Budget Calendar: What It Is and Why It Matters

A budget calendar can help you plan monthly spending, keep track of payment due dates and better understand your finances.
Lauren Schwahn
By Lauren Schwahn 
Edited by Kirsten VerHaar

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A calendar makes busy schedules easier to manage: It keeps track of appointments, meetings and social plans — and can be a useful tool for budgeting, too.

Whether you’re working to break out of living paycheck to paycheck, managing a budget on a fixed income or wanting to better organize your financial life, here’s how to get started with a budget calendar.

What is a budget calendar?

A budget calendar is a calendar that keeps track of payment amounts and dates. It’s a helpful way to estimate how much money will flow in and out in a given month. You can use the traditional or digital calendar you already have, or search for free apps and templates online.

Your budget calendar should include:

  • Income. If you earn regular paychecks, or at least know when to expect the next one, add your paydays to the calendar.

  • Bills. Make note of monthly expenses — like rent or cell phone and credit card bills — plus infrequent costs, such as semiannual car insurance payments and yearly subscription charges.

  • Savings contributions. Scheduling transfers to an account can help you save for an emergency fund, wedding, vacation or other savings goal.

You can certainly log smaller and irregular transactions, too. However, it might be tough to pencil in every cup of coffee or anticipate how much you’ll spend at the grocery store.

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Why using a budget calendar matters

Laying out your income, upcoming purchases, debts and goals each month can help you manage your money and reduce surprises. A budget calendar gives you a sense of what you’ll spend and when. It reminds you to make payments on time, which can prevent fees or a drop in your credit score.

Looking ahead at the month’s expenses also allows you to plan, get in the habit of saving and make adjustments as needed. For example, if you have a sizable bill coming up, you might cut back on spending for a few weeks before to ensure you have enough money to make the minimum payment. NerdWallet’s financial calculators can help you with the math.

A budget calendar can also help you tackle financial stressors, such as feeling like your paycheck is spent before it arrives or worrying that your fixed income won’t cover expenses. Your budget calendar can help you identify where to make spending adjustments to account for any gaps.

How to create your monthly budget calendar

First, decide if you want to use a paper calendar, digital calendar or both. Then, start tracking your expenses. Look back at past account statements to spot repeat costs.

Next, mark each transaction amount along with a brief description on the corresponding day. Consider setting reminders on your phone or computer to notify you when bills are due. You can also write in expenses as they occur to monitor your spending in real time.

Add as few or many details to the calendar as you’d like. Try having some fun with it: Color code by category, draw pictures or schedule spending challenges. It’s all about finding what works for you.

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Monitor your credit, track your spending and see all of your finances together in a single place.

What you can learn from your budget calendar

Once you have the format of your calendar determined and you’ve put it to use for a few months, you can use it as a tool to enhance your overall financial health.

Studying the patterns of income and expenses helps you understand your financial flow. This creates an opportunity to adjust payment schedules to best serve you.

For example, if you make use of automatic savings, you could sync your savings contributions with your payday. That means that as your paycheck enters your account, you “pay yourself first” by sending some over to your savings account.

You may even consider asking creditors if you can adjust payment dates. For instance, some utility providers allow you to select a preferred due date, such as 10, 15 or 20 days after your bill date. Similarly, some credit card or loan companies will let you adjust your due date.

Would it be easier to have all your bills come due on the same day each month or to have them spread out? With the information gained from your budget calendar, you can answer this question and determine the best payment schedule for you.

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