Writing and sticking to a budget can be the hardest part of managing your money. I tried method after method before I finally came across the method that helped me stick to my plan and start hitting my goals. Let’s talk about the budgeting method that changed my life!
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What is a budget planner?
A budget planner is a calendar or agenda (or planner… whatever you want to call it!) that you set up specifically to use for your budget. It is a separate planner you use just to keep track of your financial information. You can use a binder, coiled planner, digital, or whatever other styles you prefer. The point of a budget planner is to have one place to record all your financial transactions, track your progress toward your financial goals, and keep your budget and related information in one place.
Why should I use a planner for my finances?
The benefit of using a planner for tracking your finances is having one location that contains all your financial information. It’s very easy to track your spending on the monthly view, and if you find a good planner that has notes or productivity pages, you can also keep your budget and stay on top of your financial goals all in one book.
This is why I prefer the Erin Condren Deluxe Monthly Planner for my budget. It has a nice large monthly calendar view, as well as a goal-setting page and notes pages between each month. It doesn’t have weekly pages, which I prefer because I don’t use them for budgeting purposes.
If you are brand new to budgeting, click here to check out my full guide on writing your first budget!
Watch the video below to see the full walkthrough and setup of my budget planner!
What would I track?
The main things I track are my bills, daily spending, debt payment progress, saving progress, income, etc. Pretty much everything to do with my finances is tracked in some way within my budget planner. This makes it simple to pay bills every month and stay on top of my goals.
For me, different trackers work better for different types of information. Let’s go through some of the different tracking methods I use!
How do I set up my monthly expenses?
I like the visual of knowing at a glance when I need to pay my bills. Even though most of them are automated now, I still like knowing when I can expect the payment to clear. This helps me stay on top of what comes out of each of my paychecks and make sure there aren’t any banking issues or late payments.
The easiest way I’ve found to keep on top of my bills is to just write them all out each month in my calendar on the day they get paid or are due. I write the due date for payments I make manually and put the pay date for the ones that are set on auto-pay. As bills are paid and clear my account throughout the month, I check them off to mark them as paid.
Color coding system
First off, only do a color-coding system if it works for your brain. If this step isn’t going to help you then don’t do it. It has totally helped me track my spending so I wanted to explain my process for this.
I use my color-coding system in the monthly view of my planner. I have a separate color for each of my different spending categories. For me, these are groceries, gas, personal spending money, savings, pets, and debt payments. Whenever I record one of these transactions in my monthly calendar I highlight it so I can easily see what I’ve been spending the most money on, at a glance.
How to track your spending
The easiest way I’ve found for tracking my spending is to record each expense on the monthly calendar of my planner. This is where my color-coding system comes in. It makes it super easy to see at glance trends when I spend the most money and make sure that I’ve covered all my bills for the month.
I use a bill tracker page that lists all my bills and their due dates. There is a column for each month and I check off each bill when I pay it or when it clears the bank. This helps me be sure I never miss a bill payment and always pay my bills on time.
I also have a separate page for each of my paychecks that breaks down the categories I use the most. For me, this is groceries, gas, spending, and pets. I use these separate trackers to keep track of how much I’ve spent out of these categories so I can see what I have left to spend at any time throughout the month.
How to set up tracking pages
The tracking pages you set up will depend on what type of things you want to track. I use tables to track things like my HSA contributions, income, giving, 401(k) contributions, and anything else that I like to keep a running balance for. I use charts to track debt payoff and savings progress.
You may have to try some different tracking methods before you find something that works well for you. I like the visual of the chart – it helps keep me motivated and pushing toward my goal.
Make sure you only set up trackers for the things you actually care to keep track of. If you set a page up for every little thing, you may quickly become overwhelmed with keeping up with your planner. You want to avoid this! Only keep track of the things you’re interested in seeing trends in.
Why I love my Erin Condren Deluxe Monthly for my budget
The Erin Condren Deluxe Monthly Planner is by far my favorite planner to use for budgeting. The layout works perfectly for how I prefer to track my finances.
Check out this blog post to learn more about how exactly I use my Erin Condren for budgeting!
These planners are high quality; I’ve never had an issue with one lasting throughout the year. The notes pages between the monthly calendars are perfect for laying out my goals, sinking funds, budgets, and spending trackers. The additional notes pages in the back are great for setting up my yearly tracker and charts. This year, there’s even added goal setting pages that give you a nice high-level overview of the month. I probably won’t ever go to any other planner for my budgets!
The only downside of this planner can be the price. They are little on the more expensive side. To me, this expense is worth it because I only purchase my planner once a year. If you can find a good sale or referral code it definitely helps!
Switching to using a planner for budgeting has helped me stay on top of my finances more than ever before. I’m on track to pay off my student loans in the next year and I definitely believe that finding this system has helped make that happen.
Be sure to check out the video below of my setup for my 2020 budget planner!