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 didn’t account for a last-minute expense, but your budget got blown again.
While many conventional money methods are about spreadsheets and spending apps, that doesn’t work for you. Thus, 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. With a binder, you can see all of your money goals simultaneously while being able to tweak them as necessary.
Think of it as a day planner but for your money.
You can customize it to fit your pay schedule, weekly or monthly 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 instead of losing them in the back of a drawer.
A budgeting 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 helps you keep your financial documents in one place and saves time too!
What can you use a budgeting binder for?
You can use a budget binder for many things, and here are some ideas.
Goal setting and tracking
Writing down your goals can increase your chances of achieving them. According to a study by Professor of Psychology Dr. Gail Matthews, participants were 47 percent more likely to achieve their goals because they wrote them down.
With a budgeting binder, you can write out a whole section for goals related to financial goals, such as saving money and paying off debt.
Consider your 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.
With a savings tracking sheet, you can plan how much money to allocate to your savings each month. As the money increases, you note it on your sheet, thus motivating you to keep saving.
There are also trackers, just like ones that you use when paying off debt, that you can color or doodle to make it fun.
Budget binders are an easy and fun way to keep track of your progress toward 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.
My second check of the month gives me more spending freedom. However, the challenge with a bi-weekly payment schedule is getting paid on different days each month.
However, with paycheck tracking, I can keep an eye on which bills are coming up to assign the correct amount and still hit my financial goals.
It’s easy to spend money you think you have, so giving every dollar a job is important. By tracking your income, you can nip overspending in the bud before it even happens. Therefore paycheck tracking is an essential technique to utilize.
Debt payoff tracking
No matter the amount of debt you have, it can accumulate fast. Credit card debt, student loans, car financing, medical bills, or personal loans can contribute to more debt.
No matter your debt type, you can easily track your debt, and 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 and a payoff ledger.
Once you decide what debt payoff method to choose, paying off debt is satisfying. A whole section to see how far you’ve come could be the extra oomph you need to keep going.
One of the most significant factors in getting your money on the right track is deciding to track your spending.
We often have an “idea” of what we would like to spend in each category, but we’re usually unsure. It’s hard to know if you are overspending or underspending, in any category, without knowing where your money is going.
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 will help you better plan for the unexpected.
In a budget binder, you can write out your monthly budget while tracking your spending in each budgeting category.
Expense tracking can also help you determine if your spending aligns with the values and goals you have set for yourself.
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 forgetting expenses.
For example, I once completely forgot when my car registration was due. Since I have a newer car, paying that few hundred dollars I didn’t account for was pretty painful.
Using a budget binder, I can plan better without being caught off guard.
If you want to avoid unexpected expenses, you can use a budget binder to keep track of yearly or quarterly costs. By doing so, you can plan as necessary for any upcoming events.
For instance, you can write a meal plan and track what you need to buy at the grocery store.
And you can also keep track of important financial records and login information so that someone can easily take over the household finances in case of an emergency.
Weekly and monthly check-ins
Your budget binger will allow you to manage your money weekly and monthly. The components of the binder can include worksheets that track your weekly spending. Or goal worksheets that help you outline your goals each month.
Because your binder is something you will usually use weekly and, at the very least, monthly, you’ll always understand what’s going on with your finances.
What to include in your budget binder
There are certain elements that your binder should include to ensure you use it to its potential. Here’s what to have, and remember that each component is important.
Your budget binder cover
The cover is where you can have some fun and express your creativity. Decorate the exterior of your binder with something that makes you happy. You can add a photo, cut-out pictures of the Bahamas, or even an inspirational quote.
A pretty cover page can represent who you are and what you want to achieve. In addition, it can encourage your to pick up your binder and use it.
Writing out your goals gives you direction and focus. Having your financial goals written out and placed where you can frequently see them will help your goals feel more obtainable.
To create a goal sheet, plan for the year and break down your goals into monthly goals.
For instance, if your goal is to create a side hustle each month, you can create goals such as updating your resume, taking an online course, or filing for an LLC.
