Managing personal finances can get complicated, especially when you’re swamped with bills or sidetracked by the demands of daily life. Payment due dates don’t account for the odd catastrophe, and not even the strongest among us can completely tune out the urge to splurge. In addition, periodic expenses tend to multiply over time. But despite life’s hectic circumstances, meeting a lifetime of spending and savings goals has never been simpler.
Advances in tech have given us money management systems that automatically accept income, pay bills, and store savings. By replacing our human penchant for mistakes with computerized accuracy, automated systems solve the problem of missed payments, insufficient savings and other monetary slip-ups before they ever occur.
To keep your financial goals on track and automate routine financial tasks, follow these steps.
Get a Checking Account and Credit Cards
A primary checking account should serve as the central hub through which your finances flow. It’s a good idea to hold a small amount of cash in the account, in case of overdrafts or other payment-related hiccups. For people with a stable income and expenses, around 25 to 50% of one month’s expenses should suffice; otherwise, 100 to 150% of monthly costs may be a safer bet. Also useful are credit cards that earn cash back on regular purchases like gas and groceries (although if you’re prone to impulse spending, credit cards may do more harm than good).
Store Emergency/Retirement Savings
Once it enters your checking account, have a portion of your paycheck set to transfer into an emergency savings fund and preferred account for retirement savings. Consider using an online savings account or money market account to hold the emergency fund. Eventually, the fund should contain around three months to a year’s worth of living costs.
Automate Bill Payments
Many expenses nowadays are automatable; credit card bills, student loan and insurance payments, online subscriptions, even mortgages and utilities typically offer the option to automate. It may be slightly harder to set up electronic rent payments–depending on the preferences of your landlord or building manager–but few would refuse an opportunity to avoid the hassle of soliciting rent every month.
Set Up Investment Account Deposits
Establishing a set schedule for contributions toward a diversified asset mix keeps you from engaging in ill-conceived market timing. Purchasing a fixed amount at certain intervals is a strategy known as dollar cost averaging, and it results in a higher number of shares acquired when prices are low. If a your employer offers a 401(k) or 403(b) retirement savings plan, put forward whatever amount is required for a matching contribution, as this is a guaranteed 100% ROI.
Increase the Amount You Transfer
As you’ll most likely earn more over time, it’s a good idea to periodically increase the amount of funds you contribute. Some online banks and internet-based investment platforms let users set their contributions to increase annually by a certain percentage, while others have a calendar feature that allows designating certain dates for contributions with pre-specified transfer amounts.