# 37-year-old Microsoft Excel world champion: Here are my best spreadsheet tips for budgeting and productivity

Andrew Ngai is a 37-year-old Australian actuary with an unexpected side gig: Microsoft Excel world champion.

Ngai has competed against fellow Excel enthusiasts since 2018, and won his third straight Excel championship at Las Vegas' HyperX Esports Arena last month, taking home a prize of \$3,000. His competitors have bestowed him with the nickname "The Annihilator," a play on his name's pronunciation and a reference to his dominance.

The heated competition was streamed live online by YouTube and ESPN so viewers around the world could watch Ngai — who estimates he's won up to \$12,000 overall since he started competing — build spreadsheets to solve case studies in under 30 minutes.

Those challenges have ranged from creating complicated financial models to, in one case, analyzing fictional asteroid mining data from a space-themed multiplayer role-playing game called Eve Online.

Ngai, a Sydney-based director at consulting firm Taylor Fry, uses Excel in his day job analyzing risk for clients — but he learned it the same way most people do, by Googling tips and tricks online. You don't have to be an actuary or Excel champion to use the software to become more productive at work or create a budget that can save you money, he says.

Here are Ngai's top tips for Excel users at any level of expertise to use the program for budgeting and productivity:

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Ngai uses personal budgeting spreadsheets to track his spending and look for areas to cut back on expenses, he says. For these purposes, you can rely on "basic math" functions to perform a host of calculations, even if you've never really used the software before, he adds.

Every Excel spreadsheet features a formula field near the top of the window where you can add values together, multiply, divide, and so on. The "SUMIFS" function is especially useful for budgeting, says Ngai.

If you enter your monthly expenses into a spreadsheet, add a cell next to each one categorizing it by type — like food, rent or entertainment. Then, use the SUMIFS function to add together everything labeled as "food," or "rent," or any other individual category.

"You work out: 'How much did I spend on food this month? How much did I spend on holidays?'" Ngai says. "Then you can sort of see, 'Maybe this is where I've spent too much — on shopping or something — and then you can decide [how] to manage your expenses that way."

#### Learn some function tools

As you become more proficient with Excel, Ngai suggests working to familiarize yourself with the software's many different function tools, which appear under Excel's "Lookup and Reference" dropdown menu.

"The functions 'Index' and 'Match,' or 'XLookup,' are just really useful all of the time," Ngai says.

Each of those functions allow you to search for specific information and values in a large table of data. Ngai and his fellow competitors use them to quickly pinpoint useful pieces of information without needing to waste time wading through a sea of data.

Recent versions of Excel also have a feature called Dynamic Arrays, which can help you search for a range of related results across several different cells with only one formula. It's a major timesaver for sorting and analyzing large sets of information, Ngai says.

More than any one specific tip, what's most helped Ngai become the world's best Excel user is "a mindset of [always] trying to improve and find a better solution."

"That's what really drove me to improve my Excel skills earlier on in my career," he says.

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