5 Printable Budget Planners That Can Save Your Finances (and Your Sanity)!

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5 printable budget planners to save your finances

The top 5 budgeting methods turned into simple and easy printable budget planners. Just print & go!

I find that so many times, I read about a good idea, something I want to try, and I end up making it a lot harder than it needs to be! I see a recipe for the best bread to make with kiddos, and I go out and try to figure out how to get the grain to grind into flour to make the bread!

Drastic? Yes! Just plain silly? Yes! I make things a lot harder than I need to. Just buy the dang flour! We will get great results from using regular flour.

Do you ever make things harder than they need to be?

The same example could be used for budgeting, and specifically the actual budget planner. People grab spiral notebooks, scratch paper, napkins, or whatever to write it all down. They think it’s great and tell themselves budgeting is easy. Then they realize through the month that their budget is missing a bunch of things, and the layout doesn’t make sense, and before you know it…

“I hate budgeting! It doesn’t work for me!”  

When in all actuality, you just had to go a bit deeper and find a printable budget planner (aka just buy the flour). These are already tried and tested forms from money nerds who might be slight perfectionists when it comes to their nerdom. Now that you found the budget templates, you need to find the best budget planner to get started on today!

5 printable budget planners to save your sanity

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Why are there different budgeting methods?

Just as someone likes to read a book, others like to read magazines or in their kindle app. Some people like strict guidelines, and others like some wiggle room. It’s all personal preference and what works for your personal situation.

As a budgeting beginner, you may want to try a few different budgeting methods and see what you find to be the best.

The information you put on the form will be the same dollar amounts. Yet, it will be in a different layout with different budget planners, with importance placed on different elements.

For example, some budgets place saving money as a priority, and some don’t. With some, you spend your money in cash, and with others, you can use whatever you want.

Having options ensures that you will find the best fit for you!

What makes a monthly budgeting planner the “best”?

Some key things make a method the “best” for you. But remember, it may not be the best for your friend. So don’t try to force something that isn’t working for you!

Your budget planner should…

  • Be on one page so you can see everything at once (don’t overcomplicate it).
  • Have you come out to $0 at the end of the month or a positive number. Constantly overspending your budget isn’t good.
  • Be tweaked! Nothing is a perfect fit on the first try. It may take you a few months to get all the kinks smoothed out.
  • Not confuse you or be too complicated. If it takes you half a day to plan your budget, then something isn’t right.
  • Reflect your financial goals! If your goal is to save to buy a house, then why is your clothing budget $200 a month?

When should you switch budgeting methods?

It’s time to try a different method when…

  • You are hating your money life
  • You have no idea what’s going on with your money
  • You are constantly overspending

That will be the key with all of the budgets! That you come out at the end of the month with a $0 or a positive number! If you are continually overspending, it may not be a “budget problem,” but an “I want everything” issue that you’d need to dig in to.

Heck, it would be great to afford everything that we wanted, but that’s probably not possible for 99.9999998% of us!  (dang it!)

Remember, almost every budget will need to be tweaked and adjusted. Nothing comes out perfect the first time! By month 3, you should have it down (if it’s a good method for you).

Sometimes you don’t need to switch budgeting methods, you just need to switch out your tools. A great tool can be a physical budget planner, like the mini books, or folios. These planners help guide down a path, and can be a great resource to help broaden your financial perspective!

Simple monthly printable budget planner

The simple monthly budget planner is as simple & easy as it gets in regards to a printable budget planner. You take income minus savings, minus debt repayments, minus the items you must spend, and then you have your discretionary spending.

There aren’t any preset spending categories to confuse you or add fluff. The main point being you lead the way with specific expenditures and savings buckets!

All you need to do is make sure that the bottom left-hand section, the Monthly Budget Snapshop, has a positive number (or $0) as the last number in the actual column.  

simple budget printable budget planner pages

Cash envelope printable budget planner

Earlier, I mentioned financial goals, and if you those, you most likely will need to be saving money. My very favorite way to save money is through sinking funds!  One of the easiest ways to do this is through cash envelopes!

In a nutshell, you say, “I want to go on vacation.” So each payday, you portion out a set amount of money directly into your vacation fund (a separate bank account ideally). Then in a few months or a year, depending on where you want to go, you will have the money saved! Sinking Funds use a Pay Yourself First model, as you pay your sinking funds before paying any discretionary bills. Here, your goals are your most important financial obligation!

The cash envelope printable budget planner for sinking funds considers this. The very first section, after your income, are your SF’s! This is important, as you want your must spends at the top of the list (while there’s money left), and then the least important expenses are down at the bottom of the list.

I know this goes against traditional budgeting methods, where you pay your bills first. But honestly, if that were working so well, then 37% of Americans wouldn’t be in credit card debt (source).

