How to Plan For and Keep Track of Birthdays and Special Events

Have you ever realized that it’s a family member or friend’s birthday the night before (or even the day of)? Cue a mad scramble to get a card and maybe a present.

Other events like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and anniversaries may have a habit of sneaking up on you too.

So how do you keep that from happening? How do you avoid the panicked dash or, worse, forgetting until afterwards?

Use Your Digital Calendar

The most obvious answer is to take advantage of digital calendars. Set up calendar events and reminders for birthdays, anniversaries, gift giving holidays like Mother’s/Father’s day, and special events like weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, retirement parties and more.

I’m an Android user, so I’ll give some quick tips on you can set up Google calendar for birthdays. (I’m sure Apple’s calendar has the same functionality.)

  1. Add your family and friends’ birthdays and special events to your calendar. Google calendar automatically includes birthdays of people from your Google contacts (you just have to make sure that your “contacts calendar” is set to be visible). However, I recommend setting up a reoccurring event instead. That’s because you can customize a reoccurring event more easily. To set up a reoccurring event, just create an event and set it to repeat annually on the same date.

    Having difficulty remembering everyone’s birthdays? If you have Facebook, it’s a birthday treasure trove. Go to your Facebook Birthdays page and make note of anyone you want to send a card to or get a gift for. If they’re not on Facebook, text a family member to ask for the date.
  2. Add a reminder to your event. Now that you have a birthday in your calendar as a reoccurring event, it’s time to set up a reminder. Edit the event and select, “add notification.” I like to change “notification” to “email” and have the reminder sent to me two weeks in advance. This gives me plenty of time to shop and get a card if I haven’t already.
  3. Actually do something about it. Having notifications set up won’t help if you don’t take action! When you get that reminder email, reference the lists you’ve created at the suggestion of the post on picking great gifts or pull a gift out of your stash and wrap it up.

Make a Paper Calendar

I designed a printable birthday calendar to match the Friends Fact sheet from the “How to Pick Great Gifts” post. It provides several lines under each moth to record date, name or event, and check off if a birthday card or gift have been been obtained.

I like to keep this sheet with my Friend Fact Sheets (eventually I want to put all of them in a binder), but you could also put it on your refrigerator or a cork board where you’ll see it more readily.

P.S. If you use a planner or wall calendar, these are also great places to keep track of birthdays and special events.

Keep Cards and Wrapping Supplies Handy

Don’t wait till the last minute to buy birthday cards and wrapping paper. You’ll save time and money by purchasing a set of cards (instead of individual cards for $4.95 at the grocery store), and you won’t have to run out to get a card if you’ve got several on standby. Here’s some of my favorite places to use for stocking up on cards:

  • Trader Joe’s – if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, they sell high quality cards for $0.99 each. This is my most expensive source, but the cards are so nice, I don’t mind.
  • Dollar Tree – the Dollar Trees in my area sell 2 cards for $1, and they have a big selection. I’ll grab a handful whenever I stop by for Operation Christmas Child gifts or items for homeless care packages. This is also my favorite source of inexpensive wrapping paper.
  • Dayspring – Dayspring carries my favorite Christian greeting cards. You can get a set of 12 cards for $5.99 + $6.95 shipping. Because of the shipping, I usually end up getting Dayspring cards through Amazon to use my Prime shipping.
  • Amazon – I recently grabbed this box of 48 Birthday Cards for $11.99. They’re super generic, but will do in a pinch if I need a card in a hurry.

I also like to have wrapping supplies handy. I think this is a little more common but, just in case:

  • Have a stash of wrapping paper, tissue paper, and gift bags. I think everyone saves gift bags and tissue paper from gifts they’ve received, but if you don’t, now is a good time to start! Stash them in the basement or a closet so you don’t have to buy them. If you do need to buy gift bags or tissue paper, try Dollar Tree before Walmart.
  • Be creative. If a birthday rolls around and you don’t have wrapping supplies handy (or the only wrapping paper in the house is for a bridal shower, not a birthday), get creative! I always save the brown or white packaging paper that online sellers use to keep items from sliding around in the shipping boxes. You can also fall back on the tried and true newspaper wrapping paper method. Or, if you’re a sewist, hang onto bigger pieces of scrap fabric and use it as emergency wrapping “paper.”

Shop Ahead

I won’t go into detail on this because I already covered it in previous posts, but if you know ahead of time you want to get a gift for a person on your birthday list, don’t wait till the last minute! Besides preventing a last minute run to the store, you’ll save money by giving yourself time to find sales and deals.

Use the download from How to Afford Gifts on a Tight BudgetΒ to keep track of gifts you’ve already purchased. This will help you streamline the process and avoid buying multiple gifts for the same person/event.

I also like to keep a stash of gift cards on hand. Retail gift cards are great for birthdays you forgot to include on your calendar or last minute Christmas guests. Restaurant gift cards are especially handy to include in get well cards or for families welcoming a new child through birth, adoption, or foster care. If you’re on restaurant’s email list, they sometimes run promos where you get get discounts on gift cards. For example, I recently stocked up on Panera gift cards at 20% off.

Splurge on Special Tools

There are several planner-type tools on the market for keeping track of birthdays and special events. If you have extra discretionary income and planners bring you joy, check out:

Do you already have a birthday and special events calendar? What platform do you use to keep track?

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