How To Make a Budget In Excel [+ Free Excel Construction Budget Template]

In this guide, you’ll learn how to make a budget in Excel. Get tips for creating a budget from scratch, plus a free Excel construction budget template!
how to make a budget in excel
Construction Management Fundamentals
Roles & Responsibilities
Project Management
Tracking & Measuring Progress
Managing Cost & Budget
Quality & Risk Management
Leveraging Technology
Construction Management Fundamentals
Roles & Responsibilities
Project Management
Tracking & Measuring Progress
Managing Cost & Budget
Quality & Risk Management
Leveraging Technology

Track Your Actual Labor Costs With Workyard

Now, where does Excel enter the picture? Microsoft Excel is a powerhouse of functionality and versatility when it comes to budgeting, enabling precise calculations, flexibility in adjustments, and visual presentations of data. It’s like having a financial advisor at your fingertips, ready to crunch the numbers for you.

Budgeting is vital in the construction world, as a well-prepared budget serves as a financial blueprint for the overall project. It forecasts costs, anticipates revenues, and helps mitigate financial risk. In essence, a budget is a roadmap to financial success and sustainability.

Whether you’re taking your first steps into the world of spreadsheets or you’re already experienced with Excel formulas, this article has something for you. Our mission? To empower you with the skills to create a budget—be it from scratch or using templates.

In this guide, we’ll go over the nitty-gritty of budgeting, explore the nuances of Excel, and reveal how these two can beautifully converge to create a robust construction budget. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know how to make a budget in Excel, plus have our handy free Excel construction budget template at your disposal.

Overview of Excel for Budgeting

Excel is a powerful tool with a plethora of features that can truly revolutionize how you manage your budget. With a little practice, you’ll wonder how you ever budgeted without it!

Excel, long part of the Microsoft Office Suite, is widely recognized for its advanced data handling and analysis capabilities. But did you know it’s also a fantastic personal or business budgeting resource? It’s true! Excel can handle everything from the simplest budgeting tasks to the most complex financial scenarios. Whether you’re a budgeting novice or a seasoned financial planner, Excel will quickly become your new best friend.

There are several features in Excel that make budgeting easier and more efficient, including the following:

  • Spreadsheets and Workbooks: At the heart of Excel are spreadsheets and workbooks. You can think of a workbook as a binder that holds related spreadsheets. These allow you to organize your budget by months, quarters, or even different types of expenses and incomes.
  • Pre-built Templates: Excel comes with a variety of pre-built templates for budgeting, which can be a huge time-saver. These templates often include pre-made formulas and charts that help visualize your budget. You can even find templates designed for specific needs, like family budgets, project budgets, or company financial plans.
  • Custom Formulas: Excel’s formulas can automate calculations, making it a breeze to sum your expenses, calculate averages, or even project future spending based on past habits. This means you’ll spend less time crunching numbers and more time making informed budgeting decisions.
  • PivotTables: This feature allows you to summarize, analyze, explore, and present a summary of your data. They can be particularly useful for breaking down expenses by category or identifying trends over time.
  • Conditional Formatting: Want to quickly spot if you’ve overspent in a category? Or maybe highlight your biggest income sources? With conditional formatting, you can automatically change the colors of cells based on their values, making it easy to visualize your financial situation at a glance.
  • Charts and Graphs: Excel’s robust charting capabilities can help you better visualize your budget. You can create bar charts, pie charts, line graphs, and more to illustrate spending habits, track savings goals, and compare projected versus actual expenses.
  • Data Validation: This tool can be a lifesaver in preventing data entry errors. You can set specific criteria for each cell, ensuring you only enter valid, consistent data into your budget.

Excel brings all the tools and functions you need to create, track, and adjust your budget effectively. With some practice, you can utilize Excel to create a robust budgeting system and gain valuable insights into your spending and saving habits.

