The Budget Binder

Our Budget Binder!

Truthfully, I never thought I would be the kind of person who said “Hey, take a look at my BUDGET BINDER!”  Never, not in a million years.

However, focusing on debt in a positive way for us has been very freeing and liberating.  Instead of feeling shame when I think of our finances, I feel like we are getting somewhere and fighting the battle.  Instead of shame, I see hope and a future that would have never happened without these changes.

I suppose that my lack of attention to detail, and the way I allowed that to get us in to a kind of mess is why I created a debt binder.  As much as I would love to actually show you all of the individual numbers and what’s going on there, sorry, right now, it’s just a bit too personal.  However, I am going to share with you my layout and the way I keep track of everything.  It is all stored in a 3 ring binder with loose-leaf paper.

Page 1 is a Table of Contents.  All of our bills are listed in the debt snowball order- smallest to largest by debtor.  I also have account numbers on this page because multiple bills are due to the same people, but have different account numbers.  Psycho billing departments!

The next portion of pages in the notebook are each of the debts listed out individually.  I have included the debtor at the top, the account number, the telephone number (if I have it), the mailing address and the total amount of the debt.  I then draw a line and leave room to TAKE NOTES and keep a ledger of check numbers, payments made, and a running total.  I keep all of these pages paperclipped together- mostly because I am out of divider tabs and don’t see the point in paying money for 2-3 tabs.  When the debt is paid off, I fold the page down from the right corner, but leave it all in the notebook.

At the end of the notebook, I write out our monthly budgets.  I have income, weekly expenses and monthly expenses written down into 3 columns.  I copy all of the bills from month to month to the next page to keep track of it all.

Last, I have an additional large calendar that is in a spiral notebook.  One of the insurance companies we sell at the office gives these away as swag at the beginning of the year.  Ummm, I LOVE IT and get so excited when we get new ones.  I use that calendar to keep track of who gets paid when and what is due out of each check.  I also write down how much we’re going to transfer into savings and on what date.

The process is a bit tedious, I won’t fib about that, but given my lack of care in the past, I want to make sure I am as detailed as possible when it comes to record keeping.  This also forces me to triple check myself as I am paying bills to make sure I don’t miss anything!  Personally, this system works great for me and I feel like I accomplish more with this than I have in the past with computer programs.  I am also able to pick it up and carry it with me so if I am not napping in my car at lunch I can budget or make business related phone calls if I have the need.


What is your bill paying system?  Do you have any tips or tricks to make it easier?




How a File Cabinet is Saving My Sanity

I know I have posted before about my bill shoe box.  When I became overwhelmed with the medical bills coming in, I shoved them all in a shoebox.  I didn’t even open them.  NOT ONE.  I’ve had A LOT of financial trauma in my life, and because of it, I like to occasionally pretend like it doesn’t exist, and I don’t have to deal with it.  Unfortunately, when that happens, you do stupid stuff, like discover 1 year later that you have a bill in collections for $2.62.  Hey!  I said it was stupid.

At Christmas time in 2012, as the family was doing the annual “is there anything you would like for Christmas?” telephone rounds, I knew exactly what I wanted.  I wanted those piles of papers to disappear.  I wanted to be able to FIND those pieces of paper, because I also added an empty Wal-Mart bag to my amazing bill storage methods.  I asked for a file cabinet and for a fire safe box.

This year, I decided to make it official and get my butt in gear regarding the debt.  I couldn’t take it anymore, and it was time to get a handle on it.  I was certainly prompted by my husband’s job loss, and since he was at home, I sent him a text asking him to finally get it set up for me.  Now, with it right by my desk, I have access to it any time I need anything.

I set it up in what I consider an unconventional order.  I actually have my files in debt snowball order.  Setting up my cabinet this way allows me to easily look in and know which bill gets any “extra” money from our budget or what bill has gained the new snowball amount.  The bill in the front, gets the biggest payment because it’s the smallest debt.

The one bill that has been paid off so far is now in an individual folder with the information of the debtor, and inside a hanging folder labeled “Paid Off”.  The back of the top drawer also has homeowners insurance information, car insurance, records for vaccinations on the dogs, and “other”.  I haven’t had to use the second drawer yet.

This system is making it incredibly easy for me to file the mail as it comes in.

How a File Cabinet is Saving My Sanity

I grab all of the bills and carry them to my desk.

I then open them all up and save their matching envelopes.

Each bill goes into the front of its folder inside its hanging file.

On the budgeted payday, I start at the front and work my way through each bill since I know exactly how much I am sending them.

As I pay a bill, I write it down on a tracking sheet inside the individual folder AND in my debt binder with the date, how much was paid, the check number and the day I mail the check.

If I do not have a new bill and envelope, I write out all of those by hand.

My paper piles have certainly dwindled except for the tiny one on my desk as new bills come in.  I can find anything the exact minute I need it, and it all makes bill paying a lot less stressful!

Do you use a file cabinet?  If so, what’s your method?



