by Taylor Vogel
When I started my new job and was perusing the calendar, I noticed an event occurring every other Friday: payday. My pulse began racing, because I hate an every-other-week pay schedule. My mind instantly went to “BUT THAT’S NOT HOW BILLS ARE DRAWN!” and “And this doesn’t fit with my spreadsheets!?!!?!?!??!??!!” I took a few deep breaths and promptly… started using my credit card again, all in an effort to make sure that I always had enough money in my checking account. Setting a budget that aligned with the every-other-week schedule had always been a mind block for me and a huge barrier to my financial success. And while I was making significantly more income than in my previous role, I was racking up debt because I couldn’t process a system for knowing when I had what amount of money. Not good.
Definitely not good when my financial coach (yes, this is a thing, and if you nobody taught you about money growing up, it might be worth the investment to work with one) was checking in with me and went “WHY DO YOU HAVE CREDIT CARD DEBT AGAIN?!” This was from a place of love, for sure. But we spent the next hour disconnecting my card from use and re-evaluating my goals.
So DON’T PANIC! This system has worked really well for me, and I bet it will for you, too.
Step 1: List out all of your monthly recurring expenses by date.
You need the date of the bill and a general description of what you’re paying for, or the specific company. Everything that’s auto-drafted, everything that you have to manually pay, everything that’s not an official bill but you pay money for (groceries, gas, care for pets, wine your monthly wine gathering).EVERYTHING. If you need help with this, your bank keeps a record of your non-cash spending. If you’ve been a credit card user, look at your records. This can be stressful, I know, so set a timer for an hour and reward yourself with a nice cup of tea when you’re done.
I do all of this in a spreadsheet, by the way, because then I can sort it into order by date, VERY quickly, even if I leave something out.
Step 2: List out any annually charged subscriptions or bills.
Things like my Amazon Prime, Book of the Month, and AAA memberships fall under this category. Other things you might want to remember to plop onto this list? The annual things that you always forget about. I’m looking at you, tag renewal for my car. List the month they are pulled, and what you’re paying for. Take ten minutes to cancel anything you’re not using.
Step 3: Get your calendar out.
For me, this is my Google Calendar. My life is on my Google Calendar--it serves as my to-do list for work and home, the home for my meal plan, and my means of remembering when trash day is (and other things I should, but don’t, care about). So this made TOTAL SENSE to work with.
Now, put your expenses and income on your calendar. I like a digital format because then I can automate recurring expenses, and then it’s harder to forget bills in the future.
Step 4: Set Your Two-Week Budget!
Forget that months exist. Just forget that construct. Time is a construct, so let’s forget about the month. We’re thinking in two-week blocks for the rest of this pay schedule, my friend!
If you got paid on Friday, November 6, you are going to list out every expense you have between Friday, November 6 and Thursday, November 19. This is easy to do, because it’s all on your calendar! Voila. You have a budget. You may then complete another budget for the next two-week block or two. I suggest checking your balances for 3 blocks your first time doing this, to make sure you don’t need to call your service providers and adjust your billing date to work within your two-week block more consistently (provide more space between large expenses). But it works a lot more consistently than I expected it to.
If you are tight on cash, knowing where your money lives is more critical than ever. Taking two hours to set up a budget that works with your billing cycle can give you peace of mind and help you meet your money goals.
Have you had to navigate two-week pay cycle? What system worked (or didn’t work!) for you? Let me know in the comments below!
Taylor Vogel was a public school teacher, and isn't any more. She is the creator and host of the podcast, Now That I'm Not Your Teacher.