It’s the insider’s guide to picking the best budget planner in the bunch!
Sometimes, I’m stupid. Yup, I said it.
I don’t want to figure something out, or I don’t have the time to figure it out, or sometimes I just don’t “get it.” Certain things just don’t compute, like directional navigation. Don’t tell me, “go north,” just tell me to “turn left here.” Or sometimes, I just need reassurance that I’m on the right path, that I’m not missing something important. Because the constant, “Am I doing this right?” doesn’t exude confidence, it holds us back from fully moving forward.
Directions and roadmaps are great! I love to see something laid out, step by step. All you need to do is fill in the blanks! So you know that you’re on the right path, you didn’t miss anything important, and you’ll end up reaching your destination.
Budget planners are the perfect example of using the tools & directions to guide you to exactly where you want to be. But you don’t just want any budget planner; you want the best budget planner!
Today, we’re going to find just that; the perfect budget planner for you so you don’t get tripped up or focused on the wrong things, or go in only gear 2. Budget planners keep you on track and up to speed!.”
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What is a Budget Planner?
A budget planner book takes many forms; it can be…
- Budget planner notebook (spiral bound)
- Budget planner book (hardbound
- Budget binder (3 or 6 ring binder)
Basically, it’s a place (a tool, so to say) where you keep all your financial information in one tidy, neat package! Usually, it has all things money-related in it. Like your monthly budget template (of course), savings trackers, expense tracker, monthly bills, debt payoff trackers, bank account statements, financial goal tracking, credit card statements, a daily/weekly/monthly calendar, etc.
Now, many people like to use a budgeting app, and they’re great. But there’s something special (tactile) about putting pen to paper and writing things out. If you rack your brain and think back to HS, you’ll remember the learning pyramid . It covers the different ways we learn and how each additional “level” of learning helps us retain more information.
The smallest percentile of retention is listening, then reading, then comes audiovisual, then watching someone do it, then group discussion, and then (finally) comes the practice by doing. That is where using a budget planner comes into play. You retain more information by writing it out yourself and not leaning on an app to do it all for you! The more info you retain, the more you learn, and the more committed you become to your goal!
So if you’re looking to make lasting change, pass by any budgeting software or a budget app and go old fashioned pen & paper, (at least to begin with).
Writing down your own budget is Tip #5 in my Top Tips for Successful Budgeting, be sure to check it out if you’re into tips & hacks!
Why should you use a budget planner?
A budget planner works great for so many women because the good planners…
- Are comprehensive
- Easy to use
- Fun (creative outlet with stickers, pens, etc.)
- Keeps you engaged with budgeting (this is the most important piece!)
- Are formatted efficiently, so everything flows nicely together, and you know that you haven’t forgotten anything!
Remember up above when I talked about roadmaps? A great budget planner guides you along on a journey without needing a money guru on call! It allows you to take control of your personal finances while still having a guide along!
Also, when you start actively participating in something, it gives you a greater sense of control over “it.” Taking action puts you in the driver seat of your finances, even if you’re just filling out a budget notebook. Everyone knows that the first step is the hardest. So committing yourself by buying a budget planner is a GREAT first step!
Once you have mastered your budget planning, and are using it to strategically plan your finances, you can go anywhere! Budget Planners can get you your heart’s desire, as almost everything comes back to money, or “can I afford it?”
I hate to sound callous or crude, but money can buy you what you really want. (It’s the greed and not being satisfied with “enough” that gets people into trouble). If you want more free time for your hobby, then having enough money can enable you to take time off of work. Want to be a world class chef? It’s money that can buy you lessons. I could go on with thousands of examples, but in the end, the truth is that money can buy you happiness. (just don’t get greedy on us!)
How to pick the best budget planner for you
The good news is that there are lots of options for you! The bad news is that it can make it a bit overwhelming to pick one. No worries, buy the end of this post, you will know which is the best budget planner for you!
Things to consider when picking out the best budget planner book
You’ll want to look at a variety of planners, so you know what’s available and the features that appeal to you. Pay attention to…
- How big/small it is: portability, will it fit in your favorite bag?
- Binder & paper size: listed in inches
- A4 8-1/4 x 11-3/4
- A5 5-7/8 x 8-1/4
- A6 4-1/8 x 5-7/8
- Dated or undated: i.e., can you start at any time?
- Format and layout: horizontal, vertical, grid, lined, sectioned
- The level of detail: do you want general instructions and guiding or very specific?
- Available accessories: stickers, decorative tape, add in pages for budget planner notebooks, etc
What do I want to track & plan? Many planners have the same kind of informational planning & tracking sheets. Which could include…
- monthly calendar
- spending tracker
- bill tracker
- monthly budget template
- weekly budget template
- financial goal planner
- cash envelopes
- debt payoff tracker
- sinking fund tracker
- monthly review worksheet
- budgeting tool guide
- savings goal tracking
- credit score tracker
- net worth tracker
- financial accounts log
- budgeting method used (i.e. envelope budgeting, zero-based budget, budget by paycheck, 50/30/20 method, etc.
