Track Your Finances

posted by Andrea | 01/5/2011
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It’s Day #3 of my “11 in 2011 Challenge” — and this goal is one of my favorites!

How many times have you been told to “Create a budget”?

You know you SHOULD create a budget…but have you ever actually taken the time to make one?

And even if you have a budget, do you use it and stick to it?

If you answered “no” to either of those questions, chances are you either hate budgets, or you don’t know where to start…right?

If you fall into the “hate budgets” category, there’s really not much I can do for you. However, if you simply don’t know where to start…I just might have the answer!

Before you can create a reasonable budget {one that makes sense for you and your family}, you need to know how much you’re currently spending. Then, once you know what you’re starting with, you can begin to create a budget that works for you, your family, your needs, and your life.

Goal #3: Track Your Finances

Nope, I’m not going to tell you to create a budget! All I’m asking is that you start tracking where your money is coming from and where it’s going

Don’t worry, I’ll walk you step-by-step, show you how I track our spending, and even give you a FREE downloadable Excel Workbook that you can use to track YOUR spending this year!

{Note, I wanted the Excel Workbook to be customizable for your needs so it should automatically download to your computer when you click on this link. You’ll want to make sure you save it do your desktop to you can easily access it!}

So you know I’m a big fan of organization, right? Well, I personally think that one of the most important areas to keep organized is our finances. I want to know how much money we have, how much we’re saving, how much we’re spending, etc. etc.

I also like to keep things really SIMPLE, so I’ve created this very simple Excel Workbook to track all our finances. It’s nothing fancy but I’ve been using it since college and it still works for me!

Getting Started:

My Excel Workbook has seven tabs or categories (see picture above). Each tab is a separate “Worksheet” within the “Workbook”. I’ll walk you through each tab below…

Also, I’ve conveniently broken the year into 12 months (see left column), and I’ve broken the months into 4 or 5 weeks (Each row = one week), which makes it really easy to track how much you’re saving and spending on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis!


Obviously, in order to create a budget, you’ll need to know how much money you make on a weekly, monthly, and/or yearly basis. And I’m not talking about simply recording your pay stub in your checkbook register {although you should do this too!}

I’m talking about recording EVERY dollar you come into contact with.

In my FREE workbook, I include columns for 3 different incomes plus a miscellaneous category for all those little forms of income that might not get recorded. Whether you have a full-time job, 2 part-time jobs, or several random forms of income, you can edit this worksheet to fit your needs. {Please note: the numbers in the workbook are just for “show”}


I know, I know, we all hate bills; but unless you choose not to heat your home or insure your vehicles, you have bills.

There are still ways to save some money on bills — like eliminating your cable bill, becoming a one-car family, keeping your heat turned down, etc. etc. — but for the most part, I consider “Bills” as a fixed expense that we really can’t avoid. So, if you track how much you spend in each category {click the image to enlarge it} you’ll have a better feel for where to set your budget and what you can — or can’t — realistically cut from your budget.

You’ll notice I put different bill amounts in different rows — this is because each row represents one week, so if a bill is due on the 3rd week of the month, I put it in the 3rd row for that month. Make sense? I do the same thing with our expenses {see below}. If we spend $40 on gas the first week and $25 the third week, I input that information into the cells accordingly.


Yes, in my opinion, expenses are different than bills.

As I explained above, bills are …bills {you HAVE to pay them}. Expenses are a lot more variable and provide more room for saving {or splurging if you’re not careful}.

I like being able to quickly see how much we’ve spent in any given month {in the right column} or in any given category {at the bottom of each column}. Click the image below to enlarge the spreadsheet and see some of the more common expense categories.

And if you’re looking for ways to trim down your expenses in 2011, you might want to see how we save money.

4. Debt Reduction:

If you don’t have any debt; do a happy dance, give yourself a pat on the back, and move on to tab #5.

If you DO have debt, this Worksheet is a great way to record how much you’re putting towards each debt on a monthly and yearly basis. Also, since I know many of you follow Dave Ramsey, this form might be very useful for practicing his “snowball method” for paying off debt.


