The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. -Mike Murdock

Let’s start by first seeing your household as a business.  Money comes in, and money goes out – but ultimately you want to be profitable.  This is the same premise in our household finances.  You are your household's CFO (or co-CFO).  So, what do you need to be doing as part of your budget routine?  For me, I love sitting at the kitchen table or island with my budget planner, notebook, and energy drink while my husband makes his (very complex) coffee as part of my personal budget routine.  But yours may look completely different, and that's okay.

Regardless of your relationship status, consider your home like a business, where you aim to boost your income and reduce your expenses.  To do this, you need a solid budget routine, that way payday can come and go smoothly with a little less stress.  Each payday, I intentionally go through a list of items that are essential for my financial goals. 

So, what goes into the most efficient budget routine? Allow me to share this list with you, precisely in the order I review them.  Include additional items as necessary.  

To start, grab a blank bill calendar and a blank monthly budget.  You will be adding throughout the list all of the following items you find to the calendar first, then finally on the monthly budget.  

  • Review your bill payment tracker for regular bills that are automatic and that you must manually pay – this is something to show all that is due inside the dates of that check.¹ Add the bills that are due this month on your calendar by dates and amounts.
  • Be prepared with the amount of money that is coming on each payday.  If you are an irregular income earner, I use the average over the past 6-8 months (tossing out the highest and the lowest).  
  • Make sure to check in with your bank account and credit cards for anything that was unplanned that needs to be added to the budget or adjusted for.
  • Review your personal monthly schedule along with your my subscriptions, write down any irregular upcoming transactions that are not "regular" bills on your bill calendar.
  • Review your last month to see if there are any expenses you need to include this month.
  • Flip to the front of your planner to your tracking money events that happen page and check for last year’s unexpected events for the month you are in. Don't forget to look at your sinking funds plan at the front of your planner as well, and include the sinking funds you are saving for this month.
  • Update your debt tracker with the amount of your payments – you will not update the new balance column until the payment posts.  Revisit this weekly to update balances as your debt decreases.   
  • Keep your savings account balances up-to-date as you make deposits and withdrawals.
  • Write all the money events/bills from your calendar to the monthly budget by date.  To paycheck budget, separate each set of bills by paychecks.  Try to highlight each paycheck's set of bills and responsibilities in it's own color.
  • Using a calculator and scratch paper or a notebook, set a draft budget for each variable category. Gas, Groceries, Spending, Beauty, etc. - having a plan is still essential for your budget.  The higher your debt, the smaller amount of categories you may have.  If you have no set variable categories, set some to start.  When it balances with your income and bills you wrote on your monthly budget, finalize it and move on to the last step of the budget routine.³. Same paycheck budget tip here, give each paycheck an amount of variable expenses.  Work this until you month balances and you are at $0 or slightly above.  Beginners want to use a little wiggle room or cushion, it may be $50 or $25, this is up to you.  Cash budgeters – Here's where you'll review any remaining cash in your envelopes.
  • Write it all out onto the paycheck planner – remember to start with the most important fixed bills and end with the variable/everyday expenses. Cash budgeters – once you budget your everyday expenses categories, you can use the “teller breakdown” to write the denominations you need to withdrawal. 
  • Get familiar with what you have allocated in each category that applies to you today.  If you are in paycheck 1 - How much do you have for this week in each category? Know your budget.² 
To wrap up the routine:
  • Check in & Review - Once you get the paycheck planner and/or monthly budget all written out, your next step is to follow up on the paycheck as bills start to come out. Keep in mind, this isn't a set it and forget it approach.  If you electric bill came out and is $10 more than you planner, you need to write the actual amount in the box marked actual and adjust your leftover budget as needed.  In this example, the $10 will come from your cushion, but if you don't have a cushion - where is it going to come from? you must adjust accordingly.
  • Over the next few days, if you are experiencing last minute bills or unexpected expenses, write “U” under the due date for Unexpected.  This will help you plan for your next paycheck properly.
  • Expense Tracker - this is an optional and can be complex part of the budget routine.  If you like to budget and track, then track every single transaction that is coming out of your budget on this page and separate it by category - "bills" or "grocery" and tally at the end of the month your budgeted and actuals in these categories. 
  • Credit Card user? We will tackle this in another post.

Embrace what works and let go of what doesn't - patience is key for the first 3 months.  Create a streamlined budget routine with this list, and make sure to regularly check in.  If you feel lost at the end of each paycheck, you might consider checking in more often with your budget.

I would do this at my desk, either before work or during my lunch break!  Saturday morning's are also a lot of fun for budget check-in's.  Lastly, the longer you wait to update the categories, the more transactions you are likely to have and overwhelming it can become.



    1. Schedule a budget routine at least once a month.
    2. Come to your payday routine prepared.
    3. Invite your partner to the meeting, if you are a single pringle – be sure this meeting still happens even if it’s just you.
    4. Erasable pens are your friend.
    5. Your calendar is your payday co-pilot.
    6. Review past paydays and unexpected money events.
    7. Follow up with your paycheck planner throughout the week.
    8. Do what works.


    Q: What is part of your budgeting/payday routine? 


    Next time….

    How to do a simple but effective Payday Check-In 


    ¹  *If you do not have our planner, try the bill payment calendar, or bill calendar. 

    ² *Try this on the expense tracker and separate the transactions in your bank account by categories.  You can also try the category spending tracker to track one category at a time.

    ³ *Newbies, try using an erasable pen or pencil if you're uncertain of your numbers

    November 03, 2023 — Jessica Roman

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