I had been searching for a long time for the perfect personal budget app. I had used Mint but it wasn’t as flexible as I needed it to be, and Excel and Google Sheets lacked user friendliness and advanced features. Luckily, Airtable is a perfect tool to do everything I need.
Why is Airtable Great for Budgets?
One of the reasons that Airtable is so powerful is its ability to link to other tables and do rollup formulas. I think this is the best app for tracking daily expenses because I can record a transaction and it will fall under a category which will rollup to a budget. You also have the ability to create fields as you wish which is a great feature to enable you to tag and categorize expenses.
In addition, you can have different views so if I wanted to filter out specific transactions or have a group view on expenses by vendor, I can do it easily. These things are much more difficult to do in a spreadsheet.
Is It Free?
Airtable is free for up to 1,200 records per base, which is why I like it for a yearly budget. If you have 16 budget records, and 88 category records, you would still have 1,096 rows for transactions (roughly 90 per month). So as long as you have fewer than 90 transactions per month, this will work perfectly.
The personal budget template is setup for zero-based budgeting and contains 4 tables:
This table will track your daily expenses and income and the data from this table will rollup through other tables. The three most crucial fields that this table must contain are Categories, Credit, and Debit. You can simply download transactions from your financial institutions and add them to this table. The fields that I use are:
- UID: A unique ID which is a combination of the Acct field, the date, and the description
- Acct: A single select field with options for all of my financial accounts including credit cards, store cards, and banks.
- Transaction Date: The date the transaction was posted.
- Vendor: Linked to the vendor table. I normalize these values when adding them to as sometimes Amazon may come through as Amazon while other times as Amazon Marketplace etc. Normalizing this data will help analyze my spending later.
- Description: This field is optional but I use it to record specifics about the transactions such as what was purchased.
- Categories: Links to a specific category. If the transaction is related to a payment or transfer, use the category of ‘Ignore’ so that it isn’t included in your spending.
- Transaction Type: A single select field with options for Debit, Credit, Payment, and Transfer.
- Credit: Only fill out if the transaction is a credit such as a paycheck, refund, interest etc.
- Debit: The amount related to spending.
- Recurring: A single select field to track whether an expense is recurring or not and if so, at what interval (weekly, monthly, annually).
This is the main and contains the overarching buckets for where all spending and income is allocated. Since this is a zero-based budget, we need a row for income and we have to mark this amount as a negative number in order for our formulas to work. All of your other budgets, including ‘Investments’, should equal your income. The budget fields are:
- Name: The name of that particular budget. It should be generic to encompass many different categories such as ‘Food and Dining’.
- Budget: A currency field that states how much money is allocated to that budget for the year.
- Categories: All of the granular categories that make up a budget.
- YTD Total: A rollup field that takes the amount for all of the linked categories ‘Calculation’ fields and adds them together.
- Annual Budget: A formula field where all spending is subtracted from the annual budget amount to show how much money is still available to be spent this year.
- Pct to Budget: Another formula field that divides how much has been spent by how much was allocated for the year. If you’re on track, by June 1st you should be no more than 50% to budget.
Categories are the granular buckets that make up budgets. These are helpful in analyzing your spending so that if you have spent $2,000 on your auto budget, you can see how much of that was fuel and how much was insurance. You can have as many categories as you’d like.
- Name: The name of the category.
- Budget: A link field to the budget to which it belongs.
- Debit Rollup: A rollup field that takes the sum of the Debit amount from the transactions table for a particular category (filters out transactions categorized as ‘Ignore’).
- Credit: A rollup field that takes the sum of the Credit amount from the transactions table for a particular category (filters out transactions categorized as ‘Ignore’).
- Transactions: A link field to the transactions table.
- Calculation: A formula field which subtracts the credit rollup field from the debit rollup field. This is used to track spending for a category and used in the ‘Budget’ table to see how much budget is remaining for the year.
This table contains all of the vendors that you have done business with. I like to have this table but it isn’t mandatory. If you find yourself close to the 1,200 record limit, you can get rid of this table and just use a single select field instead of a linked field on the Transactions table.
Name: The name of the vendor. I use this to normalize names because when transactions are downloaded from financial institutions, they often have different names for the same vendor.
Transactions: Link to the transactions table
Debit Rollup: The Amount that was spent with each vendor.