Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Budget Binder

Remember my Family Study Journal binder-style? Remember how I was raving about my other binders? Well, today I want you to meet my little friend - the Budget Binder. Blog friend meet binder. Binder meet blog friend :)

I have always been a saver. Hubster has always been, well, a little more spontaneous. So, finding a budget tool that caters to my need to have a 10-year emergency fund (this is only a small exaggeration) and his need to have a little spending cash and actually take a vacation was proving a trial until I came upon this binder idea from Carrie @ DittleDattle. I took Carrie's basic idea and simplified it to fit our income/spending needs, and I tell you, it has changed our lives.

The Budget binder is separated in three sections: (1) the front pocket, (2) sectioned tabs, and (3) cash envelopes.

Section 1
The Front Pocket includes some pretty basic things, pencil, eraser, pens, our checkbook (yes, I still use this), and two sets of envelopes.

The envelopes on the left are simply to keep track of payment receipts and bank transaction slips. The envelopes shown on the right are used to track expenditures for each pay period. Since Hubster and I get paid four times total per month there are four envelopes. In each envelope is a note card for each bill due that pay period. For example, in pay period one we have rent, Internet, health insurance, and Netflix due. So there is an individual card for Rent and Internet with a due date for each payment. Health insurance and Netflix are listed on an Auto-Pay card since they are automatic withdrawals, with the withdrawal date of each.

These envelopes are great because they keep us focused on that particular pay period without worrying about EVERY bill that is due, and having the card on hand makes it easy to transfer amounts to the Spending Plan sheet found in Section 2.

(That is a killer segway!)

Section 2
The tabbed sections of the binder make it so easy to track every single penny you are spending and, most importantly, SAVING!

Sorry the picture is so small, but on top we have the current month's Spending Plan sheet (more about that in 2 seconds), under the white tab are past month's Spending Plans, the blue tab holds Savings Records sheets, the yellow tab is a list of account info, and pink tab holds the Annual Spending Reconciliation sheet. Let's start from the beginning.

The Spending Plan sheet is where we actually figure out and record each months budget. Once we receive our paycheck, we sit down and plan out where to allocate our funds. We start with the total income on top and fill in appropriate amounts as we go using our pay period envelopes and any other foreseeable expenses. This allows us to see that the most important needs are met first. I don't know if you can see it, but some categories are followed by an asterisk. This means that we will use our cash envelopes (Section3) to pay for these expenses rather than a debit or credit card.

The purpose of planning out your Spending Plan should be to reach $0 in your checking account at the end of each pay period by paying necessary bills and depositing money into savings. On the second page of our Spending Plan Sheet there is space to record transfers into Savings for any cash left over after bills have been paid and groceries purchased :)

I customized this sheet to fit our needs. Because we don't have kids but do have tuition, fees, books, and other expenses I just added and subtracted categories and specific costs as I went. Do the same to your plan so it fits your family best!

{Download and print your own Spending Plan Sheet here.}

Continuing with our tabs.

The Blue Tab houses Savings Records sheets where you can track any deposits or withdrawals from your Savings Accounts. This is my F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E sheet because it allows me to actually see our savings growing.

In our binder we have Savings Records for several accounts: $1000 Emergency Fund, Tuition Fund, Vacation Fund, Christmas Fund ($10 at a time really adds up and helps during the holiday), and 3-6 Months Fund. (Check with your bank about setting up sub-accounts so you can track specific savings needs.) Even if we only deposit $20 in an account each month, it is so worth it!

{Print your Savings Record sheets here.}

The Yellow Tab contains a list of our important account information. If you're like me, you are always resetting your password. This handy little list gives me a quick reference when logging in to pay bills. We also have a list of our credit card information along with emergency numbers in case of theft or lose - this is a MUST for any cardholder. If you choose to include this information in your binder, make sure you keep it in a safe and secure place and never record the sensitive answers to questions.

The Pink Tab is our Annual Spending Reconciliation sheet. Every few months we flip to this page and record what we paid in rent, tuition, health insurance, groceries, etc. Pretty much anything we'll need to record on our taxes or we want to really monitor for over spending.

{Print your Annual Reconciliation sheet here.}

Section 3
The final section - Cash Envelopes. Remember I mentioned how some of our expenditure categories on the Spending Plan had asterisks? Well, this is why. At the back of our binder, we have a super classy, high tech sheet protector that holds our cash envelopes.

If our budget includes any spending in these categories, we scurry over the bank, withdraw the exact amount and then distribute in the envelopes for use that month. Using cash envelopes has really helped us curb unnecessary spending. We are much more aware of breaking a twenty than we are of swiping our card.

If we have any money left over in the envelopes at the end of the month, we simply consider it when figuring next months budget or stash it away for a little cash-on-hand. This does not mean we keep a lot of money in the house; you have to actually have a lot of money to do that, right?

Hubster and I sit down, together, once a month and go over the Budget Binder. We consider monthly expenses, little extras, and things like gifts, school supplies, or adventures until we've worked through every penny. The Budget Binder has not made us instant millionaires, but it has made keeping track of our funds so much easier! Not to mention the surge of adrenaline I get every time I transfer $20 dollars into savings :)

{Download and print your own Spending Plan Sheet here.}{Print your Savings Record sheets here.}
{Print your Annual Reconciliation sheet here.}
Happy Budgeting!


P.S. Does the idea of budgeting have you down. Watch this. It will inspire all worry, doubt and pain away, but you will need a tissue!

P.S.S. If the links don't work or you would like the PDF versions, leave me a comment below and I'll upload them!


  1. Thanks Erin we have been looking for something! This helps!

  2. If you still have these in the pdf format, I would love them. My computer is not allowing me to download them on here. Thanks so much. Kaylamartin827@gmail.com

  3. It’s great that you and your husband are working together in managing your finances. I agree that having a budget binder or even just a notebook to list down your expenses and savings in is a great help in monitoring where your money goes. From there, you’d know how to divide your funds and spend them wisely. Those cash envelopes are actually very effective. I’ve been working with that system for the past year, and I was able to limit my spending. I now rarely have to use my credit card too!

    Brooke Claudio

  4. it's not letting me download them also. Could you email- jessica.leeon@yahoo.com Thanks!

  5. This seems so easy compared to others. I would love to get the PDF's for this. My email is ericauecker@att.net Thanks again for sharing.

  6. If you have the PDFs for these I would appreciate them, they are not allowing me to download. Email: pharmgrrljax@gmail.com

  7. I would also love the PDFs: chelsea.bengal@gmail.com


  8. PDF of template request please!!!


    Thank you and I can't wait to use this system to get back on track.

  9. I would love a PDF copy please! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful budget book! :)



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