New Money in Excel template now available in Microsoft 365 for some users


Money in Excel is a free personal finance planning and reporting application that is available for certain Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers. We have the details.

Image: PrathanChorruangsak, Getty Images/iStockphoto

On June 15, 2020, Arjun Tomar, product marketing manager for Microsoft 365, announced the availability of a new free template called Money in Excel. This new template will help users track their personal finances by electronically connecting their financial accounts (checking, investments, money markets, etc.) directly to Microsoft Excel.

For those of us old enough to be active PC users in the 1990s, the time-saving concepts suggested by Money in Excel are familiar. Microsoft Money (1991-2009) had the same functionality and was relied on by many people until the application was unceremoniously discontinued in 2009.

Getting a functional and free personal financial planning application sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, Money in Excel availability is limited to specific Microsoft 365 subscriptions. This article describes how Money in Excel works, who is eligible, and how to get it.

SEE: Microsoft Build 2020 Highlights (TechRepublic Premium)

Money in Excel for Microsoft 365

Before you can use Money in Excel, you must first establish online accounts with your banks, payment services, and financial institutions. Essentially, Money in Excel will electronically login to your accounts, download the appropriate transaction history, and then load that transaction history into the Excel template. This process can be done manually now, but Money in Excel will automate those steps.

Once loaded into the template, users can check transactions, reconcile bank accounts, graph expenses, and create other activity reports. In theory, Money in Excel will simplify personal financial organization, planning, and reporting. The template is customizable, so you can modify it to suit your particular needs.

Microsoft uses Plaid as a data-retrieval partner. Plaid is a third-party fintech vendor specializing in secure data retrieval from financial institutions. Microsoft stores your data using Azure cloud services, while Plaid also retains a copy of your data as part of its services.

While both companies emphasize encryption and privacy, it is important to realize that you are sharing some sensitive personal information with both companies when you use Money in Excel. If you would like to review Plaid’s security policies, check out its website.

Example Monthly Snapshot

Image: Microsoft Corp.

Who is eligible, and how do you get Money in Excel?

Money in Excel is only available to Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers in the United States. Microsoft does not explain why the availability is so limited, but there are likely regulatory complications with financial institutions and users operating and living outside the US.

There is also no ready explanation of why Money in Excel is not available to business subscribers of Microsoft 365. It is possible that Microsoft has plans for a business version of Money in Excel. Or perhaps even another more advanced application specifically designed for businesses is in the works. Only time will tell.

If you have an eligible Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscription, you can download the free Money in Excel template from the Microsoft website. However, a word of warning: The quick cancellation of Microsoft Money services in 2009 left many individuals in a bind, leaving them to scramble for alternative solutions. Dependency on automated systems for personal financial planning can be efficient and almost addictive, but it does have some major drawbacks.

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How to add a drop down list to an Excel cell


Drop down lists can greatly facilitate data entry. Here’s a look at how to use Microsoft Excel’s data validation feature to create handy lists within your worksheets.

In web forms, surveys, and polls, it can be very useful to limit the choices for a selection with a simple drop down list. This is also possible in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, but the process isn’t very well known or very intuitive.

In Access, you can limit user entries by forcing users to choose a value from a list control. Microsoft Office applications use the same functionality in built-in drop down lists. For instance, the Highlight and Font Color controls on most Formatting toolbars use this flexible tool. Simply click the small triangle to the right of the icon to display a list of choices.

You can create the same type of control for your users in an Excel sheet, but the process isn’t intuitive. The option is in the Data Validation feature. Fortunately, once you know the feature exists, it’s easy to implement. You need only two things: A list and a data entry cell. Figure A shows a simple drop down list in an Excel sheet.

Figure A

Users click the drop down arrow to display a list of items from A1:A4. If a user tries to enter something that isn’t in the list, Excel rejects the entry. To add this drop down list to an Excel sheet, do the following:

  • Create the list in cells A1:A4. Similarly, you can enter the items in a single row, such as A1:D1.
  • Select cell E4. (You can position the drop down list in most any cell or even multiple cells.)
  • Choose Validation from the Data menu.
  • Choose List from the Allow option’s drop down list. (See, they’re everywhere.)
  • Click the Source control and drag to highlight the cells A1:A4. Alternately, simply enter the reference (=$A$1:$A$4).
  • Make sure the In-Cell Dropdown option is checked. If you uncheck this option, Excel still forces users to enter only list values (A1:A4), but it won’t present a drop down list.
  • Click OK.

SEE: How to create a drop-down list in Google Sheets (TechRepublic)

You can add the drop down list to multiple Excel cells. Select the range of data input cells (step 2) instead of a single Excel cell. It even works for noncontiguous Excel cells. Hold down the Shift key while you click the appropriate Excel cells.

A few quick notes:

  • You can only see the drop down if you click on the Excel cell.
  • Your users can now only choose one of the options in the drop down. If they try to enter their own data, then they’ll receive an error message.
  • You can copy-and-paste this drop down cell to any other Excel cells in your spreadsheet, and you can create as many different drop downs like this as you’d like.

SEE: 10 Excel time-savers you might not know about (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

How to create an Excel drop down list from another tab

The data you want to use in an Excel drop down list usually won’t be in the same sheet as the drop down. The good news is that identifying a list on another sheet requires only an extra click to access the sheet. We can illustrate this as follows.

  • If you have only one sheet, add a new one. (“Different sheet” in the demonstration file.)  
  • Select E4 in the new sheet and repeat the earlier instructions for creating a drop down through step 4.
  • When you get to the step 5, where you identify the source, click inside the Source Control.
  • Click the Lists sheet tab or the tab that contains your list items.
  • Select the list (A1:A4).
  • Click OK, which will return you to the new sheet, where you’ll find a populated list in E4 (Figure B).

Figure B

With an extra click to identify the sheet, you can easily display list items on another sheet.

A Microsoft Excel bonus tip

This bonus Excel tip is also available in the free PDF 30 things you should never do in Microsoft Office.

Rely on multiple links

Links between two Excel workbooks are common and useful. But multiple links where values in workbook1 depend on values in workbook2, which links to workbook3, and so on, are hard to manage and unstable. Users forget to close files, and sometimes they even move them. If you’re the only person working with those linked Excel workbooks, you might not run into trouble, but if other users are reviewing and modifying them, you’re asking for trouble. If you truly need that much linking, you might consider a new design.

For more Excel tips, read 56 Excel tips every user should master.

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