Sharing how to download and print a free printable calendar as well as how to use them digitally. Plus several ways to use free printable calendars to organize your life, budget, content plan, meal plan and more!
Every year I create a set of free printable calendars for readers to download. And guess what? It’s my most popular printable every single year. I get questions about how to use them or how to use them for specific things like meal planning, an editorial calendar and mostly? For budgeting. When I first shared calendars back in 2014, that was what I’d created them as… a visual budget calendar! So if that’s what you’re interested in, there’s a section that covers that below.
Today I’ll share how to download and print free printable calendars as well as how to use them digitally with the Good Notes App if that’s your preference. Then I’ll share some different ways that I like to use them including to visually plan your budget which is SO helpful for me.
I used to be a paper calendar only girlie. By this post… you’d probably think I’m still 100% physical calendar only.
But as our family has grown and our schedule has gotten bonkers, I’ve found I need to also keep a digital calendar. I do like how Google calendar has real time updates of calendar events so that as I make changes in our shared family calendar, Shane can see the new times or details of an event.
I like that I can open our calendar app and see the birthday party details and address when I pick the kids up from school and can’t remember where that friend actually lives. I like that when I’m at physio and they’re rebooking an appointment I can open the calendar and pick a date… and not having to call back to change it once I’m home and open my paper planner.
BUT I also find that a paper calendar is my preferred way to actually plan- it’s the easiest way for me to wrap my head around our upcoming schedule or to plan out vacations or meals or anything really. And as our kids grow, they want to see what’s going on too and they don’t have phones or google calendars.
So no matter if you have other calendar types or digital calendar apps… sometimes, you just want a paper calendar for one specific purpose, and that’s where printable blank calendar templates come in so darn handy.
I’ve put this post together as an easy reference for you to pop back to when you’re needing to print some paper calendars and get your life organized into specific calendars.
You can navigate to each section in this post by clicking the shortcuts below.
How to download free printable calendars
There are so many free printables available online and just as many available for a small cost.
You can find paid printable calendars on Etsy, but there’s just as many free ones on blogs and websites that you can find pretty much anything out there you’re looking for.
You can snag my free printable calendars for this year right here.
Printable just means that the owner does not print it for you. You download the design and print it off yourself. This makes it incredibly affordable to use, but does require some effort on your part.
SO once you’ve found a free printable you love, it’s time to download and print it. Typically free printables come as a PDF file (document) or JPG file (image). Most calendars will be PDF. This makes them super easy to print without special photo settings. You can identify the file type that you are downloading and/or opening by the .abc at the end of the file name.
Occasionally instead of downloading a PDF or JPG (or the other types of files we’ve discussed), your free printables will download as a .zip file. A .Zip file is a compressed folder. This makes it easier to transfer multiple files or file types in one download. If you get a .zip file, you should be able to double click the file to ‘unzip’ it provided your device has the function for that. On mobile devices you’ll need to download an app to unzip it.
There are a few different ways that websites offer free printables for download. The first is by linking the file itself to either text or image. When you click the ‘download here’, it will open the file and either start the download immediately or open the file in your web browser where you can right click and select ‘download’.
Some web browsers (like google chrome) might have extensions or pop up bloggers that you’ll need to ‘allow’ the download.
You could likely print it straight from here depending on your browser, but let’s talk about downloading it.
Some free printables, like my own calendars, are available for download by entering your email into a form. The printable will then be sent to your inbox and will open automatically when you confirm your subscription with the ‘you’re in’ email that gets sent.
Many websites use this delivery method for free printables to prevent bots from taking and republishing the printables which tends to happen with free content online.
Another method you might see is where websites will have the free printable loaded as a product in their store with a zero dollar value. You then need to enter your information into the store (also subscribing you to emails) and then checkout without entering your payment information to have the free file delivered to you.
Once you download a free printable, it should show up in your downloads folder to make it easy to find for you.
How to print a free printable calendar
Alright, you’ve downloaded your free printable calendar, now it’s time to print that baby out and put it to good use! Let’s talk about how we do that. While you can definitely just hit that print button for some printable documents, others require updating some print options and print settings on your home printer and other times you might choose to send it to a print shop.
Most Free Printable Calendars are PDFs are designed to print full page on standard paper which makes it easy to print at home with a simple ‘print’ function. You can select black and white or colour and select the quality of printing at this point as well.
You can also make your printables smaller size. For PDF, I like to do this by printing 2 to a page in the print layout, this makes a great tabletop sized print. You can see this previewed in the print preview window, you may need to change the paper orientation to get the look you’re hoping for.