Or you can have a new goal each month, such as a no-spend month or a don’t use your credit card month.
You can even add your personal goals for more motivation.
An expense sheet is one of the budget binder printables that can help you keep track of essential bills and payments.
You can see which bills require the most money by writing a list of recurring expenses such as rent, electricity, internet, gas, car payment, etc.
In addition, you can see which expenses are unnecessary and can be excluded from your budget.
Your actual budgets
Your actual budget sheet will be your place for tracking how much money you spend.
Some of your spending, such as rent/mortgage payments and car loan payments, will be fixed. Yet some costs of living, such as groceries, electricity, and gas, will fluctuate.
A budgeting sheet lets you see how much money you spend on specific areas. For example, you can see how much money you spend eating out.
If that number is too high, you can adjust your budget so you spend less money for the upcoming month.
Check-in pages for your budget binder
A budget binder isn’t just pages full of numbers. You can include pages to help you reflect on your financial decisions.
A check-in page for your expenses can have questions such as:
- What costs can I cut back on this month?
- Which subscriptions am I not utilizing, or is it unnecessary?
- How much money could I save if I eliminated certain expenses?
A check-in page for your goals could have questions such as:
- How much money did I save this month?
- What are my savings goals?
- What is preventing me from saving money?
- How can I save more money in the future?
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 stick with!
Here’s how to get started.
A three-ring binder with a clear cover would be the best one to get the job done. However, it’s crucial that you choose a binder size that will accommodate your lifestyle and your printouts.
I highly recommend a two-inch binder since it will go through a lot.
Remember, you can personalize the front with an insert or make one yourself.
Fun colored pens
I love writing different areas of my budget with different colored pens. It’s an easy way to keep categories separate and see how much I have going out at any given time.
One way I use my colored pencil is by using vibrant colors for the expense I need to pay attention to. For instance, I may highlight my rent, insurance, and electricity bills in red.
I also use more natural colors like browns and dark greens for categories that include money for nonessential spending. By color coding categories, I train my mind to prioritize different expenses.
Color coding also makes budgeting more fun.
Whiteout & paper clips
You’re bound to make a few mistakes here and there, so having a whiteout can be handy.
Paper clips are helpful so that you can attach any documents or receipts to your binder. Clipping together receipts can be beneficial when calculating your total spending. Or perhaps you clip a rebate you’ve meant to mail to get some money back.
Plastic pocket dividers
Dividers are an easy way to separate different areas in your binder. With pocket dividers, you can insert any recipes or bills you need to add to your tracker or keep on hand.
Storing receipts in your binder can help you better understand exactly where you’re spending is going. For instance, when you review your grocery receipt, did you use all the groceries you bought?
Pocket dividers will also make locating a different section in your binder easier. For instance, you can immediately flip to your budget section without flipping through the whole binder.
Envelopes are an easy way to stack cash for future purchases, goals, or sinking funds.
You can invest in cute and colorful envelopes or purchase simple ones from the dollar store. Envelopes can also help you with your budgeting. For instance, you can have envelopes allocated to different expenses.
Alternatively, you could use digital cash envelopes!
Download your free budget binder printables
No budget binder is complete without the printable templates! There are many FREE budget binder printables that you can use to build out your binder.
The essential printables include budget sheets, a tracking sheet, and budget worksheets. Once you get comfortable using the printables, you can also add more.
Manage your money better with a budget binder!
There are so many different apps and methods for managing your money. And although technical means can be efficient, there’s no reason money management can’t be fun and effective.
A budget binder is excellent for people who are visual learners, creatives, or anyone who wants to try something new.
When starting, be sure to set yourself up for success. Gather the correct materials, such as the right size binder, colored pencils or highlights, envelopes, and dividers.
Don’t overlook decorating the cover. Once you have the structure of your binder in place, be sure to add your printables, such as your expenses sheet, your actual budget, and your money worksheets.
A budget binder can be the key to managing your money and achieving your financial goals