New! Eligible SoFi members can invest in upcoming IPOs before they’re traded on the public market—only in the SoFi app.* Learn more

How to Create a Budget Binder

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · June 11, 2021 · 5 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

How to Create a Budget Binder

If you’re looking for a simple way to keep better tabs on your money, a budget binder can be a great solution.

A budget binder is essentially a large, three-ring notebook that helps you corral receipts, bills, and financial statements all in one place. It can also help you track where your money is going, and help you set up (and stick to) a simple monthly budget.

A budget binder is fairly easy and inexpensive to set up–in fact, you may already have most of the supplies you need to make one. And, once your binder is set up and ready to go, it can save you a lot of time in the future.

Here’s why you may want to consider going the binder route, and how to create a basic at-home budget binder for yourself or your household.

Benefits of Creating a Budget Binder

If you’ve got receipts bursting out of your wallet, bills stored hither and thither (maybe some paper, some online), and you’re just keeping mental tabs on your spending, your financial life might benefit from a little more organization.

One key benefit of a budget binder is that it can help you keep all the important documents regarding your spending, debt, and savings in one place.

While there are plenty of higher tech financial organization tools (such as spreadsheets and budgeting apps), if you’re more of a visual person, you may prefer to use an old-school, pen-and-paper way to stay on track with your money.

Another benefit of the binder system is that it’s completely customizable. You get to choose what you do and don’t want to include in your binder, and can set up the system in a way that works best for your situation and financial goals.

A budget binder can also help you:

•   Create and stick to a budget
•   Keep track of paychecks
•   Track monthly spending
•   Stick to your savings goals
•   Avoid missing payment due dates for bills and loans
•   Save time searching for financial documents
•   Help ensure that a spouse or partner has the same understanding about joint finances

What You’ll Need to Make a Budget Binder

You can buy premade budget binders, but It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to create your own. A DIY binder can be as simple or fancy as you like. Some items you may need include:

•   A three-ring binder (at least 2”)
•   A three-hole punch
•   Paper
•   Paper clips
•   Binder dividers
•   Three hole binder pockets or folders with pockets

You may also want to create or print out some budgeting worksheets that can help you set up and keep up your money management system.
You can find tons of free printable budget sheets by Googling “free budget printables.” Here are some you may find useful:

•   Budget Worksheet (this is where you can record monthly income and expenses and see where you are netting out each month).
•   Payments due calendar (to help you keep track of bill due dates).
•   Income tracker (to record when and how much you get paid, including any income from side gigs).
•   Expense tracker (to log each time money leaves your wallet or bank account).
•   Debt tracker (to note who you owe, how much you owe, minimum payment amount, and due date).
•   Savings tracker (to record the money you’ve set aside for future expenses and goals).
•   Net worth tracker (to show your assets, such as how much you have in retirement and investment accounts, minus your liabilities).
•   Financial goals (to record what you want to achieve and steps you need to take to get there)

How to Set up a Budget Binder

You can customize your budget binder to include whatever sections, pockets, folders and money management tools you like.

Below are some sections you may want to consider including:

Monthly Budget

You may want to make the front section of your budget binder a place for monthly budget worksheets, one for each month of the year. These are sheets that have a space to log your total monthly income, as well as your monthly spending, broken down into budget categories.

These worksheets can help you see whether you’re making more than you spend, or spending more than you make. The Federal Trade Commission offers a free budget template that can be useful for tracking monthly income and expenses.

You can go to Consumer.gov and download their free “Make a Budget” worksheet.

Expenses

Here you can keep track of and record everyday expenses, collect receipts, and also keep and track all your monthly bills. You may also want to keep a calendar here so you can mark due dates in one easy-to-see place.

Recommended: Budgeting for Basic Living Expenses

Debt

If you have debt, even if it’s just a car payment or mortgage payment, this is a section to keep track of your debt repayment. You may want to set up a paper for each debt and include what your interest rate is and monthly payments.

You can also use this sheet to record each payment, as well as how much is left to pay on the debt.

You can even put your papers in order of which debt you are working to pay off first, second, and so on.

Savings

Here you may want to keep a paper for each savings goal, such as saving for an emergency fund, retirement, college savings, a new car, a home, or any other item or event you are saving for.

On each sheet, you can put the name of the goal, goal amount, and when you hope to achieve that goal amount. You can then record every time you add money.

Other Sections

Depending on your needs, you may want to include other sections (such as insurance or net worth) and also tweak things as you go. The best thing about a binder is that it’s flexible–you can add to it as you need to because every month is different.

Using Your Budget Binder

It can be a good idea to keep your budget binder in a place where you can access it easily and often.

The main difference between a budget binder that works and one that doesn’t is actually sitting down on a regular (ideally weekly) basis to add receipts and bills and log spending.

Regularly checking in with your binder also enables you to see how you are doing with your spending so far that month–and if you need to make any tweaks so that you are able to pay all your bills and also put money away into saving for your goals.

The Takeaway

A budget binder is a place (typically a 3-ring binder) where you can store all of your most important financial information, including your monthly budget, bills, debt, and savings goals.

Having all your key money-related information and papers in one place means you don’t have to scramble to figure out when the utility bill is due or how many car payments you have left.

A budget binder can also help you get a sense of the bigger picture, including how much is coming in and going each month, and where you may need to tweak your spending in order to live within your means and also save for your goals.

If you are looking for more ways to take charge of your budget, a SoFi Money® cash management account may be a good option for you.

With SoFi Money, you can easily see your weekly spending right in the dashboard of the app, which can make it easier to stay on track with your monthly budget.

Learn more about how SoFi Money can help you stay on top of your finances today.



SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SOMN20123

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender