Using a Calendar to Keep Your Finances in Check


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Using a Calendar to Keep Your Finances in Check

For over a week, we’d been receiving reminders that our building’s water would be turned off for a day. I didn’t enter it in my calendar because I kept telling myself that there was no way I’d forget something this big. Even the day before it happened, I reminded myself that we had to wake up early and shower or we’d have no water with which to do so. Well, guess which family spent a day totally unshowered this week? YUP. I promise never to doubt you in favor of my own brain, oh mighty calendar.

As a mom and, more recently, as a very pregnant mom with a toddler, I’ve started relying more and more on my phone calendar. There’s just so much to remember all the time, and my brain just isn’t what it used to be. It’s not just the calendar itself — it’s the trusty reminders the calendar gives me a day or an hour before an event. Anything that needs to be remembered on a specific day is worthy of a calendar entry and reminder. And that includes finances, too. More and more, Johnny and I have seen our calendars becoming our very own personal financial assistants.

So here are just a few ways the basic calendar can help keep your finances in check:

Canceling Trials

Johnny and I both love free trials. I’ll burn through every single one of my email addresses in order to get as many free trials as I can. But free trials usually require a credit card on file, which means a company can automatically charge you as soon as that free trial is up. And that ain’t about to happen on our watch. By setting a calendar reminder for a day or two before the offer expiration, you can keep getting freebies to your heart’s content without worrying about falling for their tricks.

Setting Bill Reminders

As much as possible, we use paperless, automatic bill pay on our utilities and other bills. But inevitably, we have at least one monthly bill that can’t be automated. And without that monthly bill reminder on our phones, that bill sometimes gets glanced at and immediately forgotten. If you’re the same, this might be worth considering. And can I just say hallelujah Blockbuster Video rentals can no longer suck late fees out of my wallet.

Remembering Annual Fees

Another reminder to add to your finance calendar is any annual fees that will come due, like a credit card. We try to avoid any and all fees, but our current Southwest VISA card is worth the $69/year fee for us. So when it comes due each year, it’s good to be able to reassess whether that credit card is still being used and whether it’s worth its yearly cost before the credit card company charges you for another year.

And just in case you do forget to cancel and get charged an annual fee (which you won’t because you’re setting up a finance calendar as we speak, right?), most credit card companies will waive the fee if you cancel within a few weeks of the charge. Some might even waive or heavily discount the fee if you agree to hold onto the card.

Checking Balances

Your calendar can also be used to check the balances on your banking and credit card accounts. We do this once a month, checking to make sure all our credit card balances have been paid in full, that our automated bills have actually been processed, and that our checking account has enough money in it for our larger beginning-of-the-month expenses (i.e., rent and tithes).

Adding Daily Expenses

If you aren’t one to enter expenses in your budget in realtime, it might be helpful to set up a daily reminder to enter all your expenses at the end of the day or first thing each morning. Johnny and I are planning to implement this into our calendars starting in April since our days are so filled at the moment that we sometimes forget.

Setting Monthly Budget and Recording Net Worth

Each month requires a reassessment of our budget and making any necessary tweaks or changes to it before the next month starts. It’s also a time to record changes to our net worth for that month. It doesn’t take long, but if we don’t carve out a specific time to do it, it’ll never happen. Johnny and I have started setting a monthly calendar date when we force ourselves to sit down and hammer this out. Currently, it’s the Sunday night before the new month starts.

Visualizing Goals

If you have certain financial benchmarks you’re trying to meet, a calendar is a great way to visualize them. Do you want to have a specific amount of debt paid off six months from now? Or perhaps a specific amount saved three months from now? Enter it in your calendar as a reminder and something to look forward to. Seeing that big-picture perspective can be a great way to maintain focus and motivation.

Those are just a few ways your calendar can help your finances. Any other calendar and reminder addicts out there? Do you use your calendar to organize your finances?

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20 Comments

  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls March 20, 2015 at 8:14 am

    I cannot survive without my calendar. I use it for EVERYTHING! I’m sure you have been feeling the mommy brain! I set reminders to happen 1 week, 3 days, 1 day and 1 hour before any appts or anything I need to follow up on. I can remember important people’s birthdays by heart but always forget the day had actually arrived! So I knew my moms birthday was last week but I didn’t realize what the date was until half the day had gone by!

    • Reply Joanna March 21, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      For sure… I never used to forget stuff until I became a mom! I set as many reminders as I can!!

  • Reply Suzanne March 20, 2015 at 10:29 am

    There’s no doubt about it but we are in a digital age and like it or not, we all have to run with it! Everyone’s lives are so busy getting from A to B, meeting deadlines, planning this and that and sometimes a pen and paper just doesn’t cut it! I totally agree that calendar reminders are an invaluable tool. I use it all the time, more so in work than in everyday life but as someone who can barely remember any birthday but my own, its great!! Simple, effective….does exactly what it says on tin! I still rely on a paper calendar on my pin wall at work which has all 12 months on it so that gets gradually defaced with reminders as the year progresses also!

    • Reply Joanna March 22, 2015 at 12:02 am

      Oh yes! I am the same… I also rely on my planner for things and have a few paper calendars up around the house. I need all the help I can get remembering stuff!!

  • Reply Racheal March 20, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I love my electronic calendar! I don’t know what I would do without it – likely forget everyone’s birthday and never show up anywhere on time.

