Good money management relies on good time management. To stay on top of your finances, you need to keep track of deadlines and dates. If you forget to pay your bills, sign up for health insurance, or invest in your IRA, your bank balances will take a hit.
Deep down, we know we need to watch over our money, but it’s tough to keep an eye on it day-in-and-day-out. Let’s face it, life is messy, and we have a lot of other obligations to meet.
So what happens when we get busy? We push financial tasks to the bottom of the to-do list, leading to increased fees, higher payments, and significant financial mistakes.
But what if that didn’t have to happen?
Our Financial Mistakes
The birth of my first son coincided with a messy time in my life. In addition, to sleepless nights and new mom worries, I was reeling from my husband’s newly expanding small business and an unexpected pink slip.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we lost sight of simple money management tasks.
We made errors filing our taxes and failed to invest in our retirement accounts. After taking a few deep breaths and surveying the damage, we resolved to prevent similar financial mistakes from happening in the future.
The solution was easier than we expected. We designed an automated system to remind us of upcoming financial chores and events.
Before I dig in too deep, let’s talk about automation for a bit.
Automation is the Key to Better Money Management
Automation is a money management tool that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. If you want to get better at money management, learn how to automate.
Your gray matter is busy working on all sorts of tasks, don’t weigh it down, keeping track of a financial to-do list.
To begin, automate all of your bill payments. Look through a year’s worth of credit card expenses and figure out which ones you can pay automatically. Then sign up for auto-pay.
When you finish, look through your bank transactions over the last year. Which recurring expenses required a check? For us, it’s water, electricity, and insurance. As soon as you find a recurring payment, hop on the website and see if you can pay it automatically from your checking account.
I recently took over management of my elderly parent’s finances, and within two or three weeks, I automated all of their bills. A few insurance companies required me to fax forms to them, so reach out for alternatives if you don’t see an online option for automating your bills.
Financial Events You Don’t Want to Miss
After automating your bills, it’s time to create a financial calendar to alert you of upcoming financial tasks. My husband and I use Google calendar, but you could use any technology product with the ability to send automated alerts.
If you want to create a Google calendar for financial events, follow the steps below.
- Open Google Calendar.
- Next to “other calendars” on the left-hand side, you’ll see a plus sign.
- Click that plus sign, and a little box will open.
- Click the words “Create New Calendar.”
- Call the calendar Finance and give it a description.
- Then click the blue button that reads “Create New Calendar.”
- You should now see a calendar named “Finance” displayed.
Now you are ready to begin entering upcoming financial events.
Adding Calendar Events
I’ll walk you through the process of adding a new calendar event. Let’s say you want to add a financial event on January 1st.
To do this, click on January 1st in Google calendar.
- A small window will open.
- Enter the title of your event.
- Then click “more options.”
- Select the “All Day” checkbox and set it to repeat annually on January 1st.
- Lastly, and most importantly, click “Add notification” to receive an email alert every year to remind you to complete recurring tasks.
What do you add to your calendar? All of those financial events that might get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. First let’s start with the small money wins.
Minimizing Money Mistakes
Have you ever bought a Groupon and failed to use it? Have you ever let CVS Extrabucks, Walgreens Cash Rewards, or Kohl’s Cash expire?
I used to have this problem, but now I add reminders to my calendar. I create a new event, call it “Use Kohl’s Cash,” and set the date to trigger a few days before the expiration date.
When the alert triggers, I use the coupon or actively decide not to buy something new, but I don’t allow the vouchers to lose their value because I forgot about them.
Set Reminders to Cancel Free Trials
Have you ever signed up for a free trial and then forgot to cancel it before getting charged for the next month? I did once and vowed never to do it again.
Now, I set calendar reminders that alert me to cancel service before my trial ends.
Track Store Returns
Have you ever returned an expensive item to Amazon or another online store and failed to receive a refund for it? If you don’t track the return, you might not realize your refund never arrived.
After shipping an item back to the store, I set a reminder to check the return status three weeks from the date of shipment. If I receive the refund before the calendar notification, I delete the event.
If I don’t receive a refund, I reach out to the store for help. You wouldn’t believe how often stores fail to issue refunds without further prompting.
These events will save you money, but they aren’t big recurring events. So let’s dig into those next.
Annual Credit Report Check
On January 1st, we set a reminder to check our credit reports. Annual credit reports are free and a great way to keep an eye on your finances.
We freeze our credit but like to double-check that nothing unusual or unexpected has happened since the last time we reviewed them.
January 1st feels like a great day to check off a simple financial task that takes very little time to complete.
