This blog outlines 5 simple steps to create and use a money-saving binder. From organizing bills to tracking expenses, you’ll save money in no time. Let’s get started!
This blog is about creating and using a money-saving binder in five easy steps!
Table of Contents
What Is A Money-Saving Binder?
A money-saving binder tracks your spending, saving, and financial goals.
You might be using an app like YNAB or Mint for budgeting already. Money-saving binders work great with one of these apps or on their own.
Using an app? Use the binder to check in and set goals on the go. Prefer something physical? Just take the binder with you. Keeping the binder in your car is a great reminder to stick to your budget and reach your goals.
The beauty of a money-saving binder is how flexible it is. These binders can be tailored to fit your needs and goals.
A money-saving binder can be set up in just five steps.
Step 1: Setting Up Your Binder
The easiest step is first. All you need to do for this first step is assemble your physical binder.
You can pick a template from various places online (we got ours from Abby Lawson at justagirlandherblog.com). If graphic designing is your passion, you can also make your own!
Got your template? Print it out and put it in a binder.
No binder? Most office supply stores can help you print and punch it.
Check your local library, too – they often have programs to help with printing and hole-punching at a lower cost.
Page protectors, highlighters, colored pens, and stickers can add some extra sturdiness and pizzazz to your binder, but they’re unnecessary.
All you need now is a pen or pencil, a binder, and paper. You can expect to spend about $15 – $30 on the whole project unless you get fancy with it.
That’s it for the first step; time to get serious!
Step 2: Make Yearly Goals/Setting Realistic Goals
Next, you need to set your goals for the year. The first page in your binder should be an overview of your whole year.
You can set as many goals for the year as you want but keep it manageable. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself before you even begin!
When setting your goals, you can generally drop them into three categories: paying off debt, savings, and improvements.
Paying off a car, for example, would go into the “paying off debt” category, while buying a new car belongs in “improvements.”
One to three goals are great for a beginner, and you can either tackle one big project in one category or put smaller milestones for all three.
How To Set Your Goals?
When you’re setting your goals, you need to make sure they’re achievable. An achievable goal is concrete, has a timeframe, and has a plan.
A goal like “save more money this year” isn’t achievable.
First, it isn’t concrete. How much is “more”? It doesn’t have a timeframe, either.
How long will you be working to “save more money”? There needs to be a plan here, too.
What will you do with the money you saved? How will you save money? This goal will frustrate you because you never know when you’ve achieved it.
Instead, set a goal like “Put $1,500 in an emergency fund by December”.
This goal has all three markers of an achievable goal. $1,500 is concrete.
You’ll know exactly when you’ve saved $1,500, and then you can make a new goal. The timeframe is clear, too. You’ll be working on it from January until December.
You also have a plan for the money: you want to save it for emergencies.
From there, you can make a plan on how to save money. Maybe you’ll start a side hustle and put all the money into a savings account. Maybe you’ll stop eating out or cancel a subscription and put the money into your emergency fund.
Before you can decide on changes to make to save money, you’ll need to know your budget.
Step 3: Strategic Budgeting
“Budgeting” can be a four-letter word sometimes, leaving you feeling nervous and uncomfortable.
Have no fear! Even with budgeting, a money-saving binder helps you break it down into something manageable.
First, let’s take a look at how to budget recurring income and expenses.
How To Budget Recurring Income?
Recurring income is money that you can expect a specific amount of at a specific time. Paychecks, child support, or social security are great examples of recurring income.
It’s crucial to know how much money you have coming in and when it’s coming. This won’t go into your binder, but it’ll help you out when you’re working up a ballpark for how much you plan to spend.
To budget recurring income, check your bank statements for deposits.
Add up all the deposits from your recurring sources only to give you a good baseline for what you’ll be working with.
How To Budget Recurring Expenses?
Recurring expenses are also things that you expect at a specific time.
These are costs like rent, utility bills, subscriptions, and debt payments. Usually, these expenses are the same every month, with a little variance here and there. For recurring expenses that have some variance, aim high.
