When To Use $ In Excel: A Quick Guide

When it comes to using Excel, there are many different functions and formulas that can be used to make calculations and organise data. One of the most commonly used symbols in Excel is the dollar sign ( $ ), which is used to indicate absolute references .

Absolute references are a way of locking a cell reference in place so that it doesn’t change when you copy or fill a formula.

Knowing when to use the dollar sign in Excel can be crucial for ensuring that your formulas and calculations work correctly. In some cases, using absolute references is necessary to ensure that your formula works as intended. In other cases, using relative references is more appropriate.

In this article, we will explore when to use the dollar sign in Excel and how to use it effectively. We will cover the differences between absolute and relative references, and provide examples of when each type of reference should be used. By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of when to use the dollar sign in Excel and how to use it to your advantage.

What Is $ Sign?

In Excel, the $ sign is used to create an absolute reference to a cell or a range of cells.

When you use a $ sign before a column letter or row number in a cell reference, it tells Excel to keep that reference constant when you copy the formula to other cells.

This is useful when you want to refer to a fixed cell or range of cells in your formula, regardless of where the formula is copied.

For example, if you have a formula that multiplies the value in cell A1 by the value in cell B1 , you can use the $ sign to create an absolute reference to cell B1 . The formula would look like this: =A1*$B$1 . When you copy this formula to other cells, the reference to cell B1 will remain fixed, while the reference to cell A1 will change relative to the new location of the formula.

There are two types of absolute references in Excel: absolute column references and absolute row references .

You can use the $ sign before the column letter, the row number, or both to create a fixed reference that is partially absolute and partially relative depending upon where the $ sign is placed.

Overall, the $ sign is a powerful tool in Excel that can help you create more complex formulas and improve the accuracy of your calculations. By using absolute references, you can ensure that your formulas always refer to the right cells, regardless of where they are copied or moved.

When To Use $?

When working with Excel formulas, you may come across situations where you need to use dollar signs. The dollar sign is used to make a cell reference absolute, which means that it will not change when the formula is copied to other cells. Here are some common scenarios when you should use dollar signs:

  • When referencing fixed values: If you have a fixed value that you want to use in a formula, you should use a dollar sign to make the reference absolute. For example, if you have a tax rate of 20% in cell A1 , you can use the formula =B1*$A$1 to calculate the tax for a value in cell B1 . The dollar sign in $A$1 ensures that the tax rate is fixed and does not change when the formula is copied to other cells.
  • When referencing fixed ranges: If you have a range of cells that are dynamic in size. For example when you want to accumulate a running total of sales year-to-date. You could use a formula like =SUM($B$1:B2) and as this formula is copied down the next cell underneath will read =SUM($B$1:B3) and the one underneath again =SUM($B$1:B4) . The dollar sign wrapped around the initial cell stays constant but the other portion of the range continues to change as the cell is copied downwards.

By using dollar signs in your Excel formulas, you can ensure that your calculations are accurate and consistent, even when you copy the formulas to other cells. Keep in mind that dollar signs should only be used when necessary, and that overusing them can make your formulas more difficult to read and understand.

Absolute vs Relative References

When using formulas in Excel, it is important to understand the difference between absolute and relative references .

Absolute references are fixed cell references that do not change when a formula is copied or moved to a new location. Relative references, on the other hand, are cell references that change based on the location of the formula.

For example, let’s say I have a formula in cell B1 that multiplies cell A1 by 2 . If I copy this formula to cell B2 , the formula will automatically adjust to multiply cell A2 by 2 . This is because the cell reference A1 is a relative reference and changes based on the location of the formula.

However, if I want to keep the formula fixed on cell A1 regardless of where the formula is copied, I can use an absolute reference. To create an absolute reference, I use the $ symbol before the column and/or row reference. For example, if I want to keep the formula fixed on cell A1 , I would write the formula as =$A$1*2 . If this formula is coped to, say, cell C10 the formula would still say =$A$1*2 .

Using absolute references can be especially useful when creating complex formulas that refer to multiple cells as it doesn’t require copying the same value to different cells. By fixing cell references, I can know that my formula always calculates correctly, even when it is copied or moved to a new location.

Tips For Using $

There is a shortcut key in Excel that can help you insert the $ symbol for the active cell in the formula bar.

Simply hit the F4 key on the keyboard and this will make an absolute reference of the active cell where your cursor resides in the formula bar.

For example, if I am writing the following formula:


And my cursor is at the end of the A1 reference and I hit F4 on the keyboard the reference A1 will change as follows:


You can continue to keep tapping the F4 key on your keyboard to cycle through all the different absolute references for the cell.

For example, if I keep tapping the F4 key on my keyboard with the cursor at the end of the formula above the absolute reference will change to:


And if I tap it again to:


And if I tap it one more time:


Which removes all dollar signs and absolute references from the cell.

Therefore, if you do use the F4 key keep tapping it until you get the absolute reference you want, or to remove it completely keep tapping it until you can no longer see any $ symbols in your cell or range reference.


In conclusion, the use of the $ symbol in Excel is an important tool that can save time and prevent errors in your formulas. By using absolute references with $ , you can lock in specific cells or ranges of cells in your formulas, making them easier to copy and paste without worrying about cell references changing.

To help insert the $ symbols into the cell, use the F4 key to make it easier.

Overall, understanding when to use $ in Excel can greatly improve your efficiency and accuracy when working with formulas.