Many PDF printable calendars come in a bundle with multiple pages for you to choose from. If you would like to print just one of the pages, you can also select this in the page range in the print window at this stage.
You can print free printables at home or send them to a print shop. I do both, depending what the printable is. Keep in mind a home printer can typically only print up to legal sized paper. If you would like to print a larger paper size, a print shop is your best option!
Print shops typically use laser printers which use toner instead of inkjet printers like most home printers including mine. This means that the ink is less likely to run.
Other times I would consider laser printed documents over inkjet is for documents I’ll be highlighting a lot (smudging)… if you use your calendar with lots of highlighters, maybe this is a consideration for you. If you’d like more details on how to send your file to a print shop, you can find that in this printable printing informational post.
What about home printers? Of course, not all are equal, but I have been super happy with my budget friendly Canon Pixma MX532 I found at Walmart a few years ago. I can’t find the exact version on Amazon, but this one looks similar! You don’t need anything really fancy to be able to print free printables at home, however if you’re looking to do lots of full color or more detailed graphics on the calendars or if you’re hoping to do more than just printing calendars, just make sure to look for a printer that can handle high quality photos and thicker paper like cardstock.
How to use a printable calendar digitally
Did you know that you can use a free printable calendar in digital apps like GoodNotes? This was such a fun discovery for me a few years back. I know so many people love the look at feel of writing events onto a paper but like the functionality of carrying it with them like digital calendars. This is a great hybrid option.
GoodNotes is primarily an iPad app, but you can use it on mobile and on your computer as well. I use mine with my iPad pro and an apple pencil, that’s what you’ll see demonstrated in the video at the bottom of this post (or here on YouTube).
If you already use GoodNotes, this won’t be a big tutorial for you- but if you’re new to using the app, this is such a fun way to use it! So Goodnotes allows you to open a PDF document like this and start writing on it.
There’s two ways to do this. First is if you’re on a device with GoodNotes installed, you should be able to share the document and select ‘open in GoodNotes’.
You can also download your free printable as suggested above, and then we can open it up in Good Notes by importing. You just create yourself a new ‘notebook’ and click ‘import’ to select your document. Just make sure that your notebook is the correct orientation for the calendar you are looking to import. Then click import and add to current document.
I like to do this for my content planning as well. Having it digitally has helped me always have it with me but it still feels like I’m planning on paper.
You can write, draw, and even type with different fonts. You can choose various colors and for each category of events just by switching in app- no need to carry multiple pens!
Write too big or type too big and need to size it down? It’s so easy to change the font size or resize some notes you’ve added. You can zoom right in and write small and there are truly so many additional options like adding stickers, highlighting and more view options with this app.
You can also use the import function that you used to add your calendar to import photos and move those into your calendar. This is so fun for birthdays.
If you want to erase, you can easily do that without affecting the document you’ve opened up. Essentially you’re writing on a separate layer than the document itself. That means you can easily grab a note or a section of notes and move them to another space… in the case of a calendar, move one event to another day.
The best part about this is that it saves to the app so you can open it from other devices when you’re out and about!
ideas for using a printable monthly calendar to organize your life
One of the most basic but most used printable calendar types is the standard horizontal 8×10 printable monthly calendar. Each month has it’s own sheet, laid out in a grid format and there’s room to add some notes as well.
You can print out individual pages if you’re just wanting a monthly print-out or you can print the entire blank monthly calendar for the year and fill it in as needed.
So once you’ve snagged your free printable and have a printed monthly calendar in your hands… what are some ways you might like to use it? Here’s a handful that I hear from readers that mine are being used for more than anything else.
Printable calendars for family schedule planning
Again, I love my digital calendar so I can see my schedule on the go but with kids that are getting older and wanting to see what’s coming up, having a paper calendar that’s updated with all of our activities and plans is so vital to our home. It’s also helpful for planning childcare help- my mom will always peek at it when she’s over to see when we’ll be needing some extra support.
We have a busy family of 6 so the small squares of an 8×10 calendar just weren’t cutting it. I use the larger 11×17 family calendar printable for this. Here’s an overview of how we use it to help our home run smoothly.
I start by writing all of the dates in that we know will not be changing. So birthdays, holidays, travel dates, kids activities etc. Then I write in anything else in erasable pen or pencil. You can choose to use different colors
Other things I add to these family calendars that you might not have thought of are DIY projects we’re planning. I’ll add a list of the projects we’re focusing on each month. Some months it’s ‘plant the garden’ and others it will be ‘playroom built in shelving’ etc. This is really helpful for us since we are working our way through our home with DIY renovations.
