How to Create and Keep a Spending Journal

We journal our thoughts and feelings, we journal what we eat, but how many of us journal what we spend? A spending journal is a great way to track where our money is going and get a clear financial picture of our circumstances. It can help us spend smarter, spend less, and make more informed buying decisions. And the best part is, keeping a spending journal only takes minutes a day! Take a look at these helpful tips on How to Create and Keep a Spending Journal, so you can take better control of your financial situation starting today.

How to Create and Keep a Spending Journal

How to create and keep a spending journal to control your finances.

1. Find a journal.

You can’t create a spending journal without a journal, right? Any simple notebook or journal will do! Head to your local Dollar store if you wish and grab a durable notebook. These $2 notebooks from Amazon will also do the trick. Label it as you wish, and you now officially have a spending journal!

2. Decide on the layout.

There are several ways to layout the journal. You can create a page for each day, or create sections using notebook dividers. Use a layout that works for you. If you want to avoid flipping around, it may just be easier to use a new page each day.

3. Track these expenses.

You have your journal, you have your layout, now it is time to decide WHAT should be going in your journal. You want to be sure you include these items each and every day in your journal:

– Outgoing money/expenses
– Incoming money/income
– Essential spending should be written in GREEN
– Non essentials should be written in RED

Basically if you spend a single dime, it gets recorded in the journal. If you earn a single dime, it gets recorded in the journal. It may be ideal to make two columns on each page, one for outgoing and one for incoming. Then, use colored pens (red and green) to decipher spending and record the information in each.

4. Analyze your journal entries each week.

Once you have accumulated a week’s worth of entries, it is time to analyze them. Do your red entries outweigh the green? That could be an issue. You want to see where you might be wasting money. Fast food, coffee shop stops, entertainment, and dry cleaning may be some of the items popping up in red. The gas bill, groceries, and electric bill may be some of the items showing up in green. The idea is to cut the red column down so you can pay off more of the essential expenses.

5. After a month, add a purple column.

After you have the chance to analyze your spending for the month, add one more column. The purple column is where you will put money you SAVED. If you add any money to savings or use a coupon to save on an item, write the savings in the purple column. It will be fun to see that amount grow!

Related: The Budget Binder Kit is perfect for keeping track of your entire household budget.

6. Keep the journal handy.

It is best to keep your journal in a purse or handbag where you can write your expenses down as they happen. If you put it off until the end of the day you might forget and info may not get recorded. Keep the journal handy and you are more likely to use it and keep information up to date.

As you can see, a journal like this can really help you gain financial freedom. Consider creating a Spending Journal to see if it can help you!

Have you heard of a spending journal before? Will you give it a try?

10 Ways to Combine Frugal and Fun

Being frugal doesn’t mean that you have to live your life in a no fun zone. Maybe you assume that saving money means that you aren’t spending any money which in turn, means that you aren’t doing anything fun. Contrary to that belief, being frugal is fun!

Each and every day, we are each faced with choices on how we choose to make money, and then, in turn, spend that money.  Some people like to spend money on food, while others prefer to spend money on “things” or on making memories.  There’s no right or wrong way to spend your own money. It’s your choice. But what about those people who like to have it both ways?  They like to save money, but also have fun doing so. Is it possible to be able to do both? To actually be frugal and fun?  Absolutely. You can have your cake and eat it too. Need some ideas and inspiration? Here are some suggestions on 10 Ways You can Combine Frugal with Fun.

10 ideas and inspiration to combine frugal and fun

Enjoy and embrace nature.

The great outdoors can be 100% free, and 100% fun.  Think of the options waiting for you right out your back door.  You can go biking, hiking, rollerskating… all in nature and all for free. Hours upon hours of fun await you with an endless supply of outdoor activities. All without making a dent at all in your wallet.

Create a random dish with items in your pantry or fridge. 

We all need to shake up our taste buds every now and then, right?  Instead of running to the store and buying something new, or spending your hard-earned dough on delivery, create a taste bud masterpiece with something fun that you can find in your kitchen. You save money by using what you have and have fun by exploring a fun, one of a kind dish.

Host a small get together.

Have an event or win in life that you want to celebrate? Host a party in the comfort of your own home! No need to rent out a venue for a high cost when you can host at home for free. Better yet? Have it be a pot luck where everyone brings a dish.  Less money to spend on food and everyone has fun trying each other’s dishes and exchanging recipes.

Educate yourself.

Get in tune with all the free things going on in your town. You may be surprised by how many pubs, restaurants or coffee shops in your area offer free bands to listen to on the weekend. Or take a look and see if there are free movies or music in the parks. The events are free for a reason, to be accessible for all to attend!

Binge watch a favorite movie series or shows.

Forget about spending a high ticket price at the movie theater…try to binge watch a few of your old favorites at home. Pop your own popcorn, just the way you like it and snuggle up in your pajamas for a night of fun and relaxation.

Makeover yourself and your friends. 