Many utility companies will help you track your usage, so you can check your past bills to get a sense of how much you can expect to pay.
Use the “monthly” section on the “Recurring Expenses” page in your money-saving binder to track these things.
In the “quarterly” section, you can put expenses that you pay once every three months. Some credit card companies bill quarterly, or you can budget for your quarterly tax payments if you have a small business.
If you don’t have any quarterly expenses, feel free to leave this space blank or decorate it with encouraging messages.
Your “Recurring Expenses” page should also have a “yearly” section. Things like membership, subscriptions, taxes, or fees you pay once a year belong here.
Knowing your recurring expenses and income will set you up for success during our next step.
Step 4: Manage Your Income And Expenses
Okay, so you have a good idea of how much money you can expect to consistently come in and out of your account.
However, other costs can change a lot from month to month. These are groceries, gas for your car, laundry, toiletries, and fun money (everyone deserves a treat yourself day!).
You might also have income that changes a bit from month to month.
Maybe you have a second job, occasionally sell things online, or use a survey app to make extra money.
These things aren’t as consistent, so they fit your money-saving binder’s “variable” category.
How To Budget Variable Income?
It’s easy to overspend with variable income. You might plan to only spend a little of your side-hustle money on something fun, and the next thing you know, you’ve spent all the money you intended to save.
The best way to budget variable income is to put every penny into a category as soon as it comes in.
That way, if you want to spend something fun, you can put $20 in and know that you have exactly $20. This will help you reach those yearly goals because you’ll be approaching the “extra” money in a more balanced way.
How To Budget Variable Expenses?
Your money-saving binder should have pages for “tracking expenses .” This is really where your binder will line up with a budgeting app.
The top of each tracking expenses page will have a “category” section and an “amount” section.
Let’s use groceries as an example. You’ll write “groceries” in the “category” section and add the amount you plan to spend on groceries in the “amount” section.
When you’re starting, finding a ballpark can take a lot of work. Revisit your bank statements again, and give yourself a general idea.
Let’s say you plan to spend $200 in one month.
After you’ve written that down, you’ll start tracking how much you spend on groceries in a month.
So every time you go to the grocery store, you’ll write the date, amount, where you shopped, and any notes you want to add. You’ll spend $200 or less on groceries if all goes well.
Don’t be afraid to adjust your variable expenses each month. You’ll better understand how much you can expect to spend as you go along.
Step 5: Monthly Check-Ins
Adjusting as you go leads us right into our final step: monthly check-ins. Each month, you’ll review your progress at the end of the month.
The best way to stick with this is to make it an occasion for yourself. Go to your favorite coffee shop, take yourself to dinner, and review your progress there.
The first step to reviewing your progress is to celebrate your accomplishments.
What went well this month? Did you add in a better spending habit? Did you have a day where you decided to go cheap on dinner or pass up that sale so you could stick to your budget?
Way to go! Every month will have its victories. Pat yourself on the back and record it in your binder to remind yourself that you’ve grown.
Every month will also have its challenges. When reviewing your progress, ask yourself what you can improve this month.
Maybe you’ve under-budgeted in a category and have to adjust your plan.
Maybe you felt exhausted one night and ordered take-out that wasn’t in the budget. Whatever it is, be gentle with yourself and think of ways to improve.
The last section of your monthly check-in will be to set specific, small goals. These goals should help you improve the things you found in the previous section.
If eating out is your Achilles’ heel, you could set a goal to eat at home for two more days than usual.
These small monthly goals should follow the same standards as the yearly goals. Make sure they’re all concrete, have a timeframe, and plan.
Taking control of your finances in 2023 is a great way to ensure a more stable financial future.
While it’s common for anyone’s finances to get a little chaotic sometimes, it’s important to take a step back, assess the situation, and find new and effective ways to fix the problem.
The money-saving binder is one such method that can help you become more mindful of your spending and saving habits, which can ultimately lead to better financial health.
By building better habits with your money, you can have a great 2023 and set yourself up for a lifetime of financial security.
So, take that first step, and start organizing your finances with a money-saving binder. You got this!
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