It’s incredibly easy to lose track of your financial obligations when you’ve got so much on your plate. But, it’s not just about keeping a budget on track either. It’s also about paying bills on time and saving money.
Thankfully, using a calendar to schedule essential milestones and reminders is one of the best ways to take control of your finances. Calendar apps are readily available for all mobile devices. Or, if you prefer to go old school, you can download and print one for your home or office. If you do that, you can stay on top of your monthly, quarterly, and annual financial obligations in just a few minutes a week.
Of course, this can be daunting. But, here’s our advice for getting the ball rolling.
Maintain a monthly schedule of financial obligations.
Keep track of monthly financial commitments with a calendar to avoid becoming overwhelmed. How? By focusing on the following areas:
- Budgeting. Budgeting is an excellent tool for getting your finances in check. Effort and time are required, though. So, make it a habit to track your spending and ensure it’s within your budget. And that’s easy to do by setting up calendar reminders. By making this a routine, you’ll be able to avoid overspending before the next paycheck comes.
- Contributions to savings accounts. You should dedicate a portion of your income to one or more savings accounts first. Not only can a savings account help you prepare for unforeseen events, but it can also help you make down payments on a home or vehicle. It can also help you save for a family vacation. Every week, set aside some time on your calendar to see if your budgeting efforts resulted in extra savings.
- Paying your bills. It’s easy to set up automatic payments through your bank. But you’re still on the hook when it comes to paying your bills. Ensure your account has sufficient funds and receive a gentle reminder each week to make sure these automatic payments are paid correctly and on time by using a calendar.
- Deposit tracking. Is your paycheck deposited directly into your bank account? To ensure that your funds have arrived on time and are in the correct amount, set a reminder on your calendar. Direct deposits can be delayed or incorrectly credited to your account due to accounting errors. At the same time, they are rare.
Assess your financial health every quarter.
Take the next step by setting up reminders for checking in on your budgeting progress, checking for savings opportunities, and paying bills on time.
- Examine your financial situation holistically. Each quarter, set aside an hour to review your financial progress. Did you save $1,800 for holiday gift-buying expenses this year? Will you be able to reach this goal at your current savings rate? Budget adjustments are necessary if this is not the case.
- Find out what the current interest rates are. Has there been a change in interest rates since last quarter? It may be beneficial to refinance your mortgage or consider growing your money in a term account if rates go up.
Be prepared for significant financial commitments by using annual reminders.
New year’s resolutions are great and all. However, it’s also a great time to prepare for future financial commitments like:
- Tax season. Make a note in your calendar to begin collecting essential tax documents as soon as possible. At the very least, you’ll need your W-2 from your employer, 1099s for dividends, mortgage interest, child care costs, and receipts for deductions.
- Exemptions from property taxes. Property tax exemptions such as homestead, disability, and others can also be filed at the beginning of the year. Depending on your state, you may qualify for various exemptions. Contact your county’s tax assessment office for more information.
- Make sure your credit report is accurate. A free annual credit report is a great way to ring in the new year. Using this report, you can view the status of credit cards, car loans, mortgages, and more associated with your name and social security number. Examine this report thoroughly to identify errors so you can contact the vendor directly to resolve them before your credit score is affected.
As you can see, you can drastically improve your financial health using your calendar. But, let’s take your financial planning to the next level by preparing a personal finance calendar.
Sample Month-by-Month Personal Finance Calendar
How you create a personal financial calendar is totally up to you. What’s more, everyone has their key dates. For example, if you are a student, you don’t have to be concerned with dates like when to apply for financial aid. With that said, here’s a sample month-by-month personal finance calendar you can use as a template.
January: Get your finances in shape.
- Calendar yourself out of debt. Put a three-to-six-month emergency fund together. And, if you haven’t already, pay off all your high-cost, non-deductible credit cards.
- Create (or update) a statement of personal net worth. This would be the prior year’s income minus expenses.
- Your portfolio should be reevaluated, and its asset mix should match your risk tolerance and time horizon.
- Verify your workplace retirement plan’s eligibility and contribution limit. Then, make sure you contribute enough to take advantage of any employer matching benefits.
- Check your insurance policies. If you don’t have health insurance, January 15 is crucial. If you’re getting health insurance through HealthCare.gov, it’s the last day to enroll in or change plans for the year. After that, only special enrollment periods after this date will allow you to enroll or change plans. And, while you’re at it, check your other insurance policies, like auto and life, to ensure you’re not paying too much.
