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Calculate the Running Total

In this article, I will show you how to calculate the running total in Google Sheets and Excel. The method I present works the same way for both spreadsheet platforms.

What is the Running Total?

The running total (also known as the cumulative sum) is the summation of a sequence of numbers that updates each time a new number is added to the sequence.

For example, let’s say you have the following list of numbers.

Here is how the running total is calculated.

  • After the first number, the total is 1.
  • After the second number, the total is the first number plus the second number, which is 3
  •  And after the third number, the total is the first number, plus the second, plus the third, which is 6.

The running total continues to increase like this for each new number added.

The Formula to Calculate the Running Total

Let’s say you have your numbers set up like this in your spreadsheet.

To calculate the running total, you start by selecting the cell next to the first number in your list. In this cell, you enter the following formula.

=SUM($A$2:A2)

This formula employs the SUM function to calculate the total. However, the most important part of this function is the reference as the function’s argument. The first part of this reference is an absolute or locked reference due to the dollar signs.

=SUM($A$2:A2)

In other words, this part of the reference will not change as this formula is dragged down for all the other numbers. It will stay fixed.

The second part of the reference has no dollar signs and is therefore a relative reference. And since this is a relative reference, it will update as you drag down the formula for all the other numbers.

=SUM($A$2:A2)

Now with your formula in place, you can use the fill handle to drag the formula down for all the other numbers. You end up with a running total for each number added to your dataset.

See It In Action

To see this demonstrated in Google Sheets, check out the video below.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I feel like this is so simple, but I would have never thought of it on my own! Thank you for your tips!

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