Trying to get control of your finances? A budget planner book can help! Here are the best tips, resources and a FREE printable to help you get on track.
The biggest thing that has helped us reach the point we are at now is a monthly budget. Yes, I realize I just said what most people consider a dirty word. When most people hear the word “budget” they think of living a life without fun or happiness. Nothing could be farther from the truth! In fact, a budget can become a dear friend. (Okay, maybe not that far…) If you don’t like the word, call it something else. Call it your monthly spending plan instead. In the words of Dave Ramsey: “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” I’ve always loved that.
It’s been several years since we started budgeting and only three since we’ve gotten any good at it. We really didn’t get control of our finances until we started using the envelope system. One word of advice about budgeting: It takes work to get it right. You will sit down and create a budget and things won’t go according to plan. Adjust your budget and try again. It took us three or four months to get it down, but now it is only a matter of adjusting it slightly depending upon what is going on that month. In fact, our budget is so similar each month I started using a Google sheet and just changing out the amount in the categories slightly (such as utilities). It’s really easy once you get it going!
In the beginning, though, it wasn’t that easy. I used a monthly budget planner notebook to help keep track of income and expenses and today I’m going to show you some tips and tricks for using a budget planner book. (Plus, you can even download your own planner printable below!)
Tips for a Successful Budget
Step One: Track Your Expenses
If you are anything like us, this might hurt a little. Write down everything, and I mean everything you spend money on. When we first did this, we found that we were spending over $400 a month dining out! Talk about wasted money! (And it was just the two of us then with no kids!)
Now, I’ll be the first to admit I love going out to eat, but it’s not the healthiest (usually) and a lot of times it really isn’t as good as I thought it was going to be. So now, we eat at home more often (especially since we have kids). Keep track of everything for a month to get a good idea of where your money is going.
You can try an expense tracker if you need help with this. There is a page in the free printable planner for you to track expenses, you can guy one of the budget planner books and use their system, or you can use an app like mint.com.
Step Two: Figure Out Your Income
You have to know how much money you have coming in each month. This should be an easy thing to check – just look back at your previous month to see how much was deposited. You can see this either by looking at your pay stub or checking your bank statement. Take into account every source of income – your regular job, spouse’s income, irregular income, etc. Write it all down.
Step Three: Make A Plan
Take time to make a plan every month. Like I said before, once you get it down it really just becomes a matter of tweaking last month’s budget and really doesn’t take long. In fact, now that we’ve done pretty much the same budget for the past two years, I can do the next month’s budget in about 15 minutes. That’s all it takes.
Write down all income and all expenses and give every dollar a name. This is called a zero-based budget and is especially important. Many months I will write down all our expenses and still have money left over, so that gets to go to debt. (Yay!) Some months there isn’t any, but every dollar has a name and goes somewhere.
It doesn’t matter where you do your budget – just do it! You can use a budget book, computer spreadsheet, happy planner, bullet journal – anywhere really! You just need to do one.
An important note is to do the budget before the month. I actually budget from the 15th of one month to the 15th of the next month because my husband only gets paid once a month so we get a big paycheck then. It just made sense to us to go from one large paycheck to the next so we’ve been doing it this way for about seven years now.
When you are planning for expenditures, don’t forget things that only come up every so often. Gifts, license plates, insurance, etc. are all things that should be in the budget somewhere. I love it when we get invited to a birthday party and I’ve already got some money in my “Gifts” envelope!
Also, don’t forget to plan for FUN. I know it can be hard but try to factor in some fun in there. There are so many cheap or free activities you can do when you are on a really tight budget. We budget $40 a month for entertainment and $100 a month for personal money ($25 for myself and my husband twice a month) because sometimes it feels like you never get to buy anything spur of the moment and having just that little bit of freedom in spending can make a big difference, or at least it does to us.
