Google Calendar is a really simple but effective tool for keeping an eye on your cash flow and making sure all your bills get paid. In addition to repeating bill “events”, you get colour-coding for bill types plus reminders, and you can also track your account balances.
Photo remixed from an original by Ken Teegardin
Blogger Quantity=q outlines (in a dedicated “gcalbills” blog) a smart method for budgeting-on-the-fly with Google Calendar.
1. Set up your bills calendar: First, create a new calendar and name it something like “Bills” or “Money”. You can share the calendar with your partner and while you’re at it, also set up the default notification for your bills calendar (eg, email or SMS three days before).
2. Create coded bill events: Now, just create an all-day event for each upcoming bill, with the payee, amount and (optionally) a code for the payment method. For example:
Quantity=q’s codes are these, but adjust to your situation:
I use codes so that the whole event fits on a calendar day. If all of your payments are made the same way you can skip this.
I put an “a” in front if its automatic (as shown above.) If not, then just one of the following…
- EFT (electronic funds transfer)
- BPAY (everyone’s favourite bill-paying system)
- cheque (I know. I have one last case to use these)
- card (debit card for my chequing account)
For bills you’re not sure of the total amount (eg, credit card bills), you can add “???” in place of the amount or an estimate.
Don’t forget to create recurring events for your paychecks and savings transfers.
Note: The blog post recommends a “rolling system” where most bills aren’t set as repeating events, but rather single events. Then after you verify payment has posted to your account, you move the bill to the next month. If you’ve got a lot of bills, though, it may just be easier to set them to repeat.
3. Customise the calendar for your workflow/needs: Playing around with this system, I added a few tweaks of my own:
- Add “$” before each entry on the bills calendar, so when you want to look at both your bills and your other calendar(s), the financial ones are easily spotted.
- Colour-code bills and deposits by category. In my example, I have automated payements in yellow, deposits in green, transfers in light green, and estimated payments in red.
- On days where I go over or under budget on a certain bill (got a bonus, for example, or charged too much), add an entry like the balance one with a + or – amount.
- Add a balance forecast at the beginning of each week. Take your starting account balance and add/subtract as needed. If you want, you can do this monthly instead. (Or omit it if you want just a bills calendar.)
I’ve been using freemium service PocketSmith to forecast my financial future, and it calculates the balance forecasts for me automatically. But even though you have to do the calculations yourself on Google Calendar if you want to include a balance, it’s not really that hard, and this free calendar doesn’t have any event limits.
You can read more about how to turn Google Calendar into a financial planner and the philosophy behind this method at the blog below.