Expense Journal

Tracking expenses should be as close to effortless as possible. For my purposes, a business-sized envelope and a spreadsheet suffice. Once a month I collect and enter receipts in the spreadsheet and add them, face down, to the envelope. This keeps the original records roughly in chronological order.

Set up new Google Sheets file

Information in a spreadsheet is contained in cells identified by a column letter and row number: for example, A4 is the fourth cell in column A. The target cell for that data is outlined in blue. Letters or numbers typed appear just above column labels, to the right of fx, and can be edited there. The enter or tab key copies the data to the outlined cell.

Here is a way to create the expense journal spreadsheet:

  1. Select Google Sheets from the application box.
  2. Select the red circle in the lower right corner to open a new file.
  3. Notice the space for a file name and a spreadsheet toolbar at the top of the screen. Give the file a name like “2017 Writing Expenses.”
  4. Enter the categories below in adjacent boxes of row 4, using the tab key to move from one cell to another:
  5. Navigate to the vertical bar between A and B, looking for a two-headed arrow. When you see the arrow, double-click (or double-tap). Column A will expand to fit the contents. Expand other columns as necessary to see the full header.
  6. Navigate down one row. For each receipt, type in the appropriate data, tabbing between column entries and pressing enter to get to the next row. Stuff the receipt face down in the business envelope.

So far this may look like word processing. However the power of the spreadsheet is in calculations. I add the numbers in the amount column, storing the total in row 2 above AMOUNT. That way I can open the spreadsheet and see the totals immediately.

Calculate Total

  1. Navigate to the amount column in Row 2. Tap or click to activate that cell; check for the blue outline around the selected cell.
  2. Navigate to the far right of the spreadsheet toolbar, looking for a summation sign followed by the small triangle that indicates a dropdown menu.  Select the first menu item, “SUM.”
  3. Now select the first amount cell and drag down past the last amount in the column. The affected area turns pink with a red dashed outline. When you release, the first and last cells of the selection appear between parentheses after SUM.
  4. Press enter to see the sum of entries so far.

Next week I will suggest an extension of this basic spreadsheet to add subtotals for money management or tax categories, and show you how to insert that pesky receipt from last month that you found in a jacket pocket.


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