Have you ever wanted to create a budget, but are unsure of how much you spend on things like groceries and pets? If you need to add up the total for bills such as water then you may have a paper trail you can add up. If you would like to know how much you spend on cosmetics every month then it will be time to look at the receipts. It can be daunting to look at the many receipts you have and know you have to go through them. It is however, the best possible way to build up an accurate picture of where your money is going. Doing a little bit of receipt logging each month is a good idea, so it doesn't build up and makes the task manageable.

When entering all the information into an Excel spread sheet, what kind of information should you include? There should always be some way of ordering the receipts in order to show up any patterns. The best way to order them is by date. It may be that on the day you get paid each month is a major shopping spree and this pattern will be more obvious when ordered by the date of the transaction. Once you understand such patterns you can begin to manage them effectively and break any destructive cycles. I prefer to have a separate tab for each month's expenditure which is a personal choice as I budget monthly and find it easier to work in bite size chunks.

The second column should be the amount of money spent. Format this however you feel comfortable, but beware of one issue. If you are going to total the values or compare them then they must all be in one currency. If you have some receipts in a different currency, perhaps from a holiday abroad then you will need to have an additional column with the exchange rate and the final amount in the standard currency you are using. To make it clearer, I usually format the cells with the appropriate currency symbol in two decimal places.

The third column should be the place where the transaction took place. The name of the company should be present on the receipt. It is likely that this will be repeated such as your local supermarket so it can be copied from other cells. This column will be important to show where you are spending your money. You may be interested to see how much money is spent each month in your local supermarket on general groceries for example.

The fourth column should be a details field. This will be your chance to write a note on what the purchase was for. A local supermarket purchase maybe general groceries. Another one may be a birthday present for a specific person. This is worthwhile adding especially if you are saving your receipts in order. If you wish to return something later and need to locate the receipt then it will be easier to do so with this information as you can simply skim the list.

The fifth column should be a category field. Categories will be unique to you and will depend on how you want to set up your budget. In my example there is a category called general groceries. This includes all the food and toiletries and items I buy every month to survive on. Another category may be birthday presents. Once you can sum up how much is spent on each category you can decide if it is too much and think about where your money is going each month and if changes are required. If you are spending more than you are earning and you realise that hundreds of pounds each month goes on dining out then you will be able to look objectively at this and set an appropriate budget.

There are several ways to create sum totals of these categories in Excel. One way is to filter by category and manually total the fields. This would be annoying as you would have to do it each time you required a total. I prefer a more automatic approach. I create one column per category. One example is a column entitled General Groceries. In this column is the following formula:

=SUMIF(G8:G8,"=General Groceries",C8:C8)

This basically says; if the category in this row is 'General Groceries' then put the value in this column. This means that if the category is not General Groceries then a zero will appear in this column. This means I can add a field at the top of the page which is a sum of this entire column, which is the total amount I have spent on groceries. Each category can have its own column and summary in a similar way.

This spread sheet example is a very simple, basic way of completing a log of expenditure. There are many ways to enhance it for your own personal requirements. Everyone is different and everyone has unique finances. This will hopefully serve as more of a generic example to give you an idea on where to start.