- How will I use it? (at home, to plan big picture stuff or plan EVERYTHING)
- How often do I want to use it?
- One year or multi-year use
- Return policy
- Any social media groups that use this book (community can be great for learning tricks and new ideas)
Maybe you’re worried about choosing the wrong one? Here’s a tip, pretend you’re a physic! Physics notice details about you, and they know something about human nature. A physic would look at your outward appearance, notice your word choices, they would play into common fears and desires.
So if you’re super stylish but conservative, they would pick out a simple but elegant planner. Or, if you talk about loving the new kitchen gadgets that you just got, they would pick out a planner with accessories.
They would pick a planner that plays up your strengths and is something that you’re already drawn to. That’s how a physic would pick the best budget planner for you!
How much do budget planners cost?
I will give a general cost range for each item, yet prices change, so I will give a range.
- $ = $10 and under
- $$ = $20 and under
- $$$ = $35 and under
- $$$$ = $50 or more
With a few planners, you can easily drop $100 or more if you decided to go hog wild with all the accessories. A cautionary tale (of course), DON’T go too crazy!
A great idea is to add these items to your Amazon gift wishlist! Be it for your birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Arbor Day (just kidding) 🙂 This way, you can snag the fun, cute extras but not put yourself over budget.
I went through all the 1 & 2-star ratings to find common dissatisfiers and laid it out for you. So you don’t have to go digging for any real-life info; I’ve done it all for you!
The 15 best budget planners
I will go through the planners and suggest what “type” of a person it may be best for. YET, please don’t think that you can’t get it if you have a different focus than what I am suggesting. It’s only to give you a rough idea and be able to narrow down your choices quickly.
Best budget planner for those who like things organized & straightforward
- A5 size (5.8″ x 8.3″)
- Monthly budget worksheets
- Monthly budget review sheets
- Strategy & mind mapping activity
- Financial goal sheets
- Savings tracker
- Expense tracker
- Bill tracker
- Cash flow worksheets
There are lots of great accessories that are a part of the Clever Fox planner! Lots of fun budgeting stickers and cash envelopes that you can add-on to your purchase!
Best budget planner for those who have a lot of receipts & paper bills
- 8″ x 9.5″
- Monthly budget
- Monthly calendar
- Expense tracker
- Debt tracker
- Savings tracker
- Regular bill tracker
- Pockets for bills
- Financial goal sheets & mind mapping
- 12-month usage
Best budget planner for those who need some extra motivation!
- A5 sizing
- Monthly budget plan
- Income, savings, and expenses logs
- Undated calendar with goals and gratitude sections
- Monthly expense tracker
- Goal setting section
- Vision board – visualize your goals
- Holidays and special projects budgeting tracker
- Debt tracker
- Savings tracker
- Bill payment tracker
- Yearly and quarterly budget review
Best budget planner for those who want budgeting to be a part of a whole planning program
- 8.25″ x 5.75″ size
- 1 saving tracker spread
- 72 pages of monthly spending summaries
- 4 pages of debt tracking
- 1 quote page
- 1 sticker sheet
Best budget planner for those who want quality
- A5 sizing
- 2 pages for making a financial plan for your life
- 2 pages for setting your financial goals and their breakdown on the mind map
- 4 pages for tracking savings
- 4 pages for debt tracking
- 12 months (8 pages per month)
- 2 pages for Christmas budgeting
- 2 pages for regular bill tracking
- 2 pages for an annual summary to track your progress throughout the year.
- Accordion pocket for receipts
Best budget planner for the no-nonsense kinda girl
- 148 pages
- Paperback – standard 8.5″ x 11″ sizing
- Monthly Budget Worksheet
- Weekly and Daily Expense Tracker
Best budget planner for the basic forms
- 5.3″ x 7.6″ (small)
- Spiral-bound (pages lay flat)
- 2 pages for regular bill trackers
- 12 months of monthly budget planner and expense tracking
- Annual expenses budget.
- monthly income, regular monthly payments, monthly direct debits & bills, monthly savings, monthly essentials,
- 3 monthly day-to-day spend pages
- 2 monthly spend totals pages and Month overview
- Special section for Christmas & extra expenses
- 1 inner pocket
Best budget planner for someone who is doing the debt snowball
- 8.3″ x 5.8″
- 5 colors to choose from
- 176-page financial planner
- Affirmations pages
- Goal setting pages
- Tracking your debts (debt snowball method – this is great!)
