Oh my goodness, you guys. This post has been a looong time coming. Ever since I shared my finances section of my Home Management Binder way back when, I’ve been getting requests for inserts and a how-to for a full blown Financial Planner. I am so happy to report that today is the day I finally get to share these things with you!! And in other exciting news, this is the 100th post published on Label Me Organized!
I have honestly been tracking my money since I was in elementary school. Every time I made a purchase with any allowance or birthday money I had accumulated, I would jot it down in the notebook-du-jour. Of course, making sure to specify the date, amount and description of item purchased. Yea… I was that kind of kid.
Luckily I still have that compulsive need to track every penny that comes into my hands, so I always know where the heck all my money went this month. For a while now, I’ve just been recording the basics in my Filofax, but I decided it was time to expand my financial planning and really get my money organized.
So I’m here today sharing how I keep my money organized, so hopefully it can help you do the same! I also have a surprise announcement at the end of this post that you won’t want to miss!
First thing first, you need somewhere to put all this organizational awesomeness. I chose an A5 sized binder (found at Target) to keep all my financial pages in. The bright orange and gold polka dots just make me so happy, which is always a good thing to have around when doing this like budgeting and paying bills! I also added a Martha Stewart bookplate to the spine of the binder, and created the label using my label maker and some gold washi tape.
Next you’ll need to divide up your planner into sections. I really like dividing all my planners into different sections because it helps me easily flip to the exact page I’m looking for. For this planner I chose the following sections:
I also left myself a few dividers of wiggle room, since I like to have room to grow into a planner. It will often happen that I won’t think of an additional section that I’d like to have until I’ve lived in and used a planner for a couple months, so I keep some blank dividers as insurance.
First up is the Budget section. This is where my budget pages are stored. This page consists of a simple table to help plan out and stick to a budget. Right before a new month starts, I start planning out my budget. First I write in the category for each budget in the left column. This includes things such as:
- Cable & Internet
These budget categories can be anything you need. I frequently include a “hobbies” budget if I want to keep an eye on my Project Life spending, or a “pets” budget if I’ve gotten to used to buying a certain munchkin a toy every time we pass the pet aisle at the grocery store. Planning a trip in the near future? Add in a budget to keep track of how much money each month you’re able to stash away for vacation spending. These categories are completely flexible, and can change month to month depending on your needs.
Once I have my categories all written out, I’ll start budgeting for those categories. The next column, labeled “budget”, is where I write the amount I’m planning to spend that month in each category. Then, once the month is finished, I’ll go back through my expenses and record what I actually spent in each category in the “actual” column. When I first started playing with these pages, I would pencil in every purchase I made into the actual column, erasing and adding in new purchases as I went. This technique didn’t work for me, but it’s an option if you prefer.
Once I know what I actually spent that month in each category, I’ll calculate the difference in amounts between the budget and actual columns. This is the month important column, as it will tell you exactly how you did in each category. I like to use green and red color coding in this column, to really make it stand out if I was over or under budget in a category.
When planning out my next monthly budget, I’ll also look at how I did last month in certain categories, and think of any upcoming expenses I’ll have for this coming month. For example, if I went over my food budget again last month, maybe its time to re-evaluate how much I really need to budget for food. Or maybe I am consistently under budget in my gas category, so I can reallocate the money budgeted to gas into another category, like my food budget. I like to update my budget each month so I am always up to date and aware of where my money is going, where I’m saving money, and where I need to cut back.
Next up is the Bills section. This is where I keep track of and record payments made on each of my bill accounts. This is super helpful so at a glance, I can see what I’ve already paid, and what still needs to be paid. This has saved me more times than once from forgetting to pay a bill.
I start by listing all the monthly bills I receive down the left column. These include things such as rent, utilities, cable & internet, credit card and any other monthly payments I have to make.
This page is set up so you can track and record a whole year of bills on just these two pages. Once I receive a bill, I go over to the column of the month it is due (usually the current month) in that particular bill’s row, and record the amount due and the due date. Once the bill is paid, I simple cross off that box under that month and I’m good until next month rolls around.
