Automatic Everything

In an effort to simplify my finances, I’ve automated every bill I have.  For years, I resisted, fearing a lack of control over my money.   A few months ago, I re-examined the bill paying options on my bank’s website and changed my mind.  This is one thing that USBank has done right.

The first thing I did was set a budget. Without a budget, it’s not possible to let your money take care of itself.   I did this months before I decided to automate.

All of the bills that offer a budget plan–a plan that averages your payments to avoid fluctuation–went on the plan.    It means I do overpay some months, but it also means I get to underpay some months.  Most important, I always know what will be due.   These bills were scheduled in the bank’s online bill paying system as is, along with the rest of the bills that do not fluctuate.

All of the bills that do fluctuate went in to the bill paying system at their highest level.  For example, I don’t pay for text messaging on my cell phone.  Some months, I send and receive text messages.  I pay my cell phone bill assuming that there will be a few messages.  This is slowly building a credit on my account.  If I don’t use all of the credit, I will get to skip a month of payments sometime next year.

I keep track of all of this using Quicken.  Every one of these bill is in the calendar.  They are all scheduled to be entered into the register on the first of the month, to post of the actual day of payment.   This lets me see, at a glance,  my cash flow for the entire month.

But wait!  What about the non-monthly payments, you ask? They are also in Quicken, broken into monthly line items.   There’s a “Set aside for property taxes” item, a “Set aside for web host” item, and a few other items.

My time to maintain this has been reduced to comparing the bills to the bill-paying system every other week.  At the same time, I consolidate all of the “set asides” so I don’t have 10 property tax entries when one will do.

I know this is an inefficient method of saving money, but my goal isn’t to save money, it’s automating money and removing one layer of stress from my life.  It has transformed bill-paying from an hour or two per week to 20 minutes, twice per month and very little stress.

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