Finances Organizing

ORGANIZING THE FINANCES

Finance Binder  /  7th House on the Left

Over the past year, we’ve had a few requests for a peak into how we organize our finances. When we first got married, I was the one who kept track of the bills and made sure everything was paid on time. After a few months, the fact that I’m not much of a numbers gal started to catch up with me – and our checkbook. Things were fine, but not as smooth as we knew they could be. So, to prevent my brain from overheating too much, Greg took over the actual bill paying and the proverbial heavens have been rejoicing ever since.

Organizing the Finances / 7th House on the Left

Even though Greg is essentially the one who makes sure the bills are paid on time, together, over the last five years of marriage, we’ve finally come up with a system that works for us. We have a sit-down about once a month to go over the budget, set goals and make sure we’re on the right track dollars and cents wise. However, the main thing that keeps our finances in tact is, in the words of Blues Clues, a handy dandy notebook… errr binder. In that case, to answer the question, “How do you organize your finances?”, the best way would be to give you a tour of the binder…

Organizing the Finances / 7th House on the Left

In the front of the binder, we have a small notepad that houses all of our passwords for the online accounts (mortgage, cable, power, etc). It comes in really handy when you’re trying to remember 10+ passwords in your head. One of the benefits of keeping them in a separate small notepad is that if we’re going out of town for a while, we can just stash it away in a safe place – rather than the entire binder. All the information in the binder is pretty much useless without them. We also keep a few stamped envelopes for the few bills we still have to send through the mail. Seriously. Why can’t we just pay everything online?! In the zipper pouch are a few Sharpie pens, white out, and stickers for notes.

Fiance Binder / 7th House on the Left

Being the obsessive organizer that I am, I had to make sure there was a place for absolutely all essential types of financial information we could possibly need on a regular basis. We divided the binder into eight sections: bills, accounts, budget, register, receipts, donations, investments, and taxes.

Monthly Bill Organization / 7th House on the Left

BILLS // In this section, we have a monthly bill check-list where we keep track of the bills we have to pay. In the first column, we have the day of the month the bill is due, followed by the type of bill, a note whether or not it’s an automated payment and then a box to check off when it’s been paid. We’ve been using this system for a while now and it’s very handy and an easy way to get a snapshot of your month-to-month finances at a glance. Click here to download the monthly check-list! Also in the section is a page to keep track of what we call “rogue bills” – like the once-in-a-blue-moon dentist bill.

ACCOUNTS // This is where we keep all of our account numbers on hand. This section was created out of the frustration when we’d call the cable company or the power company and they’d ask for our account number. Rather than fumbling for an old bill or having them look it up with our social security numbers, it’s all right here in this section. Oh, and we have “Mortgage 1” and “Mortgage 2” because we pay a “half-mortgage payment” every two weeks rather than a full payment just once a month. Doing this cuts down on the total interest we end up paying in the long run and essentially pays our mortgage off faster.

BUDGET // In this section, we keep track of the household budget. We also have a few sheets of blank paper for number-crunching or jotting down financial goals we’re wanting to reach in the near or distant future.

DONATIONS // This is where we keep receipts and other information about the donations we make to charitable organizations. It’s nice to have a place for those little slips they give you when you donate something to Good Will.

REGISTER // In the world of debit cards and online bill-paying, we rarely find ourselves using a check book, but there are still one or two annoying bills that refuse to go paperless. When we write a check, we note it in here (including the date, check number, payee, amount) to keep track of what will be coming out of the account. Once the check has cleared, we just put a little check mark beside the check number.

INVESTMENTS // Just like the accounts and donations sections, we keep information about our investments in this section. The most recent balances, account numbers, dividends, etc. are all handy right here.

RECEIPTS // This is where we keep a top-load page protector with important receipts of large purchases – just in case. These particular top-load page protectors are really handy because they have a flap on the top that prevents stuff from falling out – perfect for receipts. At the end of every month or so, I go through the receipts and get rid of the ones we don’t need to hang onto anymore. If it’s something that we need to keep long term – like the dining room table receipt that has to be kept with the warranty information – I end up filing it away.

