How to Use the $ Function in Excel [Step-by-Step]

October 16, 2023 1.5K views

Excel's powerful features include thousands of functions for calculations and data manipulation. However, its complexity can confuse users, especially with advanced concepts like absolute referencing denoted by the "$" sign.

So, What is the Excel $ function and how to use the $ function? Why is it important to understand the significance and purpose of the Excel $ function in Excel?

In this step-by-step guide, we will discuss how to create a “$” in Excel and recommend the perfect software for you.

What is the $ Function in Excel?

The "$" function doesn't exist as a standalone function in Excel. Instead, the dollar sign symbol "$" creates absolute cell references in formulas or highlights that a cell contains currency format.

Here are the two most common uses of $ sign in Excel.

  1. Referencing: When you place the "$" sign before the column letter and row number (e.g., $A$1), it creates an absolute cell reference. This fixed reference ensures that the referred cell remains unaltered when you copy or move a formula to other cells. It acts like a reference anchor, allowing you to maintain accurate calculations even as you work with different cells.

    Referencing in Excel

  2. Currency Format: The "$" sign is commonly used to denote currency values in Excel. Applying the "$" symbol before a number (e.g., $100) instantly transforms the cell content into a currency format. This makes it easy to represent monetary values consistently and clearly in your spreadsheets, ensuring your data is well-formatted and easily understood.

Referencing in Excel

Absolute cell reference with $ Symbol

The "$" (dollar sign) lets you lock down specific cells when creating formulas. The "$" function is called "Absolute Cell Reference." It secures a cell's row and column references in Excel.

An absolute cell reference is basically the address of a cell, but when we put a $ sign with the address in a formula, it locks it. When you drag the formula, Excel will use the locked “Absolute Cell Reference” for calculations.

For Example, imagine you're making a budget in Excel and want to calculate the total expenses. You have a list of expenses in cells B2 to B5 and corresponding amounts in cells C2 to C5. In cell E2, you want to calculate the total.

Referencing in Excel

Here's where the absolute cell reference comes in:

  • In cell E2, you start typing your formula: =SUM(

  • Now, you want to select the range of amounts (C2 to C5) to add up. Instead of typing each cell reference separately, you can use an absolute reference to make things easier.

  • You type: C2:C5

  • But here's the magic part. You want to keep this range fixed when you copy the formula down. To do that, you add the "$" sign like this: $C$2:$C$5

  • So, your final formula in cell E2 looks like: =SUM($C$2:$C$5)

  • Now, when you copy this formula to cells E3, E4, and so on, the absolute cell reference will ensure that the range $C$2:$C$5 stays the same.

It won't change as you copy the formula down. This way, you'll get accurate totals for each set of expenses without any manual adjustments.

Absolute cell references are like a GPS for your formulas, guiding them exactly where you want, even when you move them around your Excel sheet!

Relative and Absolute Cell Referencing in a Single Formula.

We have done a simple calculation where a percentage is calculated against the total expense.

Referencing in Excel

In the formula, both relative and absolute referencing are used to lock cells in Excel and perform calculations.

  • In cell E2, the formula of percentage is typed

  • Cell D2 is entered as a relative reference (no $ sign)

  • Cell C2 is used as an absolute reference ($ sign placed), telling Excel to divide other cells with this number when a formula is dragged

  • Drag the formula down or use the keyboard shortcut “Ctrl + E” or “Ctrl + D” to copy the formula down to other cells in column D

You will see that Excel has automatically calculated the percentage of each amount against the total expense (Cell E2).

How to Create and Use the $ Symbol in Excel?

Mixed Cell Reference

Excel offers another amazing feature in cell referencing; you can lock a row or a column as an absolute reference while the other one remains relative.

You create a mixed cell reference by using the "$" sign in either the column letter or the row number (e.g., $A1 or A$1). In this case, either the column or the row will stay fixed, while the other can change as you copy the formula. This is useful when you want to lock either the horizontal or vertical movement while allowing the other direction to adjust.

The $ Sign

You can incorporate the $ Dollar sign in Excel using various methods. These include manually inserting the $ sign within cells or modifying cell formats to display currency or accounting styles.

Method 1: Using the Keyboard Shortcut

As discussed above, you can alter a cell reference into an absolute reference by introducing dollar signs before the row and column designations (e.g., $D$2).

To do this, you can either manually type the $ sign-in before and after the column alphabet in the cell address or use the F4 shortcut.