Giving is important for Dave and I, so the 5th tab in my Workbook is devoted to all types of giving. As you can see below, we have a column for church, school, good causes, misc, and even gifts to others {like Christmas and birthdays}. This form can be helpful as tax season rolls around…and it’s also a great way to monitor your spending during the holidays!


Even if you can only invest $10 a month, you should still do it!

I’m certainly no investment expert but we do pay someone to be our “investment expert” because we know how important it is for us to make wise choices with our money now…especially in a less-than-desirable economy. I use this form as a simple way to track many of our investment contributions.


The summary page is, well…the summary! {Please note, these are just random numbers I threw in for the picture}

I have all the formulas set up so your totals from the first six tabs will automatically calculate and show up on the Summary Page — so convenient, I know!

The one thing I really love about the Summary page is that you can instantly see how much money you’ve saved. Obviously, the bottom number “Overall Surplus” should be a positive number. If it’s a negative number, you’re spending more than you’re making!

So that’s it. That’s MY system for tracking all our finances.

If you have any experience working in accounting, you probably think I’m crazy. I know my method is not the most professional, but it has worked wonderfully for me over the last 8 years {and it’s free} so I’m sticking with it!

Once you start tracking your finances, you’ll know exactly how much money you’re making, how much your spending, AND how much you’re saving on a monthly and yearly basis. Even if you never take “the next step” to create an actual budget, you’ll still be more knowledgeable about your financial condition. Plus, it’s really fun to look back over the years and compare.

Download my FREE workbook, or create your own form today… and, whenever you ARE ready to buckle down and create an actual budget, here are a few free resources to help you get started.

  1. — Free Personal Finance and Budget Software
  2. — Free Online Accounting Software
  3. Saving With Pam — Free 2011 Budgeting Worksheet to help you pay off debt
  4. East Shore Mom — Free 2011 Budget Worksheet

So what about you? Do you currently track your finances? Do you have a budget? Do you stick to your budget?

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Leave a comment


  1. Shelley


    Hi Andrea, I will try one more time to keep track of my expenses I have to confessed that I have started couple of times and them I give up, maybe since I haven’t found and “easy” way to do it and your spreadsheet looks really friendly and easy to use.
    I always have doubts on how to categorize some expenses, what will be your suggestion for:
    Toll Road, Cleaners, medicines (like prescribe medication, tylenol, advil, etc), Scrapbooking supplies, School supplies (pencils, color pencil, sharpeners).
    Like I said I want to keep it simple and don’t want to have soo many categories. Do you have expenses like this? where do you include them on?


    Shelley Reply:

    Also I put money every month to my saving account, where do you categorize the savings money?


    Andrea Reply:

    I don’t — the savings is everything that’s leftover.

    Keep in mind, this is NOT a budget — it’s just a record of how much money I spend on various things each month… so there’s not a category for everything since there are lots of things I don’t spend money on. You can easily add categories though (if you know how to use Excel)


    Andrea Reply:

    Almost all of those expenses (besides toll roads – which I don’t have) would go under groceries for me, since I buy all of those things at the grocery store (well, I don’t buy scrapbooking supplies or school supplies at this point).

    I think the thing that might be holding you up is trying to be too picky and to “exact”. I personally don’t think you need to have a million categories as that’s when it gets confusing and overwhelming. I just like to know (in general) how much I’m spending each month so I can keep track.


    Shelley Reply:

    Thanks for your reply Andrea, yes I think you get to the point and I am trying to be too picky and exact. I started to work on your spreadsheet already, I only added couple of more categories, but so far I like the end up result 😉


    Andrea Reply:

    yay! glad to hear you’re liking it so far 🙂


  2. Leah


    Thank you so much for this. A big help!


  3. Chelsea


    The only problem with this is that it is retroactive – you track what you SPENT and not what you’re GOING to spend. You don’t have control here- you just see how your money is controlling you. Glad to see more people are interested in budgeting though- there really is no excuse for not doing one, no matter your incomce. Write down income and outgo for an entire month.You won’t hit savings and giving goals if you don’t put it in the budget and then stick to the budget.