    I already do a lot of these things, but I never thought about adding annual fees on there! Just this month we were surprised with our Amazon Prime Membership fee -ugh. Not next year!

    Thanks!

    • Reply Joanna March 22, 2015 at 12:02 am

      We had a fee creep up and surprise us, too, which is what made us start putting them in our calendars! It’s crazy how much I would forget if I didn’t set reminders.

  • Reply Shay March 20, 2015 at 10:53 am

    I am a calendar-aholic! My brain couldn’t hold all the things I need to remember. I put in what we are having for dinner, skip a month reminder on my shoe subscription website, vacuum/cleaning days, birthdays, chores for the kids, church coffee host reminder, and so much more! I also use Evernote to keep track of notes, wishlist items, passwords, and favorite things for friends.

    • Reply Joanna March 22, 2015 at 12:04 am

      Ooh, I really like your idea of adding vacuuming/cleaning days. That’s something I’m always keeping a mental tally of. Especially right now, I’m paranoid about the house being messy when I go into labor, so I should definitely schedule cleaning days for the next couple weeks or so. I’ve never tried Evernote, but I keep hearing so many great things about it! I need to try it!

  • Reply Rob March 20, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Joanna!

    Not being of the “digital age” like so many others out there (although I worked for 45 yrs in the IT industry), the only things that I use my (paper) freebie calendar for are mostly future appointment reminders (like dental, doctor, etc). For important reminders (like so-called “water turnoff days”), that we don’t want to forget, we regularly use a white board, hung up on our kitchen wall, where we write key reminders to ourselves using an erasable marker pen. For financial reminders (whether they get automatically deducted from our bank account, credit card account – or not and handled manually) I include the various expense due dates in the expense descriptions of our hard copy monthly budget/actual sheets (the numbers, which in turn I later enter into my monthly/yearly spreadsheet records). So although the memory starts to slip a tad more over the years (now where da hell did I put my car keys? lol), we still seem to cope ok using these procedures. Whatever works best, eh? KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle in action! :-)

    • Reply Joanna March 22, 2015 at 12:06 am

      Yep… I’m sure those methods are just as effective! Our generation is much more reliant on our phones. If it’s not in my phone somewhere, I won’t remember it!

  • Reply Ronnica, Striving Stewardess March 23, 2015 at 1:09 am

    Absolutely as to the cancelling free trials! As someone who once worked for a company that offered free trials, I was shocked at how many times someone would call a year or two later to cancel their subscription…

    I frequently join/quit Netflix and Hulu Plus the same way. Just purchase a month’s worth of watching. I know I’ll be back, but I can watch the show or two I want (binge-style, of course) and then come back at another time to watch something else.

    • Reply Joanna March 25, 2015 at 10:11 am

      Ha, me too! I do it with Hulu Plus at least a couple of times a year. Maybe one day I’ll become a member, but for now, the trials are working out just fine for me!

  • Reply Katie Ball March 23, 2015 at 10:09 am

    I’m a paper-and-pen girl so I still keep up with our bills in my handy dandy Lilly Pulitzer calendar (I splurged this year… okay, it was only $30). It has a monthly calendar as well as pages for weekdays. On the monthly calendar, I write when each bill is due that month (or an estimated day for those bills that aren’t on the same date). Now I have a pretty firm idea of what is due when, but seeing it on a large scale on paper helps me keep up with everything. I also just recently started allowing for auto draft payments for certain bills. I only use auto pay for bills that are the same each month – any that fluctuate (like power, water, etc.), I prefer to send in a check.

    I will say, though… I can never remember to pay our Lowe’s bill. We use our Lowe’s card so infrequently and it’s due at the 1st of the month so I keep forgetting about it! That 10% we are saving with each use is not worth the fees we have paid the past few months, so we are letting go of that card!

    • Reply Joanna March 25, 2015 at 10:21 am

      Sounds like a good idea to let go of the Lowe’s card… totally not worth forgetting payments! And I really like your system of only doing automatic payments on bills that don’t fluctuate. It can be so easy to auto pay something without even realizing how much you’re being charged!

  • Reply Lauren March 23, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Tracking daily budget is very important in keeping your finances in check. While sometimes we don’t want to keep up with the hassle of tracking our spending each day, it will definitely help out for long term goals. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Amy March 25, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    My credit union offers personalized e-mail notifications. I just log into my account and set them up–and not just for bills, but also for checking my credit report and sometimes work related things. It can be for anything really and it can be set up as a one-time reminder, or as often as you want.

    • Reply Johnny April 14, 2015 at 10:00 pm

      That’s an awesome perk. Like a personal concierge. Mint actually has a pretty robust setup for email alerts, but I find them mostly annoying. I should probably dig back into their settings and see what I can automate better.

  • Reply Melanie April 7, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    As a millenial, I *should* be using my phone for my calendar, but I LOVE my paper calendar book. :) A few weeks ago I left it at my coworker’s house and I felt lost without it! Haha. I write down all my appointments, workouts, dates, etc on there. On the right hand column I keep a list of all my bills due that month with the date/type of bill listed, then cross it out when I pay it. How old school of me! :)

  • Reply Remy Boudreau June 5, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Thank you for sharing the article. It’s very useful. Hope to hear more from you.

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