My Bullet Journal Budget Method

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Get excited everybody! It's pay day! A few years ago, pay day meant I got a nice chunk of spending money for nights out and trips to the food truck. Now I have real-life adult responsibilities to deal with so I have to be more conscious of where my money goes and how much I'm spending. Naturally, I've created a Bullet Journal budget method to help keep my spending in check!

Creating A Monthly Budget

First of all, I have to admit that not all of my budgeting is done in my Bullet Journal. I've been using Mint for several years now to keep track of all my accounts. It's been invaluable for tracking my net income and account balances as well as creating a monthly budget to cover all of my expenses. I highly recommend creating a Mint account as a first step. However, while I love the broad overview Mint gives me, I haven't really been able to make it work on a daily or weekly scale with much success. Instead, I went analog; I now do the rest of my budget tracking in my Bullet Journal.

To start, I always note pay days in my monthly overview with a little green dollar sign, because who doesn't love knowing exactly when somebody is going to throw a bunch of money at you? I also create a budget worksheet in my monthly setup. This is where the magic happens.

My budget worksheet for September. Each pay day has it's own section that includes a checklist and a budget calculation formula.
At the top of my budget page, I write down how much I need for my monthly expenses. This doesn't really change for me from month to month, but it's a nice reference point. I then divide the page in two, since most months I just get two paychecks. Each section has the date of the paycheck, a little worksheet and a task list. I leave all of this blank until the big day -- pay day!

Pay Day!

When I'm creating my weekly spread, I check to see if Friday is a pay day in my monthly overview. If it is, I add a budgeting task to my weekly spread. Once Friday rolls around and my paycheck is deposited into my account it's time to check off that budgeting task!

I start my budgeting by filling out the little math problem on my worksheet. I enter the amount of the paycheck, then subtract half of my monthly budget. By removing half my expenses from my paycheck total I make sure I have enough in my account to cover everything. Next, I subtract how much I want to send to savings. I try to make this amount as big as I possibly can. The remaining amount is how much I can spend on things like food, gas, or any other fun things I want to do! Divide the amount by two and I know how much I can spend weekly.

Easy-peasy pay day budget worksheet, all filled out.
After I've nailed down my numbers I move on to the checklist. Each time I'm paid I make sure I transfer part of my paycheck to savings. When I do that, I also update a spreadsheet I keep that puts all of the money in my savings account into "buckets." I have an emergency fund, property tax savings, and savings for fun things like travel and house projects. A couple simple formulas in the spreadsheet help make sure all the totals are accurate and lets me easily visualize how much money I've saved for each goal.

The last item on my checklist is making sure that all my transactions are categorized properly in Mint. Usually Mint is pretty good about correctly categorizing transactions based on the vendor but occasionally I have to manually categorize things, especially if it's a local business. By keeping all my transactions categorized it makes it really easy to use Mint's spending trend reports and I can be sure they're 100% accurate.

Staying Accountable

Once the big budgeting event on pay day is over, I still do things on a daily level to make sure I'm staying within my spending limit. In my weekly spread I always include a simple grid of blank boxes, one box for every $10 I have in my weekly budget. The weekly spending budget comes from the calculations I did in my pay day budgeting worksheet. Every time I make a purchase, I just fill in the boxes in the grid. Now you might be saying "But my purchases aren't ever even $10 amounts!" and I totally agree, neither are mine. I usually just round up to the nearest $5 amount and fill in half boxes if I need to. If it's a bit over the amount I actually spent, oh well. Just another way to create a little extra savings for that month!

My simple budget tracker on my weekly layout. I fill in one square for every $10 spent.
Finally, at the end of each week I return to my budget worksheet for that pay period. If I have some of my weekly spending allotment that I didn't spend, I enter that amount in the "Leftover" section. When I do the next pay day worksheet, I total up the previous two week's leftover amounts and transfer that amount to savings in addition to what I'm saving from my paycheck. This is a great way to find some extra money to put toward savings goals or outstanding loans like mortgages or car loans!
And that's all there is to it folks! Just a few simple tasks incorporated into my routine keep me accountable for my spending and help me save as much as possible each month.
What other tricks, trackers and layouts do you have to help you create and maintain a budget?
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