7 Money Saving Ways to Use a Planner | Giftie Etcetera: 7 Money Saving Ways to Use a Planner

Monday, January 19, 2015

7 Money Saving Ways to Use a Planner

I want All The Things.

I want a lightweight, soft leather handbag, in blue, that fits my planner.

I want cute planner pages that are ready to use. I want the best erasable ink (Frixion) and a cool green fountain pen for doodling. 

All The Things.

But I can't afford it. Honestly, I have more disposable income than I've ever had before in my life, but I still have student loans {weeps}, a house note (for a tiny, apartment-sized house), and two kids in Catholic school. If I want All The Things, I have to budget for them.

My budget nerd husband made a fancy spreadsheet. We had a family meeting. It was overwhelming and confusing. So I insisted on one number that was in my sole control. One number is how many my brain could handle.

He gave me my number.

(Aside - he gave me a number AFTER we decided what we were spending on electricity, school, house note, debt, etc. We decided together, and he just handled the addition and subtraction.)

That number had to cover groceries, eating out, shampoo, birthday gifts, and All The Things. It doesn't actually cover all that, of course. Often, it only covers groceries and birthday gifts. But if I am careful with it, and track the number in my planner, it can buy Some Of The Things. I'm okay with that.

There are several ways that I use my planner to help me stay under my number.

In the Projects: Use the Planner as a Spending Log

Translation: I track my budget number.

I actually use an on-line app for this now, mostly because I am so apt to making tiny little subtraction errors, but with a simple budget number for the month, subtracting from it all month as I spend, and trying to stay above a zero balance, I get a real picture of what I am spending and whether I can afford All The Things.

When I did this in my planner, I made it look like a checkbook register (even though some of the spending was cash, some of the spending was in the form of checks, and some of the spending was in the form of credit/debit card charges).

This one hack to my planner (or use of an app) made a huge difference in staying under budget. And since I only track the one number (based on monthly expected income minus necessary expenses, like mortgage payments and other bills), I don't have to constantly do extensive math. That keeps me disciplined about keeping track of my budget

Projects is the perfect place to keep an active, on-going log.

On the Dashboard: Keep a Grocery List

So many people skip this step! But it may be the simplest thing that I do to save money.

If I run out of something, I add it to my grocery list. Then, I shop from the list (except that I also get staples in bulk when on sale). Since the list is in my planner, it is always with me. I can be confident that I am getting enough groceries to feed my family - and that I am staying under budget.

Why the dashboard? Simple. I am forever adding things while cooking dinner and I don't have time to jot them anywhere else.

On the Weeklies: Designate a Menu Area
I am not a fancy menu planner.

*I list the days of the week and plug in dates when I will be out of the house for dinner.

*Next, I plan any big meals. I pull the ingredients for big meals (like a chili that needs to simmer for hours) from the fridge or freezer, or add them to my grocery list.

*Finally, I fill in the blanks with leftovers (often from the big meal or the freezer) and staples (like grilled chicken, salads, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches).

Even this minimal amount of planning saves me money, mostly from not eating out all the time. And it's simple.

A word about the reason for putting the menu on the weekly pages...food prep is a major part of the day. Defrosting in the morning or setting up the ingredients are all tasks that take time. I don't want that off of my radar.

On the Monthlies: Schedule Shopping Days

I schedule shopping every eight to ten days, instead of every week.

After all, I've planned out what I need to have, so I don't need to shop once a week. Eight days seems to be the outside limit of keeping fruits and veggies fresh (with the sturdier produce scheduled to be eaten later in the week), but I go nine or ten days and eat out of the freezer if shopping day falls on a weekend. I refuse to shop on a weekend with all the crowds.

This day goes in my monthlies because shopping is basically a two to three hours appointment, counting driving to and from the store, shopping, and unloading all of the groceries. Such a significant appointment needs to be with all of my other appointments.

In the Files/Notes: Keep a Price List

This one is optional. In fact, I only use it when I get really serious about budgeting, like when I am saving for something or have a big bill to pay.

A price list is just a list of low prices for items that are on my grocery list week after week.

I don't have time to track everything, so I only track stuff that is generally over $3 (meats and dairy, mostly) and that I can actually stock up on. That way, when frozen chicken breasts go on sale, I can actually check if the price is a good sale, and stock up accordingly.

On the Weeklies: Note Coupon Expiration Date

This is not meant for every coupon. But for high value coupons ($2 and up is my threshold), I list expiration dates about two weeks before they expire (since I shop every eight to ten days).

Currently listed? A $25 gift card to a grocery store, a 10% off coupon to a favorite restaurant, and two $3 coupons to Target.

Without doing this, I often waste high value cards.

Anywhere: Make a Unicorn List

In the planner world, a unicorn is the planner that doesn't exist, but the plannerd has to have!

My unicorn list is more extensive. It includes All The Things. After all, I want them but can't have them. Isn't that all a unicorn is, really? Our dreams that we never think we will achieve?

Notice that I gave no guidance on where the unicorn list goes. Put it wherever it will most inspire you! For me, my list is simple - some ink pens, a couple of totes, nothing fancy. I keep mine in my Files/Notes. A few good months of budgeting, and I could afford it all.

Have fun budget planning. Have All The Things.


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Janet Barclay said...

Hi Kristy! I found you through Jill Robson's blog and I love your writing style. Good luck sticking to your budget! :)

Becky said...

I have a number of free printables that your readers might find helpful. My current week on 2 pages has a space for daily menu - it's my favorite weeklies to date. http://plannerfun.blogspot.com

Vanessa said...

Excellent post and tips. Thanks for sharing

Lara Neves said...

Very good tips. I am not good at budgeting with paper, though I have tried. I finally found an app that I can keep up with. But, my husband is the one who can't handle more than one number!

I do love your ideas for making sure things to do with the budget are scheduled in my planner. Because I drop the ball with that way too much!

Josh LaPorte said...

We set up a special checking account for house expenses, and direct deposit a set amount in it each month which is adequate to cover all of our bills. What remains is deposited into my personal checking account which I use for All The Things, like this post mentions. I am really good at tracking my accounts but am horrible at tracking my cash/card spending, so I just put myself on a cash budget and when the cash runs out I stop spending. It works well.

Giftie Etcetera said...

Becky, thanks for sharing that link. Her printables are awesome, plannerds!

Unknown said...

I keep track of my spending in my planner, just because if I have to write out a grocery trip over 50$, it reminds me easier that I need to tone it done a bit! I need to get a price-checker going, and agree 100% that groceries should not be gotten on the weekend! I will pop in for a few things (that I forgot to add to the list), but the actual trip is during the week. Has to be!

Unknown said...

This post was great inspiration for sticking to my budget! So many good tips!

Barb said...

I found your post through Inspired Bloggers. I love how you approach planning with shopping days and keeping a list of high value coupons and gift cards.

Bree said...

I'm the spreadsheet nerd in the family. Hubby can only habdle one number, and so he is on a cash-only setup. I control my All The Things spending by only spending money in PayPal, which has to come from things I sell.

I save money by having a flat amount of our salaries deposited in checking - same amount for the last 5 years. Everything else goes into savings. So even when we get raises, the extra goes into savings. This has required some creativity in budgeting as certain costs have risen, but I don't have to spend a ton of time managing money, either.

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