How to Create a Budget In Excel Using Templates

While it can seem challenging at times, creating a budget doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, Excel makes it easier than ever with premade budget templates. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to creating a budget in Excel using premade templates to get you started on your budgeting journey:

  1. Launch Excel and Select a Template: Open Excel and click on the “File” tab in the top left corner. From the dropdown menu, select “New.” This will open a panel with a search bar and a selection of popular templates. Type “budget” into the search bar and hit enter. You’ll see many budget templates, from monthly budget trackers to complete financial planning kits. Browse through the options and select the one that best suits your needs.
  2. Preview and Create: Once you’ve selected a template, click on it for a larger preview. Read the description to make sure it’s what you’re looking for. If it’s a match, click on the “Create” button. Excel will then generate a new workbook based on the chosen template.
  3. Understand Your Template: Before entering any data, take a moment to explore the template. Identify where to input income, expenses, and savings. Many templates also include visual elements like charts and graphs that will update automatically as you enter your data.
  4. Input Your Data: Now, it’s time to start entering your information. Start with your income sources, followed by your expenses. Be as detailed as possible to accurately understand your financial situation. Remember to include periodic expenses, like annual insurance premiums or semi-annual property taxes.
  5. Automated Calculations: One of the greatest advantages of Excel budget templates is their built-in formulas. These automatically calculate totals, averages, or percentages as you input your data. So, you’ll instantly see the impact of your income and expenses on your overall budget.
  6. Customize Your Template: While the pre-made templates are fantastic starting points, don’t be afraid to tweak them to better suit your needs. Add or delete rows and columns, adjust the preset categories, or even change the color scheme. Remember, this is your budget, and it should work for you!
  7. Analyze Your Budget: Once all your data is entered, take some time to analyze your budget. Where is most of your money going? Are there areas where you could cut back? Use the automated charts and graphs to help identify trends and opportunities for improvement.
  8. Save Your Workbook: Don’t forget to save your work! Click on the “File” tab and then “Save As.” Choose a location, name your budget workbook, and finally, click “Save.”

Remember, a budget is a living document. Your first pass might not be perfect, and that’s okay! As you continue to use Excel for your budgeting needs, you’ll get better at forecasting your expenses, tracking your spending, and adjusting your budget as needed. 

How to Create a Budget In Excel From Scratch

Whether you’re looking for something a little more personalized, can’t find a template to meet your needs, or just prefer doing things yourself, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create a budget in Excel from scratch:

  1. Set Up Your Budget Spreadsheet: Open Excel and create a new blank workbook. Think of this as your financial canvas! We recommend setting up your budget with separate income and expenses columns and rows for different income sources and expenditure categories. For example, you could label your columns as “Item,” “Estimated,” “Actual,” and “Difference,” and your rows could include various income and expense items.
  2. Enter Income Information: Start by entering all your income sources in the rows under the “Item” column. Next to each, enter the estimated and actual income in their respective columns. This could include your salary, any freelance work, dividends from investments, or even money earned from a side hustle.
  3. List and Categorize Expenses: After your income, start listing your expenses. This might include fixed expenses such as rent, car payments, or utilities and variable expenses such as groceries, eating out, or entertainment. Try to categorize your expenses (like “Housing,” “Transportation,” “Food,” etc.) to keep things organized and help you see where your money is going.
  4. Format Cells and Use Formulas: Now, it’s time for Excel to work its magic. Use the SUM formula to total your income and expenses. You can do this by entering “=SUM(“ and then select the cells you’re trying to add. Hit enter, and voila! Excel will calculate the sum. Then, use a simple subtraction formula (=) to calculate the difference between your income and expenses. Also, don’t forget to use Excel’s formatting options to highlight important cells and make your budget easier to read.
  5. Visualize the Budget: Now, let’s add some visual flair to your budget and make it easier to understand. Excel’s charting function is a powerful tool for this. Try selecting your expense data and then go to the “Insert” tab and choose a chart. Pie charts are particularly effective for visualizing how your total budget is divided among different expense categories.
  6. Update and Maintain the Budget: Your Excel budget is not a one-and-done tool. It’s a living document that should be updated regularly. As you spend money, keep your spreadsheet up to date by inputting your actual expenses. Over time, you’ll be able to compare your estimated costs to your actual costs, allowing you to adjust your budget and spending habits accordingly.

