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A calendar makes busy schedules easier to manage: It keeps track of doctors appointments, meetings and swimming lessons — and can be a useful tool for budgeting.
If you’re looking 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 up for an emergency fund, wedding 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.
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 student loan bill coming up, you might cut back on spending the week prior to ensure you have enough money to make the minimum payment. NerdWallet’s financial calculators can help you with the math.
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.