Managing your finances each month can be exhausting. What if you could automate it all and only spend an hour each month doing it? This guide will show you how.
Thankfully technology has made doing this easy and free. There are many amazing tools out there and I’ll be showing you just a few that I use with my coaching clients. By automating our finances we can build smart money habits and avoid making costly mistakes like missing payments, not investing regularly, and more.
Mint provides a free online service to help you budget, track spending, and much more. All you have to do is connect your bank accounts and credit cards and you’ll be able to start budgeting and understanding where your money goes each month.
My favorite budgeting tool is YNAB. Similar to Mint, you can connect your bank accounts and credit cards, but this system is built around a zero-based budget. That mean’s you give every dollar of your monthly income a job by allocating it towards your goals and expenses. Sign up for a 34-day free trial using this link.
Both Mint and YNAB, if used properly, can help you budget and track all spending with a few minutes of work each week. While there is no way to truly automate it, this gets you pretty darn close.
One of the most important areas to automate is investing. You might already be doing this by contributing to an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401k. If you’re not contributing, start now.
Using monthly transfers to contribute to an IRA or brokerage account is another way to automate investing. Pick a set amount even if it’s only $100, and get started investing regularly, either each month or every pay period. I setup auto-transfers from my investment accounts so I don’t have to think about it.
The earlier in life you build the habit of investing regularly, the less you will need to contribute long-term. When you automate investing, you’re less likely to worry about the ups and downs of the stock market, because it’s out of your control. It’s not about timing the market, it’s about time in the market!
I have many different investment accounts and tracking all of them has been automated by using Personal Capital, a free online service that allows you to track your net worth. After connecting your accounts, you’ll be able to see your net worth as well as the performance of any of your investments.
Investing is easy so long as you have a plan and automate it.
Having an emergency fund and savings account is a critical part of any successful financial plan. Aim to have 3–6 months of living expenses saved in a HYSA “High-Yield Savings Account”. Interest rates on savings accounts are low right now due to COVID-19, but it’s better to get small returns rather than no returns at all.
It might take a while to build up an emergency fund, but if you set up automated monthly transfers to your savings account, you’ll build the habit of saving. After you’ve secured your emergency fund you can start saving for other financial goals or using that extra money to pay down debt quicker.
Thankfully because of the internet most, if not all, bills can now be paid online and automatically. This includes expenses like rent/mortgage, utilities, and credit cards. This is an area that if not automated, can be stressful and cause costly money mistakes.
Set up Auto-Pay whenever possible, especially with credit cards. This will help you avoid late fees and interest charges. I have more than ten credit cards and earn thousands of dollars annually in rewards with them, but I’d never be able to manage them all without Auto-Pay and tracking my spending with YNAB.
Some companies even offer a small discount on your bill if you use Auto-Pay. If you only automate one part of your finances, this should be it.
Paper bills and statements are one of the least useful items when it comes to automating your finances. Most banks and utilities all provide electronic statements via websites and mobile apps. If you’re not sure give customer service a call and set up an online account.
If you’ve automated your spending, tracking, and budgeting with a tool, like YNAB or Mint, paper statements aren’t necessary at all. Combine this with things like Auto-Pay and you’ll be glad to get less mail every month.
I often find those who rely on paper statements haven’t automated any of their finances and they are often doing the bare minimum. In many of these cases, it has also cost them thousands of dollars in late fees, interest, and more during their lives. This is because they are reactive to their spending after it’s happened. Instead, it’s better to have a plan and be pro-active with our finances.
Monitoring your credit score is an often forgotten financial practice until you need to know it. That’s why it’s a critical money habit to automate so you know your score and can easily monitor for fraud.
Credit Karma does this really well and allows you to set up email alerts to be notified of changes to your score or if a new account is opened in your name. With many companies experiencing data breaches over the past decade it’s critical to monitor your credit.
Discover and many banks also offer the ability to check your FICO score free of charge. This is helpful because Credit Karma only provides VantageScore reporting. FICO scores are most commonly used for lending purposes but if you’re checking both you’ll have a good idea of where you stand.
It still amazes me how many people store physical copies of receipts, paper statements, taxes, and more. When it comes to automating our finances this is an often forgotten step until it’s time to do taxes.
Here are some examples of how I use technology to automate even more.
I have a Health Savings Account and keeping track of expenses/receipts for reimbursement used to be difficult. That was until I set up a spreadsheet to keep track of expenses and scan in receipts. That way everything is digital and it makes managing my HSA super simple.
At the start of every year, I create folders for a new tax year. These are encrypted and saved in the cloud so I can never lose them. I put everything in these folders like tax forms, donation receipts, business expenses, etc. This makes tax time a breeze because I can share the entire folder with my CPA and he’ll have all the info he needs.
Automating taxes by getting organized is something you should consider once you’ve automated other areas of your finances. Not only does it make life easy, but you’ll also never have paper clutter to worry about.
Life is too short to be worried and stressed about money, especially when there are many great tools out there that can help you for free. If you take action and automate just a few areas of your finances, I know you’ll be more confident, happier, and wealthier long term.
It can be hard to know where to start or what to do first. As a financial coach, I have helped hundreds of people get out of debt, save more, and transform their relationship with money.
I will help you create a system that builds the right money habits to enable you to achieve your financial goals. Everyone’s situation is unique so you’ll get personalized coaching tailored to your specific needs. I guarantee that you’ll leave feeling confident about your financial future and in control of your money!
If you’re interested, please schedule a free consult on my website and we can see if we are a good fit for each other. You can also email me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.