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29 July 2009

Financial Filofax

Last year I decided I needed to start keeping track of my finances and paying better attention to how I was spending money. I tried to record my expenditures every day, then classify them by type (food, entertainment, bills, etc), total them up each month and see where my money was going. As you can imagine, keeping track of everything I spent quickly broke down. I didn’t record everything, so at the end of the month my totals were useless because they were incomplete. Then I made a chart that I would use only once per month, on the day I paid my credit card bill. The chart had totals for my credit card balance, savings, and checking accounts. This is a great chart to have, and I still use it, but seeing my totals once per month wasn’t frequent enough to keep me thinking about saving money and cutting down my expenditures. The result was that every month when I paid my bill and wrote my totals, I was disappointed with myself for yet again not saving enough.

Now, I have been writing weekly totals of my credit card balance, checking and savings accounts on my weekly calendar page. At first I was doing this every Sunday, to have a record each week. Then I had the realization that I should do it on Mondays, to have the totals staring me in the face all week long. This has worked beautifully. Just seeing the totals daily reminds me that I want to save, and it helps me think of ways to cut down on my spending. It reminds me to look for the lower-priced item, or forgo unnecessary expenses. I can remember to make good choices, without having to write down everything I spend.

However, some people do need to make a hard budget, and writing down your expenditures is the first step. Luckily for us Filofaxers, Filofax has several ready-made forms available in various sizes to help with budgeting and tracking expenses. The Budget forms in the new Lifestyle Packs have columns for expenditure or income, budgeted amount, actual amount spent or earned, and a column for the difference to see how far off you are from reality. The Lifestyle Packs also contain Dilemma forms which can be used to decide on major purchases such as a new mortgage, whether to downgrade your vehicle, etc.

Filofax also makes Expenses forms in the A5 size and Finances forms in A5 and Personal sizes to list expenditures and deposits. I use a Finances form for each of my accounts to keep track of transactions.

There are many ways to use a Filofax to keep track of finances. Many people use their daily or weekly diary pages to jot down expenditures. Also, it’s easy to have a tabbed divider section dedicated to Finances, which I have in my A5 household Filo, where I keep all of my financial forms, records and totals.

I think a Filofax would be helpful for people who work at home or are self-employed to keep track of business expenses separate from home and personal expenses. The flexibility of a Filofax is outstanding for categorizing in this way.

I can guess that a Filofax would be a very useful tool to keep track of business expenses and receipts for people who travel frequently for work. Then when you get back to the office, expense reports would be simpler to put together with all of your expense information recorded in your Filo.

I would love to hear how other people use their Filofax(es) for budgeting, keeping track of expenses, and getting a handle on your finances in general!

4 comments:

  1. Actually, now that I think about it, I think Filofax used to have an expenses envelope specifically for business travelers. It fit on the Filo rings and had a top opening, and printed on the envelope there were lines for recording the date, amount, and type of expenditure. What a handy thing, to have your receipts and records all together! I guess you could accomplish much the same thing with Filofax's ziplock pouch and Expenses form. Yet another handy thing that Filofax no longer makes!

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  2. Hi Laurie, These are still available as part of the TMI inserts - I use mine all the time. It's very handy for keeping track of expenses, especially on the company credit card which I tend to use a lot, and sometimes spend a long time staring blankly at my monthly statements, trying to recall what I've used it for!

    You only get 2 receipts envelopes as part of the TMI package - so I 'laminated' the front of mine in plastic so I can write on the expenses for a month's worth of receipts, then wipe it off and start again the next month.

    In the UK you can buy update packages for about £12 which have so many useful forms and inserts- but it looks like you can only get the TMI stuff in the UK, not in the States. Is that right?

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  3. Hi Francesca, you are right, I've only ever seen the TMI packs on the UK website. I wonder if the US website has any plans to introduce these?

    That is a great idea, to laminate the envelope to be able to wipe off the writing and re-use it each month. Sounds like the TMI packs are really useful for business people!

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  4. I have been using Franklin Covey expense envelopes (12 per pack for about $US6.00) for decades. I did a lot of business travel at one time and creating my expense report every week was a snap. I just wrote on the back of the receipt for each meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner and who with) and wrote on the back of all my receipts a few required details. So one set of the envelopes were for personal finances, and I kept a second set of envelopes to use for my business trips. I still use those envelopes in my planner and they keep all my receipts, coupons, etc. in one place. I also write down any cash used and all ATM withdrawals. That way I know where every penny goes. The trick is to write everything down daily. You really see where your money is going when you do it daily vs. weekly or monthly. Then you do a weekly review and it should only take 15 minutes or so to plan your next week and keep creating better money habits.

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