An inventory template or dedicated inventory management software?

Posted by TJ McCue
inventory spreadsheet example

As a business grows, so does its need to manage various functional areas. The tools and services that you use when you first start your company will change over time. One of those functional areas that inFlow software can help with, of course, revolves around inventory.

As a guest blogger here, I recognize that, for some people, switching to a full-fledged and powerful inventory system like inFlow — while at the same time starting up or expanding — can be daunting. So I went out and found some inventory spreadsheet solutions to serve as an interim solution (the keyword being interim, or short-term). Most of these are free or low-cost and can help you manage inventory, but they will be limited as you try to grow your business.

an inventory template

Eventually, you will hit a wall with what a spreadsheet can do. That has been my personal experience, too, in running a small business with basic tools. You can manage with spreadsheets for a period of time, but you will find as I did that you will end up spending too much time hacking together a solution to save some money. And you’ll spend at least a day trying to make a spreadsheet formula work.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of simple spreadsheet software first.

The pro’s of using inventory templates to track inventory

You probably already know how to use it, at least the basic functions. There’s not much of a learning curve.

Inventory spreadsheet templates are also already built into Microsoft Office, which most businesses already own. That makes it a low cost, easy alternative to learning an inventory program. There are also several different options available (more on the spreadsheet options later).

Pros of inventory spreadsheets at a glance:

  • No learning curve (at least for the basics)
  • You may already have Microsoft Excel installed
  • Many options are available and it’s relatively easy to customize

The con’s of using an inventory template to track inventory

While using spreadsheets, your inventory is not automatically updated every time you buy or sell an item. You have that added step of manually updating the sheet each time.

Additionally, there is no way to automatically reorder stock, and there is no concrete way to know when stock needs to be reordered unless the spreadsheet is kept constantly and fully up to date. In other words, the administration of inventory has to be done in your head when using an inventory template or Excel. Of course this can be time consuming and stressful, with the added probability of more errors.

There’s also no easy way to share data from Excel with other members of the team.

The creator of the sheet becomes to go to person when anything needs updates. You could try a cloud service like Google Docs or Office 365, but if something isn’t adding up, it’s all up to the creator to fix it.

google docs office 365

Cons of inventory spreadsheets at glance:

  • No automatic updates of your stock levels
  • A system of checks and balances will need to be implemented to prevent discrepancies (errors in data entry)
  • No low stock alerts, no automatic reorderin since nothing is tied to a cash register or purchase program
  • Not easily shared

Inventory template and spreadsheet tools and downloads


This site offers different inventory templates for Excel, Open Office, and Google Docs, and they are sorted by category. Sell only drinks? They have a template for that. Do you sell food? There’s one for that too. Sell both food and drinks? No problem, they have that covered as well.

ABACUS Excel Inventory Template Tracker

This particular Excel based solution works well for small- to medium-sized businesses. It incorporates many different menu-driven options, and has pop up help boxes, in case you need additional guidance.


This handy little website has all the possible different software applications you would need, all for free! It includes the inventory tracking system, an invoicing template, barcode label printing software, and much more. What’s even better is that it offers several different variations on each of these different types of programs to ensure that you have variety available.

Microsoft Contents Inventory List

This particular inventory template is offered by Microsoft at no charge. It is more simplistic than the others so it’s a good choice if the others become overwhelming.

Microsoft Home Inventory Spreadsheet

This inventory template allows for a listing of the inventory of a home. It’s meant for insurance purposes; however, it may easily be modified to work for business inventory as well by simply changing the headings of a few columns.

Vertex42 Excel Templates and Spreadsheets

This site offers a wide variety of spreadsheet templates for business owners. From a software inventory tracking template to help you keep up with your software licenses to product inventory, Vertex42 has the templates you need. The standard Stock Inventory Control Template will help you manage your product inventory. You can get direct to that stock one here.

Inventory Spreadsheets vs. Dedicated Inventory Management Software

The goal of this post was to share as many options for inventory control since inFlow Inventory is in the business of serving small business.

Hopefully you find these links to inventory templates helpful. Of course you can avoid having to use inventory templates and spreadsheets by using dedicated inventory management software in the first place. After all, as your business grows, your spreadsheet demands will grow, too.

As a small business owner who must manage a small amount of inventory on a project-basis, I have used Excel. It works – although I still have to manually produce business documents such as purchase orders, sales orders, and shipping orders. inFlow invited me to post, since I shared some of my experiences with them while reviewing the software. You can see the full review here. . Or you can download inFlow Inventory today to try it out for yourself.

What sort of spreadsheet solutions are you using? What ways do you hack together software solutions to save money? Share your experiences in the comments section.

About TJ McCue

Have a question or comment? Let us know below!

  1. Hi,

    We are a small sized organisation. We have stock of office supplies for our use, and spares etc.. for our machinery. Can you help us with a simple procedure for stock and inventory control with some excel formats please ?

    Many thanks

    1. Hi

      I would recommend trying out the free edition of inFlow! You can download it at

      If inFlow’s not for you, you can also export the data to an Excel format (CSV). You can then use the formatted excel templates to manage your inventory without inFlow if you like!

      Let me know if this helps!


  2. HI, I am Inventory Controller of storeroom of Farm House. i have different items in my store room. day by day if my workers need items then i provide them from store. i was using inflow but there is no any option of Stock out. like if i give item to my worker then in inflow its only show transfer. can u make excel for me for this, where i mange my stock In and Out and also remaning Stock

    1. Hi Nasir

      What most companies will do is set your worker as a “location” and just do a stock transfer when needed.

      You’ll then have reports on exactly who has what and when!

      Let me know if that helps!