A monthly calendar is a great way to keep track of your life’s important dates and events. You may even use your calendar to track your goals and habits and step up your productivity. However, did you also know that you can use your trusty calendar for budgeting?
What is a Budget Calendar?
Budget calendars primarily keep track of the dates and amounts of payments. It’s also a handy way to see how much money will flow in and out a month.
There are many free apps and templates online, or you can use the calendar you already have. But whatever tool you choose, make sure your budget calendar includes the following:
- Income. You can add your paydays to your calendar if you receive regular paychecks. Or, at the very least, mark when you expect to get paid.
- Bills. Keep track of your monthly expenses, such as rent or credit card bills. Don’t forget to include infrequent costs as well. For example, semiannual car insurance payments and yearly subscriptions.
- Savings contributions. Saving for an emergency fund, wedding, or other goal is easier when you schedule transfers to an account in advance.
Also, you can log smaller transactions and irregularities. However, it may be difficult to note every cup of coffee or your estimated grocery bill.
The Benefits of a Budget Calendar
Did you know that only 30% of U.S. households have a long-term financial plan? Maintaining a budget allows us to control our finances, save money more effectively, and ensure that our money is spent appropriately.
Moreover, according to a LendingClub report, 64% of U.S. households lived paycheck to paycheck at the beginning of 2022, up from 61% in December and just shy of the peak of 65% in 2020. So if you want to escape a payday-to-paycheck living, a budget is also essential.
Fortunately, there are many ways to budget. The key is to find a style of budgeting that’s right for you. Then, you’ll be more likely to meet your goals and stick with your money intentions.
Budget calendars can help you:
- Establish a spending plan and track spending
- Point out where you can make cuts
- Assess your income
- Create a long-term plan
- Aid you in tackling your debt faster
- Manage your credit card rewards and use
- Learn how to control your living expenses better
You can use calendars to stay on top of when things are due visually. As such, you’ll avoid missing payments. They’re also easier to use than budget software. And, since more than a quarter of millennials have overdrawn their checking accounts, this could be a valuable tool to combat costly late payments.
Signs That You Need a Budget Calendar
Budget calendars are beneficial to everyone. Budget calendars are free and easy to use. Most importantly, they are capable of reducing financial stress.
Again, you need a budget calendar if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Living paycheck to paycheck usually means you have less than $1,000 in savings, or you have a thousand but can’t add to your savings. The consequence is you could overdraw your account if you have an unexpected expense. Or, even worse, any upset (unexpected expense) would contribute to your debt if you have to use a credit card.
Here’s another problem with living paycheck to paycheck. You might not be comfortable setting up automatic bill payments. That’s understandable since you don’t want to deal with overdraft fees. But, at the same time, failing to pay a bill can lead to late fees. And according to FICO’s credit damage datasheet, missing just one bill can lower your credit score by 180 points.
Other red flags?
- Impulsive spending is impossible to control.
- You don’t understand your cash flow.
- You’re having difficulty saving and planning ahead.
Using Your Online Calendar For Budgeting
A budget calendar could be the solution to your budgeting problems. It can also ensure that bills are paid on time. And if they can rectify saving problems.
Best of all? Using your calendar doesn’t have to be all that complicated. You can have one up and running in a matter of minutes. And from there, you can easily follow the calendar to keep your finances in order.
Find, make, buy or create a calendar.
In terms of a budget calendar format, you have a few options.
You could go old school and use a paper calendar. However, there are also apps designed explicitly for budgeting. These include Virtual Wallet, CalendarBudget, or Moneydance. Or, you can download templates from OnPlanners or MyMoneyCoach.
But let’s say you already have your work and personal life on an online calendar. Then you can use it for budgeting as well. You may want to create a separate ”calendar” just for your budget so that it doesn’t get cluttered.
Know what to track.
It’s not necessary to create a complex calendar budget. But, at the very least, you should record your income and your expenses. Automated savings can also be tracked. Having automatic savings tracked really helps because you see your money begin to grow, and it inspires you.
- Income. Whether you’re paid weekly, bi-weekly, twice a month, or once a month, you’ll need to keep track of your payday(s) and note how much you anticipate being paid.
- Bills. You’ll need to add their due dates and amounts to your calendar to know which bills to pay with which paycheck. Be sure to include all of your fixed expenses. Examples include mortgage/rent, utilities, debt payments, and subscriptions. And, don’t overlook irregular bills like vehicle registration. Always overestimate these variable expenses. Better be safe than sorry.
- Automated savings. If you remove that money before you spend, you’ll be much more successful saving than if you wait to save what may be left over after you’ve finished payments and spending. After you set up your savings automation, add them to your calendar so you can see how your finances are going.
Add special occasions and holidays.
Depending on the time of year, every month will be different. However, a budget calendar isn’t complete without including special events, holidays, and birthdays.
Why? You’ll remember to include these expenses in your budget by doing this. Then, you can plan accordingly for hosting parties or purchasing gifts for the holidays, birthdays, or weddings.
Leave space for non-essentials.
“What’s life without a little fun?” asks Abby Miller in a previous Calendar article. “Your online calendar can help you get a ‘goldilocks’ amount of fun: enough to keep you happy and motivated, but not so much that you blow all your money at once.”
Think about what you want to experience most. “Maybe it’s a vacation to Tahiti, or perhaps you want to hike the Appalachian Trail,” she adds. If you plan beforehand, you won’t have to spend a fortune.
“Put the event itself on your calendar, of course, and add milestones,” advises Abby. “A good way to do this is to attach them to your existing savings reminders.” For example, you could set aside 5% of your paycheck for emergencies and 2% for experiences.
“What if you struggle with impulse spending?” Setting aside a few days each month when you can stretch your budget a little is a good strategy. You might indulge at the beginning of every month, for example, right after you receive your paycheck and work is busy.
Color-code your calendar.
Sticking with your budget can be easier by adding some color to your calendar. Visually organizing your calendar with color-coding is possible in a few ways:
- Different paychecks. To indicate which bills each paycheck will cover, you can use a different color for each paycheck.
- Categorize expenses according to their types. For example, using one color for monthly bills, you might use another for savings transfers.
- Assigning bills. You can use a color-coded joint budget calendar if you share expenses with another person. Each person identifies who is responsible for which bill.
Schedule periodic reviews.
You can’t just set up a budget calendar and forget about it. Instead, you should revisit and review it often, just like you would other financial aspects. But, how often should you do this?
Keep your calendar up to date at least as often as you get paid. The advantage of this strategy is that you can plan for your money right away. You can also make timely adjustments to your calendar with each paycheck.
For example, let’s say that you’ve been making extra payments on your student loans. Unfortunately, your car’s transmission goes kaput. As a result, you need to purchase a new vehicle. So, you’ll need to save for a down payment instead of putting extra money toward your student loans.
But here’s the beauty of using an online calendar for budgeting. First, you can set up reminders so that you won’t forget. Then, again, you could receive a notification whenever you get paid. Also, I would recommend setting a monthly reminder to make sure that you’re on track and making any necessary changes.
Image Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko; Pexels; Thank you!