It helps us plan what months we should say no to hosting guests (say we’re working on the bathroom!) or slow down on travel plans if we have a big expensive project to take on.
We also use it to plan and budget for holiday days from work. So we know my husband gets a certain number of vacation days a year. We write how many days have been used each month in the bottom corner of the calendar so we can easily flip through and total up how many days have been used to see how many we have left.
This is great as we are planning vacations to put together some different options and make sure we’re able to make them all happen!
One final tip here, I try to schedule all of our appointments on the same day. Back to back. Since it takes me away from work, I like to batch those ‘home’ tasks so I highlight the day if there’s an appointment, then when I’m looking at booking something else (or if my partner is booking something for us), we know which day to aim for.
To recap, the tips that have helped us make the most of our family calendar are:
- Color code by person
- Use erasable pen or pencil for events or dates that might change
- Highlight appointment days and try stack as many back to back as possible to free up other days from task switching
- Include holiday days used on the bottom corner to help track how much vacation time is left
- Make note of big tasks or themes for each month so you can be realistic about how much time you will have that month (like a wedding/prep, garden planting or renovation planned).
- We keep a digital calendar updated, then each month as we flip to a new month on the paper calendar I double check no new appointments or updates have been missed on the paper one that my kids look at to plan their weeks.
Printable Calendars for Content Planning or Editorial Calendars
A content calendar or editorial calendar is perfect for social media creators, bloggers, or any digital marketer. It’s essentially planning the
This is done in the same way you would plan your life, adding deadlines or due dates, but instead I add the posts, emails, or content I’m planning on publishing. I like to outline the days of the week that I schedule specific things for. For example, I will write BLOG at the top of my wednesdays, EMAIL at the top of thursdays and YOUTUBE at the top of saturdays.
If you are planning to publish content daily, you could instead write the themes for each day of the week above the columns of days. These would be your content buckets. This is the strategy I use when I’m working with clients on social media strategy.
I also like to make note of any major holidays or content themes for the month (ex. february and valentines day, end of school teacher gifts in june etc).
Once you have that, you can go ahead and fill things in. I fill in hard deadlines with pen, then just like on my family calendar, I switch to either erasable pen or pencil for the rest of the items. I like to add the posts I make every single month first, I know these go out on certain days and I do them month after month.
Then… it’s the fun part! You can add in ideas or firm plans and if you have any ideas you have yet to schedule, you can add a list of ongoing content ideas in the notes section of the printable calendar if you have that space.
I like to make note of the category of each post here so I can see at a glance if I’ve neglected one of my main categories, I can go ahead and slot that in. If you are a marketer and have a product launch or sale coming up, make sure to slot those in as well!
This is a great visual way to plan your content and keep track of what you’re needing to produce. I like to highlight what I’ve completed as I schedule them so I can see myself getting ahead. It’s so motivating!
Printable Calendars for a Training Schedule
If you’re taking on any kind of self directed training, a calendar can be such a great tool for you. You can plan ahead and mark down the themes for each day or week OR you can use it to track. Here’s what I mean.
If you’re taking an online training and you have 16 weeks to get it done. There’s 7 units plus two exams and a final paper that you think might take you a full week to write… You can write mile markers in your calendar to help you stay on track with the training.
Take note of any days or weeks you’re unavailable to make progress on the training (kids birthday party weekend, year end accounting week at work or a family vacation for example). Black those dates out and then add the week at the end of the training schedule for finishing up your final paper and exam.
Break the rest of the time down by those 7 units and mark in when you need to have each one completed by. It’s the perfect way to visually plan your self directed school calendar. Make sure to use erasable pen or pencil so you can change things as needed- life happens!
If you are working your way to run a 10k, you can do the same and write the run goals for each week on your training schedule, like a workout training schedule. You could do this with intervals or overall KMS to run.
Alternately, you could use this as a workout tracker. You can write your workout plan on each day or the weight you lifted for each exercise on each day to watch your progression over time and stay motivated. This also helps you keep track of what you were able to lift last time to start there when you walk up to a machine. Just fold it up and keep it in your gym bag!
Printable Calendars for Meal Planning
I love to use a paper calendar for meal planning and then I do transfer it into my digital calendar to be able to check it while I’m on the go or grocery shopping. I find seeing it on paper one month at a time so helpful.