    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Chelsea, That’s the whole point — to track what you already SPENT… not what you’re going to spend. The #1 problem with budgeting is that people don’t set a realistic budget because they don’t know how much money they actually spend on a daily basis.

    So as I mentioned in this post — tracking your finances is the first step towards creating a realistic budget that you can actually stick to. Once you track how much money you actually spend on a daily, weekly, monthly, and/or yearly basis, than (and only then) can you really set out to create a budget that is practical for you and your life style and a budget you can actually work with without getting totally discouraged or failing after 2 months.


  4. Jessica


    I am having so much trouble with debt reduction. I keep track of my husband’s school loans from beforehand, and also our insurance, etc. We put money towards them each month, but I don’t understand how to factor in debt reduction.


  5. Gina


    Thank you SO much! I have really been struggling, so finding this today is a great blessing!


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  7. audra


    I’m noticing that your Income, Bills, Debt, Giving, and Investments sections only have 4 weeks – and for example, this month [Jan, 2013] 3 days of the week have 5 weeks. If you update your Excel workbook, I’d love to know about it! Thank you so much!


  8. Teri


    Love, love, love this! Thank you!


  9. Jeshua



    Thank you so much, this Spread sheet is very helpful. I’ve been researching for 20 min, it was incredibly exhausting. I will definitely use this for the whole year of 2013 if that’s possible.

    !! Thank you !!


    Mary Reply:

    Thank you so, so much for this! I too have been searching for something that is easy to use and this looks like it is.
    My question is if you buy groceries say 3 days out of the week do you just save the totals in a book and then total them and put them in for the week?


  10. Kaitlyn Cronin


    This is wonderful! I have a question about the debt reduction spreadsheet, however. Say you have $1000 on a credit card. In January, do you put $1000 down in the column? Then if you don’t add anything to the credit card total, but manage to pay off $200, do you put $800 in the February column? Or will the numbers then add up in the summary to appear as $1800?
    Any further explanation you can give would be really helpful! My new year’s resolution (or at least one of them) is to use this spreadsheet every week!


    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Kaitlyn,
    My intentions for the debt reduction worksheet was to type in how much you paid off each month. So if you have a student loan or credit card debt, simply type how much you pay each month to reduce that debt. That way, at the end of the year, you can see how much money you put towards paying off your debt.
    Do that help?


  11. Tonya


    This is great information. This year I started using an excel program, I have mine set up a little different than yours. I am also self employed and this has helped me to keep better track of my income, bills and expenses.
    I too would like to know how you calculate the debt reduction.


  12. Crystal


    Thank you SO much for this! I am not great with the computer and would have no clue how to make one of these. I am so excited to get on a budget and track our finances. I really appreciate this!


  13. Suzanne


    My question on income is: do you list your gross or net income?

    Thanks again!


  14. melissa


    Hi! Just found your workbook through moneysavingmom. It looks fabulous! I have minimal Excel skills and have created a spreadsheet, but it’s nothing like this. My question is about the debt reduction. What exactly do I type in there and how does it factor in to the summary page? If I have a medical bill for $800 and I’m paying $50 a month on it, do I type in $800 in that worksheet or $50? Or is the $50 a bill? I’m just confused about that part. Thanks so much!


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  16. Candice


    Well, I am really excited about using your workbook and even downloaded/filled it out/ and got everything set up to work with our family’s budget. It keeps telling me it is read only and will not let me do anything now. I can’t even open it back up. Do you have any tips as to how to get around the ‘read-only’ issue I’m having. Apparently I am too much of a newb for Excel :(. Thanks for sharing the workbook!


    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Candice — you actually aren’t on the right post — you should be on this post, which will allow you to download the new 2012 workbook {download it and then save it to your desktop}. I know several other people have downloaded it successfully, so if you still can’t edit it — there might be a setting on your computer that needs to be changed. Let me know if you are still having issues!


  17. Audra


    This is a great form! I love that is keep track of one topic like expenses for a whole year on one sheet. I have been budgeting for years using an excel document that I fashioned from the Dave Ramsey style. It goes month by month. Recently, we have been having trouble with keeping track of where our money is going and then our heads are spinning at the end of the month. I think it’s because we have a 2 year old…we’ve been spinning since he was born…I think kids just add expenses that you never expect at crazy times. Anyway, do you have another form that you do for budgeting at the beginning of every month?