- You must file your fourth-quarter estimated income tax payment by January 18 if you don’t pay enough income tax through regular payroll withholding.
- It is recommended that you receive your tax forms 1099, 1098, and W-2 by January 31 (for some 1099s, by February 15).
- Rebalancing your investment portfolio can be combined with your cash-flow planning if you’re retired.
February: Organize your tax documents and go frugal.
- The first week of the month is the best time to organize your W-2s, interest and dividend statements, and other tax documents.
- A popular idea that has been around for several years is the Frugal February Challenge. Here you would spend a bit less, save a bit more, and get your money situation more organized during this shorter-than-average month.
March: Plan your refund and bonus.
- If you’ve received a tax refund, bonus, or pay increase in March, choose a date to allocate it.
- Additionally, use your employer’s annual bonus thoughtfully to maximize its potential benefits. You might be tempted to splurge on a bonus, but consider using it to pay off debt, build an emergency fund, or contribute to your retirement account.
- Also, Medicare enrollees have until March 31 to apply for Parts A and B for coverage starting in July. If that applies to you, mark this date down.
April: Pay your taxes.
- Tax returns must be filed by April 15. Any taxes you owe by April 15 still have to be paid, even if you’re getting an automatic six-month extension.
- IRA and Coverdell Education Savings Account contributions for the prior year must be made by April 15.
- The 15th of April is the deadline for first-quarter estimated income tax payments, if applicable.
- You might want to mark April 22 as “Teach Children to Save Day” if you have kids. This program is sponsored by the American Bankers Association and aims to encourage young people to save.
May: Maintain a healthy debt load.
- Make use of this month to determine your debt load. Provide a detailed breakdown of your debt. And make sure you include all your monthly debt payments in your debt-to-income ratio. Ideally, you want to keep that ratio under 36%.
- Will you be attending a big event or performing a great activity in the next few months, such as a wedding or summer vacation? Make sure you plan ahead and budget accordingly to avoid unnecessary debt.
June: Assess your finances mid-year to ensure you’re on track.
- You should compare your projected cash flows with your actual income and expenses.
- Do you have enough money saved for retirement and other expenses?
- Make sure your cash flow projections match your actual income and expenses. Also, withhold or pay quarterly taxes.
- If you’re a college student, mark June 30 in your calendar. This is the last day to apply for federal student aid for the upcoming academic calendar year.
July: Improve your financial IQ.
- Take advantage of the dog days of summer to build or refresh your money skills. For instance, your summer reading list should include at least one book on investing or personal finance.
August: Take steps to improve your credit score.
- Put a reminder on your calendar to check your credit score with Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Then, make sure it stays healthy by learning how to maintain it.
- You may also want to compare what you actually spent on expenses like summer vacation or back-to-school supplies. You can use this to budget for next year to avoid debt.
September: Review your benefits and quarterly taxes.
- The 15th of September is the deadline for third-quarter estimated income tax payments, if applicable.
- Usually, employer benefits enroll in the fall and last for four to six weeks. Don’t forget to review your health choices, 401(k), and other benefits you receive as an employee.
October: Get ahead on college funding.
- While you can wait until next year to file your FAFSA for the 2023-2024 school year, you can start on October 1. This is because some colleges use a first-come, first-served policy.
- If you requested a six-month extension in April, you must file your income tax return by October 15.
November: Plan for next year’s health care costs and holiday spending.
- Enrollment in the federal health insurance marketplace for 2023 begins on November 1. There will be an open enrollment period on HealthCare.gov between Nov. 1, 2022, and Jan. 15, 2023.
- You might also want to start planning your holiday shopping at this time. Make sure you don’t charge more than you can comfortably pay back in full on your credit card statements in January
December: Celebrate another year in the books.
- Consider how your financial decisions before the end of the year might affect your taxes next year before the new year arrives. For example:
- Would you like to make one more 401(k) contribution?
- Is there any way to deduct donations from charity?
- To possibly lower your tax liability and better position your portfolio going forward, consider tax-loss harvesting if you’ve lost value in your investments this year.
- If you’re doing well financially, perhaps it’s time to watch the ball drop, relax, and get ready for the New Year.
Image Credit: Image by Bich Tran; Pexels; Thank you!
Have Better Financial Health by Using Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.