No matter how you track your budget, whether it’s on paper, a spreadsheet or in an app, you need to make sure you keep track of irregular expenses – the ones that don’t come due every month.
Here are a few ways you can make sure those periodic bills get managed – and PAID – on time.
How to Budget with Irregular Bills
Keep it on the month-to-month.
One way to make sure you don’t miss planning for an occasional bill is to carry the item from month to month. You’ll include a zero dollar amount in the “off” months,” and note the month it’s due. This method works well if you’re using one of those yellow accounting pads, a page that came in your personal planner, or if you’re copying & pasting in monthly spreadsheets on your computer.
As an example, we pay our garbage bill quarterly. On the in-between months, I keep the line for “Garbage,” but in parentheses I write (Nov) or whatever the next month is that we’ll have to pay a bill. That way I know when to actually plan for the payment being made. In the off months, my amount budgeted is zero, and then in the month that it’s actually due, I plug in the estimated fee.
This method tends to work better for smaller bills. If money’s tight month-to-month and you’re using this method for a bigger amount due, you may want to try the next suggestion.
Budget a portion monthly.
This method uses the “sinking fund” idea. With a sinking fund, you set your goal amount, then set aside a smaller portion on a regular schedule until you reach your goal. So if you’ll have a $1,200 bill due in December, you’d budget $100 per month starting in January to have the money ready by the time it’s due.
This method is good for bigger bills, like car insurance, property taxes, or income tax (if you frequently have to pay).
Just make sure you have the money set aside when the bill is due. If you need to set up a separate savings account for these kinds of bills, do it. Then set up an automatic debit to move the money from your checking account to your savings each month. “Out of sight, out of mind” in a separate account can help you avoid accidentally spending some of that money if you see that your checking account balance is higher than you thought it was.
Write the bill on a monthly calendar.
If you have a monthly calendar in your planner or hanging up somewhere in your house, make a note on the month(s) when your bill will be due. As long as you’re checking this frequently, you’ll have a good visual cue when you reach that month that you’ll need to put the item back into your budget.
Use a bill tracker page.
Did a bill tracker page come in your planner, and you never knew what to do with it? Here’s one way you can use it!
Go to your bill tracker. Go down the column on the left and write down all your bills – mortgage or rent, electricity, tuition, subscriptions, etc. Don’t include your variable expenses like putting gas in the car or buying groceries. Just list all the things that someone’s going to send you a bill for at some point.
You’ll have twelve columns across the page, one for each month. Figure out which way you want to indicate something’s due, if it’s not due EVERY month. Maybe color in the box with a highlighter? Draw a circle in there? Make a note that your periodic bill is going to be due in certain months. Then put an “X” in the box when it’s paid.
I used to think bill tracker sheets weren’t useful, but then I started having to deal with periodic business expenses like hosting, an annual PO box that comes out automatically, etc. With ALL THE THINGS I have to keep track of mentally, it really helps me to have a visual of when things are due.
BONUS, the bill tracker can help you spot an issue with a bill before it becomes “past due.” Ever gotten a new credit or debit card, but missed updating it with a company that did your payments automatically? This will help you spot those before you get a late notice!
Set a calendar reminder for your bill.
If you’re all about digital, set a reminder in your favorite calendar app. Use the calendar on your phone, the one in Outlook, or in Google. Whatever digital calendar you use, set a reminder for the end of the month prior. That way you’ll have it on the list when you sit down to budget for the upcoming month! Again, this method is probably best for smaller bills that don’t require a “sinking fund.”
Give these methods a try. One of them is likely to work for you!