I have been pursuing genealogy research for my personal family lines now for a few years, and I am a little stunned at how quickly the $$ dollars can add up. Here are a few things that I spend money on for my research:

  1. Photocopies
  2. Research travel (gas, flights, accommodations, food, etc.)
  3. Admission fees (museums, libraries, historical homes, etc.)
  4. Genealogical society memberships
  5. Online memberships + paid access to databases
  6. Computer software
  7. Books & magazines
  8. Miscellaneous tools (gen. charts, binders, flash drives, etc.)
  9. Hardware & peripherals (scanner, camera, etc.)
  10. Donations for look-up helps

Has anyone created a budget worksheet to track spending for genealogy? If there is one that is open and shared, great, but I would be willing to pay for a download. I just need to know where to get it. I think this would be a really useful tool that should be a part of every genealogist's tool-kit.


I would have thought that any decent expense tracking spreadsheet would fit the bill, as long as it allowed you to specify your own expenditure categories. Since you have already provided a list of categories, you are almost there. Something simple like this one from PracticalSpreadsheets is probably fine, you just need to changes the categories on the categories worksheet. (Disclaimer: I just Googled for a suitable one and haven't tried it out myself - my genealogical expenses are limited.)

The main other questions to answer when selecting one of the many spreadsheets and apps out there are:

  • How easy is it to specify your own expenditure categories?
  • What reporting is built in (i.e. charts, comparisons across periods)?
  • Do you need Excel or will it work in free alternatives like OpenOffice (assuming you don't already have Excel and want to save money)?
  • What other information about each transaction would you want to collect? For example would you want to compare how much you are spending with Ancestry.com for both online membership and offline software? If so you effectively need more columns of information in the spreadsheet. This will give you more control and information but the more information you need to enter, the more cumbersome it will get.
  • Are you comparing expenses to a budget or just tracking expenses?

What an expense-tracking spreadsheet won't do or you is automatically work out where you could save money. You will have to work that out from your expenditure patterns. A few questions come to mind though:

  • Have you been making full use of freely available online sources for scanned documents, or are you paying services for copies of original documents such as parish records?
  • Have you been prioritizing your document collection strategically? For example, do you really need the original birth certificate for someone whose record can be well established in multiple free sources?
  • Have you been paying local researchers do to things sooner that you could do on a research trip planned later?
  • Do you frequently switch (and pay for) new software in the hope you will find the perfect package?

I am not suggesting that you personally are making expensive choices, but these strike me as good questions for anyone to ask.


I maintain (and enforce) a genealogy budget, for pretty much the same reasons as those given. I also found that my expenses were getting out of control, so for one year I just recorded everything I spent to see exactly where it all went, and established a budget based on that.

Over half of my annual budget goes to Ancestry.com, and a few other subscriptions and memberships. Almost half of what's left generally goes for books, a large fraction of which are unplanned purchases (e.g., a hard-to-find book showing up on eBay or one of the used book sites).

I find it useful to distinguish "fixed annual costs" (e.g. subscriptions and memberships) from those that vary month to month. Subtracting the fixed annual costs from my annual budget gives me a monthly "petty cash" budget, which I manage using a standard spreadsheet.

I add a credit to my "account" at the beginning of each month, and debit each monthly expense, broken out by category. If I run out of credit mid-month, I'm done for that month. Debits include all of the things previously mentioned, also including a figured per-letter cost for postal correspondence.

Working on a budget, it's tempting to use sources that are cheapest rather than most useful (e.g., copies of microfilm newspaper obits from most libraries run about $3 each, whereas death certificates from some states can run $25-$35, as can research assistance for the local historical society). Avoid it - if there's a specific piece of information that I absolutely need to make forward progress, I bite the bullet and pay whatever it costs.

I've also found it useful to prioritize unplanned expenses over planned expenses, even if it puts me in the red for a bit. A budget really does help enormously in prioritizing, both for short and long term results.


If you are simply doing this for your own enjoyment there is really no need to track your expenses (unless you need to justify them to a spouse or other person paying the freight). On the other hand, if you are planning to make your genealogical efforts a money-making proposition, then Quickbooks, or Quickbooks Pro would be an appropriate investment.

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    Um... sorry, but I think that knowing where your money is going and how fast it is going out the door is always a good idea, whether you are paying your own bills or not. – Canadian Girl Scout Apr 21 '13 at 3:37

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