Manage Debt: Create a Payment Calendar

No matter how well-meaning you may be, at some point you’ve probably been blind-sided by a big bill at just the wrong time. Maybe you forgot it was due, or maybe something came up unexpectedly, or maybe you’re just overwhelmed with all the other bills you have to pay. Maybe you feel like it’ll never end.

Don’t despair. Debt, whether big or small, isn’t the dead end it sometimes seems to be. Forming a payment calendar is a simple but remarkably effective method to put your bills into perspective so you can see, comprehensively, where you’re at and where you can manage money more effectively. Don’t ever be surprised by a bill again!

Step One: Create Your Calendar

Form a Word or Excel document to track your upcoming payments. The field names should include the following:

Bill to be paid
Amount of bill
Total for period
Total from other source
(if applicable)

Step Two: Track Your Paydays

Under “date,” list your payday dates for the next month. Leave enough space between them to schedule in all your bills.

Step Three: Regular Bills

Now compile a list of all your regular bills that you pay at the same time every month and are the same amount every month. This may include car payments, house payments, car insurance, etc. Now look at your payday schedule. What date is each bill due? What payday falls far enough ahead of the due date to allow for mail time and processing? Schedule in your regular bills first, referring to your paydays as the date to pay these bills.

Step Four: Non-regular Bills

The next step is to fill in your calendar as far into the future as you can, based on bills you expect and for which you know the amount. You can estimate if you’re not sure how much these upcoming bills will be, but to be safe, estimate on the high end. These may be bills you’ve been putting off, bills you haven’t been able to fit in, or bills that haven’t arrived yet and will be due for payment within 30 days. Work around your regular bills to schedule these lesser bills at optimal times to keep your overall total for the payment period to a minimum.

Nov. 1 Car payment $250.00 $560.00
Car insurance $120.00
Doctor bill $65.00
Gas bill $75.00
Phone bill $50.00
Nov. 14 House payment $650.00 $650.00
Nov. 28 Credit card $400.00 $585.00
Power bill $95.00
Subscriptions $45.00
Water bill $45.00

Step Five: Old Overdue Bills

Now that you’ve got the basics of your payment calendar set up, you’ll be able to clearly see where you have a little wiggle room. If you’ve got old, overdue bills such as collections, you can begin to work them in around your other bills and work toward paying them off a little at a time. Try to fit your bills in so you’re paying around the same amount each paycheck.

Step Six: Other Income

Now, figure in any additional income you’ll receive toward your bills from a spouse, roommate, etc. If you don’t receive such income, then the figure in your total amount for the payment period is what you have to pay, in total, for each period’s bills. Remember, this is all dependent upon your paydays, so make sure the total in each period is an amount you can cover while still allowing for gas, groceries, and other daily expenditures. If you can’t cover the total amount you come up with, mix and match. Switch bills around from one payday to another until you come up with amounts you can afford. Do you have a payment period where you’re paying less than others? Keep it in mind in case something unexpected comes up – you can slide it in where you’ve got wiggle room, and you won’t have to stress out over covering it.

It may be tricky at first, but once you get the hang of using a payment calendar, you’ll never have to worry about getting overwhelmed by bills again. Display your payment calendar somewhere you can refer to it easily and make additions or changes when they come up. Having all your bills listed and scheduled in a prominent location is a great, effective step toward planning yourself out of debt.

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