How To Create A Simple Budget Organizer : Our January 2017 Budget Update




Your budget relies on you to report the financial information needed to ensure it balances at the end of the month. Having a budget organizer should be an important step on your to-do list when you begin to budget your money.

I’ve never really shared what our budget organizer looks like on Canadian Budget Binder so today I will give you insight into our budget office. I briefly described what we’ve used in the past as our Budget Binder although we’ve since swapped over to a colourful blue sleek portfolio. Colour does matter when you choose a budget organizer. Think happy colours such as green, blue and yellow.

You could be using the best budget app or budget spreadsheet available but if you aren’t keeping your documents stored in a budget organizer you’re failing before you begin. Not only is there potential to lose important documents you’re going to be tearing your desk or house apart looking for them. Even worse, you miss the expense and can’t balance your budget.

As Mara points out below in her email to me she is wasting time every month trying to get her budget documentation together. I’ve been in her shoes because I’m not exactly the best organized guy out there. Mrs. CBB and I created a simple budget organizer that works for us and might work for you. I bet you’ll be shocked to see just how simple it is and why you’re stressing over nothing.

Hi Mr.CBB,

I’ve been a stay at home mom for a year now and plan to stay home for the next 4 years until my daughter is in school. I’m using your basic budget template and was wondering if you could share an easy way for me to keep everything organized so I’m not wasting time every month.

It’s frustrating for me and with a small child I need a system that doesn’t need much effort required. We have an office and desk set up in our basement so I’m hoping for something simple that will help me keep track of my stuff.


Mara L.

But what about the Budget Binder you ask?

The Budget Binder is a great way to store all of your budgeting needs if you want to go the binder route. The budget binder is great to keep all of your paperwork and bills sorted each month and perfect for someone who is on the go and wants to take their budget with them.

What is a budget binder? Some might even call this their budget-coupon binder which is something like what we used when we were extreme couponing a few years back. It can be bulky which is why it’s not for everyone. The sleek, floppy approach to the budget organizer using portfolios works for us on a different level.

A budget binder is also great for someone who likes to go a step further in the organizational game of budgeting. Everything in its place is a great way to describe it. The budget organizer is similar but you don’t have all the frills such as a built in calculator, pen and pencil holders, zipper case, coupon holder etc.

You can easily purchase something like this at Value Village for cheap and create an office to go but not everyone needs something like this. A great time to find them in abundance is just after the end of the school year at second-hand shops for under $5 each. If you plan to buy new expect to pay over $20.00 for a zippered binder at regular cost or less if you can find it on sale.


Track budget needs


No matter what budget format you choose to use whether it be my basic budget printable or online excel budget spreadsheet I’d say the level of importance for organization is very high.

Related: Free Money Saving Tools (free budgets)

I’ve seen some elaborate budget organizers in-store and online at Amazon Canada with fancy labelled sheets but in my opinion it’s a waste of money. It’s not hard to be organized when budgeting especially when you are in control. Spending money to save money does work but if you can save money by doing something yourself, why wouldn’t you?

Related: How to use an envelope budgeting system

If you plan to go the fancy, custom route at least research your options to see what will work best for you. You might find the Dave Ramsey Deluxe Envelope system in a leather carrying case right up your alley. This comes with a $34.99 price tag though.

The last thing you want to do is spend money on a budget planner and not like what it offers you even if you can return it. If you’re not up for using a printable budget, online spreadsheet or buying a custom budget planner there are other options on the market for an all-in-one budget planner that aren’t as costly and with less of the frills. Again, you can still get away with a healthy budget organizer on a frugal budget if you DIY it yourself. Your choice.


How to create a budget organizer


Don’t fall for all the glam when it comes to getting your budget in order. If you’ve got a Staples Canada where youbudget organizer folder Staples Canada live or any type of store that sells office supplies that is the place you want to start your search for the perfect budget organizer.