Creating a budget from scratch in Excel may seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a powerful tool for managing your finances. Remember, the goal is to use this budget to gain insights into your spending habits, identify areas for improvement, and, ultimately, achieve your financial goals. 

Tips for Creating a Construction Budget in Excel

Creating a construction budget in Excel requires a combination of good organization, smart use of Excel’s advanced features, and a careful understanding of the construction process. Here are some tips to help you create a comprehensive and effective construction budget:

  • Understand the Project Scope: Before even opening Excel, clearly understand the project scope. List all tasks, resources, materials, and labor that will be required. This will guide the structure of your budget and ensure nothing is overlooked.
  • Use Excel’s Pre-Built Templates: As we’ve discussed, Excel offers pre-built templates that can simplify the budgeting process. Templates like “Project Budget” or “Construction Budget” can provide a useful starting point and can be modified to suit your project’s specific needs.
  • Leverage Excel’s Formulas: Use Excel’s powerful formulas to automate calculations. Formulas like SUM, SUBTOTAL, and VLOOKUP can help you add up costs, calculate overruns, and even cross-reference prices or rates. For example, the SUM function can be used to calculate total material costs, while the SUBTOTAL function can give you subtotal amounts for each stage of construction.
  • Conditional Formatting: With conditional formatting, you can set rules for Excel to automatically format cells if they meet certain conditions. For instance, you could set up a rule where any costs that exceed their budgeted amount are automatically highlighted in red, providing an instant visual cue of budget overruns.
  • Use PivotTables: PivotTables can be incredibly helpful in summarizing and analyzing large amounts of data. For example, you can use a PivotTable to summarize costs by construction phase, vendor, or resource type.
  • Create Custom Templates: Once you’ve created a construction budget that works well for you, save it as a custom template. This way, you can use the same format for future projects, saving you time and ensuring consistency across all your construction budgets.
  • Data Validation: Using data validation, you can set rules for what data can be entered into certain cells. This can help prevent errors, such as inputting text where a number should be or entering a cost that exceeds a set limit.
  • Include Contingency Funds: Always include a line for contingency funds in your budget. This reserve covers unexpected costs that inevitably arise during construction projects. A general rule of thumb is to set aside 10-20% of the total project cost for contingencies.
  • Regularly Update and Review: A budget isn’t a set-and-forget document. It needs to be reviewed and updated regularly, especially in the dynamic construction field where changes and unexpected costs are the norm. Ensure all relevant parties have access to the latest version of the budget.

Ultimately, Excel’s advanced features can make the process of creating a construction budget more efficient and accurate. With a clear understanding of the project, thoughtful use of formulas and templates, and regular updates, you can create a budget that provides a reliable financial roadmap for your construction project.

What to Include In a Construction Budget

A well-rounded construction budget isn’t just about tallying up the cost of labor and materials. It’s a comprehensive reflection of all your project’s direct and indirect expenses. But what does that mean, exactly? Let’s break it down.

Direct costs are, in essence, the expenses exclusively associated with your project’s physical construction. These are the costs that directly contribute to turning your blueprints into a tangible structure and encompass several subcategories, including:

  • Materials: This refers to everything from concrete for the foundation to the last nail for the roofing. It’s essential to estimate accurately, as both underestimating and overestimating can lead to cost inefficiencies.
  • Labor: A construction project is only as good as the team working on it. Whether hiring contractors or using an in-house team, labor costs form a substantial part of your budget.
  • Equipment: This includes costs related to the machinery and tools required for construction. It could be anything from a hammer and nails to a crane for larger projects.

