★ Rockstar Review: Tiller (a Way to Automate Your Budget Spreadsheets!)
This is part of our Rockstar Reviews series.
Be sure to check out all previous products we’ve reviewed!
Your Financial Transactions in a Google Sheet, Updated Daily
Up until a few months ago, I had been using a homemade Google Sheet for my budget for years. My spreadsheet was very basic and easy to use, but I did have to punch in each transaction by hand at the end of every month. It only took 20-30 minutes, but boy was that boring! Plus, every now and then, I would miss a transaction or punch one in twice.
Then one day I came across this on Tiller’s Twitter profile:
Your financial transactions in a Google Sheet updated daily.
When I learned that Tiller automatically pulls your transactions into a Google Sheet, I nearly fell over!
How Tiller Works
Tiller is an online tool that links to your bank account and automatically pulls your transactions into a Google Sheet. From there, you can add spending categories, categorize each transaction, and work a killer monthly budget or track your net worth, among other financial tasks. What took me 20-30 minutes before now takes less than five!
Our blogger friend Kathleen Celmins said, “it’s as if Mint and Google spreadsheets had a baby, and the genes from Google were a lot stronger.” :)
Who Tiller is Best For
Tiller’s Founder, Peter Polson, describes four basic groups who are seeing the best results using Tiller.
Group #1: Long-time Spreadsheet Users/Lovers
We find that many of our customers have long-used spreadsheets. Some use spreadsheets as their master money dashboard. Others use them in addition to another tool. For example, maybe they’re using Mint to manage their spending, but they keep their balance sheet or net worth with a hand made spreadsheet. When they discover Tiller, they eagerly move everything over to Tiller, because they have the convenience of a web app and the power of a spreadsheet. Tiller then becomes the hub for managing and tracking everything money-related.
Group #2: People Who Tried Other Tools and Weren’t Satisfied
We also find users who are not hardcore spreadsheet users originally, but they’re frustrated with other tools they’ve tried. Many tools out there (most tools, actually) require users adapt to a specific approach. That can be frustrating, and we see lots of users who just couldn’t get another tool to work. They love Tiller because it’s flexible and can adapt to the way they think, to the financial goals they have, and to the methods they want to employ to stay on top of their money. As a bonus, Tiller is incredibly collaborative, which is a benefit of our collaboration with Google Sheets.
Group #3: The “Trackers”
Finally, there are some users who love to track everything. They track their calories, their workouts, their commute times, steps, gas mileage, etc. Tiller makes it easy to track their money, too. We provide more control and flexibility in tracking than any other solution. That’s the power of spreadsheets.
Group #4: First-Time Budgeters
Some people are intimidated by the idea of using a spreadsheet, especially first-time budgeters. But when they learn that much of the work is done for you, this eases the tension. Tiller pulls the data for you and has ready-to-use budget templates too. First-timers find this much easier to engage with.
Use the Sheet That Works for You, or Create Your Own
Currently, Tiller has six default spreadsheets to choose from and more are being added soon.
You can choose from a few prepared budget sheets, or create your own using Tillers default or “build your own” sheet.
This is one of the six ready to go sheets currently available at Tiller, btw, and comes with a free “how to” video series.
Some of these screen grabs include my personal banking info, so just imagine your numbers in there instead!
Transactions Tab: This is where Tiller automatically inputs your banking transactions. Then (after adding your own spending categories) you can put each expense into a category using the dropdown box in column C.
Budget Tab: Next, your Google Sheet pulls the info from each spending category over into the Budgeting Tab. You’ll create your monthly budget in column C, category spending totals are pulled into column B, column D shows the difference between your budget and your spending. Rows 8-11 give a summary of the months budget, spending and cash flow.
Debt Snowball Tab: The “How Do I Budget” template also includes a debt snowball worksheet.
Savings Goals Tab: It also includes savings goals or a “sinking fund” worksheet to plan for medium-to-large sized purchases.
Net Worth Tab: Here’s a snapshot of the net worth tracker.
Bells and Whistles or Keep It Simple? Your Choice.
The possibilities with a spreadsheet are almost unlimited. Pivot tables, multiple sheets and bank accounts, trends, custom reporting. You might need some spreadsheet skills to pimp out the default templates Tiller provides, but if a spreadsheet can do it, Tiller can help!
For example, you could link all your accounts to the debt snowball and net worth sheet and have Tiller automatically pull numbers into those sheets. But currently you’d need to add those numbers by hand.
Here’s one example of an add-on…
Let’s say you use cash and want to split the ATM withdrawal transactions between several different spending categories. You can use this add-on that allows you to create sub-spending categories to “split a transaction”. (I did this by following these instructions.) You could also “split” a transaction at the grocery store between “food” and “home supplies” and “gifts.”
If you have mad spreadsheet skills, you can build out your Tiller sheet until your heart’s content. If the word spreadsheet scares you, just use one of the default sheets and you’ll never have to change anything!
Multiple Accounts and Multiple Sheets
Tiller can pull transactions from several different accounts into the same sheet. You can pull from a credit card and from a husband and wife’s debit cards. Pulling from multiple accounts saves even more time and makes budgeting between multiple people easy.
Tiller works with most banking institutions and is adding more every month. (If you have trouble linking your bank account just send an email to “support @ tillerhq . com” and they will help. Sometimes the name of your bank isn’t the same name they use behind the scenes.)
Tiller also supports up to five different sheets at a time so you can use one for your personal accounts, and then one for your side hustles in a totally different sheet!
The Perfect Blend?
I love the blend between automation and hands-on budgeting. I’ve tried other budgeting apps and wasn’t happy with the automated categorization. They would get most of the transactions into the correct category but would always mis-categorize a few transactions. I would get worried about the others and check them all anyway, so it wasn’t really the time saver I had hope for.
I want my hands on my budget! I want to be involved in the process, it makes the budgeting process more real. Personally, I don’t think a “set it and forget it” approach is best for monthly budgeting. (It works great for saving and investing, but not your day-to-day money decisions.)
Too much automation and it waters down the results of working a monthly budget. You’ll miss the main point of it all!
Drawbacks of Tiller?
I’ve talked it up pretty high, but are there any downsides?
You’ll need some knowledge of how spreadsheets work to get the most from Tiller.
Custom reports, add-ons, and pivot tables aren’t as easy as clicking a button. Tiller’s website does have a FAQ and a blog that shows (click-by-click in some cases) how to do all these things. But even with step-by-step instructions, it can still be overwhelming for someone who isn’t comfortable with spreadsheets.
Worth $5 a Month?
I don’t know of any other tool out there that pulls transactions into a Google Sheet. This part alone is worth the $5 in my opinion. It’s a time saver and it eliminates the chances of punching in transactions incorrectly or missing any.
Obviously there are other budgeting tools out there though, and we always encourage everyone to use the program that works best for you :) Happy budgeting!
Want to give Tiller a shot?
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