Follow This Monthly Budget Calendar to Save Big in 2018

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.

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With 2016 underway, you probably have a resolution or two — lose weight, exercise more, finally ditch that one bad habit of yours. While you’re setting goals to have your best year yet, don’t neglect one key aspect of your life: your finances.

Your money situation affects all other areas of your life, yet it can be easy to disregard or put on the back burner. However, if you want to have a prosperous 2016, it’s time to get your finances straight. Here’s a monthly budget calendar to help you get your finances on track this year.

January

As the new year begins, it’s a good time to create a budget. Maybe you have one already or maybe you’ve never budgeted in your life. Regardless of your status, it’s a new year, with new goals, so it’s time for a new budget.

A budget is essentially a spending plan to help guide where your money goes. In each spending category, you’ll allot a certain amount of money.

Start by listing your fixed expenses, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, transportation, and food. Then look at your variable expenses such as clothing, entertainment, extra-curricular activities, etc.

Make sure your budget reflects your goals for the new year! If you want an easy way to budget aside from using pen and paper, consider using a more robust tool like Mint or You Need a Budget.

A successful budget can help you with two things: spending less than you earn and giving every dollar a job. Isn’t it a good feeling knowing where your money is actually going?

February

Is your debt repayment on autopilot? Or are you panicking about your debt and have no plan at all? Now is a good time to fine-tune your debt repayment by doing a debt audit.

To start, tally up all of your loans and interest rates. Once you have the numbers in front of you, there are a few things you can do to spruce up your debt repayment plan.

  • Sign up for auto-pay. Most lenders offer a 0.25% interest rate deduction for student loan borrowers who opt into automatic payments.
  • If you have credit card debt, call up your lender and see if you can lower your interest rate.
  • Student loan borrowers can look into consolidation or refinancing to make managing payments easier. Through refinancing, you may be able to get approved for a better rate.
  • Borrowers with credit card debt can look into getting a personal loan to consolidate their debt and save money on interest.
  • If you can, put more toward your debt repayment than the minimum. Your game plan for this year should be to lower that debt as much as possible. As long as you’re in debt, your money is never truly yours.

This year you are going to become a debt repayment beast! Don’t let that borrowed money boss you around. Show ‘em who’s boss!

March

Now that you have a plan for your money and a plan of attack to get rid of your debt, it’s time to check your credit health. Why? Because your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life.

Your credit score affects whether you can get approved for things like student loan refinancing, a car loan, home loan, or even an apartments. You can check your credit scores for free using Credit Karma and get your free credit reports from the three major bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.

If you’re concerned about keeping your credit in good health, remember to always make on-time payments and keep your credit utilization low. It’s best to use less than 30 percent of your credit limit or you may be perceived as a risk to your lender.

April

In April, you might be betting on a sweet tax refund. But while it’s nice to get a refund each year, as it feels like “extra” money, what if that money was disbursed in your paychecks instead?

Imagine what you could do with a little more money each month — pay off debt, put money toward your emergency fund, invest, or even just use it for something fun.

This month look at your tax situation and tax withholding to see if you should receive more income throughout the year instead of waiting until tax day to get money that already belongs to you.

May

It’s time to spring clean your finances and save some more money before the summer is here. This month, make it your goal to evaluate all of your expenses to see where you can save. Are you not using your gym membership? Cancel it and pocket the savings. Try calling your internet and phone provider to find out about lowering your rates as well.

Essentially, you want to challenge everything. At the end of the month, add up all the money you have saved and either put it toward your debt or put it in a savings account.

June

It’s time for fun with friends, BBQs, beaches, concerts, and more — which often means an increase in spending. Instead of focusing on pinching pennies, this month focus on getting a side hustle to earn more money.

