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Getting a monthly budget planner is one of the best ways to start getting your personal finances organized.
Compared to online budgeting spreadsheets, physical budget planners and notebooks can be a much better alternative because you can actually see it, hold it and use it to track your expenses, savings and debt all in one place.
Also, research shows that writing by hand allows you to remember the material better than typing it.
That means you might be more likely to remember the budget you set in your budget planner, and thus more likely to stick to it
To help you make an informed decision, I’ve actually gone through many budget planners in the market to shortlist the 5 BEST budget planners here.
How To Use A Budget Planner
So, how do you actually use a monthly budget planner?
Generally, you will see the following sections in a good monthly budget planner:
- Financial goal-setting for the year (e.g. what savings goals do you have for the year? what income goals do you have?)
- Action plan for achieving your goals (e.g. what specific action are you going to take to achieve each one of your goals?)
- Debt Tracker (e.g What loan are you trying to pay off? What is the minimum monthly repayment? What is the amount paid every month? What is the balance in your study loan at the end of each month?)
- Savings Tracker (e.g. What are you saving for? How much do you need to save by when? How much are you saving every month? What is the balance needed to reach your goal?)
- Financial goal-setting for the month (e.g. what is your goal for the month?)
- To-do List for the month (e.g. what bills do you need to pay by when? )
- Set your monthly budget (e.g. How much do you budget for groceries? How much do you budget for dining out?)
- Monthly Expense Tracker (e.g. How much do you actually spend on groceries? How much do you actually spend on dining out?)
- Monthly budget review (e.g. Totaling your actual monthly spending and comparing it against your monthly budget to check if you stick to your budget)
How To Choose A Budget Planner
So, how do you choose a good budget planner notebook?
There are a few things that I will look before I will consider buying it.
Factor #1: Customer Reviews
Before I buy anything, I always make a point to check past customer’s reviews of the product and also the most recent reviews to make sure that the product is still as good as before.
Generally, I will only go for products with a rating of 4 stars and above out of 5 stars based on at least hundreds of reviews.
If there are only a few reviews (less than 20), I might still have second thoughts about trusting the reviews because it is just too small a sample size of customers.
Factor #2: Pages & Sections For Budgeting & Financial Planning
When you buy a budget planner, you must always make sure that the pages inside are usable for you.
There are some budget planners that are NOT designed with the user in mind.
So, to help you make an informed decision, I have listed out some of the useful questions you can ask yourself when it comes to deciding which budget planner is best for you.
What are the specific pages and sections?
Are there financial goal-setting pages?
Is there debt tracking page?
Is there saving tracking page?
Are there monthly bill tracking pages?
Are there places to record projected and actual income?
Is there a Christmas expense tracker?
How many months can you use this budget planner for? 6 months or 12 months?
Most importantly, are these pages undated? Can you start anytime?
If you are serious about bringing order to your finances, you must make sure that these are included in the budget planner.
Factor #3: Paper Quality (plus front cover quality)
Paper quality is very important because you don’t want a budget planner with very thin papers that tear easily.
So, you should always check the product specifications and make sure the budget planner is made of thick paper.
Then, how do you know what paper is of good quality?
GSM (i.e. Grams Per sq. Meter) is a term that is used to indicate the thickness of the paper.
35-55 GSM is typically used for newspapers which are very thin.
90 GSM is a typical paper for inner magazine pages.
120 GSM is a standard weight for a good quality paper you should expect in high-quality budget planner notebooks.
Below is the paper quality of Clever Fox Budget Planner which is one of the best budget planners in the market right now.
You also have to make sure that the front cover is sturdy and it won’t come apart easily.
Generally, leather or plastic front covers are more durable.
Factor #4: Is it undated?
There are some budget planners that are dated.
That means you can only use it to do budget planning and expense tracking for the current year.
The best time to buy a dated budget planner is always towards the end of the year, so you can use it for the coming new year.
Now, what if you prefer a budget planner that you can start any time of the year?
Then, you should go for an undated budget planner.
Factor #5: Is it reusable?
If you don’t like to keep buying new budget planners every year, then the best planner for you is a reusable one.
After you are done with all the pages inside the budget planner, all you need to do is to print out new planners and replace the old pages with the new ones.
It’s good for the environment as well.
Factor #6: Size & Color
When it comes to size and color, everyone has their own preference.
If you prefer it to be small and fit nicely into your handbag, then you should make sure that it’s available in the size that you want.
The same goes for color.
Factor #7: Design
Everyone loves beautiful designs.
But, some great designs might command a higher price.
For example, there are budget planners that comes with stickers and also monthly pockets for receipts.
This unique design is more expensive than others.
Factor #8: Money-back Guarantee
Okay, if you want assurance that you are not making a bad purchase, then you should always look for budget planners that offer money back guarantee.
There are quite a few budget planners that offer that, which gives you a peace of mind about buying their products.
5 Best Budget Planners Available On The Market
Clever Fox Budget Planner (Recommended)
This is one of my favourite budget planner.
It is an undated, stylish and extremely functional.
It includes 12 months of financial planning with dedicated pages for setting financial goals, monthly budgeting, expense tracking, debt tracking, savings tracking as well as monthly reviewing!