Who doesn’t like to be pampered? Going to the spa and the salon can be pricey, but having a fun makeover day at home can be awesome. Have all your friends bring over their makeup and have fun pampering and trying out new looks!

Give geocaching a try. 

If you love scavenger hunts, this may be something new and fun to try. Research if it’s popular in your area, and give it a go.  You can uncover all kinds of hidden treasures when searching for those disguised items placed by others in the great outdoors.  

Host a Freezer Meal Party.

These are the best. Invite a group of your cooking buddies over, have them all bring ingredients for their favorite quick meals, and have fun dividing up, sharing and freezing for later.  What a quick and inexpensive way to stock up dinner for later and enjoy the company of some of your favorite people!

Be on the hunt for free books.

Who doesn’t love a good book? But they can be expensive to buy. Instead, hunt around your town to see if there are any Little Free Book Libraries to get books from. (If you’ve never heard of them, check ’em out!)  Also, don’t forget about the awesomeness of the local library.

Relax and go fishing.

Fishing is full of fun from the casting out of the line, to the excitement of reeling in that fish.  It can be a totally fun way to relax, or even catch your own dinner!

Finding ways to save money can be fun and rewarding!  By allowing yourself to be open to trying new things and using some creativity, the options are out there to enjoy. Try spending your time, not your money, by trying new things and making new memories. You may be amazed by all the fun freebies available to you when you are open and accepting to try them!

What are your ideas for combining frugal and fun? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Join in on the Eating from the Pantry/Freezer Challenge!

The Eating from the Pantry & Freezer Challenge from SimplyFrugal.ca

Do you find your pantry and freezer overflowing with food, yet you keep buying more food?

Would you like to join me for an impromptu pantry and freezer challenge? You could possibly save hundreds of dollars on your grocery bill by eating out of your pantry and freezer!

We’ve been feeling lately, in the Simply Frugal household, as though we’ve got way too much food just hanging around not leaving the pantry and freezers. (umm, except for the ice cream, that mysteriously disappears ;)!)

Since I’d like to use up what we have in the freezer and pantry to use up many items that are coming up on their prime, I thought a challenge would get me motivated!  Maybe it will help you as well?

Here’s the plan:

Starting on Wednesday, April 18, the Eating from the Pantry/Freezer challenge will officially start!

I’ll be sharing my menu plan on Wednesday and would love to hear your plans and goals as well!

What you’ll need to do before April 18:

  • Do a complete inventory of your pantry, freezer and fridge
  • Decide what your goals will be for the challenge (how much do you want to save, how long do you think you’ll be doing the challenge for…etc)
  • Write up a meal plan for at least the first five days of the challenge (Wednesday  – Sunday)
  • Make a list of the items you’ll need to buy to complete your meals.  (I’ll still be buying produce, dairy and eggs)

Every Monday following (April 23 and 30) I’ll be sharing my menu plans and progress. (At this point I’m not sure how long I will be doing the pantry challenge, but I will know once I take inventory.) This would be a great time for those of you joining in on the challenge to share or link to your menus and progress in the comment section!  I’ll also be tracking how much I’m spending on groceries for the duration of this challenge and sharing my totals.

There’s a Facebook group that I would love to have you join! Click here to join the Simply Frugal Community.  I think it will be a great place to share meal ideas, tips and even our struggles during the challenge!

Does this makes sense?  Any questions? 🙂

Here are some useful resources to help you out with the challenge:

Will you be joining me as we eat from the pantry and freezer?

7 Mother’s Day Gifts That Don’t Cost A Cent

Mother’s Day comes just once a year, so why not do all you can to make sure it’s a special day? If you are worried about your budget being too tight to celebrate sufficiently, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to enjoy a nice Mother’s Day without spending a dime. Look below at these 7 Mother’s Day gifts that don’t cost a cent, and see how you can celebrate Mom for free.

7 Mothers Day Gifts That Don’t Cost A Cent

Mother's Day Gifts that don't Cost a Cent! It really is the thought that counts!

1. Give her the gift of time.

Don’t try to fit in time for Mom on Mother’s Day, make it a priority. Give Mom the gift of your time to enjoy the things she may want to do, such as go for a hike, watch a movie, or just spend time together around the dinner table.

2. Give her the gift of appreciation.

Show Mom you appreciate her by writing her a list of all of the things you love about her. Make a list of 20-25 things (even more is better!) that make her special. Use your best writing, put the list in an envelope, and gift it to her on Mother’s Day. She will keep it forever.

3. Give her the gift of rest.

Sometimes, Mom just needs a break. Give Mom a little time to herself on Mother’s Day. Quiet the house down and let Mom get a nap in. Or, give Mom some time to sleep in that morning. Even just an hour of quiet time will be much appreciated and make her feel like a million bucks.

4. Give her the gift of affection.

Moms love to hug and hold their babies! Take the time to hug your Mom, hold her hand, and truly connect with her. The older children get, the less often this happens, so take the time on Mother’s Day to get those hugs in.