On the other hand, indirect costs are the expenses that aren’t tied directly to bricks and mortar but are crucial for project completion nonetheless. Here are the main ones to consider:

  • Administrative Costs: These are the expenses related to managing your project, such as project manager salaries, office supplies, software subscriptions, and so on.
  • Permits and Fees: Depending on your location and the nature of your project, you may need various permits. Always factor in these costs when making your budget.
  • Insurance: Construction projects involve certain risks. Having suitable insurance to protect against potential damage or accidents is vital.
  • Contingency Fund: It’s always wise to set aside a portion of your budget (usually around 5-10%) for unexpected expenses.

When building a budget in Excel, these various categories will form the foundation of your spreadsheet. Remember, a detailed, accurate budget is the first step toward a successful construction project.

Excel Construction Budget Template

For a construction project to be successful and cost-effective, you need to keep track of your expenses. That’s where construction budget templates come in handy. Whether you’re planning a residential construction project, working on a new commercial venture, or simply seeking a versatile budgeting solution, we’ve got you covered. Download, customize, and print your free construction budget template today.

👉 Get Your Free Construction Budget Template

The Importance of Tracking Project Actuals

The construction business, like any venture, thrives on accurate data. Information, after all, is power. That’s why tracking project actuals—real, on-the-ground expenses—is so crucial in construction budgeting. But what exactly are project actuals, and why are they so important? Let’s find out.

Project actuals refer to the tangible costs that are incurred during the execution of a construction project. They’re the real-world numbers that replace your initial budget estimates as your project progresses. These can include actual labor hours, material costs, equipment rentals, and more.

The significance of tracking project actuals can’t be overstated—here’s why:

1. Real-Time Budget Management: Tracking actuals allows you to monitor if your spending is in line with your initial budget. If costs are escalating, it can serve as an early warning system, enabling you to make necessary adjustments to stay on track.

2. Accurate Future Estimations: By tracking project actuals, you can better understand cost patterns, making your future project estimates more accurate and reliable.

3. Increased Profitability: By comparing actual costs with budgeted costs, you can identify where efficiencies can be improved, ultimately contributing to increased profitability.

However, keeping an accurate account of project actuals is often easier said than done, especially for field teams and construction businesses not using labor tracking software like Workyard. Manual tracking of labor hours is time-consuming, prone to errors, and can result in data discrepancies that impact your budget accuracy. 

That’s where labor tracking software like Workyard steps in. By digitizing and automating the process, Workyard offers an efficient way to capture and monitor project actuals. You get real-time access to field data to drive more profitable projects. 

Tracking project actuals is kind of like having your finger on the pulse of your construction project—and with Workyard at your disposal, you can ensure your project’s financial health is always in check. 

Automatically Track Labor Costs With Workyard

Are you tired of the hassle and headaches that come with calculating labor costs? If so, we’ve got some excellent news for you! Workyard’s job costing software is here to save the day and make your life a whole lot easier—let us explain. 

First off, the software is designed with construction professionals in mind. It offers a user-friendly interface that simplifies and automates manual cost-tracking processes. So you can finally say goodbye to mind-numbing spreadsheets!

Workyard’s job costing software provides real-time labor tracking to ensure you’re always ahead of the curve. There are no more surprise expenses or cost overruns coming out of nowhere. This feature allows you to identify deviations early and proactively address any issues before it’s too late.

Oh, and did we mention the various tools available for cost comparison and overall analysis? Rather than wasting time by manually comparing costs, Workyard’s software does the heavy lifting for you. It helps determine your actual expenses against budgeted amounts, so you can easily identify any variances and areas for improvement. 

And let’s not forget the power of reporting. Workyard’s software enables you to generate detailed job cost reports in just a few clicks. View your project costs in actual dollar amounts from the office or the field, and filter by cost codes to understand how much time is spent on specific work categories. Then export your job cost reports directly to your accounting system for one-click payroll processing.

Best of all, with an accurate audit trail of labor costs for each project and client, you can increase the accuracy of invoices and improve profitability on every project!

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for a free trial of Workyard’s job costing software today.

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