I needed help. Financial insight. Organization. Incentive.
I was looking for a way to organize my bills, especially my truck loan. I wanted to get it paid off as quickly as possible, and when I discovered a few idiosyncrasies with my bank and payments, I realized I needed to “outsmart” the system and a way to track it. After gaining some financial advice, I got the recommended cheap notebook and started brainstorming ways I wanted to outline my loan tracking and bill paying.
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And then I found bullet journaling!
Bullet journaling is anything and everything. You can use it as a general journal, calendar, brain dump, mood tracker, financial organization, business book, anything. It’s a way to record things for future reference, as well as plan out your day/month/year. It was developed by Ryder Carroll and has taken the journaling, organizing, artistic world by storm. I really don’t think there’s anything a bullet journal can’t do!
A few notable bullet journalists I’ve come across:
Of course, a basic Google or Pinterest search will have you lost down the bullet journal rabbit hole in no time!
It’s difficult to describe a bullet journal because it can be so broad. You can use it how you want. Most journals used are a dot-grid pattern, which lends itself to using it horizontally or vertically. You can do circles, squares, or any other imaginable shape. I started with the basic notebook, then when I started brainstorming more and realizing the potential, I broke down and purchased a Leuchtturm1917 B5. It’s a mouthful, (and in my opinion a pretty penny for a notebook), but it’s been great for expanding my bullet journaling.
This is how I started mine – with an index, verse, and yearly calendar.
I’m a “neutral” color person, so I chose the Anthracite color. I wanted a quote to start the book – one that seemed to be a “theme for the year” and I chose this:
And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.
– Job 8:7
We are starting small on our homestead/farm, but we expect great things to come! (Oh – and my bank account was pretty small …)
I also wanted a yearly calendar to glance at to see how days of the week lined up and for planning. It’s not to write anything in, such as appointments, but I can insert weekly or monthly calendars later in the journal.
I’m pretty good at remembering where things are in my journal, but the Leuchtturm comes with a handy index section and number pages. Perfect after I messed up my page numbers in my first notebook!
So how do I use it for finances?
I am a “chronic researcher” so I went searching high and low for a layout that worked for me. I put it in the original notebook, and pretty much kept the same format when I switched everything to the Leuchhturm1917. (And no – there isn’t anything wrong with your computer; I covered up some personal information).
For my truck loan section – I listed pertinent information about the bank and payments, such as my loan amount, interest rate, and address for where to send my payments. I started a “check box” for payments – it’s kind of like the super-organized version of a check list for checking off the payments until the final one! And then I built a block area for when I pay extra – I list the date and the amount extra I paid. This little amount may seem insignificant, but over time it really helps reduce your interest and even overall payments. Even if you can put an extra $5 into a payment – that’s $5 per day you are no longer paying compound interest.
For the mortgage – I did a little visual thing with bricks as a payment check box. For each payment, we “fill” a brick, signifying one more payment down and “so many” to go. I also wrote in the years and number of years to satisfy my OCD mind. On the next page I listed the same things as my truck loan – important information, where to send payments, and a section for listing extra payments.
For both of the loans – I wrote out pages to include the date the payment was sent, check number, payment amount, and then balance. I call the bank after I know the check has been cashed and write in the balance – it’s a great incentive for paying that extra $5!
Project Wish List – doesn’t everybody have a project wish list?? We are constantly saying “it would be nice to do this” or “that” or we need to get “this done” at some point. This is where those things go. Then down the road if we have some extra cash, we can assess what we can afford – want or need – to accomplish first. It lays it all out and gives us a better perspective when it comes to spending larger chunks of money wisely.
Savings Tracker – many financial experts, such as Dave Ramsey, recommend having an “Emergency Fund”. This is a stash of money set aside should anything “emergent” comes into your life. There are different amounts suggested, but most advisers agree that 3-6 months worth of expenses is a good target (this is not your “income”, as you tend to purchase non-essentials with your paycheck/income). I don’t know how much I will actually use this section, as I monitor my accounts online a lot, but it was part of my brainstorming and gives me added incentive to fill a block or dot when I have saved the amount on my goal. I also included a section that says what I am saving money for – emergencies are a necessity, but “wants” are more of an incentive, like a new camera or kitchen remodel!
Bills – the dreaded bills. It might be a bit overkill to mark when I make my loan payments in their “spread” as well as in my monthly bills, but at the end of the month I can also add up everything and see where the money is going. It also gives me a visualization to my bills – the fact that there are more than I realize. Plus, as Colton and I join households I expect it to help us stay organized. In this section I list the bill “title”, such as “Truck Loan”, “Truck Insurance”, “Cell Phone”, the typical due date (some fluctuate as they are “30-day bills” and not a set date), and if they are an automatic payment with my checking account or credit card. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can only remember so many things – if I can have a note and a bill that’s automatically charged to my account instead of having to remember it, I’m happy! I have a code for where it gets billed – checking or credit card – and then the months listed out. This helps me to see if a bill is sneaking up – like those cell phone bills that like to give you a reduced rate, then a year later you wonder why it’s right back up again. Now you can look back and see where it was creeping up!
It can get a little tedious remember all the places to mark a bill paid, but the fact that I can see everything in one spot has definitely been a bonus! I hope I can keep up on this – I’ve seen several posts where people try to do excel sheets, notebooks, or nothing and then find that bullet journaling is their ticket to financial organization.
How about you? How do you keep your finances organized? Have you tried bullet journaling? What do you or don’t you like?
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