Preparing a College Budget? Spreadsheets Can Help (Part 2)

Joel Fristrom



Keys to Your College Budget: Learning How to Get the Most Out of Spreadsheets

As you learned from our last post, spreadsheets can simplify your life when preparing a college budget. Now that you know some basics about spreadsheets and college budgeting in general—including typical student expenses and how to choose the right tool to help you reach your goals—let’s dig deeper into the features that make spreadsheets such a powerful budgeting tool.

In addition to sharing some pointers about maximizing the usefulness of spreadsheets in general, we’ll also reveal some specific secrets about the WPS Office program called Spreadsheets, which is fully compatible with Microsoft® Excel. By the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll have a general understanding of how basic formulas are the engine that makes spreadsheets work. You’ll also know how to call on macros and multiple sheets to make it much easier to enter, track, and manage your expenses.

Finding Your Formulas

If you had to pick the most valuable function of spreadsheets, it would no doubt come down to the ability of mathematical formulas to make your life easier. Formulas are what you use to tell the spreadsheet program what type of calculation you’d like to complete. Once you’ve entered a formula into the program and indicated the data set to which it should apply, the spreadsheet does the rest of the work for you, taking care of the actual calculation behind the scenes and instantly producing the result.

You can use formulas in spreadsheets to achieve a number of common processes,

  • Calculating arithmetic for you (addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.)
  • Counting data items
  • Testing if values meet conditions that you’ve identified
  • Looking up figures in a range that you specify
It can take a while for beginning spreadsheet users to get the hang of formulas, but once you’ve familiarized yourself with the process and numeric lingo, they become second nature. As an example of what a spreadsheet formula might look like, let’s say that you wanted to add a row of monthly totals in a certain category of spending, such as groceries, to arrive at your total for the year. Each month would correspond to a row of the spreadsheet, which would be designated by a letter, such as B to M, for example. To indicate adding the figures in each month’s row to arrive at the yearly total, you would write your formula as:
=SUM(B15:N15)
This tells the spreadsheet that you want to add the numbers (=SUM) that appear in row B15 through N15 (B15:N15) to arrive at your total for the year.

When you use WPS Office Spreadsheets, this becomes even easier, since the program designers thought ahead to determine the types of categories that you might want to use, as well as the kinds of formulas that are commonly chosen for budgeting purposes. WPS Office Spreadsheets then organizes hundreds of these formulas and functions into specific categories to simplify the analysis of your data. What’s more, the Spreadsheets program features over one million rows and more than 16,000 columns—more than enough to slice and dice your college expenditures any way you want to do it!



Managing with Macros

Another powerful component of certain spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel—with which WPS Office Spreadsheets is 100 percent compatible—are macros, or preset programs. Macros can speed up your spreadsheet budgeting by storing commands and functions right in the program. This saves you the chore of typing in the same information multiple times, which can be particularly handy when you need to perform routine spreadsheet tasks.

For example, as a college budgeter, you might enjoy the ability to erase the contents of cells in your spreadsheet. So instead of manually going cell by cell to highlight and delete the contents in each one of them, you can set up a macro to do this work for you, and then designate the cells to which it should apply. You might also use macros for printing reports or creating charts to speed up repetitive moves. Any time that you find yourself relying on cutting/pasting or copying data, consider that a macro can save you keystrokes. You can also use macros in conjunction with repeated assigned formulas to avoid re-keying the same information in different lines.

If you’re using Excel and WPS Office Spreadsheets, macro creation is a snap. Simply assign a command button with a distinct name to complete a specific job in every instance where it is needed. To make this even easier, WPS Office offers more than 50 predefined keyboard shortcuts for Spreadsheets, which you can view at this link.

Making Multiple Sheets Work For You

As you become a more veteran spreadsheet user, you’ll begin to appreciate another vital function of spreadsheets: the ability to employ multiple sheets to record and visualize your budgeting data. There are many ways that you might want to draw on this capability when using WPS Office Spreadsheets.

For example, consider that the Spreadsheets program offers everything from dozens of customizable built-in charts, to advanced modeling “what if” analysis, to pivot tables that support analyzing and summarizing a large amount of budgeting data. Clearly, all of these ways to visualize and understand your spending and saving patterns require their own sheets. WPS Office Spreadsheets gives you the ability to view multiple documents via a Tabbed View feature, allowing you to edit and manage more than one document at once. You also have the option to insert new sheets, rename or rearrange your sheets, and bounce back and forth to view different sheets.

As you can see, the more you know about spreadsheets and your specific program, the more effective the tool will be for you. Once you’ve mastered the basics of formulas, macros, and multiple sheets for your college budget, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master spreadsheet user.

For more tips, guides, and information on using WPS Office, please visit our Online Knowledge Base.