Excel’s default is to use relative reference when using formulas. That means that when a formula is copied and pasted into another cell, the formula will change its reference points by the exact number of columns and rows that you moved the formula. Our Excel training will show you how to use this information to your benefit. We achieve this by including or omitting the dollar sign in Excel.
Demonstrated below in the left worksheet of this Excel tutorial, we entered the formula B1*A2 and in the right worksheet we copied that formula down into C3. However, Excel changed the formula to B2*A3 (one row down the column, just like we moved the formula).
How do we stop this change from occurring? By using absolute reference and learning where to insert a dollar sign in Excel to tell it exactly what elements of the formula we want to stay the same as we move from cell to cell. Cell referencing is about linking one cell based on the current cell and will be the subject of this part of your Excel training. It is mostly known for altering formulas. For example, the below worksheet in this online Excel course shows =B$1*A2 entered into C2, thus linking B1 to C2. If B1 is altered in any way, C2 will also be altered.
By adding the dollar sign into the formula, you can tell Excel to keep the row the same, keep the column the same or keep the row and the column the same.
Enter the dollar sign before the row number in the equation to keep the row the same. In the instance of this online Excel training segment, we want to keep B1 as the cell that is multiplied by all other cells. We enter =B$1 to show this as we move down column D. If you were to move this formula to column E the reference will stay in row 1 but it will also move to column C because we did not make column B an absolute reference. The same is true for the second half of the equation. Instead of column A being the reference it would now be column B.
How Can I Use the Dollar Sign in Excel But Keep the Column the Same?
Enter the dollar sign before the column heading in the equation to keep the column the same. Here we added a few more numbers to row B and now want to multiply down the column. We enter $B to tell Excel this.
It is as easy as combining the above two placements of the dollar sign to keep both the column and the row the same in the formula. It’s explained in greater detail during the rest of this Excel for beginners article, but if you’re unsure, it might be best to take some Excel courses.
Enter $B$1 to tell Excel to use the exact column and row as in the original formula. No matter where in the worksheet you copy the formula the B1 will be used as the multiplier, however, the second value (A2) will change because it is a relative reference.
Tip: When typing your formula, you can hold F4 and toggle from relative reference to any of the three styles of absolute reference listed above. For example, enter =B1 and hit F4 it changes to =$B$1, hit F4 again and it changes to =B$1, hit it again to get =$B1, and one last time to return to =B1
How Can I Use the Dollar Sign in Excel for Absolute References?
In the example worksheet below, the company bases its future advertising costs on last year’s sales. Twenty percent of the previous year’s sales will be allocated to the new year’s advertising costs. We are going to sum each district’s sales for the year by making the row range an absolute reference. Then we will sum up each district’s sales for the month making the column range an absolute reference.
Finally, by setting both the column and row as an absolute range, we will see the total sales per month by the 20% advertising costs.
Total district sales for the year:
- In row 14, column B enter =SUM(B$2:B$13) to add all values in column B.
- Copy across row 14 and Excel will keep the row range (2 -13) the same but will change the columns.
Total sales per month
- In cell E2 enter =SUM($B2:$D2) to add the values across the row 2.
- Copy down column E and Excel will keep the column range the same (B-D) but will move down each row.
Calculate advertising costs per month
- Enter the 20% into any cell (this example it’s entered into B15).
- We will use the data from column E since it is a sum of the three columns before it.
- In F2 enter =E2*$B$15 telling Excel that as me move down column F we want to multiply each row by the data in B15.
- Double-click the bottom right of the cell and Excel will auto-fill the remaining pertinent cells within column F.
Now we have a total for each month’s projected advertising costs. Copy the formula from district sales for the year over to E14 and we now have the total projected advertising costs for the next year.
In the above worksheet (sheet 9), we have the 2018 projected costs for each month. We want to use our original worksheet (sheet 8) where we projected the advertising costs to fill in column F for advertising.
- In cell F2 of sheet 9 above enter the equal sign (=).
- Either click in sheet 8’s tab and select January’s advertising costs (F2) or type Sheet8! followed by $F2 or =Sheet8!$F2
- Either double-click the bottom right corner of cell F2 and then click and drag down the column to auto-fill the projected advertising costs per month or copy the formula and paste into each cell.
Changing the referencing of a formula to absolute is quite simple as you have seen by using the dollar sign in Excel. The key is to know exactly how you want your formulas to work. If you know that you want a range of data to be multiplied by a single cell then you know to use absolute referencing, which will make your worksheets look much cleaner and organised.
Learn all of the Program’s Functions with Excel Training
The dollar sign is not the only function of its kind in Excel, but due to the ease of understanding the role of the dollar sign in Excel, it’s a good place to start. Enhance your knowledge with quality Excel training so that you can master all of the assorted functions of this important program. Our online Excel classes will turn everything you thought you knew about Excel on its head.