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Create a frugal notebook

By on May 22, 2009

household notebook
photo by Liane

In previous columns, I’ve mentioned organizing recipes and coupons, creating a price book to track product prices, a garden journal and menu planning. A frugal notebook is a place to organize all these useful tools. It’s easy to put together and cheap, too. All you need is a binder, page protectors, dividers, index cards and a few printable forms, such as a calendar and checklists to get started. One reader, Jean in Canada, shares: “I keep my home-organization notebook in a big zippered binder with lots of pockets and some files. I also have stamps, address labels, stationery, cards and a calculator.” Many people store their information on their computer, but it’s nice to have a portable binder or index cards to slip into your wallet or pocket and a hard copy as a backup. Not only will this help you manage your time and home; it can be a great gift, too.

These notebooks are so popular that my Web site has an entire forum dedicated to them that includes free printable forms and helpful tips to customize your personal planner. You can start with building categories. Each person will have their own preference on what they’d like to have in their notebook. Some people even have more than one notebook.
Category sections can include:

CALENDAR: For family member’s schedules, special occasions and meal planning.

FAMILY: This can include gift ideas and gift-closet inventory, clothing sizes and clothes inventory, recent photos and library-card information. You can also include school information such as progress reports, lunch menus and school-contact information. Organize your holiday planning, such as addresses to send cards, wish lists and decorating ideas, too.

HOME: Include information such as chore charts, home-maintenance schedule, cleaning routines, stain guides, homemade cleaner recipes, contact information for bills such as utilities, loans, cable, cell phones, Internet and waste management. Another reader, Margerie in Canada, shares: “I have a few pages of notes that I’ve scribbled about the overall plan I’m working toward, so that I stay focused and my decor reflects a thought-out plan, not a mishmash. When you are on a budget and can’t afford to rebuy something, it pays to keep the overall plan in mind. You can recognize your bargains when they come along.” You can have a section for your home budget, too. Save any account statements, warranties, appliance manuals and receipts. You can add store hours, phone numbers and policies, too. Your garden journal can be added to this section. It can contain information such as plant care, seed starting, layouts and design, chores and frost dates.

HEALTH: Add information such as immunization records, fitness journals, insurance information, prescription information and doctor and emergency-contact numbers, such as closest contact if you’re unavailable, local hospital or poison control. If you have pets, you can add their medical records, too.

FOOD: Create and store your meal plans, recipes, cooking substitutions and kitchen tips such as conversions, homemade mixes, food storage and freezer- and pantry-inventory lists, your price book, coupons, rebate information, seasonal foods, takeout menus and master grocery list.

FUN: This can be a running list of activities to do on weekends, breaks and vacations. It can include free local entertainment, crafts and homemade craft recipes and projects, and movie and reading lists, too.


  1. Jodi

    7/12/2009 at 5:20 pm

    I took the notebook idea one step further. Besides getting the notebook “free” (I got the purchase price back in an Extra Buck from CVS), I made a pocket on the inside cover to hold receipts for the week and tabs out of a pretty cardboard box that some peach tea came in. For the pocket, I used the whole front of the tea box and for the tabs, the pretty floral flaps.

  2. Sara Noel

    9/13/2009 at 12:24 am

    That sounds really nice. And an awesome way to find a second use for your tea box.

  3. Gladys: Turned Edge Binders

    11/26/2009 at 3:31 pm

    I’ve seen businesses use this logic for books that they use to organize their stores procedures, vendor lists and merchandising layouts. Clearly, organizational notebooks do not have to be expensive and can be used for individuals and businesses alike.

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