Many Lives Have Been Lost in Arkansas Tonight

I cannot begin to express the horror and sadness that has gripped me this evening.  As far as I know, all of my family and friends are safe.  However, many people lost their lives to a devastating tornado in Central Arkansas.  According to reports, the tornado was 1/2 a mile wide and hit the towns of Mayflower and Violnia, Arkansas.  Someone took video of the damage and posted it on Facebook.  It hit drivers who were on the Interstate at the time.  I’m certain the sound of children screaming while trapped in vehicles will be stuck in my head for some time to come.  (I won’t post that video.  Suffice it to say, I cried and it looks like a war zone.)

The damage is horrid.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this tornado rates as an F-4 and possibly even an F-5.  There are more storms on the way here in the early morning hours tomorrow.

If you do one thing tonight, any one thing, I ask you hug a loved one and make sure they know how much you love them.  It only takes a fraction of a second to change lives forever.

Aerial Video from a drone of the damage in one area that was hit.

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Mother’s Day gift ideas!

Mother’s Day in the U.S (Yes, I have to keep track in two countries because the U.K. Mother’s Day is earlier in the year) is in TWO WEEKS!  Have you started shopping yet?  Do you need some ideas?  I have over 32 ideas on a Pinterest board to mak shopping super easy for you!  Check it out!

Here are some of my favorites!

A Spring time wreath made out of fun fur!  So adorable!- Original Link

To help Mom out with laundry!  I LOVE THIS!- Original

Flattery will get you everywhere!- Original

Homemade kids craft!  Too cute!- Original

I hope you find something you really enjoy and don’t forget to tell your mother how much she rocks!


The 31 Day No Spending Challenge- May 2014

If you are working on frugal habits and making life awesome while living well, you’re missing out if you’re not reading Living Well Spending Less.  Ruth runs a monthly NO Spending Challenge on her blog with a Facebook support group.  When I first saw this challenge all I could think was “NO WAY!  That has to be nearly impossible and we’ve already cut back so much!”  However, that was when my husband was looking for a new job and we had cut back.

I’ve been seeing a small trend again with my husband back to work.  We’ve been eating out a bit more and nickel and diming ourselves more than before.  I haven’t been working as hard at the budget and I haven’t been really planning things out.  Conquering our finances is priority #1 for us this year and I don’t want to see us fall back in to bad habits.  My poor car is in horrid shape right now, it needs new tires, and my Christmas present was a broken windshield from a fallen tree branch.  Both of these are safety concerns for me and both need to be handled ASAP!  I’ve been really thinking about our budget and what we can change. But…I thought my husband wouldn’t be willing to try.

I need to give my husband more credit for being on board with this.  You see, I’m the nerd and my husband is the spender.  He likes to claim he’s not, BUT HE IS. (Love you babe!)  A month ago I bet him $20.00 out of our budget that he couldn’t keep $3.00 cash in his wallet for a month without spending it.  He has a slight vending machine addiction.  When I found out there was a vending machine at his work I knew the deck was stacked in my favor.  He proved me wrong when he politely informed me  rubbed my face in the fact that he still had $3.00 a month later and I owed him a $20.00.  I suggested the 31 Day No Spending Challenge to him and he was all for it.

May is the last month we will be without health insurance (WOOHOO!), and all of our insurance will come out of his checks.  So, it’s the last month we will have to really put everything we make towards finishing off the emergency fund and really digging in to our debt.  Here is how it will work for us:

31 Days of Zero Spending

I will spend my next paycheck paying off some final smaller regular bills.

We will do a HUGE shopping trip.  Unfortunately, our stockpile is pretty small at the moment because we have been VERY frugally grocery shopping.  I will have to bulk up the pantry a bit for us to get through the month.  I am also going to make sure our normal temptations are in the pantry so we don’t cheat!

I am going to give us $100.00 for the month in groceries -$25.00 a week for fresh fruits and veggies, milk, and other items that can spoil.  I hope we can stay well under that budget, but we have to have food!

This is the big one, We’re going to quit smoking.  I don’t even want to admit how much money we spend on cigarettes per month.  No lectures please, we know all the other reasons to quit! We’ve heard it all before. However, looking at the actual budgeted number that we are spending each month makes me sick to my stomach.   I also apologize in advance for any random tirades I may have the next month.  I’ve quit cold turkey before and handled it fairly well, but it’s not easy!

We will budget for Mother’s Day and for something small on Memorial Day, it might only be hot dogs on the grill, but we’re celebrating!

Absolutely ZERO dollars will be spent on eating out, coffee, or ice cream.  My hubby will also have a strict soda budget and if he runs out, then he’s out.  He should probably save his $20.00 “prize money” for that!

I may also break my “I don’t really post recipes rule” for this month.  There is going to be a lot of cooking going on around here!

If all goes well, I am estimating (I haven’t done the math yet) we will be able to save almost $500.00 in a month.  There is a possibility there could be another $300-400 because my husband gets paid 3 times in May.

Is anyone else interested in taking this challenge with us?

Pssssst! Hey you there! I have a goal to reach 100 Facebook and Blog followers by the end of April! Would you help me out with that? Just look to your right and click the links to follow me by email or on Facebook! I would love to see you there and to meet this goal! Thank you for helping out!