You’ve got receipts bursting out of your wallet. You’ve scribbled down financial goals on a
random sheet on paper you can no longer find. You’ve forgotten the limit you gave yourself for grocery shopping this month.
If any of that sounds familiar, your financial life could probably use a little organization.
A budget binder can help you corral all the important documents regarding your spending, debt, savings and more. It’s the old-fashioned, pen-and-paper way to stay on track of your money.
What Exactly Is a Budget Binder?
A budget binder is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a binder where you store your budget and other relevant financial information, like your loan payoff strategy or your sinking funds tracker.
Having all the goods in one place means you don’t have to scramble to find, say, a record of last month’s spending to make adjustments to next month’s budget.
You can customize your budget binder to include whatever money management tools you’d like. Some suggestions are:
Monthly budget — Estimate spending limits and total up how much you actually spend.
Monthly or weekly calendar — Keep track of bill due dates and planned expenses, like the copay for your upcoming doctor’s appointment.
Income tracker — Record when (and how much) you get paid, including money earned from side gigs.
Expense tracker — Log each time money leaves your wallet or bank account.
Debt tracker — Lay out who you owe, how much you owe, your next minimum payment amount and due date. You may want to include how long it’ll take to pay off your debt and your repayment strategy.
Savings tracker — Take note of the money you’ve set aside for future expenses and goals, whether that’s short-term (like holiday shopping) or long-term (like buying your next car with cash years from now).
Net worth tracker — Look at your assets minus your liabilities. This includes how much you have in your retirement and investment accounts, which is something you might not check on a regular basis.
Financial goals — What do you want to achieve financially, and what actionable steps do you need to take to get there?
Creating Your Own Budget Binder
You can buy premade personal finance planners, or you could get creative and make your own.
Supplies you’ll need (or that may come in handy) are:
A three-ring binder
A three-hole punch
Three hole binder pockets or folders
Colorful pens or markers
After gathering your supplies, you can get started on making whichever budget sheets are crucial to your money management system. You’ll want to have enough so you can use your budget binder to keep track of your money for the entire year. Using dividers for each month will keep you organized.
There’s an entire subgenre of personal finance bloggers who create printable budget sheets, either as templates you purchase or as free downloads.
Do a Google search for “free budget printables” to use or for inspiration to create your own.
If you’re creating your own budget sheets from scratch, it doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect. You don’t need graphics skills or access to a color printer. As long as your budget sheets are clear and work for you, that’s what’s important.
Keep your budget binder in a place where you’ll see it frequently, like on your dresser where you dump your purse or wallet at the end of the day. It’s not enough to just create a budget binder. Writing in it regularly and reflecting on your financial decisions are what will transform your money situation from chaotic to under control.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Freelancer Matt Mastasci contributed to this report.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.