How can I create a "One Number Budget" Sheet?

I am trying to create a sheet that functions as a One Number Budget. I have attempted to use the Spending Money sheet, but it doesn’t work as I want it to. My plan is to use the Category tab to divide my expenses into Fixed and Variable categories. I aim to create a list of all my fixed expenses, which will update automatically once they’ve been paid from my account. I also want to include my savings and debt payoff goals in the fixed expense category. Ultimately, I want to have a running total that shows how much discretionary spending I have left each month. Unfortunately, I lack the technical know-how to build this sheet myself.

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Interesting. I hadn’t heard of a One Number Budget before.

I don’t think I have seen something that has all these pieces organized the exact way you lay out but you can likely find a number of pieces that are close if you search in the Show & Tell section(s). You may be able to pull them together into a single view or just use them as standalone functional sheets.

The new Monthly Budget Calendar might be helpful with seeing “how much discretionary spending I have left each month”.

Thank you for asking this question – I’d never heard of the One Number Budget approach before now! I researched this method and wrote a post about it to share with the rest of the Tiller Community.

If you don’t mind me asking, how did you find the One Number Budget, and why do you like it?

If you simply want to see a running total of your spending vs a target, I agree with Randy that the Monthly Calendar is an easy, customizable way to do this. You could enter your “One number” as your budget target:

I’m hoping someone in the Community builds a dedicated template based on the One Number Budget. In the meantime, there are a couple of ways to customize you category names, groups, and tags in your Tiller Foundation Template to get close.

Note: if you want to experiment with changing your categories, we recommend copying your original spreadsheet and trying your changes there. AutoCat can easily reassign transactions to your new categories, tags, etc.

Creating specific category names to follow the One-Number system will probably get messy fast. Instead, consider using groups that follow the system of fixed monthly expense, non-monthly expense, financial goal, and discretionary expenses:

You can then run a report on your groups with the Category Tracker for Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, to easily see what you’ve spent in each group by week, month, and year.

Or, you can make quick pivot table or create a category filter.

If you don’t want to customize your category groups in this way, you could also use tags:

You can generate a report on tags with the Category Tracker for Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. For Google Sheets you can also use the Tag Report.


@Cosmos I am very interested in this budget approach. Conceptually, getting a real-time view of your spending limits makes a lot of sense. I also like how it removes some of the barriers and complexities of traditional budget strategies. Similar to you, I am not technical enough to build the template. I would happily pay someone to make it if they are interested.

@Edward You mentioned copying the sheet to test the method. Just to clarify, are you suggesting duplicating the file in Google Drive and setting up the One Number Budget?

Thanks everyone for your feedback!

@randy Thanks for sharing the new Monthly Budget Calendar! That accomplishes most of what I was looking for. Very cool.

@Edward I only recently learned the solution I have personally used manually had a name. I’ve been looking for an app that would automate a solution like this for a very long time. I finally decided to ask here since this is what I use for managing my personal finances.

As an accounting and finance professional, I am a big believer in budgets for businesses. However, a lot of people (myself included!) don’t have the time or desire to track spending at a granular level. I budget my fixed expenses and savings and debt goals which leaves me with a single number for discretionary spending.

I made adjustments to the Spending Money sheet similar to what you’ve detailed above that allows me to see a remaining balance, but the Monthly Budget Calendar is much cleaner!


My understanding of @Edward’s note about copying the spreadsheet, @EdwardDarrah, was that you could make a copy for experimentation before implementing changes in your master data set.

You could also make the changes in your master and then revert the changes using Google Sheets’ restore functionality if you are not happy with the new approach.

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Glad you like the Monthly Budget Calendar, @Cosmos.

I hear you on granular budgeting. I’m the same way. I want a holistic picture and to feel like there is some accountability, but I don’t need or adhere to line-item net budgets at the end of every month. I’m more of a “tracker” than a budgeter.

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That makes sense; thanks for clarifying.

For the One Budget Number, is it still possible to use this approach if you carry student loan or credit card debt? And if so, how is debit implemented into the formula to determine the weekly number?


Certainly! I have both savings and debt payments incorporated into my fixed budget. I tried to attach a screenshot of an example but it won’t let me.

I adjusted the Spending Money sheet to function similarly. On the Categories tab, I group by Fixed and Variable and updated the query to pull in accordingly. Again, tried to add a screenshot but I’m not able.

It would be great if there was a way to automatically adjust the discretionary number with actuals for fixed expenses that can vary like utilities. I’m not sure how to do that.

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Thank you, this is helpful information. I wish there was template to set it up. I doubt I will be able to manipulate the formulas.

Perhaps @Cosmos will share the edit made to the Spending Money sheet to achieve this outcome, that was the sheet I had in mind as well. :grin: