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Tuesday, March 5, 2019


At the end of our session last Thursday morning the question came up of why people use spreadsheets. Of course, the first thought is about work. We think of them as charts of numbers and so it is difficult to think of other uses. I suggested having some sessions on it because it is one of the most requested subjects for me. Often it is from people who are returning to work, but I am thinking that somehow people don't feel smart enough to use a spreadsheet. I want to challenge that idea!  They can be VERY complicated and difficult to use, but they can also be pretty straight forward and helpful. Here is a list that I came up with as uses for spreadsheets. I hope it will help you think about how useful they are.
  • Template for anything that has rows and columns - I have example spreadsheetoften used spreadsheets to make lists for printing. One example from life would be a list of names of people in a group I am in that can be used as a checklist for attendance. The example here is a list of activities for the year.
  • List of people - For this business I keep a spreadsheet of clients I work with. The list has first name, last name, address, phone, email. It helps me because I can search the list to find someone from the past.
  • Record Keeping - I also keep a spreadsheet for each week that lists who I see, how much I earn, and what we worked on. I add the amounts up each week and then make a total at the end of the year for taxes.
  • Scheduling - a spreadsheet could be used to create a table that can be printed and edited to schedule tasks and who is assigned to each task. 
  • spreadsheet chartCharts - One of the greatest things about spreadsheets is that you can easily create a chart from the data that is on the spreadsheet. You can create a bar chart, a pie chart, or many other kinds. This is great for comparisons of different things or for demonstrating change over time. I love looking at charts from my financial advisor rather than a table with a bunch of numbers! 
  • Keeping track of your stuff - You could make a list of things you own with items listed, their value, and where to find them. This might be a record for your family.  
  • Making lists of Christmas gifts - This has been helpful to me because I tend to think of the same gifts for the same people and cannot remember if I already gave it to them last year. In the past I have also kept a list of what gifts I received in order to remember to write thank you notes.
  • Planning a trip (comparing prices) - My sister is the spreadsheet queen. She makes a spreadsheet when planning a trip. It lists the different options for flights, and hotels. You could also do this for planning anything like a wedding or any other event.
  • Budgeting - Most of us have a finite amount of money coming in during the month. A spreadsheet is a great way to budget your funds. You can make a list of all of the bills that you have and how much each of them costs. A spreadsheet will allow you to adjust the amounts and the sum will change depending on what the numbers are. 
  • Shared List of Donations for an organization - Many of us volunteer for organizations. One that I am involved with has an event where we collect items for a silent auction. We have a Google Spreadsheet where everyone can collaborate on putting in what is donated and what value it has. We have used it for many years, so it has given us a record of what was donated in the past.
  • Record of physical exercise - Keep track of what weights you lifted on which dates or how many miles you ran or rode your bike.

Spreadsheets can become a written record for something that occurs regularly. Since they are saved you can have records for many years in the same format. They can also be sorted by column.
temperature chart

If you have a spreadsheet of names and dates they can be sorted either way so that you can find out certain information. Once you create a spreadsheet and put in formulas you can change different numbers in the sheet and the totals (and even the charts) will adjust to the new numbers. You can also make spreadsheets pretty by coloring the backgrounds of cells, including pictures, changing fonts, etc...