Simplifying your finances doesn’t automatically mean cutting back – though it might not be a bad idea. Instead, it means making the process of budgeting, paying, and saving easier on you by ditching the mounds of paperwork or swapping payment methods to something more convenient. The idea is that when finances are more convenient and simplified, it’s easier to manage your money overall. You’re more likely to check your bank balance on your phone rather than going to a bank machine to do the same, and making financial management easier brings a new element of awareness and control to what you spend and save.
- Go paperless
I can become overwhelmed each month when I see the parade of bills start making their way into my mailbox. Whether it’s the cable bill or a healthcare invoice, it’s not uncommon for me to put the unopened bills to the side so I can get to them later. Of course, this can lead to an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude, and I’ve incurred many late fees because of it.
Now, I go paperless whenever possible. Since I can usually pay bills directly from my mobile phone or computer, it’s a lot easier for me to make a few clicks and pay as soon as the bill hits my email. That way, I’m not shoving it to the side for a later date and forgetting due dates.
- Sign up for online banking
A 2011 report found that 74 per cent of bank cardholders were going online to complete banking transactions. And why not? Online banking makes life easier: You can complete transactions online that once required a trip to your bank. Whether it’s transferring money, checking your account balance, or paying bills, there’s no need to make a special trip, which saves major time and money. Like signing up for paperless billing with your utilities, online banking reduces the need for mailed correspondence and in-person transactions.
One of the other major benefits to signing up for your bank’s online banking services is the instant access you have to your money. While you can’t withdraw or deposit cash, you can quickly check to make sure that a payment has cleared or to see if your budgeting numbers are accurate. That access alone can help streamline your finances so you always have up-to-date information about your money, anytime you need it.
- Utilise apps
My smartphone is my greatest tool when it comes to streamlining my finance, and I’m not the only one: a research found that 59 per cent of bank cardholders utilised their mobile phones for the majority of their banking transactions. And why not? With features like mobile check deposit, account transfers, and bill pay all on a handy app, you gain quick access to features that are usually available online, such as: Checking your balance, account transfers, mobile check deposit, bill payment and fund transfers to other account holders.
- Automate your payments
Whenever possible, I set up automated payments for the accounts that remain consistent from month-to-month. So, instead of logging into my account and paying manually each month, I have my account set so the amount is automatically debited. And you don’t have to wait until a utility or creditor offers the option, as many banks allow you to set up your own auto pay rules within your account so that the amount is sent electronically or via check to your chosen service provider.
- Consolidate or eliminate accounts
You may feel that you have too many payments to make, and too much account maintenance to complete. Streamlining your accounts is an excellent way to “spring clean” your regular payments, accounts, and utilities so you have a simplified path to money management.
Take stock of your regular monthly bills. You might find that some aren’t as necessary as others. While you definitely have to pay for electricity, are you making things more complicated by also paying for a DVD subscription account, pricey satellite package, or an online video service? Whenever possible, consolidate or eliminate accounts.
- Schedule a regular budget check
A 2013 Gallup poll found that only one in three Americans prepare and maintain a budget. The poll noted that the availability of online banking could account for some individuals negating the need for a regular budget, but pointed out that regardless, a regular budget makes good financial sense.
Hopefully, you already have a budget in place. But simply drawing up the numbers once isn’t good enough to keep your finances in order. You need to regularly check up on your budget to make sure your numbers are correct and to allow for necessary adjustments due to unplanned expenses, vacations, and other incidentals. Not balancing your budget on a regular basis can result in disorganised finances.