The Crazy Suburban Mom: Filofax and budgeting: Changing money from concept to concrete

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Filofax and budgeting: Changing money from concept to concrete

 I'm pretty disorganized with budgeting and expenses.  I get paid monthly and it has to last until my next check (preferably, with a little left) but over and over I'm really hurting before the next check comes.   October was a TOTAL mess; I overdrew the account  two days before the next check.  And since I didn't shop early for Christmas and was planning on using my November check for gifts, it was especially painful.  

I had to find a solution... and fast.   I gave a lot of thought to what works  money-wise (very little) and what doesn't (almost everything) and came up with several places to begin.  Leaving everything in my checking account and using my debit card exclusively is a #fail because  I can't visualize individual expenses, all I see is my total balance. 

Usually by the beginning of the third week  I realize things aren't going well (yet again) and panic.  My lack of financial planning is constantly stressful, especially when less frequent  or unplanned expenses come due (Amazon Prime, my post office box, doctor visits, prescriptions, Christmas, Birthdays, etc...)

Sorting it all out was depressing and I had to face it,  I'm not good with money, period.  The one bright spot, the one thing I was doing right was getting a months worth of  grocery money in cash every time I got paid.   

I've been doing that about six months and groceries aren't stressful anymore.  I know what I have and it keeps my spending honest.  If I can't find something on sale, I don't buy it unless it's absolutely necessary.   I try to be really careful so I can stock up on especially good sales.  It's much better to buy things I always need at the best price.


Since paying  cash for groceries is the only thing I got going right, I decided to expand the idea.  First, I made a special envelope for the monthly food allowance, totally separating it from random wallet cash.  


Then I made a Christmas envelope. I may expand it to birthday money too but I'm trying not to over plan right out of the gate.  That never works for me.


The next one is for medical expenses. 


And the last one  is for my post office box but I might expand this to include Amazon Prime.

I figured out when things come due, divided by 12 months and came up with how much I need to add monthly to cover the expense.  

Writing things in my Filofax works because it makes ideas/thoughts concrete and paying with cash versus credit cards is similar.  Sliding plastic through a card reader somehow  keeps spending more concept  then reality.  Shopping with cash is very, very real and somehow  painful.  

 My plan is to add other categories, things like wardrobe, personal items (specifically nail polish, I have a huge problem resisting nail polish), office/planner supplies,  and pet care but it's best for me to change slowly and organically.   

I think this will work well for me but I'll report back in a few months.  

Does anyone else use an envelope system to budget?  I'd love to know what works for you!


Alison Reeves 12/30/12, 10:02 AM  

I'm like you and need to figure out a better way to budget, so this post of yours is very timely. I've read about this concept before and think it has a lot going for it. My money comes in spasmodically as I work for myself, but it could be useful to 'ring fence' grocery money more. I'm going to give this some thought.

Tracy Reinhardt 12/30/12, 10:53 AM  

I've read groceries are the best place to start and can make the biggest difference. That's probably right, if you buy a lot of the same things week after week it pays to stock up when things are at their lowest price. Plus the less I go the less I spend, no impulse purchases

HM 12/30/12, 3:38 PM  

I totally understand, I am also rethinking the way I follow my expenses! I took Millie's advice and will try to do it her way this year :

Something that had worked really well for me is to sit down and plan my menus for the coming week (or 2 weeks if i can) and make the grocery list from these menus. Then I go into the store with this plan, I don't need to wander in the aisles, I know what I need! I'll adjust the menus if something is on sale though. Works very well and I've reduced my grocery spending a lot! (I use a A4 sheet, I write the menus at the top, divided by days and meal, and the list below, divided by aisle, this way i see everything. Then i write the final menus in my Filo when i get back home)
Saving more is our challenge for 2013 :) Good luck!

Tracy Reinhardt 12/30/12, 4:30 PM  

HM, I try to plan meals around what's on sale... And I try not to wander aisles - its evil! Gets me spending more.

I should work more on this in 2013 though, plan better


Jackie Desiraye Ramos 12/30/12, 11:47 PM  

I am so loving this idea. I will start implementing for 2013. I am so horrible when it comes to managing my money, it's down right shameful.

Thank you for sharing.

