Start a Financial Bills Calendar

Money is a slippery thing. It can get away from you more quickly than you can keep track of it, especially if you have a busy life filled with rapid comings and goings. A lunch out here, a cable payment there, a new shirt there, and before you know it you can be over budget. It is important to keep track of money over time in order to stay financially healthy. One of the best tools for staying financially aware is a bills calendar.

A bills calendar can be as high-tech or low-tech as you want, but the practice is as old as balancing a checkbook or ledger. Basic accounting may be boring, but there’s nothing like it when it comes to maintaining a sense of relaxedness and ease about your money. When you don’t know about your money, it can feel like an enormous unmanageable tidal wave you’re constantly running from. However, when you take the time to budget, set up a bills calendar and get everything under control, for most people money becomes just another set of numbers.

How to Start a Financial Bills Calendar

The first thing you have to do in order to make a financial bills calendar is to list all of the static expenses you have in your life. These could include rent, loan or credit card payments, utility bills, insurance payments or any other monthly expense that comes due like clockwork, the same day every month. Next to each expense, write the day it’s due. Some bills are due the first of the month, some are due in the middle and some are due at the very end. This list will form the backbone for your financial bills calendar.

Next, figure out your average income. Most people get paid on a bi-weekly basis, but if you are self-employed or work in a tips-based job such as bartending or food service, this may be more difficult. Whether you get paid weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, write down the days you get your paycheck along with the average amount.

Once you’ve figured out your income and bills, you can plot the days you get your paycheck and the days bills are due on a blank calendar. If you pay bills electronically, you can plot for same-day payment. However, if you pay by mail, you should mark a few days before bills are due on the calendar so they can arrive the day you want them to get there. Either way, the whole point of the bills calendar is to look at it for a few seconds every day so you know what’s due when.

The Budget and the Bills Calendar

A bills calendar, in addition to being helpful for handling your monthly expenses, is also an integral part of any successful budget. Some people take naturally to budgeting, but for most of us it can be very tricky to figure out a meaningful plan that we can stick to. The bills calendar is the first step toward creating a successful budget.

In any budget, there are two types of expenses – the kind you can predict and the kind you can’t. The bills calendar takes care of all the expenses you can predict, while smart money management takes care of everything you can’t. A general rule of thumb is that predictable expenses should be half of your budget while unpredictable expenses should be the other half. Some people use a 2/3 predictable 1/3 unpredictable split, but experts suggest that you don’t weigh it more heavily than that. People always think they can monitor how much money they spend, but people also tend to overestimate their frugality.

Therefore, your bills calendar can help you figure out how much money you can spend on unpredictables each week such as food, books, clothes, toys, nights out, or other goods. Simply add up all the predictable expenses on the bills calendar, subtract from your income, divide by four and you have your weekly unpredictable budget. Keep track of the money you spend in a general way, and if you’re approaching your total for the week, be more conscious of your cash.

Automatic Bills Calendars

Some online banking software or third-party money management programs offer automatic bill payment calendars to help you keep track of your finances. If you prefer to do things on your smartphone or computer, this may be a good option for you. Online banking lets you tie your bill calendar into a bill payment system, so you don’t have to think about any of your bills as long as you continue to put money into your bank account. The only problem comes if you make less money than usual one week, you run the risk of an overdraft. You have to keep an eye on your account, even if you have signed up for an automatic bill calendar and bill pay program, in order to make sure that you always have enough money when the program attempts to make a payment.

Ultimately, if you’re not financially savvy and you don’t have a clue about the numbers underlying your life, a financial bills calendar can be an excellent first step toward taking control of your finances. It’s simple, easy to construct and it can help you build a framework around your life. Whether you’re trying to get out of debt or keep from getting into debt, whether you just moved out and need to organize everything you have to pay or whether you’re simply sick of plotting everything in your checkbook, a financial bills calendar can help you make sense of your money. Money is one of the most anxiety-provoking topics, but by making a financial bills calendar, you can take the first step toward reducing your worries about the almighty dollar.

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