TAXES // In this section, we have another top-load page protector where we stash W9s, W2s or other important papers that float in throughout the year that we’ll need come tax time. That way, when 2014 rolls around, we’ll have everything ready and waiting for our tax guy (whom we love… dearly).

Finance Binder / 7th House on the Left

This system works pretty well for us – it helps us stay organized and all the information we need is right at our fingertips. How do you guys keep everything straight? Does one person do the bills in your house, or is it a community effort? Talk to us in the comments!

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73 Comments

  • Reply
    Casey @ Waffling
    February 20, 2013 at 10:38 am

    This is great! I file all this stuff in my trusty filing cabinet, but I should track major receipts better. I actually stuff them all into a vase. yup. quality filing system there!!

  • Reply
    Christina @ Homemade Ocean
    February 20, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Wow, can you come pay all my bills too 🙂

    That looks so neat and tidy, I just have a big pile on my desk. Pinning this and putting it on my to-do list!!!

  • Reply
    Nem
    February 20, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Great system. My husband and I keep our passwords and logins in a handy dandy little notebook too! 🙂 Keeping all your account numbers in one place is a great idea. I will have to implement that as well. Thanks for the tips.

  • Reply
    Janise Cookston
    February 20, 2013 at 11:49 am

    All our bills, except one (stupid water company), are paperless statements and e-billing/autodraft so we have nearly no paper work to keep up with there and the bills pretty much pay themselves. We keep our receipts in one of those little plastic envelopes with little dividers for each month. My husband and I make out our budget together once a month. We keep track of our budget and account register in a fantastic computer program called You Need a Budget (YNAB). We LOVE YNAB! The thing we love the most is the mobile app that allow us to check our budget on the go and enter purchases right when we make them so the budget (which syncs across all devices) is always up to date.

    Quick question: where did you get the super cute binder itself?

    • Reply
      Ashley
      February 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

      Thanks! It’s from the Martha Stewart line at Staples : )

    • Reply
      Kerri
      February 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      Fabulous organizational system Ashley! (doesn’t hurt that it’s so pretty either 🙂

      We’re definitely trying to get a budget in order – I’m intrigued by YNAB – especially the syncing feature… will check that out (although does that mean I don’t need pretty binders?? 😉

  • Reply
    sg
    February 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Great system and a very helpful post! Any chance we could ever convince you to just sell the whole darn binder with the templates, pretty dividers, etc.? I’d definitely pay for that!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      February 20, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Thanks! Actually, that’s one of our big goals for this year! That along with a home maintenance binder. Fingers crossed!

    • Reply
      sg
      February 22, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      That’s great news!

  • Reply
    Miriam
    February 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I have been looking for something EXACTLY like this to organize my bill paying situation! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your website and now follow you through instragram and your blog!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      February 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Awesome! Glad you found us : )

  • Reply
    Laura
    February 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I silently squeal (mustn’t wake the littles!) when I see your organizing tips. This gives me some good ideas. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Melissa D
      February 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      Me too!! well.. mine isnt silent lol 🙂

    • Reply
      Ashley
      February 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      Aww, thanks ladies!!

  • Reply
    Rhona
    February 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Organizing makes me a happy girl and your binder is perfect! Definitely going to make one of these to keep our finances in order :). Thanks for the tips!

  • Reply
    Ashley J
    February 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Are the dividers Martha Stewart too? Love them! Your post makes me actually want to get better organized with our finances too – haha. That’s the hubby’s job around here too! 🙂

    • Reply
      Ashley
      February 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks so much!
      Yep, Martha dividers too!

  • Reply
    Girl Child
    February 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    LOVE that you put a “7” on the calculator…

    • Reply
      Ashley
      February 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      Someone noticed! Haha!

    • Reply
      Kristin
      March 1, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Haha I noticed that right away too! Too cute! LOve how you snuck that in there, Ashley!

  • Reply
    kristen
    February 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    My question is unrelated to the post (sort of) and none of my business, but: “Oh, and we have “Mortgage 1″ and “Mortgage 2″ because we pay a “half-mortgage payment” every two weeks rather than a full payment just once a month. Doing this cuts down on the total interest we end up paying in the long run and essentially pays our mortgage off faster.”

