ sign.

Step 7. Click on the Entertainment Details tab and click on the total amount for Dec’s itemized spending to connect that worksheet to the main Summary sheet. Now press enter. Be careful not to click any other cells during this process.

We’re almost done, just a couple more steps!

Step 8. Highlight the 3 columns that represent the Entertainment  budget for december–the budgeted amount, the spending and the balance–and copy them.

Step 9. Paste the values into the next 3 cells for January’s budget. All your formulas will automatically transfer over. Repeat this step for each of the following months until the end of the year and you’re done updating.

Remove a Category:

Removing a category involves much fewer steps than adding a category. You simply highlight the entire row for the category you’d like to delete, click Edit from the drop down menu and select the option to delete the row. Now double click on the tab for the corresponding ‘details’ worksheet, select ‘Delete’ and Voila! You’re  done removing a category! In excel, you delete the worksheet by clicking on the tab, selecting Edit from the drop down menu, and clicking ‘Delete Sheet’

I hope you find this spreadsheet to be a useful tool in your quest to cut your spending. If you already have  different methods or techniques that you use to keep track of your budget, please do share them with us!

This article is part of our Budgeting Tips Resource Center.  If you’re looking for additional information about budgeting tips, be sure to pay a visit!

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  • Cliff Dewitt

    I would love to see a iOS program that would track my daily cash expenditures. i.e. 1.25 for a soda from a machine, 1.50 for a newspaper etc.

    I am pretty good with my bills and checking account, and I have quit using credit cards but every payday I take my cash “allowance” but I have no easy way of tracking it so I do now know were it all goes.

    • Cliff,

      We are working on something that will help you with exactly this. Thanks for the comment and feedback.


  • 2robindodd63

    I love the spreadsheet idea but is there anyway that RFZ can built it for me instead of having to enter the information myself?

    • Thanks for the comment – and sorry for the delayed response, it must have slipped through the cracks. We don’t have the ability to create the spreadsheet and fill it in automatically at this time. However, we’ll keep that idea in mind.

  • Mike

    I have a budgeting speadsheet where you list/create as many categories as you want, if it has an interest rate you flag how it is compounded … these debts and any utilities / living expenses, are linked to a desired retirement date in the future. You can change around numbers to see how the big picture changes. It is all based on a timeline, so you can estimate future expenses, ie college expenses or extra insurance expenses for when your kids start driving. I would love this to be on line with I phone access, so as my wife and I are out spending money we can flag things and not only see where we are with our current budget, but also how the small decisions we make on a daily basis effect the big picture. It would be good for a site like yours to incorporate this as people would contantly be signing into the tool to flag their spending … good for advertisers.

    • This is great feedback, Mike, and I can see how it would be very helpful for people who are already using ReadyForZero. I will share it with our team. In the meantime, good luck with everything and keep up the good work!

  • Jon

    It would be great if something similar to this sheet could be integrated with your over all offerings without compromising the flexibility of a spreadsheet.

    • Good idea, Jon! As you can see below, this appears to be a common request. I will pass this along to our team. Thanks.

  • Martin

    Is it possible to add a “Beginning Balance” to this spreadsheet? Preferably one for Checking AND Savings, etc.

    • Hi Martin, if you make a copy of the Google Doc and save it in your own Google Drive, you should be able to add the beginning balance for checking and savings. Give it a shot and let us know if you have any other questions!

  • Daniel

    I think our collective debt can be solved if every individual (i.e the collective together) simply learns how to live within their means. I teach you how to do it for free:

  • Just wanted to say thank you, this spreadsheet is awesome.

    • I’m really glad you like it! Let us know if you have any questions about using it.

  • RonJohn

    I use a spreadsheet for tracking our current and future — since we know when we get paid, and about how much, when bills are due, and approx how much they’ll be — cash flow instead of using a budget sheet. It’s also kind of a budgeting tool, since we know historically about how much we spend on gas and food, and so track that, too.

    One crucial note: leave the CC home and use a debit card for all “normal” payments: food, fuel, etc. That way, they show up instantly online at your bank’s checking account web page. No more forgetting what you wrote a check for, or “losing” expenditures by paying cash.

    • Great comment! Using the debit card instead of the credit card can be a huge improvement in helping you budget and stay on track. By the way, have you tried out ReadyForZero yet? If so, let me know what you think!

      • RonJohn

        I hadn’t heard of it until I was Googling for something else and found this blog post. Don’t really need it, though, since our target is to be CC debt-free (still have low-rate mortgage and auto loan, but am not so motivated to pay them off soon) by March of next year.

        To be blunt: I did what your site does by having rudimentary Excel skills and remembering a smidgen of high school algebra (specifically, how to derive the monthly interest rate from APR, and what to to with it).

        Then, I could — knowing my fixed monthly CC payment budget — experiment with how to allocate the money where.

        That turned me into the anti-Dave Ramsey — pay off high bal cards first (all my cards had the same APR) — because (a) they compound higher interest charges faster than low-bal cards, and (b) I had a chart to show my progress and so didn’t need the accomplishment of small successes to motivate me.

        MOST IMPORTANTLY, though, is that I was not actually behind on any payment, since I signed us up for a bill paying service which guaranteed that we’d at least always pay the minimum. (Now I swear by CheckFree Web, which has a great tabular interface and is able to even print and mail checks to individuals and small companies.)

        Thus, soon enough our credit score was reasonably good, and we got a few 0% bal xfer offers, so were able to zero out super-high APR cards from the Bad Times.


        • Oh, nice! It sounds like you guys have been working really hard and have accomplished a lot. Congratulations! And keep up the good work!

  • Farrah

    Hello, great information. Is it possible that you can email me a packet that I can use to incorporate all the tips for a full presentation? If so my email is

  • RaphMertine

    Excellent commentary , Just to add my thoughts , if someone was looking for a IRS 2555 , my husband saw a blank version here