Using a ring binder for budgeting – Part 3

Maryanne is back today with the third post for The Budgeting Project! Grab a cup of coffee or tea and prepare to settle in – she has lots of beautiful photos to share!

The set-up, and how it all works

It took some time, and I actually had to add some more envelopes to the original ones I planned, but finally the system is all set up and ready for me to use and benefit from.

First, let me show you how I have set it up inside the wonderful personal-sized Filofax Savannah.

This is the cover page, with an Art Nouveau-esque design element that matches the envelopes. This is made of the same ivory-colored luxury paper that I use in my own calendar inserts.

01 TBL setup cover
Next I have a flyleaf with a little ladybug on a stalk, in honor of Janet Carr, who owns and writes for the blog This Bug’s Life, and who has sponsored and hosted this project.

02 TBL setup flyleaf janet
I also have another flyleaf, this time with typewriter keys, in honor of J, who blogs at The Crazy Life of J, and who is helping Janet manage this project.

03 TBL setup flyleaf jordan

I don’t feel the need to label these fly leaves. I think it’s more amusing that only people who are familiar with the project will actually know what they stand for if ever they see my setup or photos of my setup elsewhere online.

Next I have the tracking matrix. This is where I put check marks and notes that correspond to each activity that goes on in every envelope.

04 TBL setup matrix 

At the top, a row of boxes stand for the days of the month in which I get paid. For my day job I get paid every 7th, 15th, 22, and end of the month. Therefore, it only makes sense that I put in money for the envelopes on the evening of those days.

The leftmost columns stand for the areas in my life (let’s call them “accounts”) that I need to spend for. On the column immediately to the right of them, I have placed the cash amounts per week that I need to put in. For each payday that I am able to put the amount allocated into the pertinent envelope, I will write a check mark on the box, to remind me that all is well for that account for that particular week. For good measure, I have also added a box for remarks or notes on the rightmost column, just in case I need to remember something about that account. (Sometimes I get a rebate on my broadband and cellphone payments. That’s always a nice detail to note down.)

I made a tracking matrix sheet for each month. I made sheets from October 2013 until January 2014. These are one-sided only so they will be easier and more convenient to archive across the months.

 05 TBL setup matrix 06 TBL setup matrix 07 TBL setup matrix 08 TBL setup matrix

Next we have the envelopes themselves. In the previous blog post I have already discussed my creative — and semi-chaotic — process for this, and I am so happy about how they turned out. The feminine design is so appealing to me, and the font I used for the text is very readable.

 09 TBL setup envelope

Even though I already have the tracking matrix for each month which holds the information I need to use the system, I still included that information in the envelopes, just to make extra sure that I am putting in the correct amount inside the envelopes each time.

The envelopes are exactly 95mm x 171mm in size, and are made out of the same ivory-colored luxury paper that I used for the cover, the fly leaves, and the matrices. I wanted everything to match, in color and design and size. The whole system is also entirely in vertical format, because I did not want to keep turning the Savannah side-to-side. Flipping through binders in a more book-like way is more convenient and comfortable for me.

Here are the envelopes, as they are ordered inside the Savannah.

10 TBL setup envelope

11 TBL setup envelope

12 TBL setup envelope

13 TBL setup envelope

14 TBL setup envelope

15 TBL setup envelope

16 TBL setup envelope

17 TBL setup envelope

In my life, rent, electricity, gasoline, cellphone, broadband, food, groceries, and my regular contribution to my local community greening effort, are my regular expenses.

Rent and broadband bills are pretty much the same every month, but for the other accounts, I sometimes get rebates, and sometimes I don’t use up that much gasoline or spend that much for meals, so I occasionally am able to save from them. Any savings I get from the unused budget for the account gets transferred to a different bank stash. 

The university account is a little bit tricky. The bulk of my expenses will be due upon enrollment, which is every November and June of the year, plus every April if I attend the optional summer term. But since I want the budgeting activity to be even, I will peg the allocation at a fixed amount for now, and just adjust afterwards. Enrollment is scheduled on the first week of November, so I already have funds set aside for that, but I will definitely be needing this envelope during the entire program.

 18 TBL setup envelope university

My emergency fund is something that I am saving up for. It has a bank account all by itself. I plan to put in a fixed amount in it each month, until such time that I have a balance that is equivalent to six months worth of my salary from my day job. This is to cover me in case of sudden change in employment, sudden accidents and medical expenses, sudden car breakdowns, sudden and unplanned travel for work or family, and other such things. This fund will ensure that I don’t get off-schedule in my other accounts in case a contingency comes up.

 19 TBL setup envelope emergency

My long-term savings has always been a dream of mine. From as far back as I can remember, I have always tried to set aside a fixed percentage of my salary as savings, but I could never keep it up. Let’s hope I can keep it up this time, with the help of this system.

 20 TBL setup envelope savings

All of my son’s expenses are already being paid for by his father. But every now and then I like to buy him something nice, and sometimes he also asks me to buy for him something that he does not really need, but would like to have.

 21 TBL setup envelope chandler

As for myself, a smaller amount would do. I don’t really buy much for myself. I have cut down largely on my spending on books since I got my Kindle (ebooks are way cheaper), and I’m neither a shoe person nor a bag person. I’m no gadget freak, either. But every now and then I see something that I know would be good for my soul, and which will last me a lifetime, and this account is for such purchases.

 22 TBL setup envelope indulgence

The envelopes are attached to the rings in a peculiar manner. Instead of hole-punching the edge of the envelopes that do not have the flap closure, I hole-punched exactly the side that has the flap.

 23 TBL setup rings

24 TBL setup rings

This is so that the envelopes will automatically close once they are turned, and there will be no paper bills accidentally falling out.

 25 TBL setup rings

It also means that the fore-edge of the entire system will be neat and aligned, and free of envelope flaps flying about.

 26 TBL setup edge

27 TBL setup edge

I wanted a setup that was neat, clean, easy and very comfortable to access, almost completely relying on my muscle memory of how to hold a book, reliable and secure in holding money, but also beautiful, elegant, and engaging. If budgeting money is important, so are the tools that we are to use in doing it. And I always like my tools to be beautiful, on top of being able to fulfill the purpose for which they were made.

28 TBL setup edge

I think I have pretty much achieved the setup I was going for, with the beautiful envelopes and the matrices inside the equally beautiful Savannah. But how is it actually working for me, after about a week or two of use? 

Let’s see.

Next post: How it’s going for me so far

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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