How to Use Excel to Manage Expenses and Investments (Even If You’re a Newbie!)

“What is the best way to keep track of ones finances?” is a question that is often asked and answered on the Internet.

While suggestions range from a good old Excel sheet, to budgeting ‘apps’, to Google docs, the focus seems to be on listing and tracking every expense.

I think, this is classic micromanagement with no sight of the big picture. As a firm believer of ‘less is more’ I would like to share with you a financial tracker that I have been using for the past 6 years.

The tracker incorporates simple but well-known axioms,

  • Pay yourself first
  • Expenses = Earning – Investments

The basic idea is the following:

  • List all short term (< 5Y) and long-term (> 5Y) goals
  • Determine how much one needs to invest each month for each of them
  • Determine how much one can invest each month, taking into account, expenses and liabilities
  • Start investments and set a target.
  • Try to minimize total expenses and increase investments.
  • Track investments and total expenses alone each month.

As long as we invest an amount equal to or greater than your target for each goal, it is irrelevant how the rest of the money is spent.  Therefore, there is no need to track expenses for travel, milk, groceries etc.

  • When we get cash at the start of each month, we pay ourselves first. Meaning we invest what we have to (or close to it!) for all out short/long-term goals.
  • We allocate (not invest) money for recurring annual expenses like insurance premiums, school fees etc.
  • We allocate money for liabilities if any (now you know why they say keep that EMI as low as possible!).
  • The rest can be spent to our heart’s content!

What is that?  Do I hear you saying, ‘in your dreams, pal!’?

Yes, I see what you mean. How many of us can manage to do the above:

Invest what is needed for all our goals, take care of liabilities and recurring expenses and then spend the rest!

Yes it is quite difficult, but I am convinced that it is the only way to achieve all our dreams and goals.

I have been doing this for 6 years. Initially, I could only invest about 50% of what I had to. Over time it improved.

Unmonitored cash evaporates!  So monitor, we must, with the right priorities.

Here is a screenshot of the financial tracker:

1x1.trans How to Use Excel to Manage Expenses and Investments (Even If You’re a Newbie!)

The monthly tracker sheet for the current year is shown here with some imaginary numbers for the month of August.

The green cells in the rightmost column, shows the target monthly investment required for retirement and four other goals.

The entries are sourced from the goal planner sheet (red tab).

A similar tracker for future years can be created by using the copy sheet command making appropriate changes.

The blue tabs (one for each goal) are used to track the monthly investment made for each goal, year after year. The target for each year is available for reference in each sheet and compared against the average investment made for the year.

Here is a screenshot:

1x1.trans How to Use Excel to Manage Expenses and Investments (Even If You’re a Newbie!)

The sheets are not password protected. Please feel free to modify as per your requirement. Do post your suggestions so that everyone can benefit from them.

Happy investing!

Download the Monthly Planner

M. Pattabiraman aka pattu is an Associate Professor (Physics) with IIT, Madras, India. His area of interest include physics, personal financial planning, simple tools creation related to financial planning.

10 Lessons You Can Learn from Top Finance Movies


1x1.trans 10 Lessons You Can Learn from Top Finance Movies

Top finance movies


Movies have always been very popular amongst youngsters, not just for their entertainment value, but also from the learning perspective.

It is a catching trend in colleges and universities as well to show movies and documentaries as a part of the curriculum. Today in this article I will tell you the top 10 finance movies of all time that teach you important lessons of finance and the corporate world.

By watching all the below mentioned movies, you will get to know what it takes to be in the finance world and what it takes to succeed.


1. Wall Street



According to me, this is one of the best movies ever made on the financial world and stock markets. It tells you the perspectives of an ex-big shot, current big shots, big firms and their management thinking. It provokes you to actually think and ponder over the famous questions “how much is enough?”

As a finance aspirant, this movie presents you with a list of do’s and don’ts as a finance professional, and gives you an opportunity to look at the larger picture and not look at immediate gains.

This article is aimed at giving you a a list of movies that will give you a taste of finance world with a tinge of entertainment. If you have any comments, please do not hesitate to write back. Keep watching, and keep learning!

2. Margin Call



This movie was again based on the famous financial crisis of 2008.

The movie is about a company and its employees 24 hours before the downfall. It involves characters from all rungs of hierarchy and how they react and respond to the signs of downfall.

As a finance aspirant, it gives you a picture of what to expect and how to react in a few situations.

Another important lesson from this movie is that past data and track records are not the only things to bank on, rather using discretion and presence of mind is much more important if you are faced with a crisis.

3. Rogue Trader



Inspired by a true story, this movie gives you a real life scenario of a man, who becomes successful, but his own deeds take him down at a later stage. This movie will give you the real picture of how employees, companies, competing companies and the overall economy are all interconnected and linked together. This movie teaches you to learn with time and success doesn’t mean that you are always right and everything you do to get more success is justified. It again explains the importance of ethics in any profession, especially where large sum of money is involved.

4. Boiler Room



This movie is a high powered drama wherein the director has shown irony of sorts. First the protagonist starts making money in his own apartment by illegitimate means.

After the refusal of his father, he joins a company as a broker that makes cold calls. As it turns out he has a natural talent for it and achieves great heights in no time.

But pressure to perform again takes him back to using trickery and deceit to keep the bosses happy. This movie gives you great insights on the pressures you will face as you succeed in your career.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street



This movie again tells you how a banker gets instant success in Wall Street and dramatic fall as a result of his lifestyle and indulgence.

It is a typical Martin Scorsese movie that digs deep into the human psyche and stalwart performances.

But the thing for you to notice as a finance aspirant is deciding for yourself the thin line of difference between ethics and alternate means to earn money and succeed.

6. Limitless



Exposing the darker side of success in the corporate world, this movie will tell you the glitter associated with the success and money.

With the protagonist reaching new heights of success and achievement by the day, he also attracts unnecessary troubles in his life.

Although the plot of the movie is fictitious, it still gives you an idea of the routines and lifestyle associated with the Wall Street.

7. Trading Places



This movie is funny and comic in nature, but it leaves you with a learning of environment and heredity.

It also gives you insights and a few peculiarities of the commodities business.

The movie has a very good flow, and lets you understand the subtleties of the commodities market from a lay man’s perspective as a few character switch places and handle the situations in a lay man manner.

8. Inside Job



This documentary portrays the dark and unsettling truth behind the crisis of 2008 that started with the economic powerhouse USA and went on to percolate to the entire world, including third world countries.

The movie offers an explanation of the meltdown, and the connections between politics and corporate world and the corruption that left millions of people jobless and in dire need of money.

9. Other People’s Money



This movie is particularly a must watch for you, if you are interested in investment banking especially for mergers and acquisitions.

The lead character in this movie looks for the opportunity to sell of the profit making businesses, whereas the owner doesn’t. The movie depicts tussle between the conventional line of thought and the aggressive business thought in a nice manner.

10. The Pursuit of Happyness



This movie had more to do with the determination of a man rather than his acumen as finance professional.

I would suggest you to start off by watching this movie amongst all others because of two reasons: One, it is a feel good movie and would motivate you to push yourself in adverse situations. And two it will help you identify the soft skills required to succeed in the finance world.

Hope you liked this article. Please share your learning from any other movie which is not covered here.

Image credit: business dot financialpost dot com

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