Some things that you can do this month to start making money right away:

  • Become a brand ambassador. This has been my main side hustle and typically pays between $15 to $25 per hour. Essentially, you give out free stuff at fun events like concerts, tournaments, festivals and the like. Look for gigs on Craigslist, EventSpeak, and on Facebook under “Brand Ambassadors of [Your City]”
  • Do you have a car and a good driving record? Consider becoming a Lyft or Uber driver.
  • If you don’t have a car, but you have a bike, consider becoming a Postmate or renting out your bike on Spinlister.
  • Complete various tasks for others on TaskRabbit.

Having a side hustle can earn you a few hundred dollars per month, boost your confidence and enhance your social network.

July

In July it’s time to focus on celebrating your own Findepedence (financial independence)! Imagine a day when you don’t have to rely on your day job or worry about when your next paycheck is coming. Imagine NOT working until you die and retiring when you want. Sounds like a dream, right?

Through investing and saving for retirement, you can make this a reality — you just have to start. This month, put more toward your retirement. Be sure to contribute to your employer-sponsored 401(k) or IRA, especially if you receive a match.

Consider diversifying and also opening a Roth IRA, which can save you money on taxes later on. In addition, you can open up an investment account with a robo-advisor such as Wealthfront or Betterment to put your money to work. This month create a plan to grow your wealth and be consistent with your contributions.

August

As the summer comes to a close, it’s time to purge. Go through all of your belongings and commit to getting rid of things you no longer use. If you haven’t used something in six to 12 months, it’s a sign you don’t really need it.

Getting rid of physical clutter can help you feel less mentally cluttered. Not to mention, you could be sitting on a cash pile. You can sell your used items such as clothes, books, movies, appliances, etc. on Craigslist, eBay or by having a garage sale.

Clearing out old items and selling them can help you remove clutter from your life and make a few extra bucks so you can put more money to debt, savings, or fun.

September

This month focus on September Savings! Setting up a savings plan is so important for your financial well-being. Having money saved up for emergencies can mean the difference between an inconvenience and a crisis.

Saving regularly for your goals can help you stay within budget and get what you want out of life. This month, put your savings on autopilot and allot a certain percentage of your income to be automatically withdrawn from your checking account into a separate savings account.

Ten percent is a good number to shoot for, but if you can, save even more. Putting money away automatically and in a separate account can make it harder to access — which is what you want. Your emergency fund is for emergencies only! Not going on a last-minute vacation.

In addition to saving for an emergency, consider saving for your hobbies and goals through targeted savings accounts. I personally love Capital One 360 and have savings accounts for items such as “Travel,” “Moving Fund,” and “Taxes.”

This month, make sure you have a savings plan in place and make putting away money a priority.

October

In October, make sure your bases are covered from an insurance perspective. Hopefully you have health insurance through your employer, but if not, it’s time to get coverage during open enrollment.

Search for an affordable health plan that will protect you in case of illness. Make sure you understand what your insurance covers and what your costs are out-of-pocket.

In addition to health insurance, having renter’s insurance can help protect your belongings in case there’s an incident at your apartment or you are the victim of theft.

Life insurance is a must if you have children or are the sole breadwinner in your family. In addition, disability insurance may be a good option. Consider pet insurance to help lower the costs of unexpected vet bills.

This month, go through your insurance and assess what types of insurance you need and get covered. Ask yourself, “can I afford not to be covered?”

November

If you’re like me, you love going out to eat. I love restaurants, trying different foods, and the experience of hanging out with friends over a good meal. But let’s face it, restaurant spending can be a budget killer. This month, focus on batch cooking at making your meals at home.

Bring a brown bag lunch to work and cook ahead for the week so you have dinner ready for days. For one month, commit to using the extra savings to put toward debt.

December

December is a great time to give back. You can make your end-of-year contributions to your favorite charities which can serve as tax deductions, helping you out during tax time. Donate what you can and be sure to save your receipts. Giving back is a great way to embrace the holiday spirit while also getting a nice tax deduction.

The new year is a great time to take control of your finances. While you’re focusing on your health and career as well as other resolutions, you can improve your financial situation, too.

Improving your finances might seem daunting, but with this handy monthly budget guide, you can take simple steps each month of the year to rock your finances in 2016. Here’s to your best year yet.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.