4 ways a calendar can jump-start your budgeting process

monthly calendar for budgeting
 
I used to think budgeting was all about the dollar amounts. Numbers, numbers, numbers. But recently I’ve discovered that an old fashioned, printed calendar can streamline the path to a budget that is realistic and workable. Let me tell you why.

1. Calendars Help You Visualize Your Flow of Money

Studies show that 65 percent of us are visual learners. That means we will relate better to and think more clearly with materials that give us a visual framework.

Enter the humble calendar. Standard U.S. calendar layouts show one month at a time, with 5 rows that translate into full (and any partial) weeks, and 7 columns starting with Sunday on the left and ending with Saturday on the right.

Since the majority of bills are monthly, they can be plotted on the day of the month they’re due. And when you also write onto the calendar the days you get paid, you begin to have a better idea of how your money streams in and out of your hands.

Here’s an example:
sample calendar with bills and paydays
If we were to write in the dollar amounts too, an even clearer picture would emerge.

2. A Calendar Can Jog Your Memory

When you start your budgeting process by looking at the current and/or upcoming month, you will remember special events that you otherwise might forget to add in to your budget. That baby shower scheduled for the end of the month reminds you to add funds to the gift category to cover the present you’ll need to buy. The holiday weekend so graciously pointed out by the calendar helps you set aside money for the celebration with family.

Without a calendar in front of you, it’s easy to think in broad categories and forget about realistic specifics. And if your budget doesn’t fit with your life the way you will actually live it, then you’ll be quick to push the unrealistic budget aside.

3. A Calendar Can Help You Develop Self-Control

That’s a strong statement, but I believe it’s true. By using a calendar, it’s almost as if you are displaying the concept of money across time. You can visualize that each paycheck or other form of income has to last a fixed amount of time before the next one comes in. And when the funds in a particular category are exhausted, looking at the calendar can encourage you to wait the few days until the next payday. The visual helps you say, “Hey, it’s just 4 days until there will be more money in the eating out category. I can wait that long by making do with what’s in the house.”

A calendar helps you see that you are not depriving yourself forever. You can be building self-control and financial stamina by using a calendar when the going gets tough.

4. A Calendar Speeds Up the Creation of Your Spending Plan

Once you have your bill due dates and paydays plotted on a calendar, the step to creating a spending plan is much easier. (I also like to use the term income distribution plan, since you’re actually divvying up – or distributing – each paycheck or other income source.)

Just by looking at the calendar example shown earlier, we see that the first paycheck has to provide the funds for the rent and the student loan, and we can use the last paycheck of the month to pay the utilities and car insurance. (A strong case can be made that you shouldn’t wait to use the paycheck on the first of the month to pay for rent that’s due on the first day of the month. But you get the point of this illustration.)

Thoughts on Print Versus Digital Calendars

I mentioned above that a calendar is a boon for visual learners. When you further decide to use a printed calendar, writing due dates and maybe even dollar amounts on it, you add in another learning modality: the physical or kinesthetic style. There’s something about using a piece of paper and a writing implement that helps you sort and retain information. Yes, I know that using a smart phone and typing on a calendar app uses your hands (or at least your thumbs), but research shows print has benefits over digital. I’m sticking to my recommendation of using print calendars if at all possible.

Conclusion

Starting to create a budget from scratch can be daunting. Make it easier on yourself by pulling out that free calendar your dry cleaner gave you, or printing one out from your personal office software, or use the one provided by MyBudgetMentor in the Resources, here. Take a few minutes to plot when each of your major bills are due and when you get paid.

This budget trick has helped others make a realistic budget faster, and I’ll bet you’ll find it helps you, too.

 

Why we are passionate about budgeting

image of plants

This past year or two has been a period like none other. And we wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for our budget.

That’s an exaggeration. We would have made it, because the Lord promises to be with us through everything. But he also says we reap what we sow. Which means that there would have been a whole lot more stress and general unpleasantness if we hadn’t been in budgeting bootcamp for a number of years.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it brings a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:11

Merriam-Webster says discipline is “To train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control.” Also, “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” And from Webster’s New World Dictionary: “training that develops self-control, character, or orderliness and efficiency.”

That’s the kind of discipline we’ve been going through for the past 6 years or so.

A while back, my husband and I awoke from a general stupor regarding our personal finances. We were approaching our 50s and realized that the way things were headed, we would not be retiring in our mid 60s. In fact, things looked dicey. Lots of debt – car loans, student loans, credit cards, home equity loan, all on top of a mortgage that was based on two full-time incomes. One of which ended.

My husband had taken a position with a non-profit organization to bring a more peaceful lifestyle to our family (Ha! – a story for another time), and had taken nearly a 50% cut in pay to do so. We’d never fully adjusted to the pay cut. And when we determined that, for our family’s sake, it was no longer healthy for me to remain in a stressful full-time job, it was time to get serious about finding solutions.

We began our own bootcamp shortly before our church went through Financial Peace University, the flagship course of personal finance guru Dave Ramsey. We went through a period of fasting and agreed that we needed to sell our home and move into something smaller. I’m sure Dave Ramsey would have been able to tell us that without the fasting.

No doubt I’ll talk more in the future about the details of our progress out of debt, but for now, let me say that it was learning to make a budget and truly live by it that made the difference for us.

Back to our past two years. Because of our training in budgeting, we were able to get through the weddings of two daughters (the second one is in a few weeks!), survive a period of unemployment after my husband resigned his position with no other job in sight, as well as move 3 times within 9 months – all while moving toward our financial goals.

We are not yet fully where we’d like to be financially, but we have a peace knowing that the Lord has trained us and continues to train us to bring him glory by living within our means. And we want to help others know that peace. That’s the story behind MyBudgetMentor. We are designing a safe, encouraging place for people to learn how to make realistic budgets and discover the sense of peace and control that comes from actually living by them to reach their financial goals.

We’d love to hear your experiences with budgeting, your hopes, your fears, and your questions, so please comment below. We’ll read them all. Welcome!