I’ve tried many different methods for tracking my budget: spreadsheets, budgeting apps, and pen to paper.
None of these methods have been as inclusive and effective for me as the Clever Fox Budget Planner.
This is my planner that I scored for $15 from Amazon (Full price is $20, but I had a $5 Amazon gift card I earned from Swagbucks). I chose “rose gold” because I love pink! But, it comes in a variety of colors – so don’t worry if pink isn’t your thing.
The Clever Fox Budget Planner is my hub for all things financial. From my big-picture plans down to the small details of my finances, this planner helps me organize it all.
To be honest, when I first opened my planner and flipped through the pages of my would-be financial plan, I felt overwhelmed.
It’s not that the planner is confusing – it’s the realization that my financial plan is not nearly as well-organized or well-thought out as I thought it was.
Where do I start? What do I do first?
The Clever Fox Budget Planner comes with an insert of instructions for how to best utilize the planner. The instructions include examples to prompt critical thinking for building your financial plan.
The Clever Fox Budget Planner gets you thinking through your financial plan and needs starting with the big picture: your overall financial goals. Some of my goals include paying off two of our smaller bills, taking on no new debt in 2020, reducing our credit card debt, updating our budget, and making a deposit into my IRA.
After you layout your financial goals, you’ll move on to your “mind map.” For the mind map – think: brainstorming session. It’s a blank slate to start with your core goals – for me, it’s to get out of debt and to make enough money to build savings. Then, your ideas will branch to better plan how to make your goals happen. Brainstorm, starting from ‘big picture’ out to the small details, with bridge ideas/needs/strategies in between.
In my planner, for my big-picture goal to get out of debt, I have an intermediate step branching from it: to take on no new debt in 2020. Then, branching from that intermediate step are two smaller ideas to achieve it: placing a ‘hold’ on home improvement projects and staying healthy to avoid more medical bills.
Making the mind map can create an intuitive visual plan for how to achieve your financial goals. Seeing my financial goals and needs mapped out like this has helped me identify steps to reach my goals that I’ve previously overlooked. While mapping, I noticed I hadn’t broken down my goal to get out of debt far enough – I needed to plan further into what I have to do to take on no new debt this year. So, when you make your mind map, be on the look out for areas that need to be broken down into smaller, more achievable steps to work toward your overall goal.
After setting my big-picture goals and building my mind map (which I fully expect will be a fluid document that I’ll be adding to as my financial needs change…and crossing items off that I achieve!), the Clever Fox Budget Planner prompted me to address the strategies and tactics I’ll use to achieve my goals.
When you plan out your strategies and tactics in the planner, you’re prompted to come up with specific, concrete moves you’ll make to achieve your financial goals. I don’t want to give too much away, but, according to the planner, this includes strategies and tactics such as any new skills you need to learn, actions you’ll take to earn and save more money, and more…
Personally, new skills on my list as needing to learn to achieve my financial goals include: SEO (search engine optimization) for DollarMost, of course! Also, learning how to coupon more effectively, and continuing to explore money-saving recipes for home and parties.
After identifying your strategies and tactics that’ll help you achieve your financial goals, the Clever Fox Budget Planner prompts you to savings and debt trackers. For the savings tracker, you’ll identify a goal item you’re saving for, your goal amount to save for that item, and a chart for tracking when and how much you save toward your goal along the way. For the debt tracker, you’ll write in a debt you want to pay off, and then track your progress toward that debt month-to-month.
For example, an item I’m saving for is 2 Waldameer season passes for my kids this summer. I know I’ll need $225 total for the passes – and, since I’m planning for a spend-free summer, I’m starting to earn and save for them now. I’ve done two UserTesting tests so far. So, I’ve logged $20 in my savings tracker.
At this point, your overall financial goals and financial plan are mapped out, planned out, and strategized. (Keep in mind, it’s okay for plans to grow and change – just because you have your plan now doesn’t mean it’s written in stone. If you’re like me, you’ll write it in pencil so changes and additions are easy!)
Next comes the nitty-gritty of the Clever Fox Budget Planner.
The monthly budget and review. This is more of the living, breathing section of the planner because it’s the area you’ll work in most frequently. You start with your goals for that month. The planner prompts you to make SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
Your monthly goals should be stepping-stones toward your annual goals. One of my monthly goals for January is to plan dinners around coupons, sales, and pantry-items. This monthly goal directly relates to one of my annual goals: to get out of debt.
There are additional features on each monthly budget and review page (like I said, for Clever Fox Budget Planner’s sake, I don’t want to divulge everything in the planner!). But, this is the place to log your anticipated monthly income and expenses – then come back at the end of the month to review your anticipated amounts versus your actual amounts.
I like the review part of this! I’ve been consistent about logging my monthly income and expenses. But, until using the Clever Fox Budget Planner, I’ve never consistently gone back to review my anticipated financials to my actual financials.
Monthly budgeting AND reviewing helps keep me on track toward my annual financial goals by prompting me to make tweaks to my budget month-to-month.
Side note: This planner includes a “Christmas Budget” section which I was a bit surprised to see. It’s a good thought, however, I feel this could be omitted from the planner…Holiday expenses could be rolled into December’s monthly budget and review. Not everyone celebrates holidays and, if they do, not everyone celebrates Christmas.
At the end of the year, the Clever Fox Budget Planner prompts you through an end-of-year review of your finances. This is the time to review overall expenses, income, and progress toward your financial goals. Keep your planner each year! You’ll need to look to your financial past to better plan your financial future.
Overall, the Clever Fox Budget Planner has helped me to better focus on my financial goals. It’s helped me break down my big-picture financial goals small enough to make them achievable. And, it’s helped me save money through raising awareness of my planned expenses versus my actual expenses. Hopefully, this planner helps you, too.
Take care and get planning, Savers!
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