A few years ago, I found myself sitting down to a mess whenever I updated our finances. I’d let weeks go by without checking in…and it showed!
Bills were paid on time, but I would miss dozens of receipts. This was back when I used an Excel spreadsheet to track everything and had to manually add every purchase.
No wonder I procrastinated so much when it came to my financial habits—talk about time-consuming!
But when receipts weren’t up-to-date, we encountered another problem: We’d spend more than we had budgeted because we never knew how much money was left in each category. The numbers never felt real.
My financial habits system (which wasn’t much of one) wasn’t working. I needed a more consistent routine. A weekly routine.
A Friday Finance routine.
If you’re feeling like I was, here’s why I suggest you adopt the very same strategy!
Budgeting Made Easy
The Importance of a Financial Routine
When you establish a weekly check-in as one of your financial habits, whether it’s on a daily or weekly basis, here’s what happens.
- Always know where you stand financially.
- Maintain momentum toward your savings goals.
- Quickly spot fraudulent transactions so you can take immediate action.
- Spend less time getting everything in order when you do check in, because you check in more often!
Most of all, this Friday routine helped me take back control. I no longer worry if we were over budget—because I check in weekly, I can pivot quickly (aka reduce my expenses!) if needed.
Curious about what I do during this routine so you can brainstorm how to adopt one yourself?
In this post, I’ll share the notebook I use, the steps I take, and how I integrate a budgeting app with paper tracking. Because I love using both!
Tools I Use for my Financial Habits:
First, I want to give you an overview of all the tools I use so when I mention them in each section, you’ll know a little about them already.
- Receipt Jar – A small jar that holds all our receipts until Friday. This helps keep them out of pockets, purses, and floating along the countertops. More on that in this post!
- Financial Notebook – An 8.5″ x 11″ disc-bound notebook that includes printable monthly calendars, a budgeting cheat sheet, budget worksheets, debt payoff trackers, and a pocket sleeve for checkbooks.
- YNAB app – All my bank and credit card transactions automatically sync with You Need a Budget. It shows me how much money I have left in each category based on the amount I budgeted. Here’s more about why I love YNAB.
- Receipt File – Any receipts that might be returned (clothing, tools, etc.) are filed by month in a small accordion file. Because I never want my filing cabinet to look like this again.
Now, for what exactly goes into my Friday routine!
After I’m done with business work for the day, I grab these four financial habits tools, sit back down at my desk, and work through each of these steps. Depending on the week, I spend anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour on this task.
I’ll explain more about why my time varies later!
Step 1: Enter or Confirm Recent Purchases
Even though YNAB pulls in all my transactions, it doesn’t always know how to categorize them. It is a computer, after all!
And sometimes I need to split one receipt into multiple categories! Like when I go shopping at Target and buy paper towels (Household Items), clothes (Beauty + Style), and pick up a few snack items (Groceries).
I pull all the receipts out of my receipt jar and match them up with each line item in YNAB, assigning categories as needed.
When that’s done, I double-check each account, matching what YNAB says my current balance is with what the bank/credit card says, to make sure there are no missing transactions.
Nothing is outstanding (that I don’t know about!) when I move onto the next few steps.
Step 2: Pay Upcoming Bills
In my Financial Notebook, I have monthly calendars for the entire year. On each calendar, I list my paydays (1st and 15th) as well as mark down the days each bill is due.
(The grey highlighted bills are automatic withdrawals that I don’t have to pay manually!)
Every Friday, I pay any bills due within the next two weeks. I like to get ahead just in case something comes up and I don’t get to do my Friday routine until Saturday.
Step 3: Close Out Current Budget and Set Up My New One
Because I budget per paycheck rather than by month, I start a brand new budget on the 1st and the 15th. So I either skip or complete this step, depending on how close a Friday falls to a payday on the calendar.
Thus why some Friday finance routines take longer than others!
Side Note: For January 29th, I would still close out the last two weeks and start a February 1st budget. The 29th-31st would then become no-spend days.
I like to budget by paycheck rather than by month because a lot can change in a month! What if I schedule a doctor’s appointment two weeks out and need more money in my Medical category? Or we’re hosting a dinner and I need to increase my Grocery budget?
Budgeting by paycheck allows me to pivot more easily.
- To close out a budget, I open up YNAB and write down our actual spending totals for the two weeks onto my budget worksheet. (Shown above) Then I mark any overage amounts in a red pen. Papermate InkJoy pens are my favorite!
- If any category is over budget, I’ll cover those overages in YNAB with another category that has money in it, OR use my next paycheck to cover the negative numbers.
- Next, I pay myself from my business for the next two weeks.
- From this paycheck, I’ll start a new budget with a fresh worksheet and set aside money for each category. Monthly bills stay the same (obviously), but I’ll often adjust our living expenses. These can change based on how much we travel (which means a higher gas budget!) or if we have an upcoming vet appointment (which means I should add more money to the Pet Care column than I normally do).
- Once I’ve accounted for every dollar (zero-based budgeting), I enter my budget into YNAB so it’s ready for future transactions.
Psst…I promise to go into more detail about my two-week budgeting process in a future post on my financial habits! I don’t want to overwhelm you here because budgeting is not the point today….
Checking your finances on a regular basis is the habit I want you to start now.
The Best Way to Prioritize Your Finances
Here’s something I’ve learned the hard way: If you want to make anything a priority in your life, you must establish a routine for it. Otherwise, it won’t get done.
- Want to write 500 words a day? Create a writing routine at the same time every day.
- Want to read every day? Create a reading routine. I read after lunch and before bed!
- Want to stay on top of your finances, which will allow you save and spend more intentionally? Create a finance routine. Hint: it doesn’t have to be on Friday!
A routine will integrate any activity into a normal part of your every day. And when you stick to it, you will reaffirm that your routine is important.
Just like your finances.
Do you have a finance routine?
Don’t be shy about sharing your takeaways (or things you do differently) in the comment section! I’m always fascinated by how others update their finances and what methods they use.
Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.