Have you ever summed up the time you spend writing and mailing checks every month? Been mad at yourself for forgetting to pay a bill, only to be charged a late fee?
It's time to automate your finances.
The process is fairly simple, and it will free up a few hours that you can put to much better use. Some companies will even offer you a discount if you pay your bills automatically since it saves them a bunch in processing fees.
Automation is the only way I can keep sane owning properties abroad. With my U.K. property, my tenants deposit rent automatically on the first of the month. Around the fifth, the mortgage, taxes, Homeowners Association fees, utilities, and broadband bills are debited automatically from my account. It only requires five minutes of my time every month to make sure everyone is paid and the bills are covered.
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The only risk associated with automating your finances is the possibility of your account getting overdrawn by the charge.
Since you can pick the debit date, make sure it is shortly after payday so that this does not happen.
You can also ask your providers to charge your credit card and earn loyalty points.
Just be sure to put your credit card on auto-pay so that the balance is paid in full each month.
In Guatemala, things are a little bit more complicated. I need to log into my online banking and pay the bills manually. With a reference number, they look up my balance and debit my current account.
Still much quicker than writing a check or having to go in person to pay the bills. I also set up automated transfers to save and invest.
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My bank offers the option to automatically transfer any amount above a certain balance to a savings account. I send money to short-term savings – to cover things like travel and house maintenance – and to long-term savings, where I leave it until I need a big lump sum to buy a property or to invest. Last, some money is sent to an investing account, and the regular amounts are automatically invested in a few index funds, allowing for dollar-cost averaging.
It saves a lot of time, headaches, and spares me the nagging self-doubts that come with investing.
The whole process is ridiculously simple. By automating your finances, you don't obsess over money all the time.
You know your bills are paid in time, and your savings goals are met. This strategy is often called “paying yourself first.” You fund your IRA, 401k, and other investing accounts, and don’t notice the money is gone.
The automated payments can be a percentage of your income.
Maybe five percent for retirement, five percent for short-term savings, or five percent for your house fund, and 10 percent for debt payments. Your company can also fund your retirement account before you get your paycheck. That will help you live on whatever is left after contributions.
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Instead of relying on your willpower to diligently save at the end of each month, your major money decisions are made for you before you even start your month.
I also opted for paperless billing for all those bills. Instead of getting my bills in the mail, I get an email saying my bill is ready to view online. It is really convenient to have all your bills stored with your provider. You can print one if needed, but otherwise, you can just log in and see the bills in PDF format.
No more filing, losing bills, or organizing more storage space in your house.
There are two things to be aware of, though. Some providers – like your car insurer – will bill you every six months or every year. You need to have sufficient funds for that. And if your bills increase, you may not notice immediately unless you stay on top of all your
And if your bills increase, you may not notice immediately unless you stay on top of all your debts. Finally, when you send money automatically into savings at the beginning of the month, you should send part of that money to an instant-access savings account, so you can dig into it should an emergency arise.
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If you lock away too much cash for the long term, you may have to pay penalty fees to access it or risk being overdrawn, which carries a high-interest rate.
Automating your finances can help you get on track with your savings goals.
Most importantly, it spares you the effort of staying on top of bills. To me, this is priceless.