It took me over a year after starting to get control of my finances to find a financial management system that actually works for me! I have always been a “pen and paper person” who likes to write everything down. After trying several different planners and budget binder systems, I finally just decided to create my own. I want to show you the budget binder that helped me get out of student loan debt!
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I used a monthly planner as my budget planner for the longest time but realized early in 2020 that the system was just no longer working for me. I needed something quick and simple to help me stay on top of my finances with my busy schedule. At the time I switched over to my new budget binder system, I was so close to having my student loans paid off. Setting up this budget binder gave me a bit of focus I needed to get out of student loan debt for good!
Basics of the Complete Budget Binder
This budget binder was my solution to not being able to find a money management system that was simple, easy to use, and enabled me to do a budget for each of my paychecks. The printable and undated nature of this budget binder means you can print out as many pages as you need for different things.
I wanted to make this binder as clean and simple as possible. It includes over 30 pages of budget and finance related worksheets and trackers. It really is a complete system for staying on top of your finances – and it’s the system that I personally use in my own life!
The budget binder is $22 and can be purchased here. I created it to be as minimal and undated as possible so you don’t have to worry about spending money for a new budget planner year after year! The only dated part of the binder is the year at a glance calendar – a new calendar will be available for free in my shop each year.
The complete budget binder includes over 30 pages – everything you need to organize your finances:
- Cover Page
- Yearly Goals
- Year At A Glance Calendar* (2020)
- Monthly Goals
- Bill Payment Tracker
- Monthly Calendars (undated)
- Monthly Check-in
- Sinking Funds Tracker
- Net Worth Worksheet
- Budget Worksheet
- Spending Tracking Worksheet
- Income Tracker Worksheet
- Emergency Fund Savings Chart
- Debt Snowball Worksheet
- Debt Tracking Chart
- Savings Tracking Chart
- Account Information Sheet
- Debt Information Sheet
Disc Bound Budget Planner
I decided to put my budget binder together in a disc-bound system and I am loving it! I wanted to have a planner feel while still being able to move pages around as needed. The disc system fits the bill. My discs and my cover are both from The Happy Planner brand and I picked them up at Michael’s. You can also get them here! I also picked up a Big Happy Planner hole punch to punch my pages for the discs.
There are so many options or putting your binder together. You could also use a regular 3 ring binder or take it to Staples or Office Depot and have it coil bound. There are a ton of options with a printable option like this!
Now that you have your budget binder put together, let’s talk about how to use it!
(If you haven’t grabbed your copy of the binder yet, click here!)
Start Paying Your Bills on Time
One of my favorite pages included in the complete budget binder is the bill payment tracker. I listed out all my bills, so each month I can check them off as they are paid. The majority of my bills are set on auto-pay, but I still like to check them off when they clear my account.
Stop getting charged those late fees! Using the bill tracker to make sure you’ve actually sent the money to pay the bill will not only give you peace of mind, but it will help you keep more money in your pocket.
Track Your Important Financial Milestones
At the beginning of the planner is a great spread of pages that include twelve boxes. These can be used for so many different things. For this year’s budget planner, I have been writing down the important financial milestones that happen each month. It has been really interesting to look back on this after a few months and see how things have changed!
Some other things these boxes could be used for are tracking monthly goal progress, keeping track of important monthly events, and creating a gift guide. There are so many possibilities here.
Set Your Financial Goals Each Month
Along with a calendar page for each month, there is also a dashboard type page. I use this for tracking my financial goals for the month, any important events I need to include in my budget, as well as my credit score and income, debt, and savings totals for the month.
You can track anything you’d like on this dashboard, but I would highly recommend including some financial goals. Having something to accomplish during the month will give you some direction and help you stay motivated to stick to your budget!
How to Track Your Spending
One of the best habits I’ve started to go along with my budgeting is tracking my spending. I always know exactly how much money I have left to spend at any given time. There are spending tracker pages included in the budget binder that are broken down into different customizable sections. This makes it super easy to keep monthly budgeting and expense tracking all in one place.
I get paid twice a month and do a budget for each paycheck. I have printed out a budget worksheet and a spending tracker for each paycheck I receive. Having the flexibility to include as many budgets and spending trackers as I needed was part of my motivation to create my own system. You can use this binder for any budgeting time period you’d like!
If you need help writing a budget, check out this blog post!
Using the Monthly Calendar to Track Spending
Tracking my spending on the monthly calendar has been a total game-changer for my finances. Using the monthly view in combination with the spending tracker pages has made staying in budget SO MUCH EASIER.
Whenever I spend money, I write down the amount and what it was for on the date the money was spent. I have a color-coding system that goes along with this. Orange is for personal spending, purple for pet supplies, green for groceries, gray for gas, pink for savings, and teal for debt payments.
The main expense categories I track are personal spending, groceries, gas, and pet supplies. These all have tracking charts on the notes pages that follow the monthly view. I also use a spending tracker calendar page to mark my no-spend days!
How to Track Your Yearly Income and Expenses
I use the yearly at-a-glance calendar to track important expenses throughout the year. This calendar gets filled out at the beginning of the year for things I know are going to occur. When I do my budgets each month, it’s really easy to flip to this calendar and see what I need to remember to include in my budget.
These colorful circle stickers work really well for marking these expenses. I created a key and then used the same color dot to mark the date of the expense.
Ideas for Tracking Yearling Income and Expenses
I use a lot of different trackers in my yearly section:
- income tracker
- expense report reimbursements (from my job)
- mortgage payments
- yearly giving
- HSA savings and transactions
- home improvement expenses
- car service
- vet visits
I like having all this financial information available so I can see how things are changing throughout the year and identify any patterns or problems. This will also help me with my budget planning for next year.
How to Pay Off Debt
My main financial goal right now is to get all my debt paid off. I started out with two credit cards, two student loans, and my car loan. I am now down to only one credit card and my car loan left!
Using this budget binder made the process of managing my money so quick and simple that I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with it. I checked in with my budget and updated my spending trackers on a regular basis. I was able to keep myself on track in the month of May and get my student loans paid off for good!
There are several debt tracking pages included in the budget binder to help you on your debt free journey. I use the debt tracker to color in my progress as I go. This helps me stay motivated! I also have a debt payment page where I record extra payments I was able to send to my debt. Tracking my progress helps me see how far I’ve come if I start to get distracted or discouraged!
I am so happy I decided to create my own system that was easy to set up and easy to use! I have made great progress on my financial goals using this system. Make sure to get yours set up and get your finances under control today!
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