There really is no better time than the present to get your finances in order and create a realistic budget and plan. Without a budget or a plan you set yourself up for failure in so many ways, but the long term failure is the one that freaks me out the most!! I know too many people who live in a constant debt cycle. Where they incur debt and then actually pay it off only to have incurred new debt along the way or shortly after. When I say " I know" I really mean it because this has been a struggle for my husband and I as we have managed and miss-managed our finances over the last nearly 8 years of marriage. It surly isn't an easy thing to admit that you got it wrong. But understanding you have a problem is the first order of business before you can begin to correct it and dig yourself out of a mountain of debt!
Disclaimer this post contains affiliate links.
Right before purchasing our first home my husband and I lived very frugally and during this time we were able to get 100% out of debt. But before even closing on our house, we had incurred new debts. We lived under the false pretense that if we just put the new fridge and sectional on the credit card we would have it paid off in no time. After all we actually had the money in our savings account to do just that. But we were waiting until our house closed before doing so just in case. We moved into our home and as it does new expenses began to come in. Small things, that very quickly added up and before we knew it the savings we had worked so hard for was gone and the credit card balance had not been taken care of.
We have come to the realization the we are not the type that have the discipline to manage credit cards effectively. This has been made prevalent over and over as we justify purchases made on cards thinking we will pay them back right away, and then life happens and the debt stays much too long. So we have eliminated using credit cards 100%. So how did we decided to end this cycle of debt and begin to live differently?
Well its been a long process one that we are continuously striving to do better at but in the last 2 years we have really made a huge dent in our debt and made some changes that have directly impacted how we have been able to do that!
Disclaimer: I am not at all an expert when it comes to finances or budgeting and do not claim to be whatsoever. These are just some tips that have greatly impacted my family and helped us stay on track with our budget and get out of debt and I hope that they may also help provide you with some assistance as well.
Zero Based Budget
Write down every single expense you have, weather it be monthly or less frequent. We started here and tallied up the total starting with just the monthly expenses. It was evident that our monthly expenses way exceeded our monthly income so it was time to trim the fat. I canceled several subscriptions and cut back on others I also called our phone and internet services and negotiated a lower payment. Unfortunately this also meant that the amount that we were currently paying extra on debt each month needed to be decreased or there was no way we were going to live within our means. This is exactly what is so scary about not knowing your budget. You can very easily be spending way more than you make each month even if your spending is admirable and going towards debt. However it makes no sense if you happen to be digging a deeper hole in the mean time!
Thankfully we came up with a plan and a complete budget for each month. It includes all of our monthly expenses, a set grocery budget for every 2 weeks, an "extra" budget which is $100 for miscellaneous items and expenses and other less traceable expenses like eating out which is sometimes unavoidable while my husband works, and other little things that we all know happen month to month. This budget is LESS than the entire income we bring home each month. Leaving room for us to make progress on our debts with the excess. This is why it is called a zero based budget. At the end there is not a single dollar un-accounted for. You budget for your necessities and anything left goes automatically towards debt.
We track our expenses using the Bi-weekly bill tracker(shown above) I am sharing with you today. I have actually used this printable and typed out our set in stone monthly expenses under "Payment Type " and in the "typical payment" category typed in our expenses we have budgeted for each one. This category is our actual budget and what we strive for every pay period.
We sit down each payday and go over these expenses and make sure we are staying within our means and can adjust anything if absolutely necessary, but most of the time it goes unchanged. I have printed out dozens of these pre-filled out for my families budget so we can stay on track. Then we go in and write in by hand the "actual payment" made for each one throughout the month. I keep it on our fridge to help keep this consistent and easy to fill in. Most are the same month to month but things like our grocery budget which is accounted for and miscellaneous expenses which is also budgeted for vary each time. this keeps us knowing what there actually is to spend and not go over budget. It also helps us put more towards debt in the case that there is a surplus.
TIP: If you have access to grocery pick up where you can shop online and pre pay for your groceries and then go pick them up this is a game changer for your grocery spending! I use Fry's just because it's convenient and easy. I sit down each pay period and write out a meal plan for my family. I then go in and fill up my cart online. Its so easy to eliminate extras of items or slim down my cart once I have put in all that I "think" we need. This has been key to helping us stay on budget. A meal plan is also key to making sure that your family is fed!! So don't forget to plan precisely or you may stay in budget, but end up needing to head back to the store because you don't have "enough". I can stay within 5 dollars of my budget every time using this system. Before It was so easy to spend $50 or $100 dollars more than my budget by getting excited and frivolous while at the store and stocking my cart with things we really didn't need.
