Our Budget Binder

Last week I tackled our paper situation and I shared how I purged our piles and keep our papers in a few different places based on our needs.  Long term filing goes in a file box, tax items are stashed up in a cupboard in plastic envelopes, quick "To Do" type items go in easy to access file folders above my desk.  But what about the bills and budget items?  What were those binders for?

The red binder is our household management binder, which I shared how I use here.  The blue binder is our budget binder.  I took a chunk of my household binder and moved it into it's own happy place, since it just made more sense for how often we were using it.

Since I just printed out new pages at the beginning of the year, I thought it was the perfect time to photograph and share {since it is home office month and all, and it's a question I receive quite a bit}.

The budget binder is a tool that my husband and I both know how to use, reference frequently and both own and manage together.  He helped me come up with the contents to be sure we covered everything we thought we needed to successfully manage our budget.  Because we are not professionals, are constantly tweaking our system based on our needs and can't offer financial advice, all we can do is share bits of what is working for us.

And, since my mom always taught me it isn't polite to talk about money, I am only sharing an overview, not any specific digits.  You understand right?  You wouldn't want your personal budget information spread across the entire world wide web....

So, let's open up this pretty little lady and take a peek inside.

The inside of the binder holds two checkbooks; one for paying our monthly obligations and the other for our health savings account.  The pencil pouch holds our budget tools which consist of a calculator and pens.

The next pouch is where the paper is stored.  When the mail comes in, junk is recycled and bills, checks, etc... are placed into this pouch right away so we always have what we need when it comes time to pay our monthly bills.  This is also where we place any receipts that we may need to reconcile with our checkbook register when the time comes.

The rest of the tabs are labeled for quick reference.

We print out a checkbook register for the inside of the binder where we can keep track of our checking account.  It is much nicer than trying to use the smaller one that comes with the checkbook.  And since we really only use our checkbook when we are managing our budget each month, we have no need to take the register with us.

And due to popular demand, I have created a freebie checkbook register printable for you as well!

{click HERE to download your FREE copy of the checkbook register printable}

I also get asked frequently how we keep track of our monthly bills.  Since they don't change much from month to month, we list them all out on our finance checklist.  Then, each month we go down the list, write in the amount we paid and check it off once we submit the payment online or once it has auto-withdrawn from our account.  This way, we can see how it may vary from month to month and be sure we aren't missing a payment along the way.

As I mentioned, each month the hubs and I sit down and do our monthly budget together.  We use our income from the previous month to plan our the current month's budget.  Go down our list of budget items and "zero" out our account.  Meaning, we budget to zero and try and plan for everything that may come up throughout the month.  This is everything from savings to donations to gifts to clothing to school lunches.

We also go back to our budget from the previous month to be sure we put in our actual and make note of the differences.

Because I was never all that great about checking my checkbook register and online banking on a daily basis {I always found better things to do}, we decided that moving to a cash system would be beneficial.  It also hurts a bit more to hand over a dollar bill instead of a check card.  We only use cash for typical monthly expenses, such as fuel, groceries, household items, entertainment, etc....

To keep us on track of our weekly cash spending, we just started to do a weekly check-in, where we can jot down where we are at and keep our cash spread out evenly over the course of the month.

And also by popular demand, another freebie!

{click HERE to download your FREE copy of the cash check-in printable}

When we moved to the cash system, my biggest concern was carrying it.  We don't carry it all at once, I only carry a small amount at a time and keep it with any coupons and store gift cards that we also have under that category.  That way, when we need gas, I can use the cash and a $.06 off per gallon coupon at the same time.  I found the cash envelope from this super cute Etsy shop here.

I have tried a few online programs to manage our accounts and money, but at the end of the day they never seemed to do everything we were looking for.  So, although what we do may seem a little complex and overdone, it's what is working for us and keeps us on track.  And, since we now have a system and a groove, it really doesn't take all that much time to budget and schedule bills twice a month and do a quick weekly check-in.

So that is how we manage our bill paying and budget paper piles.  Surprise surprise, in a handy dandy binder.

Who is having fun with home office month?!  Link party is coming up soon and I am getting giddy with anticipation to see what you crazy kids have been up to!

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