I’m not afraid of hard work; I’m deathly afraid of dumb work. I hate waiting in lines, I hate doing the same thing over and over again, and I hate doing something slow if there’s a faster way to go about it. The engineer in me goes absolutely nuts.
So when I started managing my own finances, I had to find a way to automate as much as possible so I wasn’t losing an hour or two each month to slow, boring work. I’m thankful I did because now, at the beginning of every month, I spend just 15 minutes reviewing my entire personal finance life.
Every single account gets attention. Every bill gets paid. Nothing falls through the cracks because the process is so fast and efficient.
Want to learn what I did?
Review and Record Our Net Worth
Years ago, before financial aggregators like Personal Capital, I would log into each of my credit card, brokerage, and bank accounts to pull my balance. Each one took a few minutes and this meant over thirty minutes of logging in. This was the boring work that drew me crazy… but the stats junkie in me had to do it.
It was also a necessary evil because I wanted to review my transactions for fraud. Logging in was a logical answer!
Fast forward to today and I use a financial aggregator to do the dirty work for me. You can use anything you want to achieve this, I just prefer Personal Capital because it plays nicely with my brokerage accounts. I have it pull the numbers and then I put it in my own spreadsheet.
I record our net worth each month because I want an idea of how our finances are progressing from month to month. That which gets measured can be improved!
This also has the side benefit of recording transactions as well, so I can review it for mistakes.
Set Up Automatic Bill Pay
Whenever possible, I set up automatic bill pay. We currently automatically pay our credit cards, daycare, and utilities with bill pay at our bank or with a credit card. We prefer the credit card, for points, but the bank works too.
We still make sure every vendor sends us a bill each month, so we can review it for anything strange or fraudulent, but the actual payment is handled automatically. I keep a low balance alert on our bank account equal to the 150% of our expected bills to make sure we don’t overdraw. We also have overdraft protection.
If you have a bill that doesn’t have automatic bill-pay, the next best thing is to set up the manual version. Add the vendor to your list at your bank and make a payment with just a few clicks. This will save you the time it would take to write out a check (who does that???) as well as the cost of the stamp.
Years ago, I also asked for all my credit cards bills at the same time (7th of each month). I did this so that my finances were more predictable, even if everything was automated. I found that if I was paid at the end of the month, the “safest” day to start the billing was the 7th. Sometimes we had weekends or holidays that pushed the deposit, but it was never later than the 7th.
Set Up Automatic Savings
Just as you would make regular payments to debt, think about savings as pre-paying for something you want. You probably have a few goals you want to achieve — so make those savings automatic through automated transfers every month. We do this for future trips, college (529), and other needs with the help of CapitalOne360. We use that bank because it lets you open new accounts entirely online but anywhere that lets you do it quickly will suffice.
That’s it! Every month, I spend just 15 minutes reviewing my finances because I use the right tools for the job.
About the Author: Jim Wang has been writing about personal finance for over 10 years and can be found most recently at Wallet Hacks, where he shares unconventional strategies to get ahead financially and in life. Click here to join his free newsletter to get his Money Toolbox filled with the power tools he uses to manage his money.
Photo Credit: CallMeWhatEver