Dustin Wheeler

Dustin Wheeler
Dustin is a technology-driven CPA in Orem, Utah.

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Why Reinvent the Spreadsheet? Use a Template!

Need a loan amortization schedule?  There’s a template for that.

Creating a personal monthly budget?  There’s a template for that.

Is one of your kids getting married and you’re planning out the expenses?  There’s a template for that.

Okay, you get the point and you’re not amused with my not-funny “there’s an app for that” parody, so I’ll stop there.

Friends have sometimes asked me to help them create spreadsheets for all of the above purposes, perhaps unaware of the many templates that exist for Microsoft Excel.  Sure, there are some complex customized spreadsheets you should ask a CPA for help with, but for common and simple stuff, you could use a template for free.  There are tons of them.

To view a list of templates available in Excel, click on the Office Button on the upper-left corner of the Excel window, then click on New.   You might only see a few under Installed Templates, but there are many more you can download from Microsoft Office Online (you’ll see a disclaimer from Microsoft saying that these templates were supplied by members of the Microsoft Office Online community, and Microsoft does not promise that the templates will work for your purposes or be free from viruses and defects).

The most common spreadsheet I am asked to produce is a loan amortization schedule.  Excel has a template for this that I am particularly impressed with.  All you have to do is enter values such as the loan amount and interest rate in the orange colored cells and the table magically appears.  Change one of the values, and the table revises itself immediately.  The template is also capable of handling extra principal payments, either regular or occasional, and adjusting for the total number of payments automatically.

If you only want to only use Excel and not any other accounting software, you can download templates for check registers, general ledgers, invoices, sales receipts, balance sheets, and income statements.  Doing bookkeeping in Excel doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me and I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, but using these templates is certainly easier than trying to do it from scratch.

You’ll also find several templates that are helpful for tax purposes, such as a mileage log and business travel expense log.  Use these templates to organize your information, and your tax preparer will be impressed.

What if you can’t find the template you want on Microsoft Office Online?  You might be able to find it among the thousands of templates from Google Docs (Google’s free suite of online productivity software which includes a spreadsheet program similar to Excel).  If you’d rather use Excel, you can create the spreadsheet in Google Docs with the template and then save it as an Excel file.  I have done this with a few Google Docs templates, and they work perfectly in Excel.

The next time you need to create a spreadsheet, just remember, there might be a template for that.

1 comment to Why Reinvent the Spreadsheet? Use a Template!

  • That is the first thing I do when creating a new spread sheet that has any chance of being something someone would have saved as a template. As you say why do something all over again. Even if I only end up using it as an idea or starting place it still saves a lot of time. But really I see people not using templates enough anyway. I have several saved templates that are just the number of sheets, heading font sizes, etc. That alone will save a lot of time.

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