First of all, if you read this title and thought you couldn’t budget, or that you’re bad at handling money, then you are 100% wrong my friend! Everyone can handle money, save money and budget accordingly. You just need the right method, and for me, this is included in my bullet journal.
How to budget
The most important part of managing money is to set yourself a budget and stick to it. There’s no point sticking your fingers in your ears and ignoring all of your bank statements, or you’ll just feel worse when you look at one! I budget monthly as this is short-term enough to be realistic but long term enough to have a lasting impact on my finances.
You can budget yearly if you want to, but this should really be more of an overview (e.g. yearly salary vs. yearly outgoings on rent) than an actual budget tracker. As an initial place to start, I recommend keeping all your receipts for a month; you’d be surprised how much money you spend just on food!
I won’t go into exact amounts, or even vague amounts, of how much you SHOULD be spending and on what, because it really varies for everyone. I’m a single university student, so my income is pittance and my expenses on textbooks are astronomical. If you’re a married mum of three then your budget will look very different to mine! The rough categories (in descending order of size) that I split my budget into are: tuition fees, rent, bills, food, my emergency savings fund, travel, luxuries and anything left over goes into savings.
Monthly budgeting: needs vs. wants
At the start of the month, I set up my monthly budget page (below) and then set out all of my expected income and expenses for the month. Income is always a smaller box than expenses because that way it forces me to confront everything I spend money on! I’ll write out my expected income and its source, and then when it arrives I write in the actual amount. Similarly, I split out my expenses into Needs (i.e. rent, bills, food) and set myself an expected amount for how much these will each cost over the course of the month.
To get an idea of how much I normally spend on food and other items that don’t have a set price (such as toiletries, medicine etc) I keep all of my receipts for the month in the back pocket of my bujo or in a clear plastic folder at home, and record all of my expenses for the previous month. Then I compare this to my basic grocery list and online shopping records, so that I can set myself a monthly amount to try and stick to. If I feel like I can spend less this month than last month by cutting corners and tightening my belt a little, then I’ll set the “expected” amount a little lower.
In the “Wants” section of my expenses I’ll write down any items from my wishlist that I want that month, and how much they’re likely to cost. It’s not often that I actually buy something from my wishlist, so this list can also include things such as alcohol, non-essential clothes and makeup. I also write down my “savings” and set myself a goal for that month (e.g. £50).
On the opposite page is my total expenses log for the month, where I’ll record every important transaction, whether income or expenditure, so that I can copy the actual amounts into the income/expenses spread. This also keeps me accountable and forces me to copy up receipts! This spread isn’t for everyone as it’s very comprehensive, but it works for me.
If you’re just starting out budgeting, then this page might be really helpful to show you exactly what you’re spending your money on! At the end of the month, you can include a detailed review and breakdown of how much money was spent and on what.
I also note down expenses in my dailies when I remember to, and keep a mini-budget in each weekly review page. Finding a method that works for you can be a process in itself, but I feel like it’s easier to start out writing everything on one page rather than scattering payments around dailies and then struggling to locate them at the end of the week/month.
Finally: don’t panic!
I hope that you found this blog post helpful, and not too overwhelming, as budgeting can sometimes be! As a final tip I would recommend using a mobile banking app on your phone so that you can keep an eye on the goings on in your bank account without even leaving the house. I’ve found them incredibly helpful in keeping track of regular payments (e.g. student loans), plus it can help you to notice and report any suspicious activity.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, and tag me on Instagram if you have bujo budgeting spreads of your own!