If you want a different result, you need to try a new way of doing things!

cash envelope printable budget planner pages

The zero-based budget planner

The zero-based budget method is the method that I personally use for my family. I have combined a bunch of different practices into this one method, and it absolutely works! I have detailed the process out more in Part 4 of your Ultimate Guide on How to Budget – it’s a Better Budget.

**If you want the full step by step guide, the Better Budget is what you’ll want. But if you’re looking for just a zero-based budget form (with no step by step guide) then this works great!

With a zero-based budget, as the money guru, Dave Ramsey says, “You give every dollar a job!” Because each and every dollar could be earning you money or putting you closer to your goals! No sense in leaving money out there to do nothing!

This printable budget planner lays out the most common spending categories, which is great as then you don’t forget any of your bills (either regular or one-off bills, like an Amazon subscription or your gym annual fee).  

You start with income and then work your way down the line until you have everything filled out. This form has the spending categories and line items set up in a very specific order. The items at the top are things you must spend money on. As you go down the list and get to the bottom, the items are more non-necessity expenses (aka things to cut if you don’t have enough money).

Then at the very bottom of the sheet, your total should be $0. If it’s negative, then check your math; if it’s not positive or zero a second time, then it’s time to trim the budget! If it’s a positive number, then putting extra in your savings is always a good idea! Especially if you don’t have a fully-funded emergency account.

zero based budget printable budget planner

Again, if you’re looking for the full meal deal of budgets (with all the bells & whistles) then go here to check out the Better Budget!

The 50/30/20 printable budget planner

The 50/30/20 Budget Planner is a great method to start with, especially if you’re just getting started with budgeting and want a general picture of where your money “should” be going. I say should because this is a framework that multiple experts agree upon.

Yes, it’s your money, you earned it, so you should be able to do what you want with it. Yet, you came here for guidance, so I’m going to give you the generally accepted norms for budgeting percentages.

With the 50/30/20 budget, you like a framework but still want flexibility.  

You input your monthly take-home income at the top (not gross) and then dole out…

50% for needs 

  • housing
  • utilities
  • insurance
  • debt minimum payments
  • food

30% for wants

  • subscriptions
  • gym
  • eating out
  • clothes

20% for savings

  • 401(k)
  • IRA
  • emergency fund
50/30/20 budget printable budget planner pages

The budget by paycheck printable budget planner

The budget by paycheck planner method is simply dividing your month (the income, bills & expenses) in two. Instead of a full one month budget, you have two mini month budgets (approx 2 weeks).

Unlike the others, this method may mean that you call some of your credit cards and bill companies and ask them to move your bill “due by date.” Which is totally common! Don’t think that you are stuck with the exact date they gave you!  

With this method, you would ideally take your total bill amount for the entire month and have 1/2 of them (by dollar amount, not by the number of bills) due at the beginning of the month and then half at the end of the month. This way, you always have money left over from paying bills, and you never have too much month left and not enough money.  

I know it can sound confusing, but having a monthly calendar and writing in your bills can make it much easier to understand. Remember, we all learn in different ways! Be it auditory (reading this blog out loud so you can hear it), simply reading it, by watching someone else do it, or by actively doing it (kinesthetic learning).  

Sometimes, if a concept is confusing at first, I will read it a few times. Then do something else for a few hours (or a few days) and let it marinate in my brain a bit. In the background of doing other things, my brain continues to process this info, and eventually (hopefully), when I come back to it, it makes more sense. OR, I think of a different way to ask my question, which pops up a new and different answer!

budget by paycheck printable budget planner pages

My best advice on which is the best budget planner

If you’re brand new to budgeting and don’t have an immediate need (aka bank collectors are at your door), then try the 50/30/20. It’s a great place to start because it gives good common-sense guidelines on spending amounts by a percentage of your income.

Yet, if you’ve tried budgeting before, and ended up frustrated and annoyed, then maybe it wasn’t a “you” problem. Maybe it was just the budgeting method you tried. Remember, even those that find the “right” way for them have to do it still do a decent amount of tweaking in the first three months, and then they find a rhythm and pattern.

An easy way to find the best budget planner is to try them all! Seriously, just grab the printable Budget Planner Sampler Pack, grab your financial numbers, fill out the printable budget planners, and see which form…

  • Makes the most sense to you
  • One that you will be likely to stick to in the long run
  • Isn’t too complicated for your lifestyle
  • Keeps your financial goals up in front

The printable Beginning Budgeter’s Planner Sampler Pack has each of these budget templates in there so you can try them out. I’ve made this pack so it would be super easy for you to experiment with budgeting and finally find the right fit. I fully believe in the corny saying…

“If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.”   (ya, super corny, but it fits!)

beginning budgeter's budget sample pack printable budget pages

For the DIY budgeters

I get it, I totally do. Sometimes you just need to put pen to paper and scratch it out on your own. Yet, you can still grab my free budgeting templates, which has 13 pages of free printable worksheets for you to get started!