Step Four: Be Flexible
Like I said before, your budget will change. And it’s okay. The important thing is to adjust and not to give up. The first step to winning with money is to get control of your budget. If at all possible, live below your means and put all extra to debt. If you need to change anything, agree with your spouse if you have one, make the change, and learn from it. Just keep going.
One of my favorite quotes since college says “It’s the joy of the journey, not the destination.” Yes, debt-free is our destination, but we are also having a ton of fun with our family while we’re getting there.
Now, let’s take a closer look at budget planner books and how to use them.
Common Questions about a Budget Planner Book
There are many great budget planner books out there, and we will be taking a look at a few of the best ones. Really, it boils down to the fact that the best budget planner is the one that works for you.
For some, this may be on a computer, while others prefer pen and paper. Some may enjoy the free printable on this site and put it in a ring binder to create a DIY budget binder, while others will enjoy a nice journal style binder. The choice is up to you!
You are in the right place! Below I have a completely free budget planner that you can print out and start using today. This budgeting planner includes a daily plan, weekly calendar, monthly calendar, monthly budget sheet, expense tracker, financial goals, and other helpful planner pages.
The Best Budget Planner Books and Budget Notebooks
These are the best monthly budget planner notebooks out there. You can find them on Amazon and please note that if you click on a link we earn a small commission at no extra charge to you!
1. Clever Fox Planner
Ths really have everything you’d ever need if you want a hard cover budget planner. It is the perfect size at an A5, it is undated and has thick bleed-through paper, and it even includes planner stickers!
This little book includes many planner pages and also pockets to act as a monthly bill organizer and hold other important papers. I like that there is the option to add a cash envelope system, too (which is something we do as a family!).
This book has a 4.6/5 star rating on Amazon from over 13k reviewers. That’s saying a lot!
2. GoGirl Budget Planner
This one is very close to the Clever Fox planner. It comes in many different colors, is a nice small size. It is also an undated planner so you can start anytime and includes bleed resistant paper.
This planner also includes a pocket for holding bills and other papers, has two bookmarks and also comes with stickers! I really love stickers with my planners so I’m excited to see these.
This planner has a 4.5/5 rating on Amazon with over 7k reviews!
These are the two with the absolute best Amazon reviews based on star rating and number of reviews. There are many others out there with high star ratings, just not as many reviews. If you’d like to check out all the budget planners you can see them here.
Budget Planner Book with Envelopes
Wanting to do a cash envelope system like Dave Ramsey recommends?? We started this several years ago to get our finances under control and it has helped SO much!
The best budget planner book with envelopes that I have found is the Clever Fox Budget Planner Pro, which includes all of the great features mentioned above plus 5 cash envelopes.
Check out the Budget Planner Pro Here
OR if you’d like another planner mentioned above and want even more envelopes, they sell a 12 envelope system in assorted colors that includes a carrying pouch and expense tracking budget sheets.
But, if you’re wanting a quick and easy system you can start right now, check out my free planner below, which includes several pages you can use right away to start gaining better control of your finances.
How to Use a Budget Planner Book
So, you’ve made a choice and are ready to either buy a budget planner book or grab the free budget planner printable? The purchased ones mentioned above both come with a quick start guide, but if you want a head start while you’re waiting for your new book to arrive, or you want to go with my free printable option, here is how you begin.
Set Your Financial Goals
Think about the things you’d like to accomplish with your finances. It’s been proven that people who have written goals accomplish far more than those without! You need to write down your goals if you actually want to achieve them. This post will show you why. Go ahead, check it out. I’ll keep this tab open so you can come back.
If you’re using a purchased planner, you may have extra pages for things like a Mind Map, a financial strategy and tactics. If you have these, go ahead and fill them out! A mind map is a visual representation of your goals and strategies, so it’s especially important for those of you who are visual learners (like me!).
Here are some examples of financial goals:
- Save $10k for down payment on house
- Save our first $1k for Dave Ramsey’s first Baby Step emergency fund
- Pay off car
Want more information about how to properly set up your budget? Learn how here!