    On another note, my neighbors went to a talk that you gave at a mom’s group…I am a teacher so I was not able to attend. They passed along your website information and I think I am addicted! I have really enjoyed reading what you have written and gathering even more ideas to stay organized. I would love to hear how the organizing continues after your little one gets here…I would have to say I was much more organized and on top of everything before I had my son! 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Audra, glad you found my site!

    Currently, that is the only budgeting form I use — so no, I don’t have anything fro the beginning of each month. I guess I’ve just been tracking our expenses for so long that I know how much I should {or should not} be spending!


  18. Raissa


    This is absolutely perfect. I’m a poor college student and have been trying to budget for the next year so I can move into a better living situation, and this will help me keep track of what I’m spending on school, as well as what I can afford to spend on housing and whether or not I will be able to continue affording what I find.

    I have been trying to create my own spreadsheet like this, but it never turns out how I want it and is not as usable as yours. This is exactly what i was searching for, and I just stumbled upon it when I least expected it.

    Thank you!


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  20. Elizabeth


    I just downloaded your spreadsheet, I know I know, I’m finally getting “around to it” in October! But when I started to enter expenses, the very first one I have is for some car repairs–and I can’t find where that goes! I don’t want to put it in Misc b/c I really want to know how much our old beaters are costing us. Can I add a column and would the summary still work? Help!


    Andrea Reply:

    Elizabeth, you can insert another column — but then you will have to add the formula to make it automatically add into the summary.

    Oh, and it’s better to start budgeting late than never!!


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  22. Karen


    Hi Andrea! Thank you soooooooo much for this. I have tried a bunch of different ways to create a budget and track expenses, and even the Dave Ramsey software, which is awesome, doesn’t allow me to make notes or save individual months for comparison. (It has other great tools that we use, though.) Your set up is very close to what I think *I* need to be able to do this in detail, but without overcomplicating the process.

    Some of your tabs have 4 weeks and some have 5, so I’m trying to add a 5th week to the ones that need it without messing up the formulas.

    Do you find it necessary to compare month to month? Your summary page is for the year, so before I start reinventing the wheel by adding monthly summaries, I wanted to ask if there is something I’m just not seeing. (I need to know if we’ve gone over or are about to go over budget on a monthly basis.)



    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Karen, glad my spreadsheet is working for you!

    Also, I don’t specifically compare the monthly data {I’m more long-term!}, but if you look in the far right-hand column of each worksheet, you’ll see the monthly totals, so you can see how much income you make every month, how many bills and expenses you have every month, etc. Honestly, I think that should be enough to keep you on budget without creating much more work for you {over-complicating things is the #1 reason why budgets fail}

    Hope this helps, let me know if you have other questions.


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  24. Megan


    Hi there! I really love this spreadsheet! Thank you for making such a great simplified tool for us to use. I always seem to make budgets too complicated and then give up on it.

    Anyways, I have a question for you.. where does the information that we type into the investments sheet go when you view the summery page? Maybe that part isn’t linked to the summery page? just wondering!

    Thanks again,


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Megan,
    I guess I never linked the Investments page to the Summary page because our investments aren’t very complicated…and I kind of like to keep them separate so I can see the interest grow!!
    If you really want it to link together, I can probably do that and then email it to you…let me know!


    Megan Reply:

    No don’t worry about it, I was just checking 🙂 Thanks a bunch!



  25. Lacey


    This is WONDERFUL!

    My husband and I got married last June and getting taxes ready for this year has been, hectic and chaotic. With this workbook, I might actually look forward to getting taxes ready.

    This is so great, (and free!). Thank you!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lacey! I hope my workbook helps you get a little more organized for next year!

    Happy tax season!


  26. Lynda


    Just wondering, is there a free type of excel out there? We can’t use the worksheet as we don’t have excel or the money to purchase it. I would love to use your spreadsheet – it seems to make the most sense out of the ones I have seen.


