Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Using Excel to Track Your Budget

As Matt and I figure out how I'm going to take off 12 weeks of unpaid(!) maternity leave, I'm reminded of our go-to strategy for sticking to our draconian $2,000 wedding budget: Our Excel Tracking Sheet.

Excel tracking sheets don't play. They are like that honest person who tells you that you have cilantro between your two front teeth. You want to hear it but you don't.

At the very beginning of our wedding planning process, we listed out all the traditional wedding planning categories into Excel, inputted some preliminary numbers, and set an "Auto Sum" to tally it all up. We adjusted these "Initial" numbers until it balanced out at $2,000.

As our wedding planning process unfolded, we adjusted the numbers to reflect our actual spending. For example, when we spent way less than we initially budgeted for my wedding dress, we were then able to add some more money to the catering and the alcohol budget. When we overspent in another category, it meant that we had to cut somewhere else.

Throughout the whole process, our Excel sheet kept us honest. It reminded us over and over that sticking to a budget is a zero-sum game. If you save money in one area, you can splurge in another. If you overspend somewhere else, it's time to cut something.

Of course, budgeting for a wedding doesn't have to be so rigid. I know lots of people who just spend what they can afford as they go along. One of the benefits of taking months and months to plan a wedding is that the costs get diffused over many paychecks.

For Matt and me, however, we were trying to save every last penny for a down payment. We literally scraped our entire bank account clean when we wrote the check at our closing. As we prepare to drop down to one salary for three months, we're finding ourselves in the same situation!

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Annie said...

Wow... As a woman living in France I often forget so many women have UNPAID maternity leave, as well as crazy health bills if something unexpected comes up. Props to you and Matt for staying so positive about it all!

One of my mantra's is: "True wealth is being able to live with less". It's very freeing in a way to live frugally, knowing that other people are so dependant on material stuff that you just don't need to be happy. I guess this is the whole point of your blog though! Anyway, thanks for the shared inspiration...

Michele said...

Big, big fan of using spreadsheets to track spending and stay on course as far as budget is concerned. That's true of big, one-time event spending such as vacation or a wedding, as well as every day spending.

However, I like using Google Docs rather than Excel, because then I can share it with my husband and we can both access it from anywhere via our email, including our iPhones!

Sara @ House Bella said...

Amazing timing, because two nights ago my husband and I sat down to create a budget. We've been budgeting for years, but after we bought our house in April we kind of went a little haywire - getting used to new utility bills, furniture purchases, etc. I found we weren't saving as much as I'd like, so we got right back to building a spreadsheet of all our expenses, and creating a very designated amount of money to put in savings each month.

Thanks for a great post, as usual! I hope your pregnancy is going healthy and smooth.

cecile said...

Sounds crazy to me that your maternity leave is unpaid...

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