I first make note of the goals for the month at the top. This could be ‘eat the freezer’ or ‘meatless mondays’ or ‘prioritize double batches to freeze’ etc.
Next, just like my content plans, I write categories at the top of each week day, like they’re columns. For us, this usually looks like meatless mondays (or fish!), taco tuesdays, slow cooker wednesday, cook with the kids thursdays, pizza friday, I leave saturday blank and sundays I prioritize double batches or hosting meals.
I know every family is different, for us I’m making an effort to get my kids trying different foods so meatless (or fish) mondays helps them get more familiar with other protein sources and it helps us save some money on our meal plan!
Taco Tuesday is basically anything mexican for us. It’s our kids favorite day. From soft tacos to fish tacos to nachos or burritos, taco soup or taco salad and burrito bowls… there’s really so many options here, we don’t find it repetitive at all.
Wednesday nights are our busy night in this season with kids sports although this changes each year. I try to use a slow cooker meal and keep it nice and easy. so lots of freezer batches getting used up if we have them or soups I can throw on in the morning and pair with a bag of buns.
I have four kids and I’ve made it one of my goals of the year to cook with them each once a month. This is so important to me, so I’ve blocked thursdays off in my meal plan to make it happen. They pick the meal they want to make with me and I allow extra time to make sure I can cook along side them, teaching them life skills like how to cut vegetables, handle meat, and be safe around the stove.
When I was younger, I worked planning and teaching a healthy living program for kids where we did physical activity and cooking simple meals and it was always so surprising to me how little kids (even older ones and teens!) knew about food and how to cook. That’s not at all about using calendars, but I wanted to share it anyways ;)
Fridays we always do pizza and a movie. Some weeks it’s freezer pizzas and others it’s make your own and others we order in. I just write it in there so we know.
Saturdays I generally leave blank because we’ll have plans. Sometimes that means I’m hosting so I’ll write the meals. Sundays I try prioritize big batches to help with meal prep for the week (ex. 2x the chicken to shred) or to throw a double batch in the freezer for future Wednesdays. I also like to host grandparents and this is a great night to make that happen since we have a bit more time to cook full meals.
One tip here is to make sure to add at least one meal each week that can be made with freezer or pantry items. This way if your schedule changes, you can move things around, cancel that meal and not have groceries going bad in your fridge due to the schedule change.
As we’ve gotten busier, I have actually also started planning breakfasts. I found we were relying on prepackaged cereal and the kids were hungry and cranky mid morning. I’ve started making a breakfast every morning. Whether it’s overnight oats, oven pancakes, or eggs on toast. It helps to know the night before what to prep.
To summarize my tips for meal planning with a calendar for busy families:
- Keep one day open, your week might not always go as planned and you don’t want wasted groceries
- Keep one meal a week that’s from the freezer or pantry- again if things don’t go as planned (chicken nuggets were all you had energy for), you don’t waste fresh produce
- Double up when possible (write 2x) and pop it in the freezer for an easy meal next time
- List what’s in your freezer or pantry to use beside your calendar so you can meal plan with that in mind
- Make note of your busy weeknights and plan your easiest meals for that night
- Giving yourself themes for each day can help meal planning go faster. It’s easier to pick a type of taco than any meal ever.
- Make your grocery list for each week as you meal plan to save time (avoid task switching)
- If you would like to get your kids more involved in the kitchen, ask them what meals they’d like to cook with you and pick a night of the week you prioritize teaching them.
Speaking of meals and calendars…
A calendar for a food journal
A calendar is a great place to make note of your meals and snacks if you’re wanting to track your eating to get a better idea of what your diet looks like for a season. This is really helpful if you’re trying to identify a food that’s irritating your stomach (or your kids!). A visual printed calendar like this makes it easy to see if you’ve missed tracking a day or meal.
Printable Calendars for a Teacher Calendar and Lesson Planning
I love hearing from teachers that are using my calendars! These are really great to print out and distribute to students. Teachers of older students love the minimalist design without doodles for elementary school. Teachers can add special dates of note, presentation days, field trips, exam dates, deadlines, and when new units will start.
Additionally, teachers have told me they use them internally to help visualize their lesson planning, using the notes section to list the themes of each subject they’re teaching in any given month or fun ideas to incorporate into their teaching but haven’t yet scheduled into the calendar.