(None of these are sponsored or affiliate just examples of what to use for a budget organizer)

The Five Star-Advanced Portfolio Stay-Put Folder is almost identical to the budget organizer we use every day. This is all you really need if you’re using an online budget spreadsheet.

  • Durable, water-resistant poly portfolio
  • Pocket and flap system keeps papers in place
  • Includes three prongs for inserting 3-holed paper and clear plastic index card holder on inside
  • Available in 8 assorted colours
  • Size: 11-5/8″ x 9-1/3″

The flap and pocket system will allow you to store your receipts on one side and your documents such as bills on the other. This simple budget organizer costs you $2.96 or if you’re frugal-minded like we are check the second-hand shops as there is always an array of binders and subject books available. You might not find the exact one as above but one that is similar.

five star pocket portfolio staples canada budget organizerAlternatively, if you’d like to have more space and options available to you for your budget organizer the Five Star Pocket Poly Portfolio will do the trick. It has ample room to store more documents or to organize your receipts as you go along.

If you’ve only got a few receipts every month like we do the Advanced portfolio will work fine as a budget organizer. This type of budget organizer will cost you $7.92 which is nothing compared to the prices of custom-made budget organizers on the market.


  • Five Star® 15 pocket portfolio is an ideal student solution when it comes to keeping papers together, organized and protected
  • Durable poly construction to last all year
  • Features spine guard which offers a comfortable grip and protects the wire
  • Elastic pen loop on front cover
  • Includes 5 poly tabbed 3 pocket dividers
  • Available in 6 assorted colours
  • Dimensions: 1-1/4″ x 10-1/8″ x 11-1/4″

If you’re a student start digging in your closet because you might already own something like the above and you won’t need to buy one. Alternatively if you’re a parent with kids in High School, College or University you might want to start your frugal budget organizer hunt with them.

Buying a custom budget binder won’t make you rich, smarter or organized any better than creating one yourself. If you’re someone who might be discouraged about budgeting because you think you need to spend money on fancy budgets don’t worry it’s all about being smart where you put your money not how you decorate it.

Discussion Question:

What type of budget organizer system do you use for your monthly finances?


Where our money went in January


January 2017 Month Income and Expenses

After a phenomenal December 2016 income, January 2017 seemed like a bit of a disappointment. For starters any remaining pay for the end of the 2016 was actually paid in 2016 but then I was ill for what seemed to be most of January with a smorgasbord of illnesses that were floating around.

I missed some time at work, plus my contract second job now has less hours for the moment. Am I worried? No, because we are in a position to not get worried. We’ve gotten to a position in our life where we don’t have to worry about keeping up with the bills just because we had some time off work.

The expenses for the month of January were kept low too. We never went bonkers over the Christmas period and therefore never received enormous Christmas bills. It also helps that I’m not the kind of person that has to have the latest and greatest gadgets which blows an inordinate amount of money in the process. I never was the cool kid and maintain that to this very day.

I’ve also reviewed the budget and to be honest, there’s minimal changes required. I increased health and beauty, healthcare and prescriptions and grocery. The results of last years spending actually fell inline very well with our monthly budget total.


Pick a budget that’s right for you


I’m currently offering 2 versions of our budget and the reason behind it is simple. Firstly, read the CBB blog disclaimer because what you do with it is your own business so if you mess it up you need to sort that out.

I have not closed off any cells so you can make all the changes you like to the budget to reflect your lifestyle which is what you asked me for in your emails. (See I do listen and read your comments and emails)

Although I would love to help every single fan with their budget I am unable to do so but I am always willing to answer any emails you send me so don’t be shy.

This was after all meant to be our personal budget and although I would love to customize it for every fan that wants to use it but, I’m afraid I cannot.

I’m not selling this budget or hope to make any money from it so enjoy this free budget and I hope that it works for you as much as it does for us.


Our free budget spreadsheet


cbb budget screen shot compressed

You can download the free budget spreadsheets here.

