Hey there, sweet friends! Today I am so excited to bring you our new and improved budget binder! I originally introduced my budget binder in January 2014 as a way to help our family (and others) get their finances in order so we could start saving more money. After spending the month of October talking about goals and habits and being more intentional, I wanted to make some changes to the binder to help people do an even better job of managing their budget this year.
I know a lot of times we hear the word “budget” and think it’s scary or intimidating or just something those financial geniuses use, but that is so not true! Budgeting is not complicated, and my nifty little binder will make it even easier. If you’re willing to devote just a few minutes a day to tracking your expenses and moving toward your financial goals, you will be amazed at the peace of mind (and the peace of bank account 🙂 ) that results.
Budget Binder Supplies
Before we jump into the binder tour, here are a few of the items you’ll need to put together your budget binder:
- A 3-Ring Binder (I like this one and this one.)
- Dividers (I like these ones with pockets and these ones without.)
- Clear Sleeves (Like these, optional.)
- Hole Punch (I use this heavy duty one.)
- I like to use this label maker + clear tape to label my divider tabs.
Ready to check out the binder? I’ll give you the tour, and then you can download your free budget binder printables at the end of the post. Here we go!
The 2015 budget binder still includes a beautiful and colorful cover– because we all know that budgeting is more fun when it’s pretty! I’ve also included an undated cover so that the binder can be used at any time. 🙂
In addition to writing out your budget and expenses, I thought it would be a good idea to start out by setting some financial goals for the year (and beyond). Each sheet has room for four goals, and you can print as many as you like!
On my goals sheet, I list each goal and include a timeline of when I would like to complete it. I then left space to write some action steps I want to take to complete each goal.
For example, if my goal is to save $X before June 1st, I can’t just sit back and hope that it will happen. I have to have a plan. Will I cut down on eating out and put the extra money toward my savings? Will I take on some additional sponsored posts or side jobs to increase my income so I can save more? Once I’ve established what my goal is, I then have to determine how I’m going to get there or it won’t happen.
The next page in the budget binder is the recurring expenses sheet. You can fill this out first and then come up with your goals or do goals first and then write out your expenses– whatever makes more sense to you!
To complete this part of the binder, you will want to pull up your old bank statements and look for any expenditures that go out on a yearly, quarterly, or monthly basis. These could be things like subscriptions, utility payments, mortgage and loan payments, gym memberships, association fees, charitable giving, insurance payments, fees for the kids’ lessons or sports teams, etc. We also include automatic transfers to savings in this list since they are scheduled out and leave our account just like our other bills.
When I am updating my list of recurring expenses for the new year, I like to make sure that I’m getting the lowest possible rate on each item included. That may mean I need to call around to internet service providers and cell phone carriers to make sure I am getting the lowest price possible for the services that I need.
It is also a great time to check on my homeowners and auto insurance policies to see if there is any room for savings. If you’ve been around this blog for much time at all, you know that I’m a big fan of using Dave Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) to help with this. Dave has hand-selected trustworthy insurance providers in each area of the country who will try their very best to get their clients the best rates possible and even save them hundreds of dollars each year. Checking in periodically to see if I’m leaving any savings on the table really gives me peace of mind, and it is SO simple to connect with an ELP on Dave’s website that it’s absolutely a no-brainer.
So once I’ve gathered all my payments, I list out what the expense is, the amount, and the approximate date it’s due. Then I have little check boxes for each month that I can mark when a bill has been paid. Since this list will be with me all year, I print it out on card stock and slide it into a protective plastic sleeve so it doesn’t get too beat up. Whenever I need to mark bills as paid, I can just slide it out of the sleeve, mark them, and slide it right back in. Easy peasy!
Now that I have all of my recurring expenses taken care of, I need a way to track any purchases our family makes throughout the month. Instead of keeping one huge master list, I break the expenses down into categories so I can see exactly where our money is going. These categories can be as narrow or broad as you want as long as everything you buy fits into one of your categories. Here are some of the different categories we use:
- Eating out
- Household items
- Car maintenance
- Family activities
- Blog expenses
- Fun money (Donnie & I each get a little bit of fun money each month to spend guilt-free on whatever we want– keeps us sane! 😉 )
Each of our different categories gets its own tracking sheet each month– groceries are tracked on one page, gas on another, blog expenses on another, etc. This essentially creates a big, detailed check register that allows us to keep tabs on each category throughout the month to see if we are staying under our budgeted amount, which is listed at the top of the page. (If you’ve never budgeted before and don’t know what amounts to set for each category, you can simply track your spending for the first month to get an idea of what good budget amounts might be.)
This page is another new addition to the 2015 version of the budget binder. I think that mindset plays a huge role in helping us meet our financial goals and helps us save more money, so I added this page as a monthly reminder of what we’re trying to accomplish and which areas we can improve upon.
I start by looking back at the previous month and determining what went well and what we could improve. This helps Donnie and I make a plan for any changes that need to happen going forward and establish some guidelines for staying on track.
Then we also pinpoint some target areas for the month. So going back to our example of wanting to save $X by June, maybe this month we really want to do an extra push toward that goal, so I’m going to commit to cutting down our grocery bill by 20% or eating out by 30%. We list the goal and some action items to help it happen, and we have a plan for the month. We’re in the correct mindset so that when we’re tempted to reach for those impulse buys, we can keep our long term goals in mind and resist temptation!
And that’s the new and improved budget binder! There has never been a better time to sit down and really take a good look at your finances– set your goals, minimize your monthly payments, maybe call one of Dave’s ELPs to make sure those insurance rates are at their lowest point.
Does getting a budget in order and tracking your spending take a couple extra minutes out of your day? Yep. But the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you’re in control of your money, building up your savings, and spending wisely is more than worth the time and effort! Money and budgeting don’t have to be scary things. In fact, they should be exciting things because they can open doors to financial freedom, take away stress and worry, and give you confidence in your financial future. So warm up your printer, snag your printables below, and get planning! I think this is going to be a very good year!
Pssssst…. Looking for even more free printables?