If you’re like most people, you’d rather spend most of your time doing things you enjoy besides keeping a close eye on your money. Fortunately, there’s plenty of tech out there that can do that for you. Set up the right systems based on your situation, and your financial life can hum along smoothly with just the occasional tweak from you. Whether you want to save, stick to a budget, invest, pay down debt or all of these and more, here’s how.
Automate Simple Tasks
You probably already have a few things automated, such as depositing your paycheck and having money withdrawn for retirement if your workplace offers a plan. However, there are plenty of other things you can automate as well. It’s much easier to save up an emergency fund or toward another specific goal if a certain amount of each paycheck goes into a savings account. You can also automate all your bill payments. Most online banking portals offer a payment setting for recurring bill payments. Likewise, bills like your credit cards and mortgage payments have settings that allow them to automatically debit your account for each payment. Having personally had issues with accidentally forgetting to send in payments, a late payment incurs penalties, higher interest rates, and even a ding to your credit score.
Look for Solutions
A caveat about automation is that you should not permanently forget about those bills you automate. First, you should periodically see what’s coming out of your account. It can be easy to sign up for subscriptions and memberships that you stop using and forget to cancel. You should also periodically review what you are paying for various services, such as your cell phone and your home and auto insurance. You may be able to find reduced rates for all of these when your contract is up next. It’s easy to do research online and determine where you can save. The many online comparison engines and calculators can help you in other ways as well. For example, if you are graduating from college soon and you are wondering what your student loan payments will be for private lenders, use a repayment calculator to estimate. This information can help you budget, and understand how much you have coming in vs going out of your account.
When you know what your student loan payments and other expenses will be, you can create a budget that you then also largely hand over to technology. You no longer have to worry about tracking where every cent goes or even about getting close to your spending limit in certain categories. Apps can do all of these things when you give them access to your banking information. Mint and Personal Capital are just a couple of account aggregator services that comes to mind. Not only do they have great online tools (and mobile apps) for creating and maintaining a budget, but they also are excellent in terms of understand and tracking your net worth as well.
It’s surprising how much prices can vary from place to place, and there are tools that can help you compare the prices of everything from prescription medication to groceries, gas, clothing and more. Some apps will let you scan an item and give you information about where to purchase it more cheaply. The Wiki app is a great example of this. You can add the tool to your Chrome extension bar, and it will automatically search for a better online deal before you even make a purchase. There are significant savings to be had, for doing almost no additional work.
With as little as $100 in some cases, you can get started in investing with a robo-advisor. You may imagine investing as something you need to participate in actively, checking stocks daily and moving your money around. However, for most investors, the best approach is to choose the right investments for your goals and leave them alone to make money despite market fluctuations. Robo-advisors can help you do this. They will work with you based on your goals and find the right investment strategy for you, up to and including creating a portfolio.