Budget Spreadsheet Template: Living in NYC


Another Budget Template
Click to view in Google Docs

Urban Expenses

This is the current personal budget template I use for single-income living in a 1br apartment in Brooklyn, NY.

To Note:

  • Without a car, my minimum travel expenses are $104/mo for the unlimited metro card but I budget extra for unplanned trips to NJ or Long Island to visit friends.
  • The “gas” category is part of my utilities.
  • Heat & hot water are included in my rent.
  • I just switched to a pre-paid cell phone plan without data, which is why the cell bill is so cheap.
  • “Health/bty” covers my prescriptions.

I have already explained the significant differences in budgeting between living in and out of a city. Please modify the template categories to fit your current living environment.

Trial & Error

I love spreadsheets. I also love trial and error. I have posted several different budget templates here over the years.

The 2010 budget template is separated by bi-weekly paychecks so you can budget per pay check instead of per month.

The 2011 budget template is a more traditional monthly budget set-up.

Do What Works For You

Last month, I decided that neither of these were working for me how I wanted them to. I like being able to take a quick glance at my spreadsheet and see how I’m doing for the month. I don’t want to have to analyze my budget every day, that’s for the end of the month. Daily/weekly I just want to see if I’m going over/under budget in any category.

Both previous templates were set-up vertically. With wide-screen monitors and small-screens, this no longer seemed efficient. At home I use a Netbook with a 10″ screen and a lousy trackpad. Scrolling gets pretty tedious.

For October 2012, I redesigned my template into a horizontal format.

Format Details

I have three sections placed horizontally across the spreadsheet. You can adjust the colors if they’re too bold for you. I am a visual person so seeing the differences quickly makes the spreadsheet easier for me to read & understand.

First Column: Income
I included “carryover” because I don’t always start with $0 in my checking account when I get my first paycheck, so I wanted to be more aware of the “extra” I have in there in case I need to go over budget for something (ie: travel, gifts).

Below this are your monthly totals. This automatically adds up all income and all expenses, then calculates the difference. I try to budget this as close to zero as possible (to maximize savings). Throughout the month this is a good guide to see how your Actual spending matches up with your budgeted amounts.

Second Column: Fixed Expenses
Similar to the other templates, Fixed expenses stay the same amount every month and/or need to be paid every month. The electricity & gas bill do fluctuate minimally each month but these are not optional expenses so I still classify them as Fixed. Electricity does increase in the summer with use of an air conditioner, just budget this increase when the summer months roll around.

I put Savings in Fixed expenses instead of on its own like it was before. This makes it feel like Savings is not an option, not something special, but more like a bill that needs to be paid.

Third Column: Variable Expenses
Similar to other templates, Variable expenses change each month and/or are more optional spending categories. When looking to cut expenses from your budget, this is the first place to look.

Variable expenses have conditional formatting so if the “actual” amount is under budget, it will show up in green font, if it’s over budget, it will appear in red font. This is to help you be able to just take a quick glance at your budget and see how you’re doing in the month. When you change the budgeted numbers, you will need to change the conditional formatting too!

Relative Spending

As a visual person, I include the percentage of my income for each category to quickly get a relative idea of my spending.

Sometimes it is difficult to process the value of money, especially since that differs for everyone. We all know people who have lived frugally to get out of debt for so long, that when they are financially stable again, they still penny pinch, not realizing that $20 now is not the same as $20 when they were in debt.

For example, $50 may sound like a lot for something but if it’s only 2% of my income, I don’t need to worry & stress myself out about it.

I find this most useful for my savings where my rule is to put a minimum of 10% into my savings each month and an ideal of 25%. The percentage values are particularly useful if your income fluctuates.

Bonus: Charts

I added charts to this one but they’re not really necessary. It’s just nice to have a visual of your biggest spending categories. For fixed expenses, this will always be rent for me. For variable, it will change each month so it’s good to have a quick idea of your problem areas.

The chart source data are Actual amounts, so they will remain blank until you start filling out the budget with Actual spending.

View (Another) Budget Template: NYC Living in Google Docs


If you have thoughts on this and would like to discuss please use Twitter or send me an email.