Hero Images / Getty Images
- I automate my finances as much as possible in order to avoid late penalties and free up my energy to focus on other things.
- I keep a spreadsheet of automated payments and check them off when I get email confirmation they’ve gone through, but I know my strategy isn’t the only one.
- I looked to a handful of people who have automated their own finances to pick up some tips on saving, paying bill, and building wealth.
When I first began paying my own bills, things were pretty simple. I had one credit card with a small, $500 limit, a car bill that I helped pay for by writing my parents a $250 check each month, and a Vanguard mutual fund, which my parents helped me set up at age 18.
These days, there is a lot more to keep up with. I now have three credit card accounts — not to mention the electric bill, internet bill, subscription services, car payment, car insurance, life insurance, gym fees, and student loans. This doesn’t even begin to cover my monthly savings, let alone investments.
Somewhere along the line, I had to switch to automating my finances as much as possible in order to avoid late penalties and free up my energy to focus on other things.
To make payments, I decide my preferred transfer date based on my cash flow patterns. If I don’t see the option to set up an automatic payment online, I call a customer representative and ask. Then, I add that payment to the master spreadsheet listing all of my automated transfers in the order in which they happen and check them off as I receive notifications that they’ve been paid.
The best part about automation is that you don’t have to think about it. And, well, the worst part of automation is that you don’t think about it.
In fact, I forgot one of the simplest ways to automate – my employee’s 401(k) program! One of the reasons I hold a day job is because it provides healthy employee contributions. Currently, I benefit from automatic contributions with no match needed, though I do contribute more from my gross paycheck. If your employer provides a match, most experts recommend contributing the amount needed to get the full match and double your savings. If you make it automatic, like me, you won’t even miss it!
I know my strategy to make my money automatic isn’t the only one out there and I’m always looking to fine-tune it, so I asked some experts and fellow financial writers to weigh in with their best tips. Here’s their advice:
Put your savings in the right place
Business Insider’s Tanza Loudenback started automatically contributing to her savings from her paycheck every month, and she keeps those savings in high-yield savings account that earns interest faster than a traditional savings account. "The beauty of utilizing a high-yield savings account is that your money earns interest while it’s sitting there," she writes.
Give yourself a cushion
Allan Liwanag, blogger at The Practical Saver, has been automating his payments, bills, and investments for over six years now. His secret? Making sure he has at least two to three months’ worth of funds stashed into the account he uses for these transactions. This gives him a buffer and prevents overdraft fees.
Think twice and double check
Logan Allec, CPA at Money Done Right reviews his statements quarterly to make sure there are no unrecognizable charges.
Watch out for expiration dates
Allec also says to keep track of expiring credit and debit cards. If he sets up an automatic transaction with a card, he makes a note in his calendar to update the payment about three weeks before it expires.
Take advantage of discounts
Not only does automating prevent late fees, says Brynne Conroy of Femme Frugality, but signing up for auto draft (especially with annual subscriptions) can sometimes even lower payments.
Keep it simple
Mike Pearson, founder of Credit Takeoff, says the easiest way to automate investments is to simplify your portfolio. With a target-date fund, Pearson has exposure to both US and non-US equities as well as both stocks and bonds. The best part, says Pearson, is that as you get older and closer to retirement age, a target-date fund will automatically rebalance stocks and bond positions.
Need a high-yield savings account to start automating your savings? Consider these offers from our partners:
- I’ve paid off more than $8,000 of credit card debt so far, and I couldn’t have done it without a free tool anyone can use
- A Nobel Prize-winning economist and Yale professor explains why buying a big house is a waste of money
- I turned my side hustle into a full-time job in 7 months thanks to 4 smart money decisions I made at the beginning