In fact, here are the exact pages inside the budget planner:
- 2 pages for setting your financial goals
- 2 pages for writing your strategy and tactics
- 2 pages for tracking savings
- 2 pages for debt tracking
- 96 pages for monthly budgeting ( i.e. 8 pages per month for 12 months)
- 2 pages for Christmas budgeting
- 2 pages for an annual summary
Let’s not forget that it includes a calendar for each month to help you remind yourself to make payments on time.
Basically, it has everything you need to plan your finances and monthly budgets.
What about the design and paper quality?
There are three designs available which are Lavendar, Turquoise and Rose Gold.
It is made of thick no-bleed 120gsm paper which is quite good quality.
In terms of size, it is A5 size, measuring 5.8 inches wide, 8.3 inches long and 0.6-inch thick.
Any other useful features?
Yes, this budgeting planner and accounts book comes with 86 stickers which are perfect for adding a pop or a visual reminder to the goals, visions and plans you have in your planner.
On top of that, there is a quick start user manual with filled examples to show you how to use this budget planner.
Also, it has a pocket for receipts and bills.
Finally, how is its review online?
On Amazon, it has a 4.7 out of 5 stars review based on close to 3,000 customers, with more than 80% of its customers giving a 5-star review.
The best part about this budget planner is that it offers unconditional money-back guarantee and returns.
They will exchange or refund your item as soon as possible if you’re having ANY TYPE of quality issues or if for any reason you’re not completely satisfied with your planner.
To get a refund, you just need to reach out to them via an Amazon message.
Mead Organizer, Expense Tracker, Budget Planner
This budget organizer and expense tracker is an undated, reusable planner with three Tech-Lock poly rings and a durable poly cover with bungee cord closure to keep everything together.
So, what are actually included inside this budget planner?
- Worksheets that help you monitor expenses
- 12 monthly pockets to hold bills and receipts
- Two clear folders for other items
- Monthly calendar
This budget planner is very simple and is primarily used to help you plan and track your expenses and keep all your receipts and bills in one place.
So, if you are looking for a budget planner that does more than recording bills and payments, then I would the Clever Fox budget planner.
If you are running a small business and need an expense tracker to track what is coming in and going out, this one is quite a good choice.
By the way, this planner is reusable because you can download additional budget pages online for future dates ( it’s not free though)
So, what is its review?
It has a review of 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, based on a few hundred customers.
Budgeting Planner 2020: 2020 Daily Weekly & Monthly Calendar Expense Tracker Organizer
This budget planner is non-branded, but it’s very simple and super functional.
The design is cute and the paper quality is good and made in the USA.
Inside the budget planner, here are what you will see:
- Financial Goals sheet
- Monthly budget plan
- Daily & Weekly expense log (this is awesome)
- Monthly calendar
Basically, it has everything you need to keep track of your expenses and plan your finances.
So, what are some areas that it can improve?
There are some complaints about the cover not being sturdy enough.
Also, this is not a reusable budget planner like other options that I have listed here.
So, if you are an environment-conscious person, you will find the reusable budget planners a better fit for you.
Also, it’s not undated.
That means you can only use it for the current year and have to buy a new one for each future year.
Apart from these few drawbacks, it’s a pretty good budget planner.
What about its review?
It has a very good review of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon with over 85% of its customers satisfied with their purchases.
Live Whale Planner: Weekly, Monthly Planner
This budget planner is beautiful and functional and also compact in size.
The quality of the planner cover is very good as it is made of very durable vegan leather.
What about its paper quality?
The paper is high-quality and thick enough at 120 GSM.
Here are some other unique features:
- Riveted pen loop that holds pens
- Reinforced steel corners designed for durability and heavy use
- Hidden back pocket to store bills, notes and other items of value
- Three unique satin ribbons to easily mark your place
Also, it’s undated which lets you start planning and budgeting any time of the year.
So, what is included inside this budget planner?
- 12 Monthly Views
- 52 2-page Weekly Views
- 12 Expense tracking pages
- 12 Notes pages
- Bonus pages that include sections titled Brain Dump (for noting ideas or reminders), Mind Map (to explore ideas and plans), and Vision Board (to expand your view of a topic and develop it further).
What’s its review?
It has a review of 4.5 out of 5 stars review based on about 250 customers.
Does this personal organizer offer money back guarantee?
Yes, it’s has a 30-day money-back guarantee which you can buy and try it worry-free.
Cash Envelope System-Budget Keeper
If you are looking for a budget planner that works with cash envelope system, then this is the right one for you.
All the cash envelopes are tear-resistant, so you don’t have to worry that the envelope will rip or tear.
It also comes with a zipper case and metallic twist pen which allows you to keep your envelopes, loose change and receipts organized in one place.
So, what’s included inside?
It has 12 assorted budget envelopes that allow you to easily identify your categories in your purse or wallet.
Also, it has 12 assorted expense ledgers with the ledger colors matching with the color of your envelopes and fit perfectly inside each one, so you can easily track all of your expenses in each category.
So, you don’t have to wonder what you spent all your money, because you can quickly and easily write down everything right after you purchase it.
What’s its review?
It has a review of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon , based on over 700 customers.