Tips to Simplify & Organize Your Finances
Bills, account statements, insurance notices, credit card offers… chances are, your financial life comes with a lot of clutter. What do you do with all of it? Have you ever accidentally thrown away or misplaced an important document? How do you make sure you don’t miss a payment due date or forget a password?
Whether your current filing system includes spreadsheets or a shoebox stuffed with papers, we can help you simplify and organize your finances so you can focus on the things that matter to you, while reducing the stress and hassle from managing your finances.
Automate Everything You Can
Most employers offer direct deposit for their employees. If you haven’t already, talk to your employer about signing up to receive your paycheck electronically in your checking account each payday. You can be confident that your paychecks will be deposited on time (or even early), allowing you to set up automated payments for your recurring expenses.
Here are some ways to automate your savings and expenses:
- Pay Yourself First
Saving money is hard. That’s why the strategy of paying yourself first is so important to help you reach your financial goals. It’s easy to get to the end of the month and tell yourself there’s just not enough money left over to set any money aside in your long-term savings. But if you pay yourself first by setting up an automatic transfer to a separate savings account every payday, you won’t miss the opportunity to save.
- Simplify Fixed Expenses (mortgage, car payment, student loans)
Typically, these larger bills are due on the same day every month, for the same amount. Since you know exactly when and how much each payment is, set up automatic payments for each bill before its monthly due date. You can usually do this through your vendor or by using Bill Payer. Then you will be able to relax knowing that all your major expenses will be paid on time, without having to wonder if you missed a payment deadline (or will be hit with a late-payment penalty).
- Plan for Variable Bills (utilities, credit cards)
These types of payments are a little trickier to automate because the amounts may differ from month to month. To ensure you have the funds available to pay these bills, look at your previous statements or try tracking your spending for a while to see where your money is going. That should give you a general idea of how much money to keep in your checking account to make sure you have enough to cover any upcoming payments. If you maintain a sufficient balance in your checking account, and aren’t concerned about accidentally overdrawing the account, you can also authorize companies to automatically debit your account for the amount due each month.
- Automate Investment/Retirement Accounts
If you contribute to a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement account, you are probably already used to a certain amount being deducted from your paycheck. You can also automate ongoing deposits for any other retirement and investment accounts you may have. This convenient approach also offers a strategic benefit: it lets you take advantage of a technique called “dollar cost averaging,” in which you limit the impact of market volatility by making regular investments over time. Spreading out investments over a longer timeline can lower the average price of the investment and help reduce the risk of a major loss from investing a large sum at the wrong time.
Do More With Less
While you are automating your financial transactions, take a moment to evaluate whether you really need to keep paying for all those monthly expenses. Obligations like your mortgage and utility payments may be non-negotiable, but do you really need all those subscription streaming services? Consider cutting back to just one or two of your favorites.
If you have multiple credit cards, designate one as your main card and put the others in a safe place. If they’re not in your wallet, you won’t be tempted to use them. If you’d like to close a card, remember that there may be a temporary ding to your credit score.
Thanks to technology, you can securely receive important documents electronically. Sign up for e-statements to reduce the amount of paper in your mailbox every month. With online banking and mobile banking tools, it is easier than ever to safely access your financial information at your fingertips. Your digital records can be viewed whenever and wherever is convenient for you.
It is also possible to obtain some of your tax documents, such as those from your mortgage lender, online, so you don’t have to deal with delays from the post office or worry about your personal financial information being intercepted. For items you absolutely must keep in paper form, like government-issued documents, consider scanning them and saving an electronic copy on your personal computer.
Protect Your Passwords
With your finances mostly automated and digitized, you likely have multiple logins you need to remember for each of your various accounts. It can be confusing trying to remember which user ID and password go together.
Password managers help simplify your financial life by keeping track of all your login information. A password manager is a computer program that allows users to store, generate, and manage their passwords for online services and mobile applications. With a password manager, you only have to memorize one password and all your other passwords and important information are protected. And in addition to securely storing your passwords, they also help you keep track of all the security questions and answers for each site.
How We Can Help
Understanding your own financial situation and your financial goals is the first step to successfully managing your money. American Heritage Credit Union is here to help you take charge of your money with personal service and the right savings accounts, credit cards, loans, and more, along with a great selection of online and mobile tools to make organizing and managing your finances a breeze.