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The Easy (and Free) Way to Make a Budget Spreadsheet

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It’s January and you’ve gone and done it: You’ve resolved to keep better track of your personal finances. But deep down, you’re not sure where to start. Sure, you can buy accounting software, sign up for a service or poke around your bank’s online offerings for money management. But don’t overlook what is probably the best option of all: a simple and free spreadsheet you make yourself.

Never used spreadsheet software before and not quite sure what it does? Relax, using it to make a budget is easy, because someone has already done most of the work. Here’s how to get started.

First, select an application that can create and edit spreadsheet files. Microsoft Excel has long been a core component of the Microsoft Office suite for Mac and Windows ($70 a year). If you don’t have it already, you can also find versions for Android and iOS or the free basic version that runs in a web browser.

Other free or preinstalled spreadsheet programs may already be on your device. Google Sheets (for Android, iOS and web) and Apple’s Numbers software for iOS, macOS and web are two examples.

If you don’t care for the offerings from Microsoft, Google or Apple, there are alternatives. Apache OpenOffice has a Calc spreadsheet program, as does LibreOffice, and both are free open-source suites that run on Windows, Mac and Linux systems. And there are plenty of other options in the app stores if you want to shop around.

Spreadsheet programs for home computers have been around for 40 years, giving developers plenty of time to make them more intuitive. Most have a version of the “personal budget” template — with the spending categories, design and formulas already formatted. Take advantage of them. Just type over the sample numbers with your own information and the software does the math.

Open your program of choice and look for the “Template” or “Project” gallery. Select the template that best matches your needs, like “Monthly Home Budget,” to create a new spreadsheet.

Don’t see a template that suits you? With a quick search, you can find plenty more to download online, like the selection at BudgetsAreSexy.com, which has specialized templates for those aiming for early retirement, or recent college graduates. The Measure of a Plan personal finance site also has a detailed budget-tracking template that works in Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. Online video tutorials and software guides can also help you build your own spreadsheets.

Once you open a template, you’ll see the boxes (called “cells” in spreadsheet lingo) to fill in your own numbers. Gather up pay stubs, bills, statements and any other forms that show what you made or spent that month.

Enter the information into the designated place. Along with your salary, your pay stub should show the money taken out for things like taxes, retirement savings and health insurance. Add in monthly expenses, like phone, credit card and power bills; car loans; gas, insurance, rent and mortgage costs; gym fees; restaurant meals; and shopping sprees.

Once you have all your numbers punched into the spreadsheet, you can see two things. First, you have a line-by-line accounting of your finances for the month.

Second, most spreadsheet templates give you added totals in your columns for income and expenses, so you can see your cash flow in action. Some templates even include charts to help you better visualize your situation.

If using a simple spreadsheet to record your monthly budget inspires you to keep tracking it over the year — or take even more control — you can move up to a dedicated tool that shows spending trends, provides financial coaching and offers tips.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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