What Is a Budget Calendar?

Many of us rely on calendars to keep track of important events in our lives, from doctor appointments to vacations. Why not use a calendar to keep track of your finances as well? That’s the concept behind a budget calendar.

For example, you may have a doctor appointment marked on your calendar, but have you also noted the amount of your copay? Budget calendars can keep track of this and other important financial dates, like the due date for your electric bill, the day you should shop for groceries and when to buy a gift for a friend’s birthday. Essentially, you can use this type of calendar to stay on top of the bills you need to pay now, expenses on the horizon and purchases to plan for throughout the year.

[SEE: 10 Best Budget Apps.]

What Is a Budget Calendar?

A budget calendar is a tool designed to help you remember important financial dates, from the days your paychecks arrive to the days bills are due. The key benefits of creating a monthly budget calendar, planner or spreadsheet include:

Improved cash flow. By tracking your fixed expenses and bills, you can develop a better sense of your cash flow. By looking at past account statements and expenses and taking stock of monthly bills, you can easily pinpoint when significant expenses are due and set reminders to avoid late fees.

Fewer missed bills. With an organized tracking system, you’ll be less likely to forget important bill due dates. This will help you avoid hefty late fees and can even help boost your credit score if you’re no longer missing key payment due dates.

Added savings. If you highlight key dates on a monthly calendar and set reminders, you’re more likely to put cash aside for your retirement savings or to fund your child’s college education. Another option to ensure you’re saving enough each month is setting up your bank account to automatically deposit money in a designated savings account.

“Budgeting allows you to allocate enough money to pay your bills so you aren’t struggling paycheck to paycheck,” says Leslie Tayne, debt resolution attorney and managing director of Tayne Law Group P.C. in New York City. “No one wants to live paycheck to paycheck, as it can be frustrating and emotionally draining, so simply sticking to a budget can help relieve this problem.”

You probably already knew about the value of budgeting. But if you’re new to the idea of a budget calendar, read on to learn more about how it can help you manage your cash flow, bookmark important payment due dates and achieve your financial goals.

The Best Budget Calendars

You will find plenty of budget calendars online, but they’re not all well reviewed. If you’re looking for a comprehensive budget calendar, consider these three:

1. Calendar Budget. CalendarBudget offers an easy way to categorize and divvy up your budget. It also helps you track how much you’re spending every day, not just in fixed bills, such as rent payments or utility bills, but also for things like dog grooming services. When a bill needs to be paid, you’ll get an email reminder that it’s due.
Price: $7.99 a month or $56.99 a year.

2. Money Calendar. Money Calendar comes with auto-generated charts to help you track your spending from month to month, which, as its website states, should help you analyze your financial past and then plan your future revenue and expenses.
Price: $29.95 flat rate (no subscription). At the time of this writing, it was on sale and marked down to $24.99.

3. Moneydance. Moneydance has numerous features, from online banking and bill payment to investment tracking. If you spend money in different currencies, Moneydance can convert the expenses. In other words, it’s a very comprehensive personal finance tool.
Price: $49.99 flat rate. There is also a Moneydance+ service, which charges a subscription rate of $2 a month if you’re already a customer or $5 a month if you’re not. If you get the Moneydance+ subscription instead of the standalone product, you can download all of your transactions from your bank and credit card accounts.

[READ: Budgeting Templates to Take Control of Your Money.]

How to Make a Budget Calendar

You don’t have to pay for a budget calendar. You could make your own. Plenty of people track some bills on a paper calendar or a digital calendar like Google Calendar. The important thing is that you look at your budget calendar and use it frequently.

Tracking your finances probably won’t be as easy and automated as with the budget calendars that charge a fee. But you could always start off by creating one yourself — and then, if you come to really like the budget calendar, you may decide it’s worth paying for a service to help you better manage your money.

There are also a variety of free apps and templates online that can help you monitor your spending and map out your budget.

What a Budget Calendar Should Include

Regardless of what budget calendar you use, make sure to include these types of incoming and outgoing expenses:

Revenue. Include which days you receive paychecks. If you’re self-employed and can’t pinpoint which day your checks will arrive, you can mark the week you expect to see money. Still, if your income is sporadic, make sure to monitor the rest of your portfolio carefully to understand precisely when bills are due and get a sense of your overall financial well-being. Over time, you can compare months from one year to the next to get a better idea of when you spend the most and the least.

Bills. Mark any day a bill is due on your budget calendar. If you’re tracking your money, you’ll be more inclined to halt impulse purchases and unnecessary spending days before a bill is due. By understanding when bills are due, you can hopefully avoid common financial mistakes such as neglecting to pay bills on time or overspending.

Savings. If you schedule automatic withdrawals from your bank account to go into savings or investments, make sure to note those days on your budget calendar. If you don’t put money away regularly, it’s also a smart idea to earmark certain days to save money.

Variable expenses. You may want to mark days or weeks that you expect to get your oil changed, buy new tires, take your dog to the vet or purchase a birthday gift for a relative, for example. You may also want to look ahead on your calendar and add items like back-to-school purchases or holiday gifts or summer vacation.

Do I Need a Budget Calendar?

You need a budget, but a budget calendar may not be necessary. It’s just one useful financial tool to consider.

The main thing a budget calendar can do is to help you think ahead, which is especially important if you don’t have a lot of money.

“Living on a low income often means focusing on the short term, which is why I believe there is no focus on long-term financial goals. Always living in the short term will keep you running in place and unprepared,” Tayne says.

With a budget calendar, you can better prepare yourself financially for what’s ahead and start taking steps to achieve your long-term savings goals.

More from U.S. News

10 Best Budget Apps

How to Save Money

Fast Financial Fixes

What Is a Budget Calendar? originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 06/06/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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