Struggling to stick with a budget? Keep getting those email notifications from the various online budgeting platforms you’ve tried to use but then never stuck with? Wondering where on earth you stuck that one bill that you swear you paid last month, but they’re saying you didn’t? I feel you, my friend! I know this struggle. That’s why so many years ago, I started using my Budget Binder to keep our financial life in order.
Pen-to-paper works very well especially when you’re first starting out trying to stick to your budget. And if your inbox is anything like mine, you probably get lost it in. Trying to find bills emailed to you is like looking for a needle in a haystack. So how do we keep things organized – especially when we’re married and we manage money with someone else? I mean, my husband wouldn’t remember the password to our bank account if I tattooed it on him. For real, he’s just not that type of person that can keep up with all of that.
However, I AM THAT PERSON. So I keep up with all.the.things. But what happens if something happens to me?? How will my husband know where to look for things?? Well, for Pat, he knows to go look in our Budget Binder. It’s all there. He doesn’t have to go hunt and try to figure out what bills have or have not been paid.
How to Set Up Your Budget Binder
Honestly, there’s no “right or wrong” way to set up your Budget Binder. However, there are some things you’ll want to make sure you do include. But before we get into all that, let’s chat real fast about what you’ll need to set up your Budget Binder.
What you’ll need:
- Binder (of course – this style here is my favorite as it’s super durable! Mine has lasted me for almost a decade!)
- Monthly Tab Dividers (these are the ones that I use)
- Tab Dividers (you may want to have additional tab dividers to organize your binder. However, you can also just do what I did and reuse file folders as dividers!)
- 3 Hole Puncher
Alright, so let’s get into the “how-to” part of this.
Step 1: Forget Perfection
Okay, so this isn’t really a “step” but its important. Don’t expect this to work perfectly. Allow your Budget Binder to change as your life and the seasons of life change. Don’t lock yourself into following something that isn’t working. Try it for 3 months and then revise. Let go of perfection.
Step 2: Gather All of Your Bill Statements
I keep all of our bill statements behind our budget sheets in the corresponding month tab. Most of our bills I pay via online Bill Pay, so I don’t necessarily write a check for them. However, I still write on the bill statement the amount paid and the reference number (confirmation number from my bank). This way, if/when a company claims I haven’t paid a bill, I can reference quickly the statement to know that yes, I did pay and this was the amount.
I still have our bills sent to us via paper snail mail because honestly, they get lost in my inbox. I received so much email every day – most of it junk but it still floods my inbox and loses stuff all the time. It’s better for me to have these statements mailed to me so I can pay them via online and track them in my Budget Binder.
Of course, you could just print them off and store them in your budget binder if you prefer – again, there’s no “perfect way” to set up your Budget Binder. Organize all of the bill statements that you’ve already paid by the month.
Step 3: Monthly Dividers and Monthly Budget
Whether you’re using the Avery Monthly tabs that I use or something different, add in the monthly tabs and start adding in your already paid bill statements behind the corresponding tab. Now, you’ll need to determine what/how you’re going to manage and track your budget. I use my Budget Planner for this but you can also use a piece of notebook paper. Again, no right or wrong way do it.
Here’s all that I include behind our monthly tabs:
- Monthly Budget Sheets
- Spending Tracker Sheets
- Monthly Goals Sheets
- Monthly Review Sheets (to review the month’s spending at the end of the month)
- Printed Bill Statements
Step 4: Use It
This is step is kind of obvious but it’s also the most important. You need to actually use your Budget Binder. You can set this up and customize it any way that you want! However, you absolutely must use your Binder. Change it up and tailor it to make it work for you and your family as needed. Just make sure to use it.
P.S. If you’re looking for an online option that works well with using pen-to-paper, my husband loves using Personal Capital. It’s free.
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