Share your tips for tracking cash flow in your spreadsheets!

Cash flow – the balance of money moving into and out of accounts over time – is a critical measure of financial health. That’s why most well-run businesses track cash flow as a fundamental practice.

But as influential financial advisor Douglas Boneparth has often noted, understanding your personal cash flow is “the most powerful part” of personal finance.

It’s not just about how much money you make, but also about how much you spend and save.

Out of the box, Tiller-powered spreadsheets excel for tracking personal cash flow. But many people have created their own reports, templates, and workflows for this purpose.

If you have a cash flow workflow you’d like to share, or any tips or best practices you’ve learned along the way, please share them here in the Tiller Community. We’ll promote your suggestions next week!

For Google Sheets, the Tiller Community has built two powerful cash flow templates:

Retirement Planner Spreadsheet – The powerful Retirement Planner Spreadsheet estimates the total value of your investments into the future. You can experiment with different growth rate scenarios and project outcomes in real time.

Cash Flow Forecast Spreadsheet – About this template, Tiller Community member RWA writes “This is giving me an unprecedented level of control and accuracy over my retirement planning.” Use the template to forecast your cash flow, test different income/expense scenarios, and view the impact of those changes over the long term.

Share your tips and ideas for tracking cash flow below!

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We recently started receiving a monthly distribution from our retirement account. These transactions are categorized as Transfers so they don’t appear on the Cash Flow report.

But, they are an important component of monitoring our Cash Flow.

I could categorize them as Income to force them to appear on the Cash Flow sheet but I’d have to remember to ignore them when reporting income for tax purposes.

How do others handle this issue?

Thanks to all…

Hey Scott, Shouldn’t retirement distributions be considered income? Since they are treated as income by the IRS? Or are all distributions from Roth accounts?

I have the same question. I have created my own ledger to track cash flow, which can be different from monthly expenses because not everything is paid in cash at the time it is expensed. (The accrual method of accounting vs the cash method of accounting.)

Not sure why the only solutions are about retirement.

My husband is paid once a month on the LAST business day of the month and that is our main income. Argh!! It makes using tiller as a cash flow tool difficult if done by the month. Shows us behind all month long and then finally goes into the green on the last day because we are paying this month’s expenses with last month’s income.

How I handle it:

I have a ledger where I log the balance in our account at the beginning of the month and deduct by date expected credit card payments, utilities, and approximate cash expenses remaining for the rest of the month so I can forecast our bank balance throughout the month. (Please no financial ridicule here. We pay the statement balances, so no fees or interest and often fly first class with free upgrades from our cards.) I update the ledger throughout the month with any changes. Not a perfect solution, but the only one I have right now.

The ledger is the only thing I miss from Quicken and I wish there was one in Tiller.

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I’m using the Estimated taxes worksheet so I mark my retirement distributions as taxable. I think in general retirement income (distributions) are taxable, except from a Roth IRA. You could always make a 2nd income category for non-taxable retirement income.

The way I do it is have my taxable distributions transferred into my savings account – which is earning 4.1% woo hoo! I have that in the category of “retirement income”. Then use the transfer category to take what I need into my checking account.

I do have a small Roth IRA, in addition to a regular one, so when that finally gets tapped into I’ll have a much more complicated process.

As far as cash flow is concerned, I put together a sheet that grabs expected income/expenses from the Yearly Budget, and then actual expenses and tries to figure out how much I need to put away in my special savings account for upcoming expenses. It does it for a year at a time. I’m not altogether happy with it yet. My vision on what I really need is still kind of clouded.

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Thanks to all for your replies.

My question was poorly worded.

The distribution I’m talking about is a transfer from a money market at our brokerage account. We’re moving a fixed amount from one pocket to another every month so it’s really a transfer but I’d like to consider it in our cash flow projections.

The transaction shows up as a deposit in our checking account but it’s not income and the transaction isn’t taxable. But, if I categorize it as a transfer, it won’t show up in the cash flow worksheet.

Thanks again.

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Your sheet that grabs expected income/expenses and calculates your savings for upcoming expenses sounds nifty!

I ended up scraping it. What I’m trying to work on now is grabbing my prior month’s expenses that were charged on credit card and will be due in the current month, and my current month’s expenses that get paid without credit card, and compare that to my bank balance plus retirement income. The hard part is figuring out what the credit card payoff amount will be. Right now I plug that in manually. It is all complicated right now with my travel expenses which I’m paying on credit card but paying off early so I don’t max out the card.

Essentially I want to get an idea for when I should transfer money from my savings account to my bank. I’m being stingy because my savings account is paying 4.1% and my bank next to nothing.

I think to simplify it for typical use I’d probably just use the prior month’s actual expenses. I’m not sure if I could adapt it for general use. I mostly just pull things out of the yearly budget.

Can you just create another income category?

I’d like to clarify my original post.

We have a Money Market account at a brokerage. Every month, the brokerage sends us a check. This shows up as a deposit when we download transactions from our bank.

In my original post, I described this as a “distribution from our retirement account.” That’s the way we look at that Money Market account but, technically, it’s not a tax-deferred account like an IRA, SEP, 401k, etc. so it’s not a taxable event.

Technically, this is a Transfer but, as I understand it, this would exclude it from the Cash Flow Forecast Spreadsheet.

The ability to select certain types of transfers and include them in the Cash Flow Forecast would solve this problem but there may be other solutions