An exploration of money, mindset and a meaningful life
woman using a laptop to budget

Yes, you can use a budget spreadsheet (even if you hate maths!)

Can I let you in on a little secret?

I’m actually not that good at maths. I can do basic calculations, but I’m definitely not the kind of person that will do long division in their head and I’m more likely to pull out my calculator (AKA my iPhone) when working out percentages.

Most people are pretty surprised when I tell them that – after all, I’ve spent most of my working life using numbers. But over the years I’ve learned to use tools and systems that don’t require becoming a mathematical genius.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I think it’s an important topic when it comes to being able to learn to budget and manage your money. Not being good with numbers is one of the biggest limiting beliefs that I come across in the women I work with. So, I hope you’ll take my word for it when I tell you that you can budget and manage your money just as well as the next person, even if you hate numbers or don’t consider yourself a maths wiz.

Look at your past

Our beliefs about whether or not we’re ‘good’ at maths can be traced back to an early age and it’s not often that we look closely at whether they’re true or not.

For example, you may have fallen victim to the common stereotype that girls don’t have a natural aptitude for maths. Not only is that completely not true, but thinking that way also has an effect on your performance in the subject and creates false limitations in many areas of your life.

Maybe you had a maths teacher who you didn’t get along with? Or you were told you were the ‘creative type’ (umm, can’t we be both!?). Perhaps you had a sibling who was better at maths, so in comparing yourself to them you made assumptions about your ability.

Take a step back and really think about where your beliefs came from and whether they are based on facts.

The myth of being born with talent

There are some people that are born being exceptionally talented at maths (and let’s face it they’re probably working for NASA or something by now). At the other end of the spectrum, some people have dyscalculia, which is like dyslexia but with numbers. If that’s you, then that’s nothing to be ashamed of – I’ll cover some workarounds later on.

In reality, most of us fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Yet many of us have this idea that we are either naturally good or bad at something. Whilst we might have some natural talent, as it turns out researchers have actually shown that being successful at something is less about talent than hard work and persistence.

So, like me, you may not have a natural talent for maths. However, I’m sure if you look you can find proof that when it was important to you, you were able to successfully use basic maths (comparing flight prices, anyone?).

In fact, that’s exactly why I like to use a budget spreadsheet. They might seem complicated and scary at first, but when they’re set up properly they’re just these neat little tools that do all the maths for you. All you have to do once you have a good personal budget template is type in the numbers. And if you need a good one, download this one – for free!

Once you have found a budget template you like, then all you’ll need is a little practice to make it work for you. As I’ve said before, becoming good with money is simply a skill – and practice makes perfect!

It’s not all about numbers

If you’re still doubtful about whether you can get good at budgeting and planning, then here’s some more food for thought. When it comes to managing your money, it isn’t just about numbers. Knowing which numbers you need to consider and being able to have some way to calculate them is important, but personal finance is also about more than just the numbers.

It’s about identifying what you want from life and what’s important to you. It’s also about understanding yourself – your strengths and your weaknesses. Whether you’re struggling to earn what you want, to be able to save for your future or to spend and invest in yourself (yes, not being able to spend is also a problem!), knowing who you are and what your patterns are is just as important as doing the numbers.

Being able to use a budget spreadsheet, and calculate your net worth or any other mathematical concept, will be much easier if you know your purpose for doing it in the first place.

You can learn – just find the right way

There are lots of ways that people learn and we’re all different. It’s worth giving this some thought if you want to understand how to budget and manage money. You could be a visual learner, in which case you might be able to use visual aids, such as colour-coding and diagrams. Put it on a whiteboard if you have to!

If you realise you’re an auditory learner, then a webinar or interactive Q&A might be for you. If you’re a reader, then check out some of my other articles. And if you’re a kinaesthetic learner, in other words, you learn by doing, then maybe a coach or an online course could help you.

If you have got this far and realised that no, a budget spreadsheet is never going to be a part of your life, then there’s no shame and also no reason to give up! Look for other ways to think about budgeting and make it easier on yourself. Try checking out my article on My Top 5 Budgeting Apps.