  • Budget 1– You can use the pre-existing categories or you can use your own if you wish and you have the option to use projected expenses or not. Please read all notes left around the budget for tips.
  • Budget 2– Everything is pre-set so you have to use the pre-defined categories but this budget will generate year-end budget figures where the other one won’t but you must use the categories already in this budget. If you change anything you will mess up the formulas and year-end figures.
  • Please read all notes left around the budget for tips.

Test the budget for a few months and see how it goes. Trial and error, remember that.


Our family budget plan


How we budget our monthly expenses?

I often have fans ask me how to budget money on a low-income or they simply have a high debt load and want to kill it like my friend Tony who got rid of over $100,000 worth of debt by using a budget.

CBB fans want to know what we do in order to save so much money and the reply I give is simple>> It’s not about the money it’s about the process involved.

We are both money managers of our finances and with our relationship compatibility we have been able to get to where we are in 2016, debt free.

It doesn’t matter if you are using a cash only budget or you use your debit and credit cards, if your budget doesn’t balance you have budget issues you should check it pronto.

Learning how to be your own money manager is important because no one else will care about your money more than YOU!.

We don’t always save as much money as we would like every month but most importantly we are not going into debt but only because we are budgeting our money. In fact we are currently debt-free including the mortgage which means all we pay for is our monthly bills and expenses.

One of the most important things we did for our personal finances was that we never let the budget deter us from reaching our goals.

Sure we’ve had crap months but we’ve made up for it or we learned from our mistakes just like we should. Budget failure only occurs when you give up on your budget which should not happen as long as you truly want to reach your goals.

We didn’t always earn the income we do today but made do with what we were earning so we didn’t go into debt. That my friends is “living below your means”. The only science to becoming rich!

Sometimes fans email and ask me if living on a budget in Canada is any different from living and budgeting in other countries. To be honest I’m going to say, probably not.

If I still lived in the UK I could use this exact budget spreadsheet to meet all of my needs however the budget needs to be reviewed monthly.

Below are links to the budgeting series which I wrote while designing our excel budget spreadsheet which will give you an idea just how we designed our budget.

I’m not a financial planner/advisor so I can’t tell you how you should budget but I can show you how we budget. I’m just a regular guy just like everyone else; some might call me a budget or numbers nerd.


Learn how to budget with Mr.CBB


Our Budgeting Series

Do you want to learn to budget like we do?

We explain everything we do and more in this mini-series below all about budgeting.

Please take the time to read through our budgeting series plus read Budgeting in the New Year. I hope the information will help stop you from making common budgeting mistakes that I hear of often and that you take something away from the information and apply it to your financial situation.

If you have any questions about what we do with our budget money tracker feel free to email me.

  1. How We Designed Our Budget Step 1 Gathering All the information
  2. How We Designed Our Budget Step 2Budget Categories
  3. How We Designed Our Budget Step 3– Tracking Receipts
  4. How We Designed Our Budget Step 4- Note-taking
  5. How We Designed Our Budget Step 5– 5S Organization
  6. How We Designed Our Budget Step 6– Who Does What and When?
  7. How We Designed Our Budget Step 7– Balancing Our Budget
  8. How We Designed Our Budget Step 8– Knowing our Coupon Savings
  9. How We Designed Our Budget Step 9– Reading Our Bills
  10. How We Designed Our Budget Step 10 Projected Expenses


Budget percentages January 2017


January 2017 Household Percentages

Our savings of 47.51% includes savings and investments and emergency savings for this month. If you include the projected expenses savings, we actually saved 72.31% of our income. That’s $5737.13 going into savings or investments of some description or another.

The monthly totals comes to 100% which shows that we spent our income this month and used the rest as emergency savings.

The other categories were well within the defined percentage limits. Our projected expenses this month is at 24.80%.


Budget percentages month by month


January 2017 Month by Month

Breaking down expenses


This is simply a breakdown of our expenses which has helped us to understand where all of our money goes. Since May 2014 we have been mortgage free so much of our money will be directed at savings, investments and renovations.

