I’ve written before about how I keep a ton of lists for various things in my life, but I don’t think I’ve written about how much I absolutely adore Excel and spreadsheets in general. I’ll admit, I always kind of thought this was a weird “me” thing, but I’ve seen a lot lately on social media and comments here from other women who all love a good spreadsheet… so if this is you as well, let’s share some of our tricks and tips, as well as some of the weird things we keep in spreadsheet form.
(I fully admit this may be a part and parcel of my ADHD — is there any better way to procrastinate than jumping into action and creating a good spreadsheet? I think not.)
I will note that I am not an Excel expert by any means, despite using it daily — it’s such a powerful program and has so many cool functions. I worked with Excel twice in my legal career in ways that really made it clear that I had barely scratched the surface of the program — once for a reinsurance dispute involving, if memory serves, fraud and theft from one of the brokers, so we were trying to figure out insurance tiers and percentages after the fact (whee). The second time was a few years later, when I inherited a 50-state survey on libel that involved crazy macros… it felt like I broke the chart more often than I got it to work right.
Still, it’s kind of surprising to me how often I have Excel sheets open on my computer, so I thought it would be fun to discuss the ways we use spreadsheets for personal use.
Do you use spreadsheets to keep track of personal data? What do you keep track of — and are you Team Excel, Team Google Sheets, Team Airtable (or other, or all)?!
How I Use Excel for Personal Stuff
I’ve written about some of these personal spreadsheets in depth before…
Health stats spreadsheet: I keep track of my health stats in spreadsheet form, guided primarily by an old Real Simple article I read years ago that went through the important stats to pay attention to. I’ve added some from an article I read with advice on perimenopause, and I’ll probably add some stats to track from the recent NYT article on ways to measure your fitness and health, apart from weight.
I don’t get all of the data every year — there are huge gaps in the spreadsheet, in fact! — but it helps me see general trends with the numbers that my doctors may be missing because they’re all in the normal range.
You can read more about my health stats and download my spreadsheet here.
Financial Snapshot spreadsheet: I first posted about this in our discussion on frugal fatigue, where you just feel a little burned out from saving so much. This is a great way to see major progress because you’re comparing snapshot overviews of your finances — it isn’t like logging into Mint or Quicken where you get the latest data but can’t necessarily compare it easily. I update my chart about twice a year.
I’ll be honest, the volatile stock market has hit us pretty hard, so it’s been a little depressing to check the snapshot because it doesn’t look like we’re making a ton of growth… but even the slight growth makes me feel like we’re doing something right when so many of our investments are down, down, down.
You can read more about my spreadsheet and download a sample one here.
Kids’ Schedule spreadsheet: I’ve written about my Kids’ Schedule spreadsheet over at CorporetteMoms — I cannot take credit for this brilliant idea, but I use it every summer to plan summer camps for the kids. (If you’re scratching your head how this is possibly spreadsheet-worthy, I highly recommend this McSweeney’s article with word problems to help you design your summer camp schedule. Sample:
Your eight-year-old’s guitar camp, located five miles east of your house, starts at 8:45 AM. Your daughter’s robotics camp is seven miles southwest and begins at 9:30 AM with no early drop-off. You work ten miles north and have to be at work by 8 AM. How long will it take you to bend the time-space continuum?
How is it better than a regular calendar? It’s much more condensed, and the data is easier to consume — if I’m adding a description of a camp, I can see it more easily — and if there are multiple weeks that they could take a camp I can see all of that data too.
Read more about my method for scheduling kids’ activities and download my spreadsheet.
Budget spreadsheets: We don’t currently really have a budget, but in the past when I’ve needed to really limit my spending, I’ve been a fan of downloading expenditures into an Excel sheet and manually separating them so they’re in themed categories.
You can read more about my thoughts on how to make a budget here.
Rebalancing investments and assessing your asset allocation: I wrote about my attempts to rebalance our investments a few years ago… it can be trickier than you think! I have three different retirement accounts, my husband has two, and we have four different after-tax investment accounts (not counting the kids’ 529s or their investment accounts). I tend to be super boring and invest in the same index funds, but because the investments are spread out over all those different accounts (and held in different banks and brokers!), it’s hard to get a handle on just where the money is allocated.
I wrote about different ways to assess asset allocation (small cap! large cap! foreign! bonds!) and some different services I’ve used to figure it out — but I keep a very rough spreadsheet of our allocations along with my financial snapshots.
My “first of month” spreadsheet: This is more a feature of my being self-employed with uneven income streams — on the first of every month I consult a spreadsheet to keep track of different bills like the electric bill and so forth, and I calculate how much money I can move from my business to my personal account, and how much money I should put in my online savings for my eventual tax bill and for the eventual transfer to my retirement account. Then I calculate how much money I need to keep in our personal account, based on all the different automatic savings and automatic investments I have happening.
