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Personal finance spreadsheet

See where the money went with this free Excel spreadsheet.

Vertex42 Money Manager is a free Excel spreadsheet template configured as a personal financial tool. However, unlike most free Excel templates, it's more than a single page of preconfigured cells and formulas. In fact, it's a full-featured financial planning, recording, and reporting tool that can help you keep track of everything from gifts to retirement savings. To use it, you must have Microsoft Excel 2003 or better.

We unzipped Vertex42 Money Manager's download and clicked it. Excel opened in protected mode with the template displaying the first sheet, the Help page, which serves as both the introduction and setup instructions as well. We clicked Enable Editing to allow us to enter our own data in Money Manager's cells. The intro recommended frequent data backups and noted that Excel files can become corrupted. The setup process consisted of five steps: Customize Categories (Or Don't); Define Your List of Accounts; Define Your Yearly Budget; Record Transactions; and Track Your Progress. In addition to the Help sheet, worksheets labeled Transactions, Reports, and Categories covered a wide range of financial issues. For example, the Charity and Gifts Categories listed six choices: Tithing, Charitable Donations, Religious Donations, Gifts, Christmas, and Charity. In fact, Money Manager behaves like any preconfigured Excel template. We entered data in empty cells and left grayed-out cells alone, unless we were customizing the template. Tiny red triangles opened small but useful tip boxes that explained things quite well, such as Starting Balance and Projected End Balance fields in the Yearly Budget Planner.

Vertex42 Money Manager packs a lot of useful tools in one free package that will be familiar to frequent Excel users and easy for newcomers to pick up, thanks to extensive documentation and assistance. Since it's an Excel template, it's easy to customize and personalize, too.

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