    If you’re cutting the payment into 2 chunks instead of paying once a month, don’t you just end up making the minimum payment? How does it speed up paying it off or decrease the interest? Or do you pad each payment so the extra is applied to the principal?

    • Reply
      Greg
      February 20, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      The dates listed on the sheet are actually approximates. We pay half of our mortgage every two weeks, not just twice a month. 52 weeks in a year means 26 half payments, or 13 full payments, one more than we would normally pay. Sorry for the confusion!

    • Reply
      kristen
      February 21, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Got it – thanks Greg!

  • Reply
    Jess
    February 20, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    My husband thinks it’s way too much of a risk to keep our password info written down anywhere and I agree. We keep our passwords online using a password protect management program. We can access them anywhere by logging on to the web via our phones and we never have to worry about a notebook getting in to the wrong hands.

    • Reply
      kari
      July 21, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Yes, it can be a risk. I read somewhere that you can come up with a code word (represented with an asterisk) and continue to use it in different ways. So, for example let’s say that your code word is berry.
      Your bank password could be: berrrybank15, but when you write it down it would look like *bank15. That way you know what your cod word is, but if anyone finds your password book, they won’t know any of your passwords.

      • Reply
        Ashley
        July 21, 2016 at 4:46 pm

        Great idea!

  • Reply
    Abby @ Just a Girl and Her Blog
    February 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Well isn’t this the cutest little budget binder that you ever did see? I never knew finances could be so cute! 😉 Thanks for sharing!

    ~Abby =)

  • Reply
    Lesley
    February 21, 2013 at 1:03 am

    This is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing. I showed it to my husband and we agreed to do our own finance binder to organize things. I’ve been meaning to do this but has procrastinated for the longest time.

    Your finance binder is an effective way of summarizing a lot of important documents stashed in our filing cabinet, and a very organized way to keep track of bills. The classy binder and neat labels you used make the task look fun! I wish we have access to pretty Martha Stewart office supplies too here in Manila 🙂

  • Reply
    Allison
    February 21, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    We actually still have seperate bank accounts at our house so our bills are split up between the two of us so we’re in charge of different things. I feel like this makes it difficult to budget, so we’re working on getting a joint account where all our bills come from and our saleries go, it’s just a matter of actually getting it done.

    Love your binder! It looks really effective. I’d be interested in setting up a system similar to your’s.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    February 21, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    I’ve been waiting for you guys to write a post about this pretty little binder I saw back about 6+ months ago! I know you mentioned it was in the works and you guys were trying to “organize” it all. I’m glad you’re able to share it with us.

    I use to do all the bills but lately I abandoned ship on it. I felt like I spent more time at the computer entering/logging/running reports with our finances. I didn’t want to sit for hours logging receipts. I dropped the computer program and went back to the recent check register. It’s kinda funny because I just blogged about this recently.

    But we are also in the process of eliminating all credit cards and going back to using debit. We’re more cautious with what we spend with a debit card because we know we need that money to pay another bill. So far this simple method works for us… but I will probably be dreading when I have to calculate all the tithe checks and health care bill for taxes. I didn’t think of this before until you guys mentioned it, so I may switch back to Quicken so I don’t cause myself a huge headache later.

  • Reply
    Anne @ Planting Sequoias
    February 22, 2013 at 11:35 am

    I’m a diehard spreadsheet girl. The hubs and I share a google doc spreadsheet where we put in every last little purchase we make. It’s great to look back at to see where all of our money goes each month! As for bills, I have 90% of them get paid automatically online so I don’t have to think about initiating it every month. 🙂

  • Reply
    Latonya
    February 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I cannot wait to do this! I just wanted to know if you can share the template you use for your register. I have always just used the register that you get from the bank but since I no longer want to carry my checkbook with me everywhere, I need a new template.

    • Reply
      Ashley
      February 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      We don’t have a template available for download just yet, though we hope to again in the future. For our register though, we just used the same columns like the one in the checkbook. Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Dorothy
    February 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Going to go get a cute binder right now! Bills seem almost fun if you have something cute to organize it in. Best tip paying half of the mortgage every two weeks. Why oh why did I not think of that sooner…….. Thanks!