Yearly planner spreadsheet: I use this more for content planning than anything, but if you’re a Very Busy Executive with various conferences, speaking engagements, family vacations, and more to keep track of, this year-at-a-glance spreadsheet (auto download from MichaelHyatt.com) that automatically updates the dates can be a great thing.
Corporette analytics spreadsheet: Again, this is more a “me” thing, but every month I update analytics for the blogs, such as pageviews, followers, money, etc. I also have some SEO-related spreadsheets, but I’m more of a passive participant.
Tax-stuff spreadsheets: Our taxes can be a bit complicated because I have a lot of different income streams and we take a fair number of deductions — for years I’ve kept a clean Excel chart of my Schedule C, essentially, listing all of my different sources of income. The tax planner my accountant gives me has the previous year’s data for reference, so I’ve done that also, although my Excel charts include all of the years. (But the printable version only shows last year as a comparable.) I really like having my data like this — it’s an easy way to compare different years and compare the income streams.
This year, frustrated by having my poor handwriting all over the place, I made three new charts to give my accountant, all inspired by pages in his tax planner — a list of my expenses broken down by category, a list of my charitable contributions, and a list of my dividend income. (My dividend income isn’t huge but reporting it requires a lot of data.)
I keep a few more spreadsheets in the cloud (Google Sheets and Airtable), but I vastly prefer Excel.
Readers, are you fans of Excel, or spreadsheets in general? How do you use them?
Stock photo via Deposit Photos / AndreyPopov.
I mostly use google sheet, as that is also a major work tool for me. I have the financial snapshot spreadsheet with one tab that pulls together balances from various accounts, and shows progress against a few savings buckets (emergency fund, saving up for big vacation or move), a tab showing my net worth growing over time for motivation, a tab tracking ETF portfolio over time, and retirement savings.
I also have a ‘household’ sheet that has one tab for recipes in my rotation. I add links to online recipes and use the comment tool to add adjustments I made to get the flavor just right for me. Another tab tracks my car’s mileage and repairs. Other tabs I am currently not using were at various points used to track utility use, day-to-day meal planning/food log and other things.
I have a garden calendar spreadsheet where I note down the day I do stuff (sow seeds, fertilize, cut back) and when stuff happens (first seedlings sprout, first flowers, first fruit) that helps me to learn more from year to year.
I also have a shared sheet with my husband documenting our ongoing house hunt.
Do you have a good example of the expenses by category sheet you mention for your Schedule C? I just started an LLC and would love to start out on a good reporting front and that’s exactly what I feel like I’m missing to be able to keep track.
My accountant groups them into broad categories like Office Supplies, Contract Work, Software, Web hosting, Internet, Cable & Website, etc. For me the big challenge is remembering and being consistent into which category I put which expense. There are probably much, much better ways to do this, but for the past few years I’ve had a chart that has a column for each big expense (1 column) and category (2 columns, line item and price). I used to try to do this by month (so if I paid X bill in April it went in there) but that doesn’t always make sense. You could also just do this as a simple spreadsheet with date / expense / price / category; I just prefer to see it in a horizontal spread.
Also try to use your business credit card for most transactions you can deduct, including things like health visits and things… helps them from getting lost. Good luck!
My accountant also gave us spreadsheet headings like yours. Kt, you can look at a Schedul C. There may be categories that are reported. The hardest part of LLC taxes is amortizing larger assets. You may need an accountant to do this part, if applicable.
do you mean like for office space inside a house? i’ve always heard to do it by using a rug or room, some set point. but yes, accountant for that.
My husband and I share a “Packing Lists” spreadsheet. It has a column for each of our bags (i.e., suitcase, purse, etc). There are trips we take regularly (e.g., beach in the summer, visit family around the holidays), and the lists for these different trips are on their own tab within the spreadsheet. Whenever there is a new trip (e.g., Munich), we copy and paste a list from another overseas trip into a new tab and label it (e.g., “Munich”). So, we are able reuse and update these lists over time. When it comes time to pack, we change the font for all items to red and change them to black as a way to indicate they are have been packed. Items we have decided not to pack are changed to having a strikethrough font style.
At the end of our regular trips, while we are stuck in the car on the way home, we talk about how we should do the trip next time, what to bring and not to bring, etc. I make notes since my husband does more of the driving. Then, I have notes to check whenever we plan the next trip. It is really helpful for not forgetting things and refining a plan over time.
I definitely use spreadsheets to track budgets, net worth, and retirement scenarios!
I use a spreadsheet to track my vacation time and how I want to allocate it over the year. Each year we get a set number of public holidays and vacation days and “floating holidays.”
I use spreadsheets to manage addresses of family & friends. It is super helpful for making cards around the holidays.
I use a spreadsheet to manage my sheet music. I have a lot of sheet music, and it can be hard to remember what songs are in what books. My goal is to manage my development of a memorized repertoire using spaced repetition to practice songs before I completely forget them.