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Put your Money on Auto-Matic

money on automaticOne of my top money tips that involves saving time (and potentially money) is to automate your bill-pay process as much as possible.

Most credit card accounts have auto-bill pay options and even many of my bills can ACH directly out of my checking account.

Why I love these features:

  1. If you are living in 1997 and still mail or drop off your bills, this saves you both time and money in postage and gas.
  2. It eliminates late fees from bills that get forgotten, lost or confusion over who in the household was supposed to pay it.
  3. It frees up mental bandwidth that was previously spent on remembering where the bills are, what is due when, what has gotten paid or not, etc.
  4. I include some of my own savings as auto-payments each month, such as funding ROTH IRA and college investments accounts. This way they don’t get de-prioritized as other bills come in. You can also set up automatic drafts to a savings account if you’re saving money there for something special.

More tips:

  1. Make sure your bank balance has adequate funds to cover the full statement balance on the due date. I use ynab.com to budget, so all my spending comes of categories that are funded at the time I purchase and I also follow their suggestions of building up a 1-month buffer in all categories. (Use my link to get 1 month FREE!)
  2. Check your accounts for all the bills that come in during a month and then set up the auto-pay all at once, otherwise you’ll wonder which ones are on auto-pay and which ones you have to manually pay. Not all of them note on your statement whether auto-pay is on. Put your passwords somewhere safe.
  3. When you set them up, they most likely will only be automatically paid on your NEXT statement, not your current statement. So, pay in full now and then next month it will pay for you. (I got caught with this on Kohl’s–it was more of a 2 month wait.)
  4. If you have irregular bills that come up, set them up for automatic renewal if you know you want to continue use, or use your bank’s bill-pay system to avoid using a stamp and envelope.
  5. If you’re into credit card rewards, some bills will let you charge your card instead of drafting directly from  your checking. For example, I pay my cable/internet bill on my credit card every month, then my credit card automatically pays on it’s due date. Just know that organizations are charged a fee to use credit cards, so I choose not to put my church/non-profit giving on a credit card because I don’t want them to have a to pay a transaction fee.

Ideas of Accounts to Set Up:

  1. Church Giving
  2. Other Mission support (example: We sponsor a child through Compassion International and set up automatic payment including birthday and Christmas presents to make sure we don’t miss it.)
  3. Credit Cards (choice to pay last statement balance, current balance or minimum). If you’re on credit card float/not always able to pay it off every month, at least set it up to draft the minimum automatically and then just send any extra you can. But don’t get late fees to add to the mess!)
  4. Store Credit Cards (Kohl’s, Amazon,  gas card, etc.)
  5. Mortgage (including if you want extra principle paid each month)
  6. Daycare
  7. Cable/Internet
  8. Electric/Water/Garbage
  9. Cell Phone
  10. Investment accounts (retirement, college fund)
  11. Subscriptions like Netflix, Amazon Prime, ID Theft protection, Computer virus protection, software, etc.

Beyond Auto-Pay:

If you do have any accounts that don’t allow auto-pay-in-full, at least figure out their online payment system so you can save stamps and trips. For example, if you doctor at a Sanford medical facility, use My Sanford Chart to pay your bills using your HSA debit card. Or at the very least, your bank may have an online bill-pay feature that will send a check for you to any business you set up.
I also recommend Paypal as an easy way to send money to friends or family for all those little things like splitting the cost of a gift or a restaurant ticket. Much easier than sending checks that someone has to cash! Just make sure you send it through “Friends and Family” and don’t send them a “request to pay” or a fee will be charged.
What other tips or ideas can you share on automating your bill-paying process?
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