Budgeting is tricky business. I think we all feel that way. If you have never set up a budget before, essentially it is tracking what is going out and what is coming in financially. You can do this in a variety of ways and there are so many apps, programs, and books out there to teach you exactly how that there is definitely something for everyone. Whether you use the envelope method, an excel spreadsheet, a finance binder, or some other method is entirely up to you.
My family uses a couple of methods together. I use a checkbook app to keep my checkbook balanced and to track my daily spending, and I use my bullet journal to track my recurring bills and payments to keep on top of that. I follow everything up with a google sheets spreadsheet where I plot my debt repayment plan, my monthly allowances for different categories, and my spending trends. Today, I want to focus on a few ways that you can incorporate you bullet journal in your budgeting goals to make life and finances a little easier and a little clearer.
The number one budgeting tool that I use in my Bullet Journal is my budget tracker. I include this page every month with sections for income, monthly expenses and total balance spent. I separate the income section by family member and source of income, to track which income sources are more lucrative, and to make sure I’m catching all of the incoming funds. This also helps me notice if my income decreased for some reason or even better increased and I can put more money towards my savings account.
For the expenses section, I include all outgoing known expenses. For example, I include my monthly rent and utilities, any debt payments, and also subscriptions, like Netflix. I sort them by due date and include the estimated amount, and a checkbox each for Paid and cleared payments. I also leave some space in the margin for notes or remaining balances. I update the paid amounts as I make my payments, since sometimes I am able to pay more than I budgeted, or need to pay less on a tight month. Tracking these changes helps me to keep my checkbook and my spreadsheet up to date with accurate payments, so I don’t have to reference my online banking half as often.
The final part of this page in my bullet journal include my total balance out for the month. This is the smallest section of the page, but perhaps the most important because it tells me how closely I kept to my budgeted spending.
Daily Spending Tracker
Within your daily tracker, you can add a spot to track any spending at the bottom of you daily log, or anywhere really. I really like this version that includes it at the bottom of each daily box. You could also include a separate page for tracking your expenses, like a monthly or weekly checkbook log with columns for the purchase, category, cost, and new account balance. Either is a great method of tracking your payments and staying on top of your account balance.
You can also use this section or include a No Spend Tracker or a No Spend Challenge. I have included in my daily tracker a no spend section so I can track and celebrate the months when I don’t spend additional money on dining out, fast food, shopping, or treats. Honestly my biggest excess expenses are food. I’m terrible about my will power when it comes to eating out and having the energy to cook at the end of the day. This is why I dedicate so much time to meal planning and food prepping.
Another thing I include in each new bullet journal is a savings tracker. I have gone through a few iterations of this. My previous method was simply a tracker for my bulk savings account. It did not take into consideration my different savings goals, or provide any individual motivation to reach my goals. My new method tracks my savings for specific goals, with deadlines, and estimates of how much needs to be saved for each purpose. Some goals that I included were: annual savings goal,funds for a trip, a Down Payment for a home, and a safety net.
You can do this separately, or you can incorporate it into any of the other tackers you use, be they budget, daily or monthly logs. I personally find that tracking my savings separately and graphically helps create and maintain my motivation for MORE SAVINGS! Basically, pics or it didn’t happen.
The final way I recommend tracking and budgeting in you bullet journal would be through your future log. When I know that I have large purchases or a short term payoff coming up, I like to include those costs in my future log. This way the information is available when I update my monthly budget tracker and I can include it on my weekly or daily log to make sure the payment is made or the activity is accounted for. This also helps to plan out and budget for birthday gifts and celebrations that might require a financial investment. Right now I am planning for a wedding, a week of vacation, a going away party, and a few upcoming birthdays.
How do you budget? Have you used your bullet journal for this yet? Do you think you will try any of these methods for tracking your spending moving forward? Are you interested in more posts about managing your budget outside of your bullet journal? Have you read my review of Smart Cookies, a self help finance book on my blog last week? This book has tons of great ideas for managing your finances and getting out of debt. I highly recommend it. As always, I would love to hear from you, so please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!