Steps to create an absolute reference with F4 key in Excel

  1. Launch Excel and access the worksheet containing your data and formulas.

  2. Navigate to the cell where you enter or modify a formula requiring a cell reference.

  3. Instead of manually adding dollar signs, press F4 to insert both dollar signs into the cell reference automatically.

  4. Press F4 again to toggle between different reference types, which helps lock rows or columns.

  5. Double-click the fill handle to copy the formula to adjacent cells, ensuring the absolute reference works accurately.

  6. Check the formula bar to see if the formula is correctly copied.

Method 2: Using the CONCATENATE Function

The CONCATENATE function in Excel is a powerful tool not only for combining text but also for inserting the dollar sign ($) into your formulas flexibly. This method is particularly useful when you need to create dynamic references while keeping certain parts of the formula fixed.

Step 1: Understand the CONCATENATE Function

The CONCATENATE function is designed to join text from multiple cells or add text strings within a formula. We'll use this function creatively to incorporate the dollar sign into our formula.

Step 2: Formulate the CONCATENATE Function

You'll use the CONCATENATE function to combine the cell reference with the dollar sign in your formula. The syntax for the CONCATENATE function is as follows:

=CONCATENATE(text1, text2, ...)

Step 3: Apply the Dollar Sign Reference

Within the CONCATENATE function, use the dollar sign as a text string and combine it with the dynamic part of the cell reference you want to fix.

Suppose you're building a spreadsheet to convert different currency amounts to a fixed currency using exchange rates. To ensure consistent conversion rates while allowing for dynamic currency input, you can use the CONCATENATE function to insert the dollar sign.

Formula without Dollar Sign: = A2 * B2

  • In this formula, A2 represents the amount in a foreign currency, and B2 contains the exchange rate.

  • Copying this formula to convert other currency amounts will change the reference to the exchange rate, leading to incorrect conversions.

Formula with Dollar Sign (Using the CONCATENATE Function): = A2 * VALUE(CONCATENATE("$", B2))

Concatenate Function for $ sign

In this modified formula, the CONCATENATE function combines the dollar sign as a text string with the exchange rate reference (B2), creating a fixed reference for the exchange rate. The VALUE function ensures that the resulting text is treated as a numerical value in the calculation.

Method 3: By Typing

To add a dollar sign ($) in an Excel formula for specific cell referencing, you can manually type it into the formula. It's important to understand its context and placement for it to function correctly.

Step 1: Identify the Cell Reference

Determine the cell reference in your formula where you want to insert the dollar sign. This reference could be part of a calculation you want to keep fixed when copying the formula to other cells.

Step 2: Type the Dollar Sign

Manually type the dollar sign ($) before the column letter and row number of the cell reference you want to lock. Ensure no spaces exist between the dollar sign, column letter, and row number.

Suppose you're creating a spreadsheet to calculate loan payments based on a fixed interest rate. You want to ensure that your formula keeps the interest rate reference constant. You can achieve this by typing the dollar sign directly into the formula.

= (B2 * C2 * D2) / 12

In this formula, B2 represents the loan amount, C2 represents the interest rate (which you want to lock), and D2 represents the loan term in months. If you copy this formula to calculate loan payments for other rows, the interest rate reference (C2) will change, leading to incorrect results.

= (B2 * $C$2 * D2) / 12

By manually typing the dollar sign before the column letter (C) and row number (2) of the interest rate cell reference (C2), you lock the reference. This ensures that the interest rate remains fixed when you copy the formula to calculate loan payments for other rows.

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How do you convert text to dollars in Excel?

To convert text to dollars in Excel, you can follow these steps:

  1. Select the cell(s) containing the text you want to convert to dollars.

  2. Go to the "Home" tab on the Excel ribbon.

  3. In the "Number" group, you'll find a drop-down menu for cell formatting. Click on this drop-down menu.

  4. From the menu, choose the "Currency" category. This will open a list of different currency formats.

  5. Select the desired currency format. In most cases, you'll find options like "$ English (United States)" or similar.

  6. Once you've selected the currency format, click "OK."

What are the 3 types of cell references in Excel?

The three types of cell references in Excel are:

  1. Relative Cell Reference: In Excel, a relative cell reference adjusts automatically when a formula is copied or moved to a new cell, based on the formula cell's new position.

  2. Absolute Cell Reference: An absolute cell reference locks the cell address in a formula so that it doesn't change when the formula is copied or moved to other cells. It is indicated using a "$" symbol before the column letter and row number (e.g., $A$1 or A$1).

  3. Mixed Cell Reference: A mixed cell reference combines aspects of both relative and absolute references. Either the column or the row is locked using the "$" symbol, while the other part remains relative. For example, A$1 would lock the row but allow the column to change, while $A1 would lock the column but allow the row to change.


The article covers Excel's "$" function for absolute cell referencing and currency, explaining three types: relative, absolute, and mixed. It offers step-by-step guidance and troubleshooting tips, including shortcuts like the F4 key. The article also introduces WPS Office as an Excel alternative, highlighting its cloud integration, Microsoft Office compatibility, and user-friendly features for diverse users like students and professionals.

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