Decluttering Schedule or Home Maintenance Calendar
If one of your goals is to organize or declutter your home this year, calendars are such a great tool for this! I know so many of the ‘programs’ online are unobtainable for busy families. So you can make your own! Take the framework and put it on your own calendar to set yourself up for success.
You can give yourself a theme each week and track how many items you’re able to declutter in a day or week like shown above or you can give yourself more specific theme weekends if you know that’s the only time you’ll be able to tackle projects.
Looking to make it even more fun? Check out this decluttering bingo printable and checklist!
How to use a year at a glance calendar to help organize your life
Sometimes you just need to look at the whole year at once so a yearly calendar is helpful. Printing off a year at a glance calendar to keep by my desk has been so helpful for me while I’m managing my inbox. I can easily glance and pick dates to pitch for collaborations (knowing I publish videos on Saturdays for example).
This is my favourite place to use this, but really you can use it for so many things- think events that happen on a yearly basis!
Here’s even more ways to use that year at a glance calendar printable:
- Use it for a training plan – Add this to the front of your course binder or beside your desk, circling exam dates and big deadlines. For self directed training (online courses), you can add the chapters or units you’re aiming to finish as well.
- Garbage Schedule Calendar: Circle your garbage days in black, recycling days in blue and compost days in green. Keep this in your pantry cupboard or by your garbage bags if you like.
- To plan for paydays or payroll: I like to highlight paydays and deadlines that are recurrent (ex. submit payroll or time cards).
How to use a list calendar for budgeting
There’s so many ways to use a list calendar, I’m sure of it… but my very favorite is as a budget calendar. This helped us save for a down payment even when we had irregular pay dates. I wrote a post on this back in 2013 and I still stand by this as a great strategy when you’re feeling overwhelmed by inconsistent bills and paydates or trying to wrap your head around a new budget.
You can see a good explanation of this in the video at the bottom of this post as I show you how to do it. You can also find that video here on my YouTube Channel.
I find it is the best way to visually see how much money from each paycheck will be used by bills. Here’s a run down on how I use it, with photos from different calendars over the years.
The first thing I do is draw a line down the middle of the list calendar. The left side is for INS and the right for OUTs. I mark all my pay days or other incoming money in that left column on the dates I expect them. For S it’s every other Friday whereas my business pays us on the 1st and 15th of each month. We get other payments once a month.
On the right, we’re writing down expected bills and expenses.
If you know bills come out on specific dates (the 17th every month), add those in. Some bills come on the second monday of every month or the first weekday of a month.
Once those are all written down, you can total how much the bills are for each pay period. If there’s not enough, add the needed amount to the payday above.
This is really helpful to visualize cash flow. You might feel like you have extra money on the 19th because all of your bills come out on the first of each month. This helps you know how much to set aside for that pay period.
Then, you can plan any savings or budget amounts off of this- what pay day do you have the most leftover? That’s when you should transfer money to savings or pull out cash for groceries etc.
How to use perpetual list calendars to organize your life
I love a list calendar. There’s two types of list calendars you can get your hands on. A dated list calendar and a perpetual list calendar. The dated ones are great for budgeting but these perpetual ones take away the days of the week so you can use them year after year without needing to change anything.
I like to use these for birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays. I keep them with my cards and address book to make snail mail easy. My grandma used to keep a perpetual list calendar by her phone in her kitchen so she would remember to call people on their birthdays.
If you love the list calendars, you can also get the DIY instructions to build a stand for the list calendars right here (which makes the perfect Christmas gift for teachers!).
Snag my modern free printable calendars in 5 styles:
I’ve mentioned a few times in this post, but every single year I am excited to share my own printable calendars with a modern hand lettered design. These have a minimal aesthetic and while being straight functional are pretty as well. Over the years I’ve worked up to sharing 5 different pdf calendar designs. These various formats give you lots of flexibility to use them however you like to organize your life through the entire year!
These all have different functional designs (type of calendar) but same hand lettering of the month name (or year) and black and white style.
The 5 different formats are a classic 8×10 grid calendar that has each month ono a single page with room for goals and notes, a large 11×17 grid calendar with room for notes (perfect as a family calendar! This is what we use), a perpetual list calendar (perfect for birthdays), a dated list calendar (I use this for budgeting) and a year at a glance calendar that shows the whole year on one page (I keep this one on my desk!).
Phew! What a full post this was to write! I hope you’ve found it so helpful and that you’re filled with some new ideas to get your life organized… on paper! If you would like to see the 7 ways I personally use my free printable calendars including budgeting and content planning, you can see that in video form right here:
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