    Andrea Reply:

    Lynda, the only “free” version of Excel I know of is by downloading Microsoft Open Office. I think my spreadsheet should open with this program but I’m not 100% positive — however, I suppose it’s worth a try 🙂

    With Open Office, you’ll also get a free version of Word, PowerPoint, and a couple other programs so you should definitely check it out!

    Hope this helps!


    Lynda Reply:

    Just found a free excel type product as part as open office. Andrea I was wondering if you are able to save your spreadsheet as something other than in excel so that it can be used by other computer systems such as open office. I am not sure how to do this. Thanks.


    Andrea Reply:

    Lynda, Glad you found Open Office. It’s a great tool if you’re looking for a deal!

    I don’t think it’s possible to save the document as something other than Excel becuase you won’t be able to utilize the formulas I have already programed in. However, I do have one idea… I’ll email you the spreadsheet in a few minutes in a format I **think** will work. If it doesn’t, then I don’t know of any other options.



    Vicky Reply:

    Update: Google has a ‘Documents’ section in which you can create a spreadsheet. Not sure how functional it is compared to Microsoft Excel, but it’s available if you have a Google account. 🙂


  27. Andrea


    Ok everyone, I’ve uploaded a NEW format for the free Excel Workbook…so hopefully you won’t have any more troubles opening it and/or saving it to your computer.

    Simply click on any of the links in this post and it should automatically download to your computer. Then just open it up and save it where ever it’s most convenient for you.



  28. Yvonne


    I’m having trouble downloading your spreadsheet. Any suggestions?


    Andrea Reply:

    Sorry for the trouble. I just sent you an email with the spreadsheet attached. Let me know if that works better!


    Yvonne Reply:

    Yes, it did. Thanks.


  29. megan @ whatmegansmaking


    This looks like a great system! I’m married to an accountant, so he has taken charge of our finances and created some incredibly complex spreadsheet system out of them. But I like yours – it looks pretty 🙂


  30. Laura


    This is wonderful! I have been using excel to track and manage our budget for a while, but in the back of my mind was this annoying question of wondering YTD information, summary, etc and it was on that invisible to-do list of things I’ll do at some point. Then you gave this gift right at the beginning of a new budget year! Thank you!

    Someone mentioned combining toiletries and groceries and ways to track them separately and I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in. I actually keep a “budget” for separate categories in my groceries (meats, produce – includes frozen vegetables/fruits, dairy, pantry – everything else, household – cleaning products, light bulbs, etc & toiletries – shampoo, diapers, toothpaste, etc). I was getting frustrated at not being able to cut down on our groceries much and when I started tracking how much I was spending in each category, I was able to see where I could cut back and helped me plan a budget for each category so when I’m at the store and I see a great deal here or there, I know I only have so much allocated in that category and is this what I want to put money toward (or I know I have to “transfer” money from another category to fund the great sale). It does require me to sit with excel for a few minutes with whatever grocery receipts I have to enter each item individually in the proper categories, but the payoff has been HUGE! We’ve cut our grocery bill by 50% in just two months by really paying attention to what each item costs and how much each category is adding up to each week/month.

    This may be terribly tedious for some people, but applying the logic of general money management/setting up a budget to our grocery budget, it really has helped me have a full grasp on where every penny of our grocery money is going (or should go) and helped me realize that that my favorite product of whatever isn’t worth the cost when it takes such a chunk of say, our dairy budget.

    Anyway, thanks again for this spreadsheet – perfect timing, so simple and basic – just what I needed!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Laura, Glad to hear you’re another Excel user!!

    I like your tip for separating your grocery budget into smaller categories to see how much you’re really saving and spending. I agree that it might be a bit tedious for some people, but it’s a great method for anyone who has a tendency to splurge, shop impulsively, or consistently go over budget!

    Enjoy the new spreadsheet:)


  31. MaryBeth @ IslandGirlBags


    Oh my…this is so what I was looking for. Thanks so much for sharing. I have a huge goal of getting us back on track and being more wise with our money.