5. Give her the gift of help.

Are there tasks around the house Mom needs help with? Start tackling those tasks. Do what you can to get these tasks done so Mom can take them off her plate. This will be a huge relief to her and she will no doubt love the help.

6. Give her the gift of truly being present.

Put cell phones and electronic devices away and be present on Mother’s Day. Let Mom know that she is your focus for the day and that nothing else is as important. We get so caught up in devices, this will be a refreshing change for her to see.

7. Give her the gift of patience.

Be patient with Mom today. Mother’s Day is about celebrating her and meeting her needs. Be patient with your own needs on this day and instead make the focus about her.

Don’t let a limited budget keep you from showing Mom how special she is. Consider these 7 Mother’s Day gifts that don’t cost a cent, and see how even a frugal Mother’s Day can be a memorable one.

I’d love to hear your ideas or memories of celebrating Mother’s Day! Let me know in the comments below!

5 Unique Ways to Use your Slow Cooker

I think it’s safe to say that the slow cooker is one of my favourite kitchen tools.  After all, it cooks delicious meals with minimal effort!  Not to mention it’s great to use in the summer when you don’t want to heat the house up.

Slow cookers are generally known for their skills at creating delicious stews and tender meats.  But your slow cooker can do so much more!  Read on to discover five unique ways to use your slow cooker.

These 5 unique ways to use your slow cooker are brilliant!

Make Yogurt

It’s possible to make your own yogurt in a slow cooker!   This is something that I’d love to try in the near future since I think it could save quite a bit of money.  Try the Homemade Yogurt recipe from Mom on Time Out or try the Greek Yogurt from One Good Thing by Jillee.

Make Candles

Let the gift giving begin!  You can easily make candles for gifts (or yourself) in your slow cooker!  I think this is a great way to turn those candles that no longer burn because the wick is gone, into new candles.  Learn how to make candles in your slow cooker over at A Year of Slow Cooking.

Make Baked Potatoes

I automatically assume that successful slow cooker recipes have to include some sort of liquid.  But this slow cooker baked potato recipe proves me wrong!

Make Bread

I think this idea is genius.  Make a loaf of bread in your slow cooker!  This is great for the summer months when you don’t want to heat up the house!  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day shows you how to make a loaf of artisan bread in the slow cooker!

Make Brownies

As seen from the unique slow cooker ideas I posted above, you’re not limited to dinner-type meals in the least.  So, of course dessert can be made in a slow cooker!  Why not try these Triple Chocolate Brownies from Martha Stewart?

Make French Fries

My daughter loves homemade French fries and I think this French Fry recipe from Practical Stewardship just made my life a whole lot easier!

Isn’t the slow cooker a neat appliance?  What unique things have you made in your slow cooker?  Will you be trying any of these ideas?

How to Create a Budget Binder

Setting up a Budget Binder in your home is a terrific strategy for staying on top of your finances.  It should not only be a record of what is spent, but it should include your estimations for what will likely be spent in the coming year(s).  This binder or manual should be a go-to for all of your questions regarding what you can afford and how long it will take to reach your financial goals.

Setting up a Budget Binder is a great strategy for staying on top of your finances. Here's how to create a budget binder!

Here’s how to create a Budget Binder:

1.  Find a binder that works for you. I really like this Hilroy binder, but any binder will work. I would choose one that has at least a 1″ spine width.

2. You will also want to have some tabbed dividers so that you can separate your budget binder into sections. With the Simply Frugal Budget Binder kit, I provide 12 inspiring quotes that you can print off to create dividers for each month of the year. These Redi-Tag Removable Index Tabs are perfect to add to each quote/divider. The tabs are writable and repositionable so you can move them around or use the same one if you need to refresh the page.

Setting up a Budget Binder is a great strategy for staying on top of your finances. Here's how to create a budget binder!

3. I like to divide my Budget Binder up by months. (One section for each month of the year, January – December) In each section/month, I include a Weekly Expense tracker, a Monthly Budget Summary, a Monthly Bill Payment Tracker, a Monthly Income Tracker and a Monthly Expense Tracker.  In the back, I have a Savings Goal worksheet and a Debt tracker.

However, you may want to divide yours up by every fund you have (Auto, Childcare, Clothing, Grocery, Utilities, Travel, banking, loans, etc.) Do what you think will suit your needs best.

Setting up a Budget Binder is a great strategy for staying on top of your finances. Here's how to create a budget binder!

4. Also in the back, create a section for account information and include names of financial institutions, addresses, contact information, passwords and any other details that would be worth having at a glance.

5. You can also add pouches to hold receipts, a page to record prices on your favorite items, or anything else that might be useful in keeping your family in the black!

SimplyFrugal.ca has all the printable pages listed above in the Budget Binder kit that should help keep your family’s budget on track!

Do you keep a Budget Binder? What pages do you keep handy in your family or business budget binder?