- Expense sheets
- Spending analysis
- Monthly calendars
- 10 blank pages for spider mapping your plan of action
- 10 lined pages for notes
- Expanded pockets for receipts
- Focus on quality paper and construction
Best budget planner for someone who likes all the bells & whistles – Happy Planners
Women everywhere rave about their Happy Planners! They are cute, fun, and you can totally customize yours to make it exactly what you want it to be! It’s a mix & match process…
- Pick your size – basically small, medium & large
- Pick Your theme – what’s the general area of focus? Health & wellness, budgeting, journaling, etc
- Customize it – pick your inserts (lots to choose from! You can buy expander disc rings to make it so your planner holds more
- Accessorize it – think stickers, washi tape, sticky notes, envelopes & tabs, pens, etc
- 7″ x 9.25″
- Vertical layout
- Income, expenses, and remaining budget overview
- Bill organization chart – date, bill/description, category, amount, paid
- Savings tracker – date, account, activity, balance
- Accounts and debts – date, account, activity, balance
- Monthly budget challenge – no spend and reporting
In addition to this planner, they also make the Mini Happy Planner Budget, which is more streamlined with fewer “extra” pages. And at the other end of the spectrum is their Savvy Saver Deluxe Budget Planner! “This 2021 budget planner is the perfect solution to combine your daily planning and budgeting. It features an expense tracker, savings tracker, bill tracker, notes section, and area for no-spend challenges. If you are looking to streamline your planning and budgeting, this planner is your answer.”
Best budget planner as a gift for someone
- 1 Classic Budget HP
- Sticky notes
- Magnetic book mark
No need to go through pros & cons, as they are the same as th eone above.
Best budget planner for someone who wants to learn a lot about money & behavior
- Assessing the urgency of your situation
- Understanding where your money’s going
- Creating a realistic budget
- Dumping your debt
- Cleaning up your credit rating
Best budget planner to carry on the go
- 5.5″ x 8
- Financial goal setting
- Strategy & action plans
- Monthly bill tracker
- Saving and debt tracker
- Monthly income, savings & budgeting
- Daily expenses
- Month & year-end review for reflection
- Christmas tracker to enjoy the best time in the year without financial worries
- Notes section
- undated = start anytime
Best for those that want simple & stylish
- Two size options – 5.3″ x 7.7″ and an A5 size (5.7″ x 8.5″)
- Monthly goals & budget
- Debt tracker
- Expense tracker
- Monthly review sheets
- Savings tracker
- Stickers included
- Holiday spending tracker
- Accordion pocket for receipts
Best for those that use the cash envelope system
- A5 size
- 12 months comes with a calendar spread
- monthly goals & budget spread
- 3 debt tracker pages
- notes page
- 2 savings tracker pages
- 4 debt tracker pages
- 2 holiday budget pages
- 2 regular bill tracker pages
- 2 summary of the year pages
- 220+ stickers and guide
Best Budget Planner for Financial Goal Setting
- 24 pages with sections on healthy financial practices, budgeting, debt, saving, investments, and giving
- Action step guides
- Included bonus teaching video
Best budget planner when you’re in a hurry
- 6 types of budget planners
- Zero based budget
- Simple budget
- 50/30/20 budget
- Budget by paycheck
- Cash envelope budget
- Budget sampler pack
- Instant download so you can start right now!
- Budget form for each month
- Undated calendar
- Quick start guide
- Budget category lists
- Important dates list
- Quarterly review guide
Best budget planner for skeptics – Money for the Mamas free templates
I get it, budgeting isn’t for everyone, and it’s traditionally considered not a lot of fun. But, there are many nerds (just like me) who love it! Maybe you just need an easy path to the heavenly side of budgeting nirvana 🙂
If so, then grab my set of free budgeting templates; it will take you $0 and just two minutes of your time to get and print these handy budgeting sheets! Try them out and get a feel for what kind of info is in the physical planners, and maybe you’ll want to upgrade later.
If you’re a bullet journal fanatic, then no, you don’t need another planner. You can easily incorporate some financial spreads into your current dot journal! Using a BuJo is a great way to keep your finances front & center as you use your journal multiple times a day!
Best budget planner accessories
- GoGirl makes these very sturdy multi-use cash envelopes. These are a pack of 12 and a zip bag to hold them all.
- Cute color-coordinating laminated cash envelopes, set of 12
- Clever Fox sturdy cash envelopes with pouch
- Binder with clear cash envelopes
Reusable trackers & add-in sheets
- Wet-erase marker set
- Erin Condron monthly bill tracking snap-in sheet
- Erin Condron to-do list checklist
- Extra expense tracker sheets for Happy Planner
- Happy Planner spend well extension pack (big size) from me & my big ideas
Stickers, tape & pens
- 48 roll washi tape for decorating
- 36 color journal pens – fine point tip, 4.5 stars with over 2,800 ratings!
- Clever Fox budgeting stickers – 1,000+ on 14 sheets
- Me & my big idea budgeting sticker set – set of 682
- Happy Planner Get Paid sticker set – set of 365
- 6 hole puncher for planners
- Filler paper for planners
- Planner tabs
- Happy Planner expander discs
- Happy Planner storage case
At the end of the day
I used a budget planner for quite a few years, and then I switched over to my own printable budget planner and a budget spreadsheet. Yet, I can’t deny the allure of using a fun & cute planner! Getting that planner in the mail was always a highlight, and I loved putting it together.
I was literally so excited to put the stickers in, date it all, and write out my goals! And I think that is what most of us don’t like about the stereotypical budgeting process; it’s not fun, it’s not motivating. And if you’re not motivated to use it, then you won’t use it, and you quit. So if lack of motivation is a typical roadblock for you, then give a budget planner a try!
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