  32. Karen @ Abundance on a Dime


    We’ve had a monthly budget and tracked our expenses for years – however our paper system was EXTREMELY basic. We started using cash envelopes for non-fixed expenses in 2010 and really found it helpful to keep our spending in check. This year we’re giving a try – we’re in Canada and it just recently became available for use here. The fact that all my expenses, investments, mortgage, etc can be tracked from one spot is appealing, I’m not sure if it’s going to end up being too fiddly for me though -we’ll see!!


    Andrea Reply:

    Karen, it definitely sounds like you’re on the right track.
    Give a try for a year — it’s free so you don’t really have anything to use!

    Good Luck 🙂


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  34. Kathy @ House of Hills


    Oh. My. Word. This might change my life. We went to envelopes on January 1 for the first time.

    I am also writing down EVERY penny in a notebook because I’ve tried to use Mint and the like but it doesn’t seem real unless I’m writing it down. However, the hubby likes things on the computer. This may be our compromise.

    Thank you for sharing your gifts with us all!


  35. Kalyn


    I thought I was pretty organized with my Excel budget spreadsheet, but you got me beat! I may have to try yours now. 🙂 Love Excel!


  36. Eos Mom


    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Tracking expenses and making a budget are a big item on my 2011 To Do List and your excel workbook *looks* like it will help a ton (of course *I* will actually have to follow through, so we’ll see how that goes). 😉 Thank you so much for this free resource!!!


    Andrea Reply:

    My pleasure. Hopefully my simple worksheet will help you follow through with your goals this year!

    Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.


  37. AnneG


    Thank you so much, Andrea! The workbook is exactly what I need to get me started; I truly appreciate it!


    Andrea Reply:

    You are so very welcome!


  38. ListfulWistful


    I’m a big fan of tracking my expenses. I only started in October, but it is already making a huge difference. I tend to be a pen & paper gal, but your spreadsheets look pretty straightforward & appealing. I might become a convert!

    Quick question for you. In the image in Part 3, where you talk about expenses, you have different items on different lines in the squares. Is there any rhyme or reason to that? Like is each line a week in the month, or is it random, or what?

    Thanks for sharing these!


    Andrea Reply:

    Ah, yes! Each line (row) is one week! If you look over at the far left column, you’ll see each month covers 5 rows…or weeks. I know some months only have 4 weeks, but then there’s just an extra.
    So, for example, when I get groceries, I put that week’s total in one square (even if I go to multiple stores). That way, I can see how much I’m spending every week, every month, AND every year for a specific category.

    Does that make sense?


    ListfulWistful Reply:

    Oh, good! And isn’t it good to know that your spreadsheets are user-friendly/intuitive? Nicely done!

    Another question for you: Do you put shampoo, soap, etc. in grocery? Or separate them out for beauty (or is beauty strictly haircuts, etc.)? I’ve ended up lumping toiletries/groceries together to avoid having to divvy up the receipt, but then I get a little frustrated that my grocery numbers are higher when I have to replenish those things. Not a big deal in the scheme of budgeting, I suppose, but thought I’d ask since I’ve been wondering what to do with it!


    Andrea Reply:

    Good question!

    I actually don’t spend much money on toiletries {I get them all free after rebate} but if I do have to purchase toiletries, I put them under beauty or misc. Do whatever works best for you, but I like to know exactly how much we spend on “food” groceries, so I separate the two.


    V Reply:

    I’m confused, I only see 4 rows per square!


  39. Kari


    Ok, confession time: I’m an accountant and I don’t have a budget or track my expenses.

    I jumped on board on days 1 and 2, so I might as well do this one too. It is something I have set out to do on numerous occasions, but just never stick too. Since I haven’t spent any money this year (sorry church for forgetting the checkbook on Sunday) now is as good of time to start as any. Thanks for the extra little kick in the butt. Maybe a little check-in in another month or so would be a good way to keep me accountable on my 11 in 2011.

    BTW – I just found your site about a month ago and I’m loving it! As an old farmhouse dweller myself, I’m enjoying your other blog as well.


    Andrea Reply:

    Do it! If you can make your bed and make freezer meals, you can certainly track your expenses in my simple Excel Workbook!

    And I’m glad you’ve visited — I can’t wait to start updating it with all our many projects!