Your wedding was just practice. Now you have your whole lives to perfect paying off “the man.” And just like your wedding, planning is everything. Life is full of surprises, which you should embrace, but you don’t want those surprises to come in the form of economic folly. Payment scheduling, expense tracking and using the appropriate software tools can make life on a budget a piece of cake. Albeit, one with a lot more tiers than the one you ate at your wedding.
How to Create a Budget Calendar
Be proactive. You know what you owe and to whom. Make a list of all your debtors and your regular monthly payments, and decide when you would like to pay them.
Schedule payments. The same amount of money gets deducted from your checking account every month. Why not arrange with your debtors how much you would like deducted and how often? Most utility and credit card companies would be glad to adjust your payment schedule accordingly.
Make it automatic. Gone are the days of waiting for billing statements to arrive in the mail. Most companies provide an option for automatic deduction from your checking or savings account. Take advantage of it, and each month you can sit back, relax and know your debts are being paid.
Don’t panic. Unexpected expenses are inevitable. A tire sprung a leak or a night out with your buddies left you with the beer tab? A few phone calls to your debtors should smooth things over. Never underestimate the power of communication. Most companies simply want to know when to expect their money.
Accept reality. Ignoring your latte habit is pointless. Avoiding your tendency toward newsstand magazine purchases is futile. You might as well accept your habits and budget for them. If you know you are going out to lunch daily, then plan for it daily.
Underestimate nothing. Better to overestimate your expenses by rounding up the figure. If your average cell phone bill runs $133.47, pencil it in to your calendar for $140. You never know when your mother-in-law might get chatty.
Plan for it. You drop your shirts off at the cleaners weekly. Your car needs an oil change every three months. You visit the doctor or dentist once a year. You can count on at least one anniversary and one birthday dinner or gift per year. Try to hang onto receipts to get a rough estimate of what these might cost and include it.
Plug it in. Take all of the expenses you’ve collected and punch it into your financial software program. Or, if you’re the old-fashioned type of budget planner, pencil it into your calendar accordingly. Print it out & tack it up somewhere you can easily access it, whether digitally or as a hard copy.
- * When using software, be sure to check your numbers a few times. It’s easy to suffer from overconfidence when a machine is doing the math for you.
- * When a bank or utility company agrees to deduct your checking account on a certain day of the month, be certain to get the agreement in writing.
- * Make your system mobile. Use a program or document system that is compatible with your mobile phone.
Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski has 14 years experience in publishing and 17 years in the restaurant industry. She has served as food and wine editor for a Washington, D.C.-area newspaper company, and managing editor for "Northern Virginia" magazine. As founder of The Locavore Project-WV, she works with sustainable farms to promote consumer awareness and whole-food nutrition.