We track so many things using a calendar: meetings, appointments, trips, birthday reminders, social plans—why not our budget? A budget calendar is easily overlooked as a personal finance tool, but it offers a uniquely visual approach to your finances not always found in an app or spreadsheet.
What’s a budget calendar?
It’s like a regular calendar, but with every bill due date, rent payment, and income check logged to help you see what’s coming in and going out when it happens. Calendars can be found in finance apps (Doughroller has a good breakdown of calendar-based apps), or made as a Google Calendar, or created manually on a giant white board or on paper. It might seem odd to rely on printouts in 2020, but one of the advantages to this approach is that it’s not an app. Apps are easy to ignore, whereas a printout pinned to a cork board or displayed on a fridge is less avoidable.
Budget calendars are especially useful when you’ve been living paycheck-to-paycheck. If you’re diligent in recording expenses, over time you might discover a pattern of unexpected expenses at intervals that you haven’t noticed before, like a pricey haircut every few months, or travel for weddings.
How to create your budget calendar
You will need to start with a proper budget that accounts for income and expenses. Start by placing recurring expenses in your calendar on the date they’re due, along with a brief description. Do the same for income, but in this case you’ll add the dates you get paid. You can also include a field for your overall balance for a given day, or every few days. Once this is set up, you will have a better sense of your cash flow and be able to pick the right time to schedule auto-payments for your bills.
You don’t have to get bogged down in the details and input every coffee you’ve purchased—instead, it might be easier to ballpark food expenses every week and adjust as needed. Sticking with a calendar can keep you motivated and disciplined for a long-term financial goal, as each day will be a visual reminder of your progress. And achieving that long-term goal while staying on budget can be very satisfying.