Liz Vee 12/31/12, 12:18 PM  

This concept completely changed my life and helped me pay off about $20,000 in debt in less than 2 years. It's amazing how cash vs. cards can make such a huge difference in the way we spend our money! I look forward to seeing how it works for you :)

Alana Smith 1/1/13, 11:54 AM  

This might spund like a completely dumb question but do you physically put the cash in the envelopes in the filofax?!

DEM 1/1/13, 2:45 PM  

I love this idea. I've been thinking about implementing such a concept for a while. Why not start in 2013! I'll have to think about how to implement it since my main FF stays with me and is on my desk at work.

But this system will work perfectly in my new Finance Filofax that I just set up!

Carla H. 1/1/13, 3:42 PM  

This is such a wonderful idea! With the new year already here, I've been wanting to focus on our finances and really budget (ugh, I hate that word!) this year. I like the envelope idea/using only cash. Thanks for sharing. I must try this.

Kristin Peters 1/1/13, 3:52 PM  

I also menu plan week at a time and shop off the list only. I also write the date a bill is due in my ff to remind me I have to have enough to cover the bill. I spent way too much in 2012. Resolution this year is more restraint for myself. My car will be paid off in August. Praise The Lord !! That will give me a chance to save.

Helen Conway 1/2/13, 6:34 AM  

I have never used actual envelopes and I am a great believer on putting everything on a credit card and paying it off by direct debit every month so there is no interest paid and in fact I get cash back on everything I spend. (Free money!) However, since I was 18 and on a student income I have been using the same logic as your envolopes expect that my budget is written down in 'columns' - a set sum for each category of spending each month. I agree it works a treat and is the key to being debt and mortgage free and having savings. One tip I would add though that really makes this work is to write down what you spend as you spend it. Recently I started to use a chameleon pocket filofax as a wallet and this means I can write things down at once which is so much easier than collecting receipts and doing it later. 1/2/13, 11:55 AM  

My husband is self-employed so our budget is a little more complicated. We split our expenses into bills and household. The bills account gets funded from the business and is for bills only. Then a set amount is put in the household account each week. I don't divide it by categories but I do make a budget at the beginning of the month outlining what I have to do. I don't like using cash but I know I spend less when I do. It's SO easy to use the debit card but so hard to let go of cash. However, when the household money is gone, I'm done.

I shop with a menu plan and grocery list so I do pretty good on groceries. That is my biggest item, though.

Tracy Reinhardt 1/3/13, 6:45 AM  

Jackie Desiraye Ramos - Let me know if it works for you and if you have any ideas!

Tracy Reinhardt 1/3/13, 6:46 AM  

Liz Vee - WOW! I hope it works that well for me!

Tracy Reinhardt 1/3/13, 6:48 AM  

Alana Smith - I do. I'm trying to do only 6 months at a time. The bills I'm saving for aren't huge so there isn't hundreds of dollars in my filofax at any time. And the bills that are yearly I'm doing 6 months at a time

DEM - I agree!

Tracy Reinhardt 1/3/13, 6:50 AM  

Carla H - The new year is such a good time to begin things!

Kristin - I spent way to much last year too.

Helen - I agree that's a great way. It's hard for me to do, but I think that's the easiest, best solution...

Tracy Reinhardt 1/3/13, 6:52 AM  

Homemakers daily - Cash is just harder to spend. You're so right. I found it too easy to overspend with a debit card.


MySummerTouch 1/4/13, 9:15 PM  

So you're doing each envelope for one month?
I would divide each envelope further for each week, I think it is easier to track expences this way.
I've got the idea after watching one video on youtube where someone said that yearly goals are not getting done because the year is too long period. You have to put goals for the period of three months and see how it goes.

Kat 11/23/13, 12:32 AM  

I actually took my tax refund last year and cashed it all out. Then I made an envelope for every week of the year and put $100 in each envelope. This was my grocery money and entertainment money for the year. I would by my groceries and anything left over was what my son and I could use on entertainment that week or we would save it for the next weekend. This worked really well for us up until October when we had some major expenses come through and I had to use the cash. But it was nice to already have the money mapped out for the year and not have to have it come out of my paycheck each month. but you could easily do it each time you get paid.

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