Creating charts of the stocks in your portfolio can add visual feedback to all those numbers. You're not likely to replace wall art with stock charts, but you can't beat line graphs for quickly identifying trends in the stocks you follow. Spreadsheet programs are ideal for turning stock performance numbers into charts.
Collect Your Data
While you will use a spreadsheet program to create your charts, it's best to collect and lay out your stock information on paper first, so you won't get lost when you set it up on the computer. If you want to look at the closing price of a stock in your portfolio every day, write the stock name on the left and today's closing price immediately to the right. Above that, write the date, and to the right start adding the following days. Additional stocks can be added below the first one.
Create the Spreadsheet
Simple price tracking charts don't require elaborate spreadsheet features. You can purchase software, but you can accomplish the same results with free products such as Apache OpenOffice Calc and Google Spreadsheet. Many spreadsheet templates can be found online, if you want to use something that's already set up. Open a blank spreadsheet and enter your first company in cell A2. Closing price goes in cell B2, and the date goes in cell B1, just as you structured the categories in your paper layout. Add additional dates, stocks and closing prices.
Select Your Data
The next step is to select your data for plotting. Even if you only have one day's results to start with, the chart you create will update as you add data. Click and drag, starting at cell A1, to the right and down until you reach the last column of dates and bottom column of stocks. Leave this range highlighted and find the chart creation tool in your spreadsheet. Usually, it's on the "Insert" menu, though that may not be the case with all spreadsheet products. Making charts is a big spreadsheet use, so it's not likely to be hidden. Use the help information for your software if necessary.
Make Your Chart
Depending on your spreadsheet software, you may have lots of options for formatting your data. Choose a line graph format and play with different selections to see what you like. You may find your data is plotted wrong, with the dates along the side. Because your closing prices are in rows, you want to select an option like "data series in rows" to get your graph set left to right. Add more closing prices as they occur and the chart will update because you selected future dates while setting up the chart.
Using Your Charts
Once your stock portfolio chart is ready to use, you can see how prices fluctuate and the value of your investment changes with time. It's not necessary to plot closing prices daily. If you're investing for the long term, weekly or monthly prices might be all you need. Some spreadsheet programs allow you to overlay trend lines and analyze data more thoroughly.
A full-time content creation freelancer for over 12 years, Scott Shpak is a writer, photographer and musician, with a past career in business with Kodak.