  • Reply
    meg
    February 27, 2013 at 10:02 am

    We use http://www.mint.com. You should check it out. We are huge fans. It’s all electronic and very safe. You can only see your transactions and cannot move money from account to account. We can track everything. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Allison
    March 1, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you Ashley! I bounced right over to Staples earlier today…got everything plus a few other Martha items to add to my Finance binder for about $42.00. I think it’s worth every cent because I was getting frustrated looking around the house for everything to pay a bill or two. Please write more posts on organizing!!

  • Reply
    Melissa
    March 13, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Great post!!!! i love the way you stay organized with your binders!!Are there any other templates you use in the binder besides the checklist?

    • Reply
      Ashley
      March 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      Not yet! Though we hope to have more available soon : )

  • Reply
    Naomi
    April 29, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    Love this idea – my husband and I go over our finances every two weeks and do the envelope system i.e. Dave Ramsey. It’s worked great for us, but our financial binder isn’t nearly this organized. I really appreciate the idea of having the account numbers handing for the cable bill or electricity. I plan to make one of these very soon. I am such a nerd about this stuff – you also made everything so cute, an added bonus!
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Naomi
    May 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I am going to the store today to buy my binder supplies and thought of a few other financial tabs that might be useful, that I know I will need: financial goals, household needs, and vacation info. We have our budget, but we also have goals within that. Since my honey and I have only been married 3.5years we still have a lot of household needs: new couch, new dishes, etc… we also want to plan a big vacation. I think I will use these sections to plot out costs and savings plans….Wish me luck! Love this binder idea:)

  • Reply
    Siobhan
    July 2, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    How did you print the monthly bills to be the correct size for the Martha Stewart binder?

    • Reply
      Ashley
      July 2, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      The MS binder is a standard binder size. I just printed it on regular 8.5×11 card stock.

  • Reply
    Jeanne
    July 18, 2013 at 11:27 am

    this is such a great idea. I do consulting work with a lot of small business owners and I see this as something they could use to start tracking their business activities. great sharing! thanks,

  • Reply
    Mary
    July 26, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    What font are you using on the monthly bills template. I am in the process of re-creating your binder and I want the fonts to match! 🙂 This is brilliant, by the way. Thanks for the tips!! -Mary

    • Reply
      Ashley
      July 26, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      Thanks! The page titles are Ostrich Sans, the categories are Champagne & Limousines and the spine label is Rockwell. Happy organizing!

  • Reply
    Kim
    July 28, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Thanks for this inspiration! My husband does the physical bill pay. I am reading Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach about how to have an active role in our finances even though I’m not as numbers strong or confident as my husband. You might like it too!
    We have a large filing system that could use improving. I think this system will help with our financial communication and presentation for family meetings. it’s a great way to summarize and present without digging out all the papers and files each time.

  • Reply
    Claudia
    August 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Love the idea, and just put a binder together following your example.

    ****FYI. I accessed this post through my desktop computer. I clicked on the green download button to get the bill printable. Downloading caused major spam issues on my computer….it changed my search engine even though I checked for it no to, it caused many pop ups, etc. I am now running C Cleaner to fix it.

    I will try to get it through the link you provided instead.

    • Reply
      Greg
      August 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      Hi Claudia,

      I’m sorry you had a bad experience with the download. The Download button you saw at the end of the post was actually part of an ad that is served by a third-party company, and it has nothing to do with the download mentioned in the post. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to keep those sorts of deceptive ads from showing up from time to time.

      I guarantee that the download link provided in the actual post is totally spyware/spam free. We would never attach that sort of thing to our downloads. I hate that kind of thing, and would never wish it on anyone.

    • Reply
      Claudia
      August 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      Oh thank you for your response, I wasn’t blaming you 🙂
      Yea, unfortunately it is a virus called Delta Search I have spent a couple of hours to remove without luck. Moral of the story: don’t click on any green arrows!

  • Reply
    Kelsey
    August 11, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Do you have any more templates. I am in love with this idea.

    • Reply
      Ashley
      August 11, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      Thanks! Not quite yet. We hope to have more available soon though. We’ll be sure to post when we do! : )

  • Reply
    Elisa
    August 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    LOVE this idea, currently a college student learning that I have to keep up with my expenses and it is not quit as easy as it seems.

