What is a Budget Binder and Do I need one?

Budget binders help people keep track of their finances and to achieve their financial goals. They keep all of the information in one place. So exactly what is a budget binder and do you need one?

The Good

  • All of your financial information is in one place
  • By writing down all of your financial details, you get a much greater knowledge of your situation.
  • Cash envelopes can help you to avoid spending too much money.
  • A budget binder can be made to suit your circumstances. 

The Bad

  • They can take a while to set up.
  • You have to remember to write in it.
  • If your circumstances change, it can be difficult to change your budget binder.

Verdict: A Budget Binder can help you keep track of your finances and work towards goals, but Apps like WeMoney can do the same thing – all online.


For people who are having trouble keeping track of their money, a budget binder may be the answer to their money problems. You can write all of your financial information in your budget binder, make goals and keep track of your achievements. Some people also like to divide their cash into different categories and store it in envelopes in order to control spending. You do not need to use cash envelopes to have a budget binder. There are different types of budget binders and you can buy ready made ones or you can easily make one yourself by downloading templates for the various pages that the binder should contain.

What is a budget binder?

A budget binder is a great way to organise your finances in a way that you can easily see and understand. For many people, it is much easier to have your information on paper instead of in an app or a spreadsheet.

You can make different goals using a budget binder and be able to see whether you are achieving those goals. If you’re wanting to save more money, it’s not really possible unless you know where all your money is going and that’s where a budget binder comes in. Your budget binder will contain financial information about your income, expenses and goals.

“A budget binder is essentially a day planner for your money. It allows you to keep all of your money management plans and paperwork in one place and keep everything organized in a way that works for you.”

budget binder
You will need to calculate your income, expenses and monthly surplus to be able to organise your budget binder properly.

How do you use a budget binder?

Using a budget binder will help you keep track of your finances because it keeps all of your financial information in one place. If you have more than one bank account and you have direct debits coming out of different bank accounts, you may not always know exactly how much money you have available at any one time. A budget binder can help to solve that problem.

You can make a financial plan based on your income and expenses. You will need to write everything down though. Once you have written down all of your income and expenses, you can then make your financial goals which you will also include in your budget binder.

How to use a budget binder with envelopes

Some people like to use cash for their everyday expenses to make it easier to keep track of their money. They will have a category for each type of expense and then withdraw cash and put it in an envelope that matches the category of expenses. Personally, I don’t like to have cash lying around, but I know this works for some people.

For more information, see How to Budget Using the Envelope System1.

“The envelope system is a way to track exactly how much money you have in each budget category for the month by keeping your cash tucked away in envelopes. At the end of the month, you can see how much cash is left by taking a quick peek in your envelope. If you’re constantly going overboard in a certain category, then take cash out for the amount you’ve budgeted for and stick it in an envelope. When you shop for that category, only use what’s in your cash envelope. Once the money is gone, it’s gone—so this will force you to stop overspending and help you achieve your money goals faster.”

setting a budget, household budget
Budget binders are a good idea because they allow you to keep all your information in one place and help you to set and work towards your financial goals.

What categories are in a budget binder?

Obviously, the first thing you are going to make a note of is your income. Do you have a side hustle? How much do you make? What else contributes to your income? Write it all down in your budget binder. You can divide your income into subcategories if it is appropriate.

Expenses are the second group of categories. There are lots of types of expenses, depending on your circumstances. The biggest one will be your rent or your mortgage. You might include insurance or home maintenance as subcategories here. Monthly expenses such as utilities will be next. Once you start thinking of them, you will find a lot more. Food, of course, is another necessary expense. You might also include brunches and coffee in your food budget, but you might also like to have a monthly limit on this.

Other categories might be car/transport expenses, child related expenses, pet-related expenses, entertainment, health. It’s a good idea to have a miscellaneous category for those things that don’t fit into any of your other categories too. This will also give you a buffer to allow for unexpected expenses. You could also have a personal spending category.

For a more detailed list, read https://finmasters.com/budget-categories/#gref2

What to look for when buying a budget binder?

Don’t spend more money than you have to when buying a budget binder. I’ve seen really expensive ones being advertised online, but any cheap folder will do. If you buy a ready made budget binder, make sure that it includes pages that are relevant to your financial situation. Some websites have free templates for the pages which you will include in your budget binder, so even if you don’t have everything you need in your ready made binder, you’ll be able to adapt your budget binder to suit you.

How do you make your own budget binder?

You don’t need much equipment to make your own budget binder. It’s probably a good idea to have a binder, but it’s not essential. If you do have a binder, then you’ll need dividers for different categories, and sleeves, or an ability to add pages. You will need to include pages with the different categories and any information that is right for you

There are many websites that offer free templates. Learn more about making budget binders in this article3.

budget binder
You can use a budget binder with or without cash envelopes.

Are budget binders a good idea?

Budget binders are a good idea because they allow you to keep all your information in one place and help you to set and work towards your financial goals. Writing the information by hand might give you a greater knowledge of your financial situation.

What’s the alternative to using a budget binder?

Not everyone likes to use paper these days and there are a lot of different budgeting apps that you can use instead of a budget binder. Some of them are even free, so you save on the expense of a budget binder. I personally use WeMoney to keep track of my expenses, bills, goals etc. You can read my review of WeMoney HERE.

You can also see a list of a few different budget apps here4. Some people prefer to go with a personal budget service like MyBudget too. You can read my review of MyBudget HERE.

