Thursday, February 27, 2020

Getting disciplined with a home management binder

You know how there are Type-A and Type-B personalities in this world? Well, I sit firmly in the Type-B camp. I like, no love, feeling free to go with the flow on any given day, working within my energy levels and mood at the time. Menu planning, for example, has always been hit or miss for me, because, what if I don't feel like eating pasta on the night I wrote pasta down on my plan? 

And yet...

....the kids and I were recently listening to The Way of the Warrior Kid audiobooks in the car and they delivered some hard home truths for me. The main one being that with discipline comes freedom. The freedom to have the money you need when you need it. The freedom to use your time wisely. The freedom to accomplish your goals.

So, in a very non-Type-B personality move, I have started putting together a home management binder to help me gain discipline around many areas of my life, but especially around our finances. I've previously mentioned that I struggle in that area.  

I realised that, although I am frugal in many ways, I've been letting money slip through our fingers in small ways that add up to big dollars. My biggest problem, however, is that I haven't been making a plan for where every dollar goes, so it keeps disappearing. (At least, that's what it feels like.)

All this is starting to change.
I recently went online and discovered The Budget Mom website and corresponding YouTube videos. These have given me a great starting off point for ways to track our spending with pen and paper. (I also have a digital spreadsheet in development, thanks to my kind friends, Lizzie and Stuart, but for the moment, I'm finding it helpful to physically write everything down and carry it around with me in my new home management binder. When I have more of a grip on what we need/want to spend our money on, I will input that into the digital spreadsheet and tweak it to match our needs.)

So, what sorts of things have I included in the binder?
The first thing I see when I open it up is a beautiful menu plan designed by The Budget Mom. Because it's pretty, I find it more fun to fill out and use during the week.
Behind the menu plan, I've included recipes I plan to make during the week. Recipes I've printed but don't plan to use in the current week move to a different section of the binder. I'm planning to grow my printed recipe collection so I have a one-stop shop for all of our family faves.
I printed this beautiful to-do list off I Should be Mopping the Floor, along with a bunch of other free printables you'll see popping up in this binder (like the cover page). I know I'll use this binder more if it's pretty and I like looking at it.
I made a two-page 2020 Financial Tracker calendar, to give me an overview of the year. I've shaded the different school terms their own colour, because we often have big homeschool bills like music lessons and homeschool activities to pay at the start of each term.

I've also highlighted when our pay-checks will come in each month in blue.

Printing the calendar out has made it a working document for me, so now I've hand-written in when each of our big annual bills are due and how much I estimate they're going to be. This way, I can ensure we have enough money in savings to cover them. I'm a visual person, so I'm finding it helpful to see all this information at a glance.
I've also made individual monthly pay-check trackers, which I adapted from ones The Budget Mom has developed. These trackers are still a work in progress for me, as I figure out how they will work best for our family.

So far, I've found it incredibly helpful just listing out our set-in-stone expenses each month and subtracting them from our income, so that I can then work out how I want to divvy out the rest of our money, eg. for groceries, petrol, clothing, or discretionary funds, or for saving for our big annual bills, or for other areas like house renovations, holidays and birthdays.

Because I can physically see how much money is coming in and going out before it actually does either of those things, I can take the time to plan where I want it to go and not just wonder at the end of the month where it all disappeared to. It's a wonderful feeling. (I'm sure that lots of my more organised readers already know and appreciate that feeling, but it's new to me.)
I've printed out beautiful Freezer, Fridge and Pantry inventories from I Should be Mopping the FloorI'm yet to use them, but I've printed them out so they're ready to go when I next make a tally of the food items we have in the house.
I've also printed out Birthday and Christmas planners from The Budget Mom so that I can think about how much these are going to cost well in advance, and start saving for them in their own categories.
The Budget Mom recommends using the envelope system, where you physically get money out of the bank for different saving and spending categories separated by envelopes that you put the money into. It means that the money is there when you need it and doesn't accidentally get spent on other things. I haven't done this yet, and I'm trying to figure out whether individual savings accounts would be better for us, but I've printed out and made up some of her envelopes just in case I do decide to go with her system.

I am already using a "Groceries" envelope to store receipts and an index card where I keep a running total of everything we've spent on groceries this month. On the index card, I subtract our spending from the amount I've set aside for groceries and ensure I don't go over budget.

We actually went grocery shopping yesterday, and I was meticulous about writing down the prices of everything that went into my trolley. I managed to come in under budget (woohoo!), so I've got a little bit extra in case we need to buy more milk or bread this week.

My financial goal is to have no money owing on our credit card at the end of this pay cycle.

We usually run out of money in our checking account before the end of the month, and so cover the difference with our credit card. But then we have to pay the credit card off when we next get paid, and so we start that month with less money in our checking account. Because of that, we inevitably run out of money before the end of the month and have to cover the rest of our expenses on our credit card.

It's a vicious cycle.

A vicious cycle that I'm actively working to get us out of. Last month we managed to finish the pay cycle with half the amount owing on our credit card that we had owing the previous month. I know we can do it again this month and keep the whole thing paid off so that we go into the next pay period owing nothing on the credit card.

I know this because I've tracked and planned for all our expenses this month.

It means we are only spending NZ$190 on food a week for our family of five, but that's money we have in the bank, and not money we're taking from next month's pay.
The last thing I have in the binder is a Kids of Integrity bible study on obedience. Part of getting disciplined is ensuring I'm consistent in training the character of my children, and there's no better way I know to do that than by getting God's help.

If I succeed at nothing else as a homeschool parent, I would like to succeed at raising kids with sterling characters. Being of good character will serve them well, no matter what path they choose to take in life. (I'm grateful to my friend, Geraldine, and to my parents' group for teaching me that.)

Final thoughts on the binder (for now): I'm still planning to add in a section on house work/maintenance, so I'll be on the hunt for good printables for that.

And lastly, do you use a home management binder? If so, I'd love your feedback on how you use it and what works well for you. Any suggestions for house work/maintenance systems would also be appreciated. Thanks!


  1. Thanks Emma for sharing! I love printables over digital. For some reason it works better for me. Especially for recipes. We do have different accounts for different savings things and the money automatically goes there each fortnight. It means I don't look at it at all and when it comes to pay bills like the girls jazz class I dont have to worry. All the best with this month finance goals!

    1. Thanks Andie! I'm thinking different accounts would be a good idea too. How many different accounts have you set up, if you don't mind me asking? I'm still trying to work out how to do this. Cheers!


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