With all these digitals tools around designed to help us manage money, it may seem totally out-of-date to keep track of finances in a notebook… But doing it this way helps me to keep my budget on track, to avoid the temptation of compulsive buying and save some money for small or bigger projects!
So there is nothing that is as regularly tracked than my budget in my bullet journal. My budget management system is pretty simple and based on common sense (and lots of updates), and it of course meets my personal needs.
Let’s start this full step by step review!
Splitting my incomes into areas of expenses
The first thing I did when I started to get my expenses under control was to run a diagnosis of the money I was able to spend every month. I have some fixed expenses (flat rent, telephone and internet subscription…) which are automatically withdrawn from my bank account at the beginning of the month. My monthly budget, (based on my income minus my fixed expenses) is then distributed between various spending areas: groceries, social times, personal projects, clothes shopping, holidays,… And some budget for savings.
This “ideal monthly budget” is updated once a year depending on the evolution of my revenue and my goals.
Creating a running wishlist
My wishlist is essential to keep my expenses on track: every time I want something that costs more than 20€ (stationery, sewing supplies, clothes…) it goes straight to my wishlist. I then evaluate the usefulness of the item giving it a grade from 1 to 4 (1: accessory / 4: super useful). If it occurs that I have some money left at the end of the month, I’m referring to this wishlist and decide (or not) to buy one of the items that are on it, so I can make myself some gifts without feeling guilty!
My wishlist collection: item, provider/shop, level of usefulness, budget needed
This process implies that I have to wait before buying anything that is not groceries. It can be super frustrating sometimes, but it allows me to think twice about it before buying and avoid compulsive buying that I may regret later.
Tracking my expenses
I track my expenses on a monthly spread, in a table that I update regularly. The layout I’m using is pretty simple.
My monthly budget tracking layout from left to right: date, amount, expense category, details
I write down the date, the amount and the purpose of every expense I make. I’m also using the four tiny columns to categorize these expenses: groceries, personal projects, social time or other (the “other” category includes a lot of various things from my cat’s food to train tickets for holidays). This way, I’m able to make a detailed review of my budget for each area of spending, taking the dots in the columns into account (see picture below).
This category system helps me to keep an eye on my areas of spending during the month, having all the information at a glance.
To be honest, I don’t update this collection more than once or twice a week. First reason is that I don’t spend money every day, second one is that it’s not always my top priority!
Monthly budget review
I review my budget collection at the very end of the month. I take time to reflect about how I managed my money and how my budget went for each spending area.
It regularly occurs that some of these budgets are in deficit for one month, or on the contrary remain unaffected. I try to balance everything on a quarterly basis to make sure I stay on the right tracks.
And if I have some money left, there’s still my wishlist to help me figure it out!
Once my monthly review is done, I do an update of my “Finances” spread. This yearly collection allows me to view the evolution of my finances balance on the whole year.
This system works very fine for me. It helps me to keep my budget under control day by day, and let me have a view of my finances as needed.
Writing down each and every euro I spend in my Bullet Journal allows me to keep track of my expenses and to check that I comply with the budget I define for each spending area.
At the end, I’m sure I’ll have enough money to get my projects done and save some for holidays or bigger plans! (and that’s the final goal of keeping a budget!).
– Leuchtturm 1917 : Medium, softcover, squared
– A5 Muji Notebook (squared)
– Erasable Muji pen (0,4)
– Muji pencil
– PaperMate Flair M, black