At the end of the day

Budgeting can be hard initially, especially when you feel like you don’t “get it.” But I am living proof that anyone can learn about and master their money! (I used to buy shoes like they were tic tacs!) I found some ways that worked for me, Googled a bunch of stuff, I used available resources, and I practiced and practiced some more!

Again, there’s no need to make things harder than they need to be. Be smart and use things that others have already worked the kinks out of! Using a printable budget planner could mean that you get the hang of things 6 months sooner, and you reach your financial goals that much sooner! So do it! Buy the dang flour! 

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It doesn’t matter which printable monthly budget planner you try, just start! Start right now!

Source: moneyforthemamas.com

How to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending in Your Budget

With so many of us dealing with the coronavirus pandemic (plus the financial fallout from it) and spending more time at home this year, there’s a very good chance your family budget looks different. Our own budget had some big adjustments (transportation costs went down to basically nothing) along with some minor changes (buying supplies and items around the house for projects).

Our money dates have had us reevaluate some things and redirect money to other expenses and savings. Besides making sure that you’re taking care of essential expenses and building up your financial cushion, you want to want to make sure you include another key area in your budget – some guilt-free spending in there as well.

Why Budgets Need to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending

First off what exactly is guilt-free spending? And why should families include it when planning out their budget. Basically, it covers the expenses that you enjoy. Every family has different ways they use that money. It could be travel, eating out together, adding another pair of shoes to your collection, or gadgets. With families having to deal with so many decisions and challenges, there has been an increasing awareness of having proper self-care as part of the routine. Families are now including that in their budgets.

The key part of keeping these expenses guilt-free is that they bring you joy without breaking the bank. These aren’t frivolous spending sprees. They can be meaningful purchases such as supplies for a hobby like painting that enriches your life. Second, these expenses are planned ahead of time and baked into your budget so you’re not taking on debt or upsetting your family’s cash flow.

Why Budgets Typically Fail

One of the reasons why I think having some fun money in your budget is a wise move is because it’ll help make your budget more sustainable. How? If I asked you what the point of a budget is, what would you say? Most tell me it’s to keep their spending in check.

It makes sense to believe that because for most families that’s what it’s about – restrictions. However, the best budgets I’ve seen are geared towards the direction of the money. I’ve interviewed families who have retired early or have knocked out a ton of debt and something they had in common was that their budgets reflected their priorities and circumstances.

Before they put pen to paper (or tap the app), they sat down and defined what goals they wanted to achieve. If you had to break down a budget the three key areas are basically:

  1. Paying your essential bills.
  2. Building long term financial stability.
  3. Have the money you can use now to enjoy.

Many times, the disagreements, arguments, and sometimes sabotage with budgets come from friction on finding a balance between spending money with long term stability and enjoying now. If you skew too much to saving up for the future, one or more of you in the family could start getting resentful. Financial infidelity or set back with keeping the budget can occur for many reasons, but some spouses say one reason is there’s absolutely no wiggle room in the budget for fun. If you’re only focused on the now when something comes up – hello 2020! – you’re left without a safety net.

For families with kids, that’s an additional source of stress they don’t need. I noticed that the families who hit their goals had found a way to balance things. They save towards their long term goals as well as set aside money to enjoy now. How? By redoing how they approached their budgets.

Easy Budget Framework to Use

Let’s go back to those three key goals of any budget – taking care of essentials, saving for the future, and spending on the present. Families looking to include all of these goals need a budget that can weave them together. If you’re just starting out with a budget and are still trying to figure out a framework, an easy foundational budget is the 50/20/30 budget. It divides up your money into those three key goals, with 50% going to necessary expenses, 20% towards financial stability and wealth, and 30% towards discretionary or fun money.

Feel free to adjust the percentages based on your circumstances, but for many families that three-bucket approach is easy enough to set up and it gives them enough wiggle room where there can enjoy some of their money now. Once you’ve created that budget, you can then take the next step – automating your money. We’ve done this for over a decade and it has been incredibly helpful. We have our bills automated every paycheck plus our savings and investments are scheduled monthly. With those necessary things taken care of first, we know whatever spending we do won’t harm our expenses.

Staying on Top of Your and Budget – The Easy Way

Now that you have a budget and you’re including some guilt-free spending, how do you make sure you’re staying on track? There are some wonderful options out there including money apps like Mint. You can stay on top of your money without losing your mind because the apps can pull that data from your accounts and give you an easy and clear way to see where your money is going. You can also use Mint to track your goals like paying down debt or saving up for a house. With that information in front of you can quickly and easily see how you’re doing anytime.

Another handy tool with Mint is how simple it is to set up alerts on certain spending. So if you have set aside $200 for your ‘fun’ account, Mint can notify you when your spending is getting close to your limit. It’s a more proactive and real-time way to manage your money without having to worry about every single penny.

Your Take on Budgets

As you can see, with a little planning you can be financially savvy and enjoy some fun now. I’d love to get your thoughts – how do you approach your budget? What are some must-have expenses in yours?

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Source: mint.intuit.com