Hands-on with Money in Excel: A smart way to save money and track your finances

No matter how careful you are with your money, there’s a point in time where you might be wondering how you’re spending it all. From bills, loans, car payments, and a lot more, money goes in and out of a bank account for a lot of different reasons and a simple list of transactions might not always be helpful to you.

Well, strangely enough, Microsoft 365 is here to help you analyze it all — without having to get your own personal accountant. Originally announced in March, the Money in Excel feature is now generally available for Microsoft Excel.

With a few clicks, you can set up the plugin in Excel and get a dynamic look to see how your money is moving in your credit, investment, and loan accounts. You can get a spreadsheet, graphs, and even a snapshot, too. Here’s a hands-on look at the experience, and what you can expect if you’re considering using it.

Setting things up

To enjoy Money in Excel, you must be a Microsoft 365 Personal or Family subscriber. If you are, then you’ll have to visit the Microsoft Office Templates page to download and install the special Excel template. Once at the page, sign in with your Microsoft Account, and click the Download button. Then, open the file. This will then open Excel, where you’ll need to enable editing to get started. You’ll see a summary of how the plugin works, but be sure to click the sidebar, which will then allow you to trust and install the plugin.

Just keep in mind, the service only works with personal Microsoft accounts, so this isn’t something you’ll be using for your business. It also works only on desktop or web, and not on mobile.

Once installed, and you see the green Money in Excel icon in the Excel ribbon, you can close Excel to check and make sure it is working right. To get started, reopen Excel, click the File menu, and then choose New. You should see a workbook for Money in Excel. Click this to get started.

Once there, the Money in Excel pane will reopen. Click the blue Get Started button. Sign in with your Microsoft Account. You’ll then have to agree to connect your accounts with Plaid and sign in with your financial institution. The connection is secure, and your credentials will never be stored by Microsoft. In fact, you’ll have to sign in and out of your Microsoft Account through the Money in Excel sidebar after a certain period of inactivity, just for security purposes.

Once you sign in, you can select your account, and you’ll be ready to go. The service will work its magic and begin populating your Excel workbook and Spreadsheet with your financial information.

The Money in Excel pane

The brains of this feature is the Money in Excel Pane. Clicking this from the Excel ribbon on the top, and then on the right side of the spreadsheet will let you update your workbook with fresh transactions or any changes you make to your templates. It also gives you a look at your current accounts and balances. There are even some templates you can add to your workbook from this pane, such as Net Worth or Recurring expenses. We’re not discussing this today as to not disclose too much of our personal or financial information.

Of course, you can always manually update or add more accounts from the Money in Excel pane and delete account information and profiles. Keep in mind that if you opt to delete your profile, Money in Excel will disconnect from your financial accounts via Plaid immediately. You will not lose your Money in Excel workbook. You will still be able to open and edit your spreadsheets. However, your workbook will no longer sync with your financial accounts, and you will no longer be able to access the Money in Excel pane.  You can always come back to Money in Excel later if you opt to delete your profile.

Snapshot view

Anyway, once you’ve connected your accounts, the Excel spreadsheet is populated with your financial information. You’ll notice four sheets (or tabs for you Excel novices) at the bottom. These include Instructions, Snapshot, Transactions, and Categories. We’ll be diving into each of these sheets and what they mean for you in separate sections, starting first with Snapshot.

This main Snapshot sheet shows your spending trends in all your linked accounts over the past year. You have full control over which month you want to see by clicking on the blue Choose month below button in the right box.

Once you choose a month, you’ll see a pie chart, a bar graph, and a snapshot of current versus previous month spending. You’ll also see a look at this month’s top spending, with how you’ve spent your money, be it shopping, professional services, restaurants, or bill payments. Another area in the Snapshot view will show you your cumulative day-by-day spending throughout the month, represented as a line graph, compared to the previous month.

And finally, for more detailed information, you get a look at some of the most frequented merchants and merchants where the most money was spent.  It’s all a nice and clean look, that will help you see where you’ve spent the most money, and where you can make some cutbacks to be smarter with your cash.

Transactions

The next sheet you’ll notice is Transactions. This Transactions tab is a full list of everything that has happened on all your linked accounts from throughout the year. You’ll get a list of merchants, companies, amounts, the account type, number, and the institution the transaction happened at. You have full control over the list and can sort it how you please.

For instance, you can click the down arrow next to the date to filter by oldest to newest. You can click the filter button next to the merchant or category to remove or hide certain things. You also can click the arrow next to the amount to sort from high to low. Finally, you can hide certain accounts or institutions by clicking the down arrow next to those columns, too.

Overall, Transactions is useful if you combine your credit card information with your banking or loan information. You get a nice look at how the money is flowing, and what is coming in and what is coming out. No need to crunch the numbers either, as it is all automatic. Do be aware, though, that if you opt to manually delete stuff from the transactions page, your charts and graphs in the other panels might become corrupt. You can not add or delete columns here either, without corrupting your data.

Categories

The final sheet you’ll notice in Money in Excel is the Categories sheet. On this sheet, you’ll see a list of 18 default categories, which can not be changed. These categories are for different types of financial activities, be it income, refunds, transfers, bills and utilities, entertainment, groceries, and more. All of these show up across all sheet, and help you find transactions at a glance. You’re free to add your own categories in the blue section and set the type. It is great to see this level of control.

Saving and editing the Money in Excel Workbook

Once you get a peek at your financials in Money in Excel, you’re free to save the workbook. Name your workbook by clicking Save As in the File menu and renaming the file. You can always come back to that location when you’re ready to see the file again. Just keep in mind that to share your workbook, the recipient will also need to download the money in Excel Template, and sign in with your personal Microsoft Account details. This is for security reasons, but you always can save the worksheet you’d like to share as a PDF and share it externally if need be. To do this click File, then Save As and choose PDF. Sharing the PDF will open it without having to sign in. Just be aware of formatting and other issues.

A cool way to manage your money

As we said before, Money in Excel is a cool way to manage your finances and money. It is true that most financial institutions do offer similar tools on their respected banking websites, but Money in Excel is able to combine all your accounts and give you a wider look at all your cash, and how it is being spent. It’s a nifty little tool, and we hope you’ll enjoy it too. Let us know if you’ve tried it out by dropping us a comment in the section below.

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