I Automate My Finances…Sort of

Alright guys: confession time.

You know how I advocate automating your finances? I talk about how automatically saving and investing is the best way to pay yourself and automatic payments saves you important time so you can focus on the stuff you really care about.

Well the thing is…I don’t always do it.

Sure, I set up SmartyPig to automatically pull money from my checking account every two week, but the truth is that most of my bills (and all of my investing) are paid manually.

Each month, I authorize credit card payments using ING.

I log into Comcast to pay the cable bill.

I only transfer money to Vanguard for retirement savings in bunches.

Every month or so, I take any extra money and throw it into SmartyPig.

Phew, that felt great to get off my chest. I love the IDEA of automation, it’s just that it’s not always the best thing, for a couple of reasons.

First, my excuses:

I pay the Comcast bill with my roommates, so we switch off paying. Having it automatically charge my credit card isn’t very practical.

ING doesn’t let me automatically pay the entire bill each month. I have to go in and tell it to pay more than the minimum (this is a huge fault that should be fixed!).

I don’t nail my budget every single month, so I sometimes have extra money in my checking account.

No excuse for the retirement savings: My action plan for this week is to actually take care of that. Maybe it will be my Take Action Tuesday? We’ll see.

Now, my commentary:

Sure, fully automating your finances is great when you’re in control. It’s nice not to have to worry. But going in, paying your credit card, and always knowing how much money is in your checking account is important. I use Mint as my budget software and log in every single day. I always know what’s going on and love being aware and in control of everything.

There will come a day when I will be fully automated. But for now, I’m happy having to manually pay my credit card bill. Sometimes, I see a huge number and realize that I need to cut back, and that alone is enough to connect and make a difference in my spending habits.

Readers, do you fully automate your finances? If not, why? Is it to take control? Or because you’re out of control?

12 Responses to I Automate My Finances…Sort of

  1. Everyday Tips says:

    I am 90 percent automated. But for the kid’s college saving, I have to have more control because the amount I contribute is variable. Just about everything else is auto-deduct. Oh, except stock investing, but I can’t automate that.

  2. Dr Dean says:

    My bill paying is completely automatic, my wife automatically does it every month.

    She likes to be “in control” and I am not a detail person, so that works for us.

    We “she” is working towards automation, slowly but surely.

    She even asked about a smart-phone last week…..

    • Daniel says:

      @Dr Dean, Lolm very nice. I guess that’s the best kind of automation. Not having to worry about it AND being on top of things.

  3. Money Smarts says:

    We’re partially automated at our house. Some of our bills are paid regularly because they never change, and can be relied upon to the be the same amount of money every month. One of these is our homeowner’s association bill. On the other hand I dislike complete automation for other bills because paying the bills every month helps me to keep on top of things and reminds me of how much we’re actually spending in every category.

    So I guess i like automating certain things – like saving and investing – but other things I like to stay on top of and regularly revisit – just so we don’t become complacent and just keep paying them – just because.

  4. Leslie says:

    I do not automate anything. I used to, before I got in control of my finances. It is really important to know how much you’re spending on that bill. Manually paying evey month is a constant reminder that I can’t wait to pay off my student loan. Also, if I pay late I know I will be penalized. This dilligence is something that extends into other aspects of life that don’t have a penalty for being late (but is still poor manners).

    As far as roomate bill paying goes, I have done this in a million different ways and am currently handling it the best way for us: each roomate is responsible for one bill. Then we pay everyone for our share. That way it is consistent and pretty fair.

  5. Khaleef @ KNS Financial says:

    I think we are about 90% automated. We pay our credit cards, cell phone, rent, church offerings, insurance, loan payments, etc all on a schedule with online bill pay at our bank. The only things we don’t automate are our variable energy costs and cable/internet bundle – we like to review these for variances first.

  6. moneymonk says:

    95% automated, utilities are not. The utilities are variable therefore, I must see the bill first

  7. Early Retirement Extreme says:

    Not automated! I view automation as setting the autopilot at 20,000′. Sure that works fine until you fly into a 22,000′ mountain. Also, what if what you really care about is how much you save and how much you spend? Then automation removes a very valuable feedback to the process. I kinda see automation to bill payment and saving as the equivalent to using a credit card for shopping.

    • Daniel says:

      @Early Retirement Extreme,

      Haha!

      The danger of autopilot at 20,000′ is that you don’t pay atention to how much is in your accounts and one large purchase means overdraft fees, etc.

      But what about the danger of actually piloting the plane? Does that take up too much valuable time? I think that your finances can still be monitored without making every payment manually.

  8. Khaleef @ KNS Financial says:

    I don’t see a problem with automating your finances as long as you stay on top of things. To me automating doesn’t mean that you don’t keep a budget and evaluate your spending accordingly, it just means that you don’t make every financial move manually.

    I think that this could be a danger, but it doesn’t have to be if we are careful.

    • Daniel says:

      @Khaleef @ KNS Financial, Great point, you can still be in charge of your finances without making every payment manually.

  9. Our finances are 85% automated. All the monthly bills are automatically charged to either our rewards credit cards or our checking account if they didn’t take credit for free. BUT, I then pay the credit cards manually. Any non-monthly bills (like taxes and insurance) get paid manually too. I like having the final manual authorization control, lol. :-) Oh, and our credit cards have no way of setting up an auto-pay in full…that had something to do with it too. Hahaha.

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