Advantages of using a Budget binder

  • All of your financial information is in one place and it is easy to keep track of your money and work towards your financial goals.
  • By writing down all of your financial details, you get a much greater knowledge of your situation.
  • Cash envelopes can help you to avoid spending too much money. By splitting your money into different categories, you can be sure that your expenses are all paid and that you are not spending money on things you shouldn’t.
  • A budget binder or budget planner can be made to suit your circumstances. You might not be able to find an app that takes into account your financial situation. A budget binder can easily be adjusted to suit your context.
monthly budget, budget binder
You can easily make your own budget binder with envelopes and a notebook, or you can buy ready-made binders for anywhere between $10- $100.

Disadvantages of using a Budget binder

  • They take a while to set up. Before you can start using your budget binder, you have to find all your financial information and write it down.
  • You have to remember to write in it. It is easy to forget to update the details in your budget binder. Catching up can take a while.
  • If your circumstances change, it can be difficult to change your budget binder.

Does Captain Fi use a Budget Binder?

 I use WeMoney to manage my expenses, bills, goals and to track my net worth, but I have definitely used budget binders in the past. You can read my review of WeMoney HERE.

FAQs about Budget Binders:

How much is a Budget Binder?

Cheap binders can be found for under $5, and many websites offer free downloads of the templates for the pages you will use. You can also buy some really fancy ready to use binders for $100 or more. You can buy cheap envelopes and write on them yourself or you can buy them with the categories already printed on them. There will be something to suit every budget.

 Where can you buy one?

It depends on what you want. Ready to use budget binders can be found on Amazon or Etsy as well as a number of other websites. You can buy a cheap binder at any store that sells stationery and there are a number of websites that offer downloadable templates for the pages.

23PCS A6 Binder Budget Planner Organizer 6 Ring Binder Cover, FOME PU Leather Budget Binder with Zipper Envelopes Money Budget Organizer Budget Planner for Money Saving Planner Organizer Black
  • The most practical and cost-effective Pack: YOU WILL GET 1pcs A6 Notebook Binder/8pcs A6 zipper Cash Pockets/12pcs Expense Budget Sheet/16pcs color labels/2 sheets English word stickers
  • Hight Quality Budget Binder. High quality solid color PU leather with magnetic buckle. 1 passport holder and 4 card sleeves & 2 pen loops keep your passport, ID, credit card, ticket safe.
  • Light Weight & Portable: A6 binder size is 7.48 x 5.12 inches, which can be put into handbags, backpacks, suitcases or desks. Easy to carry with it to everywhere you need.
  • Saving Assistant: Can organize your cash or bank card for budget with the binder. Using category stickers and plan papers, you can easily handle bills. It can help you track your cash inflows and outflows. Pro-businessmen/women to manage multiple jobs and other trivia. With the category stickers you could easily handle their importance and get organized. Loose-leaf design and durable accessories make it a long-time helper for your work.
  • Easy to Use: The stainless ring binder is easy to open and close. The budget paper is thick and flat, which is easy to write. The page mark contains five eye-catching colors, and letter stickers are easy to remove, helping budget classification. The value package meets your daily needs. It is an ideal gift for family, friends, colleagues and children, which is suitable for home, office, school and travel.

Can you use a budget binder without cash?

You don’t have to have cash envelopes in your budget binder. Not everyone likes to carry cash around. Nobody pays their rent or utilities in cash any more. Direct debit is much more convenient.

You can read more about Dave Ramsay’s envelope system HERE5.

Is a Budget Binder worth it, for good money management?

If you have never thought about money management before, then a budget binder is a great idea for getting started. Budget binders are a great way for you to manage your money, but you have to remember to write in them. If you are not sure whether it will work for you, don’t spend a lot of money on your budget binder.


If you’re unable to stay on top of your finances and general money management, a money saving binder or budget binder can be a great start. By writing down all of your financial information in one place together with any financial goals you might have, you are making a start in keeping track of everything. You can buy a ready-made budget binder or you can make your own with templates you download from the internet. Some people like to use the cash envelope method with their budget binders, but it is not essential.

Budget binders can be a bit hard to set up because you have to find all your financial details and write them down, but once you’ve done that, your budget binder will help you review your income and spending, and help you work towards achieving your financial goals. Think of them as a tool to help you engineer your own financial future!

Reference List:

  1. How to Budget Using the Envelope System, Rebecca Lake, The Balance. Published: Sep 21, 2021. Accessed online at https://www.thebalancemoney.com/how-to-budget-using-the-envelope-system-4783268 on May 3, 2023.
  2. 100+ Budget Categories to Help You Start Your Budget, Milica Aleksandric, FinMasters. Published: April 15, 2023. Accessed online at https://finmasters.com/budget-categories/#gref on May 3, 2023.
  3. How to Make A Budget Binder and Organize Your Finances, Todd Kunsman, Invested Wallet. Published: April 14, 2021. Accessed online at https://investedwallet.com/make-a-budget-binder/ on May 3, 2023.
  4. 6 budgeting and savings apps worth checking out in 2023, Alasdair Duncan, Canstar. Published: Feb 24, 2023. Accessed online at https://www.canstar.com.au/budgeting/budgeting-apps/ on May 3, 2023.
  5. Dave Ramsey’s Envelope System Explained, Rachel Cruze, Ramsey Solutions. Published: Oct 25, 2022. Accessed online at https://www.ramseysolutions.com/budgeting/envelope-system-explained#:~:text=What%20Is%20Dave%20Ramsey’s%20Envelope,quick%20peek%20in%20your%20envelope on May 3, 2023.
  6. How to make your own budget binder for the cash envelope system, Ben Luthi, USA Today. Published: Feb 16, 2023. Accessed online at https://www.usatoday.com/money/blueprint/personal-finance/budget-binder-for-cash-envelopes/ on May 3, 2023.

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