I appreciate that you enjoy this budget update each month but I do hope you view this as an educational tool rather than comparing your own financial numbers as our situations are all unique.

Although I encourage your comments and love to hear what you have to say about our budget categories and expenses please don’t tell us to donate our money to charities because we have too much or are fortunate. We are hardly out of the clear with finances for the rest of our lives and have worked and sacrificed to get where we are. We do plan to enjoy the money we’ve saved now since we haven’t over the years with our son.

What we do with our “extra cash” is our business and although we do donate to a charity we won’t be putting it on display for the world to see as it defeats the purpose in my eyes. It is part of the budget as you see it. I hope that clears that up for those of you who had concerns about our extra money.

Just 10 years ago I started working in Canada making a bit over minimum wage and have since moved up the ladder. I’m now working very hard to secure my dream job with one foot in the door. We aren’t all lucky but if you do the best you can at least you can look back and say you gave it a shot.

Sometimes we wish we had more money to budget with but understand that we only have what we earn and if we want more, we need to earn more. Spending less than we earn and budgeting our money has been the easiest way for us to pay down debt and save money.

  1. Chequing– This is the bank account where all of our debt gets paid from.
  2. Emergency Savings Account– This is a high-interest savings account.
  3. Regular Savings Account– This is a savings account that holds our projected expenses.
  4. Monthly Budgeted Total: $5163.64
  5. Monthly Net Income Total$7934.08
  6. (Check out our Ultimate Grocery Guide to see where our grocery money goes)
  7. Projected Expenses: These are expenses we know we will pay for throughout the year = $1967.68
  8. Total Expenses Actually Paid Out$3338.32
  9. Total Expenses Actually Paid Out: Calculated is $7934.08 (total net monthly income) – $1,967.68 (projected expenses) – $2628.08 (emergency savings) = $3338.32
  10. Actual Cash Savings going into Emergency Savings: Calculated is $7934.08 (total monthly net income) – $3338.32 (actual expenses paid out for the month) – $1967.68 (projected expenses) = $2628.08


How to save for future expenses


What are Projected Expenses? – We project expenses throughout the year so we have the money saved. PE= A projected expense is money automatically saved each month so it is ready when the bill comes in or when you need it as in the example below.

We review our projected expenses at the beginning of the year to set up our yearly budget and adjust as we go along if a new projected expense arises and needs to be added to the budget. Sometimes we remove a projected expense as well so it’s very important to keep an eye on your expenses.

This has happened on many occasions but it’s bound to happen as we can’t predict everything we have to pay for over the course of the year. The important part for us is that we are saving for these expenses and we no longer have to stress about taking money from our savings to pay for them. To learn more about projected expenses read Step 10 in my budgeting series.

When we spend the money in a projected expense category we move that money to our chequing account in order to pay for that incoming expense. So this means the numbers go up and down in the projected expenses account based on what we need to pay for that we saved for in the account over time.

The only thing you need to do is track your projected expenses each month manually as I can’t customize that for you in the excel budget spreadsheet as I don’t know what you will use for projected expenses.

For now we will have to manually track which means month after month we add up what we save in each projected expense category and minus what we spend so we know how much we have and what is left in each category. I have updated our personal excel budget spreadsheet for 2017.

We pay money into the projected expenses account continually throughout the year even when bills come due as its revolving so as one bill gets paid the money continues to come in from the other categories all year-long. This ensures that money is always available. It may not always be enough but having something ready is better than having nothing at all and having to use credit.

So the $1967.68 gets paid into the projected expense account every month no matter what. It seems to be easier to track our money this way but you can do what works best for you.


Example Projected Expense


If our clothing category was a projected expense we would have a budget of $50 per month for the two of us. If we spend $30 on clothes for the month that means we need to pull $30 from the projected expenses account to pay for this expense or we move only $20 to projected expenses for the month and leave the $30 in your chequing account.

