If you can automate your finances you’ll be able to save time and money. As a working mom I try to find easy and efficient ways to do anything now after having my first child. I never knew how little time I would have for everything else! My daughter is at the age where she wants all your attention and if she catches you not watching her doodle in her little Hello Kitty coloring book boy will you get it. She’ll start grunting and in her own little language demand that you look at what she’s doing. My husband and I always get a kick out of that. Oh the joys of parenthood, am I right?
With this little bundle of joy comes greater financial responsibility. One great tool that helps me manage my money and that I’ve been using for a couple of years is Mint to create a budget.
Money Management System
Mint has come a long way and they keep adding new features that makes managing your money easy. After you link in all your accounts you get a good overview of where your money is allocated. With Mint you are able to create goals, get your investment overview, and . Mint categorizes all transactions and creates a graph to show you how much you spent in each category. To make it as accurate as possible, however, it’s best to review how these transactions are categorized maybe on a weekly or monthly basis.
By checking in on your Mint account periodically you’re able to also take a look at where you stand with the goals you’ve set yourself. Mint makes it easy by linking an account or accounts to a goal. For example I set up a retirement goal and linked the different retirement accounts to this goal to get an aggregate number. Mint even sends you a monthly goal progress update so you know how you’re doing. I get so excited seeing how closer I’m getting towards a goal.
Direct Deposit and Auto Transfer
To reach your financial goals you need to make sure that you are saving money whether it be monthly, weekly or every paycheck. Any extra income should go towards your savings or retirement account. Setting up a direct deposit will make it easy for you. You can set this up with your employer and request they take out the designated amount out of your paycheck. This way you never see it and it just goes into your savings or retirement automatically.
Or once in your checking account you can do an auto transfer to your savings accounts. Now you may be scared that if you do this then what if one month I don’t have enough. That’s why it’s so important to build a cushion in your bank account for this type of situation. Maybe keep $100-$200 in you account that you won’t touch. Also, really think about the goal you’re saving for and how much it really means to you. I bet if you are short one month you can get creative with the amount you have and make it last.
Another time saving feature is Bill Pay. Nowadays all banks usually have this. You basically just set up a Pay to account with the pay to address and your account information and then send payment. Your bank will send a check on your behalf so you don’t have to use an envelope or stamp. How cool is that!? This works great for paying my water and gas bills. Bill Pay can also be set up to pay your credit card bills. Usually the big credit card companies are already set up with your bank so all you have to do is enter your account number. Or you can set up Auto Pay with your credit card company and set up your bank account with them.
Paying bills sure is not my favorite thing to do so I make sure I spend as little time as possible with this task. I have a system where most of the bills come in around the same week so at the end of the week I get them all together and pay them off. Some credit card companies give you the flexibility of selecting your due date so you can pick the date that is more convenient for you.
It’s so important that you monitor your spending and track it. If you can do this on a weekly basis and make a habit out of them then that can really put you ahead. Soon enough your weekly reviews won’t take as long because you’ve got a system down and it’s on auto-pilot.
So how long does it take to become a habit? Well, it varies from person to person. My tip is to make an appointment with yourself and go to your Google calendar or whatever calendar system you use and allocate 30 minutes every week. Yes, and that is not a typo. It can really just take 30 minutes. In this time frame you can review your expenses and pay all the bills your received for the week. If you keep at it you may even be able to do it in less time! The key is to be consistent.
Another way to keep you on track is having an accountability partner. You may be able to dismiss your calendar reminder but you’ll have to answer to your accountability partner if you didn’t stay on track with what you’d say you’d do.
Scanner and Digital Filing System
Lastly, my NeatReceipts Mobile Scanner is such a time saver when getting all my medical bills together. This scanner is able to populate data from the receipt onto the fields, such as vendor, date, and amount into the software program. This is so handy when managing medical receipts for my HSA account. You can tag which expenses are reimbursable and select the tax category that the expense belongs to so that when it comes to tax season you’re all set. The software also adds up all the transactions for you so you can see your total spending. If you need to you can export the documents out to your desktop or import any document into the software program.
Create Your System
The main takeaway is to have a system in place and you’ll see over time when you get it down that it’ll take less time to manage your finances. Everyone is different so do what works best for you. Most importantly, be patient. It will take time to find a system that works for you through trial and error. Reviewing your finances is a very important task that should be done periodically (I’ve definitely been doing this ever since I started earning my own money in college but I’m a nerd like that). Unfortunately most people don’t make it a habit so they are unable to save or get out of debt. So make it your goal to be on top of your finances. Get your planner or calendar and mark the dates and time that you’ll focus on reviewing your money.