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Article Google Sheet hacks for small business: 7 tips for budgeting

Spreadsheets are often number-crunching, progress-tracking engines of everything for small business owners.

Whether its people management or sales forecasting, you can bet they’ve got a spreadsheet for that—and if they haven’t, they probably need one (we covered this in another recent blog).

And they’re especially helpful for small businesses when it comes to budgeting and finance.

For years the industry standard spreadsheet for budgeting (and everything else) has been Microsoft’s Excel. But Google Sheets, which first broke through with its web-based, access-anywhere capabilities and collaboration functions, now has many of the same features and more and more businesses rely on it for budgeting.

If your business is a Google Sheets user—or is thinking about becoming one—here’s 8 hacks for small business budgeting with Google Sheets, to help you get the most out of it.

We’ll cover what they are, how they work and why they’ll change your life.

Let’s get started.

Hack #1: Ask and answer questions direct from the application

  • What is it? This hack lets you send email notifications direct from the application and attach comment threads or tasks to specific cells.
  • How does it work? Right click on a cell (or group of cells), select ‘Comment’, then type an ‘@’ before the email address of the person you want notified. When you’ve posted your comment, they’ll get an email letting them know there’s something you could use their help on.
  • It will change your life because… Effective small business budgeting with Google Sheets often means pulling in data that may be managed by others, or you may just need to confirm a number is accurate. Use this hack to get what you need without starting yet another email chain.

Hack #2: Stop formulas or other data from being overwritten

  • What is it? The ‘Protect range’ function stops important budgeting data, such as crucial formulas or numbers that shouldn’t change, being overwritten or otherwise messed with.
  • How does it work? Highlight the cells you want to protect, right click and select ‘Protect range’ to set editing permissions.
  • It will change your life because… Real-time collaboration is cool, sure, but this helps guard against the Google Sheets equivalent of someone saving over the ‘template’ (there’s always one).

Hack #3: Quickly identify the highest/lowest with heatmapping

  • What is it? This hack uses conditional formatting to apply a color scale from the lowest to highest values in a given range of data.
  • How does it work? Highlight the cells/column you want to apply the heatmap to, right click and choose ‘Conditional formatting’. Then hit ‘Color scale’ to start configuring the heatmap.
  • It will change your life because… Some spreadsheets can quickly become a wall of numbers. This is a simple but powerful way to zero-in on costs or other items that might need further attention when budgeting with Google Sheets.

Hack #4: Use the ‘Growth’ function to predict future revenue/costs

  • What is it? The ‘Growth’ function lets you predict future revenue or costs based on historical data and patterns.
  • How does it work? Input this formula into the cells where you want the result to appear: =GROWTH(FIRST CELL IN RANGE:LAST CELL IN RANGE). Note that the formula needs at least three data points to work effectively.
  • It will change your life because… Now you don’t need to be a data-whizz to use historical data analysis when making budgeting and finance decisions. Use with a certain amount of caution, though: it can’t account for variables unique to your business, such as seasonal factors.

Hack #5: Remember this one keyboard shortcut forever

  • What is it? A keyboard shortcut for bringing up a searchable master list of all Google Sheets keyboard shortcuts.
  • How does it work? Hit Command + / on a Mac, or Control + / on a PC.
  • It will change your life because… Do we really have to answer that?

Hack #6: Create mini-charts for trends or performance, in a single cell

  • What is it? A formula called SPARKLINE that lets you create a miniature chart in a single cell.
  • How does it work? With the SPARKLINE formula you can create line, bar, column, and win/loss charts, with different colors for different values – but it can get fiddly. There are some examples below of the outputs, but we’ll hand you over to Google Sheets guru Ben Collins for details on the various ways it can be used (including pre-written formulas you can copy and paste yourself).

  • It will change your life because… Sometimes a large chart is just going to get in the way. Instead, use the SPARKLINE formula to create at-a-glance visualizations of trends or ranges within your data.

Hack #7: Ask a question with the ‘Explore’ button

  • What is it? A way to use Google’s AI to analyze your data using natural language search queries, instead of complex formulas.
  • How does it work? The ‘Explore’ button is the grey star-in-a-box icon in the bottom right of your sheet. Click that and a menu slides open with a search box at the top. Scroll down and you’ll also find one-click formatting suggestions to improve readability and auto-generated charts, which you can drag and drop into your sheet.
  • It will change your life because… Master this hack and you may never have to use a formula again.

Budgeting and finance is essential to making sure your business has the cashflow it needs. But you didn’t get into business for the admin, right?

If you’re going to use Google Sheets for budgeting and finance in your small business, then use the hacks covered here to get it done as painlessly and accurately as possible—so you can get back to doing the things that make your business great.

For more advice on how to cut down your admin burden, or any other challenges your business might face, contact us at 1-877-633-1102—or visit our small business website.