It’s up to you how you do it as I mentioned above. My plan is to create a projected expenses spreadsheet to track the expenses all year-long otherwise you need to do it manually which we currently do in order to make sure we don’t overspend what we haven’t saved or will save over the course of the year.

It’s a fairly easy process essentially becoming a lifestyle change for your finances but the most important part is that the money is available and saved, which means potentially less stress.

This means we should have $600.00 per year for clothing to spend. We have to track that expense as we spend it manually but hopefully when I find some time I can incorporate that into our budget spreadsheet so it tallies the numbers up as we go along. That way we will be able to know exactly what we’ve spent as an ongoing total.


Budget Results


Time for the juicy category numbers and to see how we made out with our monthly budget. Below you will see two tables, one is our monthly budget and the other is our actual budget for the month of January 2017. This budget represents 2 adults and a toddler plus our investments.

Budget colours

If highlighted in blue that means it is a projected expense. You will also see our budget does not include the emergency savings as it is factored in at the end.


Budget for January 2017


January 2017 Monthly Budgeted Amounts


Actual budget expenses for January 2017


January 2017 Actual Monthly Budget


February 2017 Goals


Here are our February 2017 goals along with whether we completed tasks from January 2017.

  • Call around to lawyers to talk about getting a Will written up- Will is almost completed.
  • Start revamping old blog posts: I completed 1 in January
    Finish the master bathroom shower- I was hoping to start this in January however I’ve been asked to work more than I thought now. Coming into March I’m working more hours again.
  • Buy a new blind for the garage- Fail It’s just not a huge priority but it’s hanging on. I’ll get there.
  • Finish the walls in the baby room- We sold the change table and more money than we paid for it. We haven’t done anything else since.
  • Start researching vacation spots for 2017- Trip back home is booked for 3. 🙂
  • Hang paintings and wrought iron decor on the walls- Not Yet but it’s on the list
  • Purge our clothes little by little– Mrs. CBB went through all of her dressers and purged clothes, then donated them.
  • Get the van undercoated- We decided not to do it this year.
  • Steam Clean the Carpets-
  • Start preparing for our holiday-
  • Find some nice friendly personal finance bloggers to guest post while I’m gone- Message me if you want in!!


Budget updates month by month


In case you missed our budget updates and want to do a quick search I’ve compiled them all on one handy page: monthly budgets. For the 2016 Year I will also keep track of each month below and update the monthly budgets page.

That’s all for this month check back at the beginning of March 2017 to see how we made out with our February 2017 budget.

Happy Budgeting CBB’ers!

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  1. I have a problem with your budget software. I’ve set up all the expenses and income but it seems that for every expense that I enter in the line, the amount for “Spent too much/money left over” keeps saying I’ve spent too much which makes absolutely no sense. If I don’t enter in any expenses, I have $0 money left over.

    For example, my budget is $6,000. I enter in monthly total expenses of approximately $2,800.00. Income is $6,300. Next projected savings say $6,000 (which equals my budget) but then it says that I’ve spent too much of $2,000. I though formula is wrong but I can’t seem to figure it out. Can you clarify?


    1. Hello,

      Is it possible for you to send me a screen shot of your issue? I think you’ve got the projected expenses set way too high, Projected expenses for us are things we know will occur during the year but choose to put money away every month for that item. It’s not a monthly occurring expense otherwise we would just list it as an expense.
      I set up the excel file so you can choose whether to use the projected expenses or completely ignore it.

      Mr CBB

  2. My budget organizing system has a few different tools…built up over time. I went from “the giant pile of paper” in the side room, archived in the dresser drawer upstairs when it starts falling over, which then got dumped into a paper box when it was full. What a nightmare! I got converted to become more organized 3 years ago, out of a need to become accountable to myself.

