It’s happening again. It’s the end of another month and you aren’t sure why you can make any progress on your monthly financial goals. Maybe you overspent on a housing project or just didn’t account for a last-minute expense, but the fact is that the budget got blown again. While many conventional money methods ask you to keep a spreadsheet or upload your spending into an app, that doesn’t work for everyone. If that sounds like you, a paper and pen option like a budget binder could be the tool to unlock your financial success.
What is a budget binder?
A budget binder is a visible way to use a zero-based budgeting system. You can see all of your money goals at the same time while being able to tweak as necessary. Think of a budget binder as a day planner but for your money. You can customize it to fit your pay schedule, your monthly or weekly bills, and spending. The wonderful thing about a budget binder is that it is made to help YOU and YOUR budget.
It’s also a great way to organize your finances alongside a budget calendar. You can collect bills in real-time as they come in, online, or physically through the mail carrier. A budget binder also gives you space to save any receipts you may need in the future as well as space to utilize cash envelopes and develop sinking funds. It’s easier to keep all of your financial documents in one place and it saves time too!
What can you use a budgeting binder for?
There are many things you can use a budget binder for but these are just some of the few that we’ll share:
Goal setting and tracking
Writing down goals may help them stick. According to Inc.com, you are more likely to accomplish a goal by physically writing them out than if you were to just mentally keep track of them. With a budget binder, you can have a whole section for goals related to your finances. Think long term saving goals such as a down payment for a house or new car. Short term saving goals could be Christmas spending or replenishing a sinking fund, like house maintenance.
You can keep an automated savings tracker worksheet to see how to plan for the year and what needs to be taken out per paycheck to make that happen. There are also trackers, just like ones that you use when paying off debt that you can color or doodle to make it fun. It’s an easy and fun way to keep track of the progress towards your goals,
If you’re like me, you assign different bills to different paychecks. For example, my first paycheck of the month is always designated for rent so I know there isn’t a lot of wiggle room but there is for my second one towards the middle of the month. The problem with this method, at least for my pay schedule, is that I am paid bi-weekly and not on the same days regularly. With paycheck tracking, you can keep an eye on what expenses are coming up so you can assign the correct amount and still be able to hit any financial goals you have.
A budget binder can help track cash flow in regards to your paychecks so that you can nip overspending in the bud before it even happens. It’s easy to spend money we think we have on anything fun, so it’s important to give every dollar a job and with paycheck tracking, you can do just that.
Debt pay off tracking
A huge financial goal for many of us on our money management journey is paying off debt, no matter how significant that amount may be. For some, the amount may be more because of different life paths we have chosen, for others, it’s different events that have happened. While the more common debt is credit card debt, student loans, and car financing, others have medical bills or personal loans.
No matter your debt type, you can easily track your debt, your debt pay off with your binder. Many budget binders have sections dedicated to paying off debt, including sheets you can color in to see your progress along with a payoff ledger. Once you decide what debt payoff method to choose, paying off debt is satisfying. Having a whole section to see how far you’ve come could be the extra oomph you need to keep going.
One of the biggest factors to getting your money on the right track is deciding to track your spending. Quite often, we have an “idea” of what we would like to be spending in each category but we’re often just not sure. It’s hard to know if you are overspending or underspending, in any category, without tracking your expenses. We also fail to account for any fees we encounter, regular expenses that may increase, or old subscriptions we forgot to cancel. Tracking your expenses is a great way to help cut back in these areas too.
In a budget binder, you can not only write out your monthly budget, but you can also write out categories for spending and then keep track of how much you are spending in that one area. This is a great way to determine if your spending is in alignment with your values and goals you have set for yourself. It’s also the first step to see how much you are truly spending in any area and if you need to cut back. Sometimes our biggest downfalls can be variable spending areas such as groceries but this can easily be corrected with your binder.
Nothing derails my budget like when I forget expenses. For example, I completely forgot when my car registration was due. Since I have a newer car, it’s pretty pricey so that few hundred dollars I didn’t account for was pretty painful. But if I used a budget binder, I would have been able to plan better and wouldn’t have been caught off guard.
You can use a budget binder to keep track of yearly or quarterly expenses so that you can plan as necessary for any upcoming events. You can write out a meal plan and keep track of what you need to buy at the grocery store. And, you can also keep track of important financial records and login information so that in case of an emergency, someone can easily take over the household finances as needed. Heaven forbid it to happen but imagine how much easier it would be for your family.
How to create a budget binder
It doesn’t take a lot to create a budget binder. It can be as fancy or as simple as you want it to be and that’s the real beauty of it. You’re creating something that you can actually stick with! Some of the items you may decide you need are:
A three-ring binder with a clear cover would be the best one to get the job done. You can personalize the front with an insert or make one yourself. I would highly recommend at least a two-inch binder since it’s going to be going through a lot.
Fun colored pens
I love writing different areas of my budget in different colored pens. It’s an easy way to keep categories separate and see how much I have going out at any given time.
Whiteout & paper clips
You’re bound to make a few mistakes here and there, so white-out on hand is crucial. It would also be a good idea to keep paper clips nearby so that you can attach any documents or receipts to any tracker.
Plastic pocket dividers
Dividers would be an easy way to separate different areas in your binder. With pocket dividers, you can also insert any recipes or bills you need to add to your tracker or keep on hand.
Envelopes are an easy way to stack cash for future purchases, goals, or sinking funds. You can invest in cute envelopes or you can just purchase some simple ones from the dollar store.
Budget Binder Printables
No budget binder is complete without the printables! At Clever Girl Finance, we have over 40+ FREE budget printables that you can use to build out your budget binder. We understand that your goals vary and we’ve created a pretty extensive list of resources that you can customize just for you.
We hope you love your budget binder as much as we do. Tag us on social media if you take a picture and let us know how it goes!