Wednesday, July 01, 2009

How I Use Calendars & Notebooks to Reach Savings Goals

Yesterday, I mentioned that a new 18-month calendar is helping me to save money. One reader asked how. Here's the agenda:

The Composition Notebook

In late April, I attended a very private goal-setting conference. I was alone with a pen and a clean notebook. I spent large blocks of time thinking about where I wanted to be in April 2014.

The five-year financial plan included:

  • fully funded college savings plans for my kids.

  • a retirement savings target.

  • an emergency fund with 3-6 months of savings.

  • a debt-free goal.

The Countdown

For each category, I created a plan that included:

  • a goal for May of 2014.

  • an annual goal, with a May 2010 deadline.

  • monthly objectives running from May 2009 through May 2010

  • weekly goals with regular reminders.
  • The 18-Month Calendar

    Every month and every week, I review the notebook and study the goals. Like a teacher at a student conference, I give myself progress reports in each category. Goals and savings targets are transferred to the calendar, with reminders. Here's an example: "Transfer $100 into savings." I make revisions if the goals are too easy or too difficult.

    In June, for example, the goal was to run a half-mile twice a week at a 10-minute mile pace. By mid-month, I had exceeded those goals in terms of time and distance.
    Work in Progress

    The system is still pretty new for me, but I'm confident that it will work. Organization is my biggest challenge, and the notebook/calendar system keeps me on track. I have calendars for every major area of my life: kids, college planning for my oldest child, creative goals, fitness goals, etc. I need a system because I'm either super-organized or completely discombobulated.

    Every day I review my calendars. I wish that I weren't so time-bound, but that's just how I'm hard-wired.


    Sharon is the author of the Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money -- a coming of age memoir about money -- and a contributing writer in Wise Bread's 10,0001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.

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