    3, 13 pocket organizers with closures (no spills, nice and neat and easy to grab) — I usually buy if I need them in January and February if I need to as this is “tax time” and mini-back to school. A lot of the stores have these featured on a weekly sale.
    I also use a standup file holder with top loading file folders that are labelled (the contents move into the year end pocket organizer,) re-used year to year.
    I buy inexpensive clearance duotangs for keeping my printed budgets and year end reports, reference materials.
    A coupon wallet, pocket small organizer for things like coupons and gift cards.
    A waterproof fireproof safe to hold the important things that can’t be easily replaced.

    It looks like this…
    1 — 13 pocket organizer to hold weekly receipts as I go along through the month for every purchase. I print my spreadsheets that show how I am saving and put the receipts in one pocket per week. It also contains articles I’ve printed, budgets (monthly and yearly), last month’s synopsis. I can stash the coupon organizer in here also. You could put all the monthly, semi-annual bills in there as they are paid, if it’s easier.

    1 — 13 pocket organizer to hold each months weekly receipts (but not monthly expenses like hydro)….just in case I need to reference. I label each tab and have a spare. This gets cleaned out and re-used month to month. In January 2017, I get rid of last January 2016’s receipts and put in this January 2017 receipts from the week-to-week pocket organizer above. I keep them a year so I can pull items for warranty (one example, getting new work boots after they blew out in 5 months. Saved myself $170 there, who knew work boots have warranty? Same with a dog tie-out, lasted 11 months, got replaced so saved myself $45.) Because these are the weekly receipts, I get rid of the January 2016 receipts when I add the January 2017 receipts.

    Standup file holder for month to month accounting — storing the gas receipts, taxes, insurance papers (house and car), hydro, anything big that I might want to access in a pinch. It gets really jammed, and I add receipts and papers from the front so that the oldest are in the back. All top-loading files are labelled by expense or category such as semi-annual (car, house, taxes) Line of Credit, credit card statements, bank statements etc. Cleaned out annually and moved to the yearly pocket organizer, then stashed for reference. Except for warranty items, which stay in the back of the monthly organizer until they have warranty no more.

    1 — 13 pocket organizer for “year end”…keeping the receipts for car repairs, banking, monthly bills, etc. It gets filled from the standup file holder and stored in January with a years receipts. These are things you want to keep but don’t need to get into every month.

    My budgeting organizer system works for me as it’s a mashup of old fashion paper, electronic reminders and tools. That and reducing the amount of time maintaining it or looking for copies. I use spreadsheets to ensure my math isn’t wrong (it keeps me honest with myself). My cell phone is my mobile organizer and calculator. I find it hard to carry paper flyers, lists, etc. and remember what I need to like reusable bags. I no longer worry AT ALL about incurring interest charges from missed payments, missing opportunities for savings. I can look up receipt information to show anybody any expense at any time. I can budget ahead and plan for expenses. I can see where costs have gone up or down. It’s very liberating, also so much less time consuming. Making your system make sense to you is all that matters.

    1. Hi Anne,
      Are you sure you aren’t good friends with Mary? She is very organized too! We do lots of old school filing as well because it works for us apart from our budget. I love how you have the pocket organizers as well. They do work wonders to keep everything in it’s place. We keep all of our receipts in boxes. You bring up a good point about being honest with yourself. I’m sure there are people who fudge the numbers or pretend they didn’t spend money on something. All it means is that we are cheating ourselves. Good for you and thanks for taking the time to share all of this we the readers and I. Mr.CBB

      1. Thanks for the encouragement! Having different ideas helps to get to the destination…It wasn’t a lot of work to set up nor a lot of money. I built it over time and don’t dedicate a lot of effort for upkeep. A little time here and there makes for an organized system. I don’t have expenses related to missed bills or opportunities anymore. That was the goal. The journey continues.

  3. I downloaded your budget spreadsheet and it seems better that what I currently have. I will try to follow your tips and make some necessary changes to fully it with my budgeting. Thanks Mr CBB!

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