Tracking expenses and money exchanges in a way that both co-parents can see is a challenge in any long distance co-parenting relationship. In an earlier post about using free online tools to manage long distance parenting, I linked to my easy to use expense tracking spreadsheet.
That expense spreadsheet got me and my co-parent through ten years of co-parenting. I’d call that withstanding the tests of time AND challenging co-parenting. You can have a copy for free, if you’d like. Go get it. I’ll wait.
However, now that my son is off to college, we are splitting expenses up three ways. That meant, we needed a new and improved way of tracking expenses. Enter the new expense tracking spreadsheet.
But although this spreadsheet is borderline magical, there are a few reasons it works for us. So, first, before I give you the shiny new spreadsheet (because, of course, I will), here’s why it works for us.
Full Transparency in Expense Tracking
The underlying principle is full transparency. All three of us can see how money is changing hands and being spent. If there is anything we want to do on the side, like a gift, that’s cool. It won’t be in the sheet so it won’t have any effect on the numbers in the sheet.
Limited Editing Power
I will also say that while his dad and I seem to intuitively understand this, my son has struggled with it a bit. That might be because his dad and I just have a long professional history of reading convoluted spreadsheets. Spreadsheets aren’t for everyone, for sure.
It follows, that a key to our success with this sheet is that while everyone can see it, only I can edit it. My co-parent doesn’t mind because he doesn’t really want to bother with it. He can see it whenever he’d like and rarely has questions about what’s there. My son sometimes rails against that but usually the change he wants to make would have messed it up. I think he gets that. I hope. (much love, son!)
Everything into the Expense Tracking Spreadsheet, Always
The answer to every question about money is “lets look at the spreadsheet”. The answer to every “have you send me money for X” question is “is it in the spreadsheet?”.
This sheet has saved us so many unnecessary back and forths about why, when and who. I love conversing with my son and my co-parent but who wants to spend an hour recreating financial history every two weeks?
As my son has started to get a handle on budging his own money, this sheet has given him something he can reference back to over and over. He knows which receipts he’s sent me and which ones he hasn’t. He knows how much money he’s getting from each parent for what. And maybe most importantly, all the transactions that went into the ‘why’.
Finally, The Expense Tracking Spreadsheet
It looks a little complicated but it’s easy to get the hang of. Here’s the link so you can see it and make a copy.
Once you download it, if you mouse over the column headings, you’ll see a note on how that column works or when and how to use it. In the notes column, I described why that line is the way it is so you can see a variety of scenarios.
You’ll also notice that all of the shaded columns auto-calculate. That’s really the magic of this spreadsheet for me. I don’t have to manually calculate anything. I just tell it who paid what and who owes how much and it creates the tallies of who owes how much to who.
This expense tracking spreadsheet is a great tool for co-parent and adult child trios, but really could work for any trio that splits expenses.