by Elizabeth Aldrich | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Aug. 11, 2019
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Spend less and save more without even thinking about it.Image source: Getty Images.
Sticking to a budget doesn't just require self-restraint -- it also requires setting aside the time to complete tedious tasks like tracking your spending and analyzing your costs.
If the thought of poring over spreadsheets and writing down every purchase you make sounds like torture, you're in luck. Thanks to technology, your least favorite budgeting tasks can all be automated. Take a little time to set up your accounts properly, and you'll be on your way to staying on budget in no time. Read on to learn how to make sticking to your budget a breeze, even if you're lazy.
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The best money management apps do all the work of tracking your spending and creating a budget for you. The best part is that you can usually access at least some of their features for free.
Download a budgeting app to your phone and connect all of your bank accounts. If you want to be fully automated, this should include your checking accounts, savings accounts, credit card accounts, and any other debt you're trying to pay off. This way you can automatically track your spending, savings, and debt repayment all in one place.
The next step to automation is setting up autopay on all of your bills. If you've got credit cards, set them to be automatically paid off (ideally in full) each month. Many utilities, internet, and phone providers will also allow you to set up automatic payments online.
You might not be able to automate all of your bills, but you should set as many on autopay as you can. This will help you avoid late fees and relieve you from having to keep track of due dates.
Thanks to online banks and credit unions, the best checking accounts can be opened and managed fully online and are completely free. You should have two checking accounts if you want to automate the budgeting process: one for your paychecks and bills, and one for your spending money.
Set your paychecks to be direct deposited in one checking account, and when you set up autopay with all of your bills, set it up to withdraw from that same checking account. From the money you have leftover, figure out how much you want to allocate as spending money each month for things like food, gas, and entertainment. Transfer that amount into your second checking account and send the rest to a savings account. When you leave the house, only take a debit card for your second checking account with you. That way you only ever have access to money you specifically set aside to be spent.
Speaking of transferring money to a savings account, if you don't already have a high-yield savings account, you should. These accounts come with interest rates that are often 20 times higher than what you'd get from a traditional savings account. These interest deposits add up over time, helping you boost your savings without any extra work.
The best high-yield savings accounts are free and completely online. This means you can set one up in minutes, and you don't have to worry about paying monthly fees or meeting minimum deposit requirements. In short, you have nothing to lose, and a little spare cash to gain.
The last step is to set up automatic deposits into your high-yield savings account so that you're saving cash without even thinking about it. You have a few options for how to set up your deposits, so you can choose the one that best meets your needs.
You can set up automatic deposits to be withdrawn from your checking account after your bills are paid. With this method you get paid, then you pay your bills, then you put money in your savings. If you'd rather save that money before you get any chance to spend it, though, it's wise to set up automatic deposits from your paycheck. Set up a percentage of your paycheck to be direct deposited into your savings account rather than your checking account each month. Finally, if you have a side gig, you can set up the paycheck from your side gig to be deposited into your savings account and your regular paycheck into your checking account.
Budgeting sounds like a pain, but if you have the right bank accounts, it can be incredibly easy. With this set-it-and-forget-it budgeting method, you'll be paying your bills on time and saving money in no time.
Many people are missing out on guaranteed returns as their money languishes in a big bank savings account earning next to no interest. The Ascent's picks of the best online savings accounts can earn you more than 8x the national average savings account rate.
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