Utilizing a calendar is a crucial step to help you budget and reach your financial goals. It is actually the first step in my budgeting process. I can’t make a realistic budget for our income unless I know what expenses we have upcoming for that month. Here are the steps I take to create our budget calendar.
Before I started utilizing this system, I struggled week to week finding a rhythm for our weekly paychecks. I was trying to fit our weekly paychecks into a nice calendar month and make our monthly budget from that. Needless to say, it wasn’t working so well.
The theory behind our thinking was that the elusive 5th weekly paycheck of the month, the one we would get before the start of the following month, we would use to increase our sinking funds. Inevitably that would always leave us a little short – and borrowing from those sinking funds – for bills that were due before our first paycheck of that following month.
For example, let’s say we’re paid weekly on Thursdays. Some months, the first Thursday is not until the 7th of the month. I know that we have bills before the 7th of the month, and I would set up our month’s income to rely on paychecks that we had not received yet to pay bills that were currently due.
It wasn’t until I read You Need A Budget* that it clicked. We were using future money (the first paycheck of the month) to pay bills that were due now – within the first week of the month. What we should have been doing was using the money we had NOW (like the last paycheck of the previous month) to pay bills that were due NOW.
This small change in thinking changed our entire budgeting strategy.
What Is A Budget Calendar?
A budget calendar just like a regular calendar, but it tracks everything money-related. It’s a method you can use to help set a plan for your income, as well as track your monthly and non-monthly expenses.
Not only does it help track your current financial situation, but it can also help you plan for upcoming expenses.
It can help you see the short term and long term expenses, as well as give you concrete ways to reach your overall financial goals.
What You Will Need:
- Monthly calendar – you can use what you have, download the monthly calendar in my resource library, or purchase this monthly budgeting bundle with a year at a glance sheet as well
- Pens – I prefer pens because they won’t rub off or fade over time, but pencils are fine as well
- Highlighters* – I prefer using the Stabilo Boss highlighters because they’re nice and bright, and come in enough colors that I don’t run out when I’m color-coding my budget calendar and expense tracker.
If you don’t prefer the pen and paper route, feel free to use a whiteboard, your phone calendar… use whatever works for you! Over the years, we have learned that writing our budget on paper, separate from our other appointments, works best for us. That way we are focused on only things relating to finances, not other random things in our calendar.
Benefits To Using A Budget Calendar
Using your budget calendar in this way helps you avoid those nasty surprises of annual and semi-annual bills. I can’t tell you how many years we knew that our car insurance premiums were paid every 6 months, but we never took advantage of that time in between payments to save up money, yet we were always surprised when that larger bill came in.
The same goes for our AAA bill. We live rurally, so paying a small annual bill for it was a no brainer, especially since towing costs alone are much higher than what we pay in a year. But it wasn’t until that bill showed up in May that we realized we needed to figure out a way to pay for that in the following month as well.
A budget calendar can also help you streamline your process. If you have bills due at two times of the month, you can see where you can focus all your money for bills, and during the other periods of the month when you don’t have bills due, you can focus on your savings goals.
If you receive a monthly income have your bills scattered throughout the entire month, you can ask to get your due dates changed to match your monthly payday. Most companies are willing to work with you, all you have to do is ask.
Finally, using a budget calendar can also help you see any smaller, miscellaneous debts you have that can be paid off quickly, freeing up money for other financial priorities.
What To Include On Your Budget Calendar
Personally, I keep only things financially related on this calendar. This includes:
- Monthly Expenses – rent/mortgage, utilities, streaming services, health expenses, etc
- Non-Monthly Expenses – tax due dates, quarterly & semi-annual utility expenses, school expenses, health expenses, birthday parties, etc. Even expenses that come out of sinking funds are on our budget calendar
Basically, anything that you are spending money on, you will put on this calendar.
Like I mentioned before, we have learned that we need to keep our budget calendar and my appointment calendar separate. My brain works better when I have things separated out, and when I start adding bills to my appointment calendar, it starts to get too cluttered and my brain feels overwhelmed. If you work better by seeing everything on one calendar, then do that!
How To Set Up Your Budget Calendar
Gather The Supplies
Once you have everything listed above, you are ready to move on.
First, you need to list out all your monthly expenses and organize them by the due date.
- Monthly bills that are consistent like housing, utilities, streaming payments, etc
- Variable amount monthly bills like utilities, groceries. It is best to overestimate these and have money left over than underestimate them and be short money for the month
- Quarterly, semiannual and annual bills – estimate how much they will be based on past payments, and then overestimate a bit to help account for any increases in costs. Then make sure you set reminders before 1 month and 3 months ahead of these expenses so you are reminded.
- Savings Goals – this can be your emergency fund, sinking funds, vacation funds, etc.
- Paydays – as well as any income estimates, and underestimate these. It is better to proceed with caution that your income may be a little lower
Putting it all Together
As you’re putting your calendar together, it is better to use color-coding. The bright colors help designate the information and capture your attention at the same time.
I like using three different colored highlighters to show me which bills are coming out of which paycheck. I use a separate color to show me when non-monthly expenses are due.
Below, I set up this calendar as if we were still paid weekly. I color-coded each payday and the respective bills that come out of each check. I even included things that would come from our sinking funds throughout the month in orange.
I personally do not mark savings, since it has become a habit of ours to set aside money each payday. If your savings accounts aren’t on auto-draft, or you are still trying to make a habit of putting money into savings each payday, you will want to mark it.
When you are setting up your zero-based budget for that paycheck, you just focus on the bills, savings, and other expenses like food, household & pet items, that you will need between this paycheck and the next paycheck. Don’t focus on the future money, focus on the money you have now, and what you need it to do for you.
Since we are currently paid monthly on the 15th of each month, I still use a budget calendar, but I set it up a little differently.
My month is divided into two colors, so I can easily see what check which paycheck the bills are coming out of. This type of calendar is especially helpful for random school expenses like yearbooks, chorus field trips, and any expenses for dance costumes – basically the things that I don’t have a sinking fund for, and that need to come out of the month’s budget. I can easily see what paycheck they would need to come out of.
Using Your Budget Calendar
As the month goes on, and I pay a bill, I like to check it off. I even mark my auto-draft bills with an “A” so I know that they are on autopay and I don’t have to schedule them.
At the end of each month, I go through the calendar and see what is upcoming. Since planning ahead is crucial for this process, I like to use the Year At A Glance page found in my Budget Workbook in addition to a budget calendar in order to keep up with what financial obligations are coming up in the next few months that I am able to start saving for now.
REMEMBER, THE GOAL OF USING A BUDGET CALENDAR IS TO SIMPLIFY YOUR FINANCES, AND NO LONGER SURPRISED BY UPCOMING EXPENSES. SO KEEP IT SIMPLE, AND USE A METHOD THAT WORKS FOR YOU!