Over the years I’ve used a number of different methods for tracking my money. I’ve discovered that as a visual person, it’s really helpful to have a calendar to track bills and cash flow. It gives me a quick view of when money is coming in and out, so I can make better decisions about my finances.
My method doesn’t require a fancy app or anything—it just uses a simple calendar, which is readily available with most popular email services like Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail and can likely be synced with the calendar app on your smartphone (I personally use an Outlook calendar, but they all have the same basic functionality).
The concept is pretty simple:
1. Create a calendar
I have an existing personal calendar, so I set up a separate “Finance” calendar. This gives me the option to view just my financial events or to see them integrated with my personal calendar.
2. Create recurring events for your income
This was pretty simple for me—I set up a recurring event every two weeks to mark my pay day. If you have multiple sources of money coming in, create events for those as well. (If your income doesn’t follow a regular pattern, this method won’t work that well for you).
3. Create recurring events for your bills and payments with reminders
Most payments will probably be monthly, like loans, credit cards, insurance, phone and internet. I’ve set up most of my bills to charge to my credit card, so I don’t track every single bill—just my credit card payments and any bills that are directly deducted from my chequing account (like car insurance). Plus I set notifications about these events so I remember to make the payments.
4. Mark bills you’ve paid
Sometimes I lose track of time and can’t remember what bills I’ve dealt already with. Now when I make a payment, I change the colour of the event in my calendar so I know it’s been paid. I also copy and paste the payment confirmation number into the event’s open text area to keep a record.
Seeing my financial “events” on a calendar helps me plan ahead and make timing decisions. For example, I can see that I need to leave a certain amount of money in my chequing account because I have a bill coming out before my next paycheque comes in. It also helps me remember to make payments and avoid costly interest charges.
It’s a pretty simple system, but I think that’s why it works so well for me.