In late February, we set calendar reminders to review our tax documentation. When this alert triggers, we search for the W2s and 1099s required to prepare our taxes.
Every year we create an ever-expanding checklist of documents based on the prior year’s return. If Wells Fargo sent us a 1099 last February, we expect to receive another 1099 this year.
Preparing in February might seem crazy, but most documents roll into our mailboxes or inboxes by that time. It’s a great idea to get a jump start on tax preparation, so we aren’t scrambling just before the April 15th deadline.
In February, start looking out for 1099s, W2s, and any other tax documents you might need for filing your taxes. As items roll in, keep a running list of them. Then look back at last year’s return to ensure you have everything you need.
Make Plans For Your Tax Refund
Set an alert to think about your tax refund. Then make plans for it.
Review Insurance Policies
In March, we set a calendar reminder to review our insurance policies. We ask ourselves questions like, do we have enough coverage or too much? How much are we paying, and can we get a better deal?
Compare auto insurance rates and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Call around. Click around. Do whatever you have to do to compare.
Sometimes it pays to be loyal, and other times it pays to make a switch. Would you remember to check around for the best prices without this reminder? I wouldn’t.
While you are reviewing your insurance plans for homeowners and auto, take a peek at your life insurance coverage too.
Is your term insurance coming to an end? Do you have higher needs or want to increase or decrease your coverage? Figure out the details, then call your insurance company to change or apply for new coverage.
Review Health Care Expenses
Every October, my Google calendar alerts me to review our health care expenses.
Is our current health plan meeting our needs? Are we paying too much out of pocket? Does it make sense to continue paying for a high deductible plan, or should we make the switch to a health plan with higher premiums?
I like to review this information long before selecting an option from my husband’s employer. After years of using a high deductible plan, we switched to a PPO in October.
If you buy health insurance through the open marketplace, set an alert to remind you to review the options and apply before the deadline. If you miss the date, you’ll find yourself uninsured, which would be a costly mistake!
Create Money Saving Challenges
If you are looking for financial motivation or excitement, set a calendar alert for a money-saving challenge. You can set up a savings jar, plan a no-spend month, or begin a fifty-two-week savings challenge.
Set an alert to begin your challenge and another to alert you when it’s over.
Monthly Financial Meetings
Set calendar reminders to host monthly family financial meetings with your spouse and an in-depth annual meeting too.
Take a moment each month to review your income and expenses together. Discuss your financial goals and your progress in achieving them.
Check Your 401k Contributions
Did you receive a raise this year? Did unexpected bonus money arrive at your front door? How about a large tax refund or income from a side hustle?
Set a quarterly reminder to review your 401k contributions to see if you can eek a little extra money into your retirement accounts each month.
If you are already contributing enough to earn your company match, consider plopping excess money into a Roth IRA.
After you run the numbers, update your contributions or set up automated payments to move money from your checking account. Perform the extra step of making the change quickly, so you don’t forget.
Contribute to Your IRA
The year my son was born, my husband and I forgot to contribute to our IRAs. Before that year, we always dropped the lump sum into the bank in one fell swoop, so we didn’t drop a dime into our retirement bucket. That mistake cost us years of tax-free growth!
Set a reminder to contribute to your IRA. Don’t miss out on potential growth because you forgot to dump money into your account.
It was the first event we ever added to our financial calendar, and now we never forget!
Keeping your car in good condition saves you money in the long run. Do you know how your mechanic places that little sticker in the corner of your windshield? Write that date down on your calendar and schedule a future date for service.
You can do the same with other routine maintenance tasks around your house. Schedule alerts to make sure things are in working order, change your air filters, clean out your downspouts, etc.
Invest Your Cash
Do you set money aside in a savings or brokerage account? If you automatically set money aside, you might not invest it until it hits a certain amount. Set a quarterly reminder to invest the money once it reaches a certain threshold.
Save for Christmas
If you can’t convince your family to celebrate a minimalist Christmas, you might need to save for Christmas gifts. Set a reminder to begin saving. Then set price watches on CamelCamelCamel or another price tracking site.
Verify HSA & IRA Contribution Limits
On December 31st, we set a calendar reminder to verify IRA and HSA contribution limits for the upcoming year.
Once you find them, divide the total amount by twelve to determine the maximum amount you can set aside each month.
Don’t just make a note of it. After finding the number, log into your checking account to set up those recurring payments.
A Better Way to Manage Your Money
Our financial calendar ensures we don’t lose track of important money management tasks. Do you use a system to help you follow through on financial chores? If so, please leave a comment below and tell me all about it.
If you need details about creating a financial Google calendar, let me know, and I’ll add screenshots to this post.