How to write a monthly personal budget using Google Docs Spreadsheets

A budget is simply a plan for where your money will go this month. By giving every dollar a name, you ensure that your dollars don't just walk away. Using Google Docs (specifically the spreadsheet application) will make the process of writing a budget simpler.

Go to and log in. If you don't have an account, sign up at this point and then log in.
From the "New" menu on the left hand side near the top, select "Spreadsheet"
In the upper right-hand corner of the spreadsheet, click "Save" and enter the name you want for your budget (e.g., "March budget").
In the first row, type in the following headers.
Column A - "Item"
Column B - "Income"
Column C - "Expenditure"
Column D - "Running total"
In the cell D2 (column D, row 2), enter the following formula
Copy the contents of cell D2. Do this by first selecting the cell by clicking it (so that it is highlighted in blue), and then by pressing Ctrl+C or going to the "Edit" menu and selecting "Copy". (Note: Google Docs may require you to use Ctrl+C.)
Now, select the cell D3 by clicking, and then hold down the shift key and press the down arrow on your keyboard until you have selected, say, the first 50 cells in column D. (All the selected cells with be highlighted.)
Paste the copied contents of D2 into those cells either by pressing Ctrl+V or by going to the "Edit" menu and clicking "Paste". (Note: Google Docs may require you to use Ctrl+V.) You should now see a zero in every cell that you pasted into. This process so far set up the formulas for the automatic running totals.
Now, start by entering all of the coming month's expected income. Enter a description for the item in column A and the amount in column B. (There is no need to write anything in column C, but one could enter 0, if desired.) For example, if you expect 2 paychecks of $2000 each and then $100 from a tag sale, you might enter the following into the following cells.
Cell A2 - "Paycheck 1"
Cell B2 - 2000
Cell A3 - "Paycheck 2"
Cell B3 - 2000
Cell A4 - "Profits from yard sale"
Cell B4 - 100

You should note that column D automatically provides a running total.
Now start entering your projected expenses, preferably in order of importance. Enter a description in column A and the amount in column C. For example, your first 3 expenses might be the following.
Cell A5 - "Giving"
Cell C5 - 410
Cell A6 - "Food"
Cell C6 - 350
Cell A7 - "Mortgage"
Cell C6 - 800

Notice that the amount in column D becomes small each time you enter a new amount. The amount shown in column D is how much money you have left.
Continue to enter expenses until every single dollar is spent. If you find that your expenses exceed your income, go back and make adjustments to non-critical budget items to make up for the deficit. If you find that you have extra money after all items are accounted for, then you must come up with something to do with the excess money. (Otherwise it will find a way to simply disappear.) You could use the excess money to save for emergencies, save for retirement, save for children's college education, paying off the house early, saving for Christmas presents, or saving for a vacation.
Stick to the budget!

Copyright 2009 by Michael Nehring