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In this world of smartphones, tablets and laptops thinking about creating a budget on paper can feel a bit out of sync.
Don’t misunderstand me, I love my spreadsheets and I use one regularly for completing my monthly budget. However, when I feel that things need to change or I’m getting lazy with it then out comes the pencil and paper version.
The main reason that I use pencil and paper to budget is that it really helps me connect with it. I appreciate that that might sound a little off the wall so let me explain.
When I am using a spreadsheet, I find that many items on my budget are the same every month. My salary is the same, the mortgage payment, gas, electricity and so many more. This leads to me copying and pasting and then ignoring these figures.
However, when I do my budget by hand it forces me to write out these numbers. Every time I set a new budget, I must physically and mentally acknowledge the amounts that I’m paying for each of those items.
Plus, you realise how big those numbers are or how many times you’ve written them out and never sought to change them. This can be a big push to make some changes to those figures.
Another benefit of using pencil and paper is that you can do it anywhere and fast. You don’t need to wait for your laptop to charge up or for the app to download. These excuses go out of the window with a pencil and paper.
Pencil and paper. I’ll permit a pen rather than a pencil, but I much prefer a pencil for quick edits. On top of these two fundamentals you’ll need the following:
This should include any money you earn from your main job and part-time jobs, money from benefits, income from side hustles. Any money really.
Here is where you’ll include all those figures that you would copy and paste if it was a spreadsheet. So, mortgage/rent, water, gas, electricity, council tax and anything else that is the same every month.
One of the best ways to work out how much you should allocate to different items on your variable expenses list is to go back through your bank statements and calculate the totals for each category.
With this information, you will be well-placed to make an informed decision about how much you might need to spend in the coming month.
If you’ve decided that you want to overpay on your mortgage then you’ve probably got an amount in mind. If you want to set a target to get debt free, then you’ll want room in the budget for that.
Your goals are important as they will guide you when it comes to cutting back in some areas and piling it up in others.
With this information, you are ready to get started creating your budget sheet and working out how much you’ll be spending in each area.
If at this stage, you are already feeling like you’ve done too much work and a budget doesn’t sound like it is worth in then don’t worry. I have a printable budget sheet that you can use. Just like the one above.
You can find it here along with five other printable sheets and nine cash envelopes that will help you budget your money more effectively.
But if you are still full steam ahead then you’ll want to include sections for the following:
For each of these sub-headings, you need space to list what it is and how much money from your budget is allocated to it. This is easier to do for your fixed expenses but harder for the variables. Therefore, you use your spending history to help you.
That is entirely up to you. I would recommend no less than once a month or whenever you get paid for a full budget.
That said, a regular check-up on your budget is advisable. Perhaps on a Sunday morning, you could have a glance over your budget and see how you are doing. You can check whether you are likely to overspend or underspend.
With a paper budget, you will be able to make notes as you go, which could be useful when you come to write your budget for the next period.
Why not give it a try? Perhaps you’ll notice some long forgotten payment or realise that it is time to change energy providers.
Just remember that any budget is better than no budget. Paper or digital.
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.
Looking After Your Pennies is an eco-friendly personal finance blog written and managed by Charlotte Jessop.
I write on a variety of topics including frugal lifestyle, eco-friendly living, money making ideas and generally how to make your money go further.