Before I dive into paying off debt I want to share with you a very smart way to also account for those purchases that come up less frequently and don't fall into the monthly payment category. These I call "allocated funds" in other words they are savings accounts that we pay into each paycheck. They account for lots of things, all of which are necessary expenses that will happen at sometime through out the year and wouldn't otherwise fit into our budget on the fly. For instance our Christmas fund.
This includes a set amount for each member of our family, as well as the other gifts we give to extended family each year. We calculated the total we needed to save to be prepared come Christmas time and then divided that number by the amount of paychecks we have each year. Each pay day we have an automatic deposit that goes from our checking directly to that savings account. Come Christmas time we don't have to charge our credit cards to cover the gifts we intend to buy. This also helps us keep on a budget and helps us purchase only the amount per person that we have accounted for all year.
These accounts you can adjust and re-adjust with each year depending on where you are with your finances and family. Here is a list of our Allotted Funds that we have set up each as different savings accounts. Yes this may seem like an excessive amount of savings accounts but it has made all the difference! We no longer have that conversation "what card do I use or how are we going to pay for this" when certain expenses arise and that is the greatest peace of mind.
Allotted Fund Accounts:
- Family Birthday Fund (My kids husband and I)
- Extended Family/Friend Birthday Fund (cousins, aunts uncles etc.)
- Christmas Fund (also includes teacher gifts and extended family gifts)
- HOA (house fee's that are due quarterly)
- Car Insurance (we pay every 6 months upfront and save quite a bit of money doing so)
- Back to School (covers supplies, clothing etc.)
- Medical Fund (covers co pays I know for sure we will pay and medicine I know we will purchase regularly from the pharmacy, as well as leaving extra for "sick visits and emergencies etc.)
- Clothing Fund (a fund for both my husband and I to purchase new clothes throughout the year for work or leisure) We currently don't pay into this account since its not a necessity and our main goal is to get out of debt! I don't included kids clothes in this because they are a necessity and get covered in our Christmas and Back to School Funds.
- House and Car Maintenance and repair funds- This we keep enough to cover the unexpected cost of a single new appliance (about $600) and then extra for oil changes or other repairs that may happen.
- Pest Control (this we only have done quarterly so its easier to pay for it this way)
- Pets- Unexpected pet bills and regular needs such as teeth cleaning etc. Their food is budgeted into our bi-weekly grocery bill therefore not accounted here.
- Taxes-Since we have both personal and business taxes we have them prepared each year. This covers that cost. If we were to also owe taxes each year this would also be the place to save for that.
When you begin to look at the above expenses as things that are going to occur at sometime throughout the year and take them on as you do your monthly budget instead of coming up empty handed when they do indeed occur, you can ensure that you are staying debt free and have a plan in place to cover each expense. The total amount in each account is totally up to you and your family needs you can choose to adjust these expenses as you see fit but I would highly consider adding allocated funds to your weekly budget to keep you on track! These are also just the ones that my family uses you can have an entirely different set for your needs.
Bonus it feels so good when Christmas rolls around and you already have the funds set aside! No more dread and stress that you can't cover the cost or reciprocate presents at all!
Additionally, You will still track each of these as "payments types" in your monthly/weekly budget so be sure that you don't exceed your income and still leave room to pay extra on debt. This will take some figuring out adjusting and re-adjusting to make sure you are covering all bills and still paying a good chunk extra on debt. Thankfully these amounts are what ever you wish them to be so you can set the balances as you see fit.
Debt can be so stressful and heavy as it weighs on you month to month. Having an action plan to get out of debt faster has been so freeing as we work on becoming debt free. We follow Dave Ramsey's plan of baby steps. In short we have a list of each of our debts. We included the minimum payment amount and the interest rate which you can track easily on the free budget printable I have just for debt.
Starting with the smallest amount of debt, take the "excess" funds you have each month/week from your budget and add them to the minimum payment amount. We have found that we have the most success when we simply set up an automatic payment each pay period. This leaves our account just as soon as the paycheck is deposited. This ensures you stay on track and don't ever justify spending the money else where. If you don't "make" it happen automatically the funds will be gone before you know it.
