Get Organised: Balance your Books

If you want to take control of your finances, read on as Windows Middle East shows you how to manage your money the Excel way...

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By  Matthew Wade Published  May 1, 2006

|~|Get-Org-1---m.jpg|~|Once you’ve finished entering your income and expenses into the sheet, explain budget items using comment boxes.|~|Whether you’re just starting to learn to manage your finances, or you’ve been keeping track of expenditures for years, a family or personal budget can help you become more responsible with your money and prevent you from going into debt. Besides helping you compare your income with your expenses, a budget can also help you plan for long-term financial goals. Budget buddy One of the best tools for the task is spreadsheet star Microsoft Excel. If you’ve never used Excel, don’t fret as Microsoft's Office website boasts a host of easy-to-use personal and family budgeting templates that are absolutely free. Simply visit and under the ‘Browse Template’ section click Excel. Next, under Finance and Accounting, click Personal, followed by Personal (or Family) Monthly Budget’ (see pic A). Alternatively, you can access both sheets on next month’s Windows CD. Help is on the way If you want to get the most from these templates, be sure to enable the Template Help task pane. This section tells you what features are used in the template that you just downloaded. It can also tell you how to put these features to work to get the results you want. - On the General tab, hit ‘Service Options’ - Click ‘Online Content’ in the Category pane, and then check the ‘Show Template Help automatically when available’ check box. - Once you've set-up the Template Help feature you can begin entering data into your spreadsheet. For this workshop, we’ll walk you through using Microsoft’s ‘Personal monthly budget’ template. Balance your books - First, enter your projected income (if appropriate) and your actual monthly income (as of your last pay day) - If you have a second job, included your additional income in the Extra Income cell - Next, enter your projected and actual costs for major expenses such as housing, entertainment, loans, food, personal care and so on. (We suggest a trial period in which you keep all your receipts. This will help to make your expense sheet as accurate as possible and provide quite an education!) - If you have a savings or investment account, enter its balance into the sheet - If you make regular donations to charities, then include these amounts in the spreadsheet as well - As you might expect, number in red and placed in brackets represent negative figures. For instance, if the figure in the Actual Balance field is $2000 and this is in red, then you’re spending more than you’re earning! - As you enter your expenses sub-totals and totals are automatically updated - Category totals are combined for an overall total for each month, which will help you to see where you are saving cash or falling short - If you wish to explain budget items in more detail, right-click on the budget item's cell, click ‘Insert Comment’ and enter your details. For instance, if you want to keep track of how many times you’ve dined out in the past month, you can add a note include the dinner count and the cost of each meal. Every time you hover the cursor over the ‘Dining out’ field, you'll be able to see this information (see pic C). - Once you’ve finished entering your cash flow, save and update it once a week. If you want to monitor your spending closely, update this every two or three days. ||**||

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