You already work hard enough making your money. So give yourself a break when it comes time to pay your debts, recurring monthly bills, savings, and retirement accounts. Who wants to keep track of all that? Automate your finances so you can set it and forget it.
Here’s a rundown of everything you can automate, along with the pros and cons of this strategy.
- Never forget a payment. Avoid late fees, disrupted service, and hits to your credit score.
- Set automated payments for any amount you choose. This really comes in handy for paying down big balances and building up savings.
- Take the decision-making out of how much you pay every month. In this way, autopay keeps your financial goals in check.
- It’s easy to forget auto payments are scheduled. If you haven’t left enough money in the bank to cover them, then that could mean insufficient funds fees, overdraft fees, late fees, and, in some cases, interrupted service.
- You’re stuck with whatever payment amount you set up. Certainly you can make arrangements to change it, but that takes time. If you don’t realize until today that you can’t cover the payment scheduled for tomorrow, you’re out of luck.
Automating student loans comes with a pro all its own: Most student loan servicers offer a .25 percent interest rate reduction for setting up autopay. You can set the recurring payment for the minimum monthly amount due or a higher amount if you are trying to pay off your student loans early.
Of course, if you want to pay your student loans off faster, you may not have the same amount to put toward the debt every month. In that case, set it to the minimum and then just send in extra cash as a separate payment. Just remember not to include your minimum payment in the extra payment, as that is already going to come out automatically, no matter what.
For instance, let’s say you have the automated payment set for the minimum amount of $300, and you want to pay an extra $100 this month. If you manually send $400, it’s not going to prevent the $300 from coming out automatically.
Don’t know who your servicer is? Find out.
Though your credit card balances may vary from month to month, that’s no reason not to automate your finances on this front, too. When you set up automated payments through your credit card issuer, you can choose to pay the minimum amount due every month or the full balance.
Alternatively, if you’re paying down a high balance — and want to pay more than the minimum, but not the full balance — you can specify a set monthly amount.
There are a couple of scenