How to Set Up a Personal Finance Spreadsheet

When presented with general concepts or rules of thumb relating to personal finance, my brain resists automatic acceptance. My look-under-the-hood tendencies rebel when I hear a statement like “it’s always better to invest rather than pay off debt” or vice versa.

To truly understand an idea (and prove or disprove its claim), I love to design a spreadsheet. Using this tool, I can break down a concept and illustrate how it works or demonstrate where it falls apart.

In this article, I’ll explain the basics of setting up personal finance spreadsheets, including how to design formulas with financial functions like PMT (payment), FV (future value), and PV (present value).

Financial Goals: How to Reach Them (Basic Formulas)

After you have defined your financial goals, you may want to figure out how to reach your goals. There are many variables and detours on the way to achieving your goals. But you may find basic financial calculations helpful in charting your course.

Start by identifying a dollar value for each goal; then determine how much you should set aside to reach this goal within a certain time frame. You can use Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to perform these calculations. I’ll show you the basics.