Paying just the minimum will never help you gain financial freedom and get out of debt. Once you have your automatic payments set up and you are now paying extra on your smallest debt go in and calculate how long or how many pay periods it will take for you to completely pay off this debt. Once it has been paid off you will "snowball" that amount into your next debt adding that amount to the next lowest debts minimum payment. As you move from debt to debt you will have more and more to throw at the debt each pay period. You wont believe how fast you will be able to pay off your debt with this strategic method!
Tip: I go in and calculate this for every debt and have automatic payments set up to start paying off the next debt with the "snowball" amount once one has been paid off. This helps you know the exact timeline for when you will be completely debt free!
We are still working on our debts but if you are debt free the best thing to do next is start saving a 3-6 month emergency fund for your family and then savings for large purchases such as a home car, vacation etc. I 100% swear by setting up auto payments it will make all the difference in your quest to becoming debt free. In the last year alone my husband I were able to pay off 2 full credit cards and a school loan simply by abiding to this payment strategy. Starting small is also key. Those smaller debts will get paid off much faster and give you the excitement and momentum you need to keep going!!
At the end of the day each and every dollar you make should be accounted for. If not it will seemingly disappear. This may seem like you are living a very "tight" budget but this is the fastest way to ensure that you diminish all your debts and save for those big purchases without having to incur new debt to do so. To quote Dave Ramsey "If you will live like no one else. Later you can live like no one else."
Need more incentive? Just tally up how much money you spend on debt each month, now tell me wouldn't you love to have that money in your pocket each month or put towards your dream vacation or car? I know I sure would? For us it would mean we were so much closer to our goal of building our dream home, or purchasing the truck DEBT FREE that my husband so wants and I think 100% deserves. But without the weight of debt. Understating our wants and actual needs is key to being successful. You'll be amazed at what you can do without if only you try!
My husband and I are still on our quest to becoming debt free. We are not perfect and throughout our journey our willpower has been tested leading to at times what I can only call "stupid" purchases. Its so hard to admit but as we get closer and closer to being debt free we have learned what to steer clear from and we get smarter in our finical choices, just as you will too! These changes wont happen over night, often times there are years and years of mistakes you will be trying to conquer. Don't get discouraged if you fail at first the more you try the more you will succeed!
Below I have a full video of our budget binder. In it I show you exactly how I have organized my budget binder to fully take advantage of these free printables. Aside from the prints I have shown you throughout the post below at the bottom of this post you will see I've shared a second color way in pink, as well as cover pages for each of your bill categories which I store in my families budget binder. You can see exactly what I mean by that in the video. Enjoy!
I hope you enjoy these free printables and that they help you keep track of your finances get out of debt and start working on the things you really care about saving for!!! This post is in no way affiliated with Dave Ramsey, we just found that his system works best for our family and I hope you will find it insightful too.
Be sure to pin the image below to save this idea for later.
How to Download the Free Budget Binder Printables
HOW TO SAVE:
Click each individual image it will pop up larger, then right click and then save them to your computer as you see fit. This will only work on a desktop and wont be possible on a mobile device.
If you plan to print these from your home office, I recommend using a heavier weighted paper such as cardstock for best results, and setting your printer settings to "high or best quality" output this will ensure your images look just as they appear here!
You may also upload them online and have them printed elsewhere. Matte print settings will render the best results.
Disclaimer when save these printables you agree to the terms below.
These are free printables! That means that you may not use them to sell or market other items for sale in any manner in which you may get paid. This includes displays at retail stores, booths etc, as well creating and selling products using these free designs. These files are FREE that means they may never be used to sell in way shape or form.
I love it when other bloggers or readers share these free printables with their followers! I do have a few rules I ask that you keep in mind when sharing:
Please tag me on any social media platform you may share them on my handle is the same everywhere: The Mountain View Cottage
Please only use one image of a single printable per post on a blog or website, and downloading must be directed right back here!
Please do not use my pinnable images or any modification of them to link you your site, any pinnable images I have created for Pinterest need to lead readers directly back to the original post found here on this blog.
Please do not modify my designs to create "new printables" these designs must stay intact exactly as you see them here. However, I have no problem with you changing the size of them to fit your décor or design needs!
Lastly ENJOY!!! I cannot wait to see how these work for you and your family!