Mobile-Optimized Budget Tracking Spreadsheet with Categorization, Insights, and Search

What is the goal of your workflow? What problem does it solve, or how does it help you?
My goal was to take the Tiller Foundation Template and optimize to manage completely on a phone, as well as add in a search function. With this Mobile-Optimized Budget Tracker, you can easily:

  1. Find and categorize any new or uncategorized transactions
  2. View insights into your net worth, monthly budget, spending, and income
  3. See your full monthly budget
  4. Search for specific transactions, filtering by category, vendor, date, and/or amount

You still get access to the full desktop-optimized tabs of the Foundation Template, but the controls have all been moved to the new mobile-optimized tabs.

How did you come up with the idea for your workflow?
I’m a huge spreadsheet fan, typically working with 2 monitors both plastered with Google Sheets. But I avoid opening and editing spreadsheets on my phone at all costs, it’s so frustrating with limited controls and screen space. In my personal life, this results in not staying updated with my budget because even if I bring my laptop home from work, it feels like a chore to bust it out and work update the budget. So, this was a great challenge both to expand my spreadsheet building experience and to develop something I’ll personally use.

I tackled the 4 main problems of using a spreadsheet on your phone: 1. Scrolling, 2. Navigating, 3. Searching, 4. Typing/Editing

  1. The solution to the scrolling issue is simply to make sure the columns fit within horizontal resolution of my phone (1080), which required some creativity to maximize space (somebody with a different screen resolution could play with column and font sizes to it fits just as nicely). That way, only vertical scrolling is possible. One space-saving aspect you’ll see throughout is a quick description for each transaction; rather than separate columns for date, vendor, and amount, it’s combined into one easy-to-understand description like “Mar 21: $3.60 to Legging Puffin” or “Mar 16: +$12.00 from Jar Comment Consulting.”
  2. To aid with navigation, I used linked cells to quickly jump from one tab to another. For example, the “Start” tab lists all uncategorized transactions, and each one links directly to the cell in the Transaction tab where you’d categorize it. When all transactions have been categorized, the Start tab then links to the other tabs more quickly than side-scrolling through the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Similarly, the transactions in the Search tab link to their spot in the Transctions tab and category headers in the mobile-optimized insights tab section headers link to their respective sections in the desktop-optimized sections. All linked cells have an arrow icon to make it obvious that they’re links.
  3. Using the “find” tool in a spreadsheet makes you jump around a lot, and especially on a small screen this can be very confusing. So, I created a Search tab to filter down the transaction list by category, vendor, date, and amount. This way you can efficiently find the transactions you’re looking for.
  4. To reduce the amount of typing and editing necessary, data validation is used wherever possible, ideally drop-downs. This was already a feature of the Foundations template, but I’ve included it in the new sections as well. The only cells in the mobile-optimized tabs that aren’t a drop-downs is the date and amount ranges in the Search tab, but even these are easy, since you can use the calendar select tool on the dates and the number pad for the amounts is much easier than the full keyboard.

Altogether, I entered a full month of my personal transactions using this workflow on my phone and it was painless, so I trust that it will be painless for other users as well.

Please describe your workflow. What are the sheets? Does it use any custom scripts or formulas?
First and foremost, this workflow is so simple and self-explanatory, I believe I don’t really need to describe HOW to use it (correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll add it to the post!), but I will describe WHAT it includes.

I added four sheets to the Foundation Template. They’re colored so it’s easy to identify the mobile-optimized sheets.

  1. Start (red): here you see your uncategorized transactions with links to their spots on the Transactions tab, or if there are none, then it contains links to the rest of the tabs. See both versions here:
  2. Insights: here you get a mobile-optimized version of the Foundations Insights tab. It shows your net worth with sparklines (I’m particularly proud of how these sparklines work in tandem), overview of your monthly budget, and your top categories and transactions, also with sparklines to capture relative size. Each section header links to the same section in the desktop-optimized tabs, and the accounts and time period controls for the Top Spending & Income section have been moved from the full Insights tab to this one. See the image for the entire sheet.
  3. Budget: this is like the monthly budget tab from the Foundations template, but completely optimized for your phone. The month and year controls have been moved here, and the formatting has been ported over. The overview has been moved to the Insights tab.
  4. Search: I hate going to my bank’s website to search for transactions, and that’s especially difficult by category. But so often I find myself wondering what a particular budget was spent on or if I’ve paid a certain thing yet. So the search tab is a list with advanced filters for category, vendor, date range, and amount range. You can leave any of those fields unfiltered by leaving it blank or selecting All Categories/Vendors. Also the Vendor list is itself filtered by the Category and Dates you select, so if you’re looking at your grocery category you’ll see Safeway and Walmart rather than every store you’ve ever shopped at. And yes, each of these transactions is linked back to its location on the Transaction list, in case you need to make a change or see more context.
  5. Transactions: Since the Transactions sheet is core to Tiller, I just optimized it for mobile use. I hid all columns except my Quick Description (Date, Amount and Vendor) and Category. The rest can be viewed by unhiding the columns, though you will get the warning that you shouldn’t edit it.

The rest of the sheets are from the Foundations template, minus some controls.

I didn’t use any custom formulas or scripts, though I considered two, which could be added:

  1. I couldn’t find a way to access the Tiller Feeds add-on on the mobile version, so there’s no way to force an update. I’m not even sure I could write a script which would access the Tiller script, so that would probably have to be implemented by Tiller. So the user will have to rely on the daily auto-update.
  2. Since they are relying on that, I considered creating a notification that there are new transactions to categorize. I’d love it to be a text notification and found a way to set it up here, but the service was down when I went to install it. However, since it updates at the same time early in the morning, the user doesn’t really NEED a notification if they remember to do it daily.

Anything else you’d like people to know?
Fun fact: I spent most of my time creating this with a 11-13 day old baby in my arm using my mantel as a makeshift standing desk.

Is it ok for others to copy, use, and modify your workflow?
Yes. During this pandemic I’ll share everything but germs.

If you said yes above, please make a copy of your workflow and share the copy’s URL:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ZX3gwU187Jwp-3CJFx3yabzM76JFOY-HBh9owE4wAbY/template/preview

An impressive solution - even more so that you created it with a baby in your arm!

2 Likes

Any feedback or suggestions? I’ve been using it for myself every day for the last week or so and I’m pretty happy with it except I wish I could make Tiller load new transactions from my phone.

1 Like

Hi @dhensonroyall,
Nice work on creating this spreadsheet. I have some feedback and suggestions, but before sharing them publicly, I sent you some questions about your workflow via a private community direct message.

Best,
Jon

@dhensonroyall This is awesome, awesome work! I’d love to tweak your tabs to work with the Tiller Budget Template. Do you have any interest in helping explain a bit of what you did to help with that tweaking?

Or are you planning to build a version for the Tiller Budget Template yourself?

2 Likes

I dont quite get how to utilize this, do I just make a copy of the template and then copy the tabs over to my tiller foundation sheet? Do I try to recreate what you did on my own foundation sheet? Thanks! @dhensonroyall