    Do you have a section for income out some, where it keeps track of how much you are spending a month? I am looking for a template similar to the “monthly bills” but where I am able to jot down my expenses .

    • Reply
      Ashley
      August 29, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      When we write a check, we note it in the Register tab (including the date, check number, payee, amount) to keep track of what will be coming out of the account. Once the check has cleared, we just put a little check mark beside the check number. You could also include other monthly expenses in this section.

  • Reply
    Kaylyn
    October 14, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    This is exactly what I have been looking for!! 🙂

    I will be moving out on my own next year and I’m 23 now, This is perfect to keep track of all those stupid account numbers, passwords, receipts everything! 🙂 Awesome system smarty pants 😛 … I had somewhat of an idea like this but I had no idea how to sort it out. Thanks for the outline!. After my first month of paying for everything I’ll know what works for me. Thanks again! 🙂

  • Reply
    Haley Alisse
    January 2, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Thank you so much! I am currently updating my filling system and getting together a binder! This is exactly what I was searching for. Thanks again for sharing! PS Your husband looks a lot like Seth Rogen lol

    • Reply
      Ashley
      January 2, 2014 at 8:08 am

      Haha! We hear that A LOT!

  • Reply
    Valerie
    January 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Love this!! Any chance you have come out with more printables since this post?? 🙂

    • Reply
      Ashley
      January 20, 2014 at 9:18 pm

      Thanks! No, not yet. Hopefully soon! Not enough hours in the day, haha.

  • Reply
    lisa
    February 13, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Ashley what software system do you use when creating your spreadsheets for this?

    • Reply
      Ashley
      February 13, 2014 at 10:00 pm

      I just used Pages (Mac’s version of Word).

  • Reply
    Marcy
    February 26, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    This is EXACTLY what I was looking for !! I put this binder together a few months ago and it is unbelievable how much it has helped my husband and I get on the same page with our finances. Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      February 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      So happy to hear that!

  • Reply
    Robin
    March 4, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    I can’t wait to try this! This is brilliant!! What came with the binder? Will be going to Staples this weekend!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      March 5, 2014 at 8:50 am

      The binder just came by itself – I picked out the dividers and such separately.

  • Reply
    Kinna
    April 1, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    I am currently studying to be a financial planner at Texas Tech University. My main interest right now is financial education and healthy financial habits. I love these little systems. Everything is right there when you need it. I do have one of my own, however it has been quite neglected and has become a place to keep pay stubs.

    Right now, I currently just keep a registrar in Excel on my laptop, with a category filter to help build the spending plan. I’ve been using it for three months now and it has really helped my fiancee and I catch where our money is going and what categories we can cut to keep from starting out like most American young adults.

    Thanks so much for the idea!

  • Reply
    Kita
    July 18, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I’ve been looking forward to giving this a thorough read since I discovered your site on Pinterest. At the moment when I click through, the instant download is not available through Etsy. Will it be available again? Either way, great post!! Thanks!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      July 25, 2014 at 5:19 pm

      It’s available now 🙂

  • Reply
    Jaryn B
    September 22, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    This is helpful thank you!

    Also, you’re husband totally looks like Seth Rogen

  • Reply
    Blog Reader
    September 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    I really like how you made your binder! I am trying to put one together myself! It seems very overwhelming but the way you break it down seems very manageable. I’ve been working on mine all day and I wish I found your blog sooner! However, I think with your great ideas and concepts it might help me finish before the day is over with. 🙂 Thank you for sharing what works for you and your family. I really think it is going to work perfect for mine as well! Keep up the great work!!!

  • Reply
    Daphne
    February 17, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Hiii! came across your site during lunch time at work!! i absolutely love it (in its entirety!) I went to the download page and it’s unavailable 🙂 :'( Is there anyway you could send it to me or make it available for download? I’ve been trying to find something like this!

    If you can, thank you so much! If you can’t, that’s okay and thank you anyway!!
    xo

    • Reply
      Ashley
      January 25, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      The link has been updated now! Thanks so much!!

  • Reply
    Jackie Garrison
    October 1, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    I want to download this, but the Etsy link says you’re on vacation! 🙁

    • Reply
      Ashley
      January 25, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      Thank you!! The link has been updated now! : )

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