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Are you struggling to get your finances in order? Do you feel like something comes up and throws you off every time you get on top of your budget? Unexpected bills can quickly derail your budget if you're not prepared.
If you're looking for a way to take control of your finances and get your budget on track, now is the time to create a budget binder. Learn what a budget binder is, how to create one, and tips for staying on track with your binder.
What is a Budget Binder?
A budget binder is a great way to keep all of your financial information in one place. The binder includes your income, debts, medical costs, and anything else that impacts your financial status.
Having a budget binder can make life easier because you won't worry about losing receipts or forgetting to pay bills. Plus, it's a great way to get organized, stay on top of your finances, and plan for the future without the cost of hiring a financial planner.
If you have a family, a budget binder can help you track your family's spending and income to ensure everyone’s needs are being met and increase your family’s financial stability. The best part about a budget binder is that you can customize it depending on your financial goals.
How To Use a Budget Binder
By organizing your financial life in your budget binder, you can decide how to use your resources best and ensure that you live within your means. Here are some tips to help you get started using your budget binder:
Setting goals is the first and most significant step in creating a budget binder. Whether your goal is to save for a down payment on a house or get out of debt, setting specific goals will help you stay on track.
The best way to tackle goal management is to break up your long-term goals into short-term goals. For example, if your goal is to pay off $10,000 in debt, you can have it paid off in 2 years by paying $417 towards your debt each month. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to begin, consider asking a financial advisor for help setting goals using your budget binder as a resource to reference.
You want your goals to be obtainable and always front and center, so you don’t forget about them. Breaking goals down into smaller, more manageable steps and tracking your progress in your budget binder is a great way to make your financial dreams come true.
Record Income and Expenses
Once you set goals, you can track your earnings using the budget binder. Be sure to include all sources of income, such as your paychecks, side hustle earnings, and investments.
Make a list of your fixed expenses, such as your rent or mortgage, car payment, insurance, and subscriptions. Then, track your variable costs, such as groceries, gas, and entertainment.
Pay Bills on Time
Who doesn't hate late fees? Getting your bills paid on time is crucial to keeping your finances in good shape. A budget binder is perfect for keeping your bill payment calendar, storing your paper bills, and documenting your payments.
If you prefer to use your binder along with technology, sign up for automatic bill payments. Automatic bill payments are convenient and can help you avoid costly late fees that may throw off your budget. Then you need to follow the monthly calendar in your budget binder to check that your automatic payments went through.
Debt Payoff Tracking
Anyone who has dealt with debt knows it can be a real burden, keeping you from reaching your financial goals. Every day, you're faced with the looming payments, the high-interest rates, and the seemingly never-ending debt cycle.
To prepare to start paying off your debt, first list the type of debt, the balance, and the interest rate for each of your loans. You can also create a tracker to mark your progress toward debt payoff milestones, so you can celebrate as you reach them and maintain your motivation to become debt-free.
Developing a budget is one of the most significant steps you can take to get out of debt and take control of your finances. Now that you’ve set financial goals and taken a look at how much money you have coming in and going out, you can plan your budget.
Take a look at your discretionary expenses and see where you could cut back spending and increase your savings or debt payments. Add your monthly debt payments and fixed expenses to your budget to ensure you’re always on track with your goals.
Store Cash Envelopes
A cash envelope system is an organization method where you allocate a set amount of cash for specific discretionary purchases, such as groceries or restaurants, and then store the bills in labeled envelopes.
Using cash envelopes is a good system for those who want to see how much money they have left to spend each month. When every dollar in the envelope is gone, you're done spending for the month.
If you struggle with overspending with credit cards, cash envelopes could help you curb your spending. You can store your cash envelopes in your budget binder for safekeeping.
Supplies You'll Need To Build Your Binder
When planning your finances, you want something visual and tangible to help you stay on track. All you need to build a budget binder is a little imagination and some basic supplies.
Here's a list of supplies you'll need to create your budget binder:
● Ring Binder
● Tab Dividers
● Paper Clips
● Stickers (optional)
● Highlighters (optional)
● Label Maker (optional)
Must-have Budget Binder Pages
Now that you have all of your supplies, you can start adding content to your binder. Here are some must-have pages for your budget binder:
The cover is at the front of your budget binder, which will help you stay motivated as you flip through your pages. Get creative and design a binder cover that reflects your style. You can use neutral colors or even photos to create a unique binder cover that you'll love looking at.
This page in a budget binder is all about setting money goals. Write down your long-term and short-term financial goals, including your specific savings goals. Write the date that you hope to accomplish each goal, and be sure to update this page as you reach your goals.
The calendar page in a budget binder is an essential tool for staying on top of your financial responsibilities. By recording when your bills are due, when you get paid, and important financial dates like tax day, you can plan ahead for financial success.
Monthly Fixed Expenses
Monthly fixed expenses are the costs of living that remain relatively constant every month. These include mortgage payments, insurance premiums, and loan payments. You'll want to document your fixed expenses, how much they cost, and when they are due.
Monthly Variable Expenses
Monthly variable expenses are expenditures that vary from month to month. These include gas, medical bills, health insurance, and shopping costs. When keeping track of variable expenses in your budget binder, you will want to write down what you've spent each month and develop an average to help you create a budget over a few months.
This page in a budget binder is for expenditures usually paid once a year, such as insurance premiums or business and property taxes. Christmas and other holiday gifts are also annual expenses to keep in mind. Keep tabs on when these payments are due so you can budget for them in advance.
If you're working towards a specific savings goal, use this page of your budget binder to track your savings progress for a particular purpose, such as a down payment on a house or a new car. Record how much you've saved monthly and watch your savings grow.
If you're working to pay off debt, this page can help you stay on track. Make it happen by listing all your outstanding debts and the monthly payments and interest rates. Don't forget to update your debt tracker to see your progress as you meet your milestones.
Emergency Fund Tracker
An emergency fund is a crucial part of any financial management plan. This page can help you track your progress as you save for those unexpected payments that always seem to pop up. Include your savings goal, the date you hope to reach it, and how much you've saved each month.
As you receive your paycheck from your regular job, use this page to track your salary and budget for each pay period. This can help you ensure that you have enough funds to cover your expenses and still have money left over for your savings.
Sinking Funds Tracker
A sinking fund is a savings account you use to set money aside monthly for future expenses. Making regular contributions to your sinking fund can help you reach your financial goals and avoid taking on debt to pay for significant costs. Use this page to track your sinking fund balances and ensure you're on track to cover your future expenditures.
Free Budget Binder Printables
Having a budget spreadsheet is already a solid start when managing your finances. And why spend money on a pre-made binder when you can easily DIY one at home? You can get creative and customize your binder to fit your style.
There are tons of great budgeting blogs with free budget binder printables if you search online.
Make Your Money Saving Binder Today!
Now you know how to create your money-saving budget binder. There are many ways to organize your budget binder to meet your needs, so feel free to be creative and make it work for you!
Keep in mind that no matter how creative and well-designed your budget binder is, the only way it will be effective is if you stick to using it regularly. Make sure to set aside some time each week to update your binder and track your progress towards your financial goals.
This post originally appeared on Hello Sensible.
Becky Neubauer is a personal finance and science freelance writer who specializes in writing about managing money, sustainability, entrepreneurship, and alternative living. She founded TwentyFree.co to document her journey to paying off six figures of debt and becoming self-employed, and now helps business owners create more content in less time. Becky is an avid traveler focused on helping others live location-independent lifestyles, make money on the road, and travel the world through her website Lifepothesis.com.