I have always believed that the key to reaching any goal is to be able to remain focused, consistent and motivated. Know where this is more important than when you are working to pay off debt and save cash. The Snowball Method for debt elimination, the Cash Ladder, establishing a budget are all important tools to achieving financial success. However, as you leverage these tools to improve your financial position it can be challenging to remain focused and consistent in your efforts.
(If you’re not familiar with the Snowball Method, or Cash Ladder read my previous posts. How to Pay Off Debt Fast Using The Snowball Method, Break the Debt Cycle, Establish an Emergency Fund – The Cash Ladder.)
Simplifying your daily, weekly or monthly financial environment can improve your overall success of reaching your ultimate goal of being cash rich. By financial environment I mean the process or tasks you use to pay the bills, balance your check book and manage your accounts.
One of the quickest and most efficient ways to simplify the management of your finances is by using online banking. If you currently don’t use online banking for your personal finances then your monthly financial processes probably look something like this.
- At the start of each month you write a check and pay the electric bill, then balance your check book.
- On Saturday’s you go grocery shopping and write a check, then balance your check book.
- On the 15th of the month you write a check to pay the cable bill, then balance your check book.
- Thursday night you go out to dinner, write a check and balance your check book.
- Friday is payday, so you take your check to the bank for deposit, and then balance your check book.
- Your credit card payment is due on the 20th of each month so you write a check on the 17th and balance your check book.
- Rent/Mortgage is due on the 30th of the month so you write a check and balance your check book.
- At the end of the month you receive your bank statement and reconcile your checking account by balancing your check book.
Note the common theme here.
Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be writing a check and balancing your check book 10, 15 or maybe 25 times per month. And at the beginning of every month you start the whole process over again. Not only does this process take an enormous amount of time and add complexity to your finances, but inevitably it adds another “to-do” item to your already long list.
Transitioning from a manual method of managing your finances to an electronic (online) method can be a scary proposition. However, if you’re up to the challenge and interested in simplifying your environment, here are a few recommendations on how you can stay focused, consistent and motivated to reaching your finance goals.
Reduce the Number of Accounts You Manage
As discussed in Filling The Pig, I recommend you reduce the number of accounts you have to simplify your situation. One checking account, one savings account and one credit card account are all you really need. Decreasing the number of accounts you manage provides these benefits.
- Reduces the number of statements you need to manage and/or review on a monthly basis.
- Limits the number of financial institutions you interact with from a print and/or email perspective.
- Keeps you focused on your budget, paying off debt and growing your savings account – fewer accounts means less distractions, more focus.
- Less stress
Getting out of debt and saving cash is about understanding your financial environment. When you have fewer accounts to manage you create a simple environment where you can focus on the accounts that matter the most.
Helpful resources: Credit Sesame Free Credit Monitoring Service
Setup online banking with your financial institution. Ideally, your financial institution should provide real time account balances, bill pay, (We will discuss this in more detail below.) and mobile check deposits. Online banking will provide you with these benefits.
- Availability – bank anytime anywhere.
- Real-time access to your account balances. No need to review your check book or paper statements.
- Access to current and past account statements in electronic form. Reduces paper clutter.
- Smartphone access to account information and mobile check deposits. Allows you to check your account information anytime, and deposit checks remotely. No need to go to the bank to deposit your check.
- Transfer funds between accounts, no need to go to the bank and wait in line.
- Bill Pay – the ability to issue bill payments via there online system. No more check writing required to pay your bills.
Pay Your Bills with Bill Pay.
Bill Pay is by far one of the most important time saving benefits of online banking. Bill pay provides these advantages.
- Reduces or eliminates the number of checks you write on a monthly basis. Let your financial institution issue the checks.
- Saves money by reducing the number of “manual” checks you need to purchase.
- Saves you money on postage.
- Eliminates the need to balance your check book because all transactions are handled electronically and online. You can access your account at any time to see what bills have been paid and which ones are pending. (The only checks you need to manage that may impact the online balance of your account are the ones you write manually.)
Pay Your Bills Once a Month
Too often we establish routines because, well…because they’re routines. The electric bill is due the 20th of the month so we write the check on the 15th. The cable bill is due on the 10th, so we write the check on the 5th. Depending on how many bills you have you could be pulling that check book out five, six, or ten times a month. Each time it adds an additional to-do to your list and a whole bunch of anxiety and stress. By the end of each month you’re tired of just writing checks and balancing the checkbook.
After you setup bill pay in the system you can now change the way you pay your bills. At the start of each money you can enter each bill into the system and then determine the date your bank will issue the check – to correspond with the bills due date. Once initiated, there is no need to monitor or remember when you need to write a check, the system will pay the bills automatically.
Imagine paying your bills once a month. Consider how much time that will free up, and how simple managing your bills will be.
Use Cash or Your Debit Card for Purchases
Online banking, paying your bills with bill pay, let’s take simplification of your personal finances one step further. Use cash or your checking accounts debit card to pay for your daily purchases. Using Cash and/or your debit card will provide you with these advantages.
- Eliminates the write the check, balance the check book task each time you make a purchase.
- Reduces check book balancing errors. Your balance is reflected real-time online. No need to reconcile your check book balance at the end of the month.
- Debit card transactions are posted immediately to your online account. No delay between writing a check and when it posts.
- Using cash minimizes the number of transactions posting to your account. Fewer transactions means there is less to manage.
Establishing a practice of using online banking, bill pay and making purchases with cash, or your debit card will virtually eliminate your need to balance your check book. (I write two or three checks per year and no longer manually balance a check book. I trust my banks online system reflects my current balance at all times.) However, the greatest benefit to leveraging these online systems is the ability to simplify your overall financial environment. Simplification reduces stress, anxiety and will provide you with the ability to stay focused, consistent and motivated to meet your financial goals.
Do you have any tips on simplifying your financial environment? Add your comments below.