I also like to keep the paper bills I receive in the mail in this section. This makes it super easy when it comes time to pay the bills. I just pull out my binder, flip to the bills section, pull out the mailer (which usually holds the detachable slip you have to return with your check), write my check and cross off that bill for the month. Once you get in the habit of running through those few steps, it will take about 30 seconds to pay and record your bills.
Since bills are never your only expense in life, I also included the Spending section. This section is dedicated to recording and tracking all of my ‘other’ expenses. This includes days at the mall, Starbucks runs, binge-shopping at Michael’s, and any other money that comes in or goes out throughout the month. Think of this as a modern day checkbook register.
These pages are meant to serve as a running record of all transactions. This includes all the money you spend, as well as all the money you earn. For each purchase you make, you record the date, purchase description, and amount you spent. Every time you get a paycheck, or just happen to come into some extra money (yay!), you record the date, income description and amount you earned.
A lot of people use electronic apps or systems to track their bank accounts nowadays. While I do regularly use Mint, I personally also like having things on paper. That way I’ll always know how much money I have, even if the servers go down, I don’t have wifi etc. It is also nice to go through each expense you made by hand, so you can immediately spot any suspicious charges that need investigating.
To keep things easy for myself, I like to use one page per month. Then at the end of the month, I add up the totals for both the income and expense category. This gives me a total of how much I earned, and how much I spent.
The total income and expense you just calculated from your Spending section can be transferred right into your Income section. This category holds my income tracker pages. It’s always nice to keep an eye on exactly how much you’ve earned each month, so you can be better informed when planning your budgets each month.
Each month, I record my total income in the ‘+’ column, and my total expense in the ‘-‘ column. I then calculate and record the difference to see how much of a “profit” I made that month, which goes in the ‘total’ column. I personally like to transfer any “profit” from each month right into savings. Since this money was extra from the budget I previously planned out, this ‘extra’ money is a great way to up my savings. It is also nice to know how much “padding” you have, in case you happen to go over budget one month.
Once you’ve recorded all three columns (income, expense and total) for each month, you can calculate your annual totals for each column. This will let you know how much you earned total this year, as well as how much you spent this year. The final category of total “profit” tells you if you’ve been naughty or nice. Just kidding. But it will help you to know if you’ve consistently spent more than you’ve earned, or if you should give yourself a pat on the back for coming in way under budget each month.
This section would also be a good place to store all your pay-stubs throughout the year, so they’re in one place and you know exactly where they are come tax time. Get in the habit of immediately putting your pay-stub into your financial planner, and recording the amount earned, and you’ll be golden!
Finally, the last section in my Financial Planner is dedicated to organizing debt. No one likes to be in debt, but with organization and a little bit of planning, it will be easy to see those numbers tick down to zero.
This page works a lot like the bill tracker we went over earlier in the post. The first step is to list all your current debt down the left column. This could include:
- Student loans
- Car loan
- Credit card
Once you have all your loans written out, you are going to write the current amount due under the current month. Do this even if the number is scary big. Each month, when you plan out your budget and bills, your debts and loans should be included in each. Paying of a little chunk of debt each month, however much you can manage, will benefit you so much in the long run.
As each month passes, keep recording the total due into its respective monthly column. As you make payments, you will see the big, scary number go down. I don’t know about you, but this gives me a happy feeling, and makes me want to keep paying more and more so I can see that number go down to zero.
On the flip side, if you don’t make payments (or just pay the minimum) you will start to see the number go up with interest. This will motivate you to cut back in other areas so you can budget more for you debts and experience the fuzzy feeling of decreasing debt!
Ok and that’s it! We have a completed and just fabulous Financial Planner! Don’t you feel good? You should, you’re awesome!
And of course, I promised you guys a big announcement. Well here it is: you can now get all these lovely pages you just saw for your very own! That’s right, my Financial Planner organizational pages are now available in my Etsy shop! So now you don’t have any excuses not to get your finances organized!
Each page is available separately, or you can buy the entire kit and save 33%! That is $5 cash money in your pocket. See, you’re already saving money! Get the entire Financial Planner kit for yourself right here and start your way to complete financial organization!
The Financial Planner pages are currently only available in A5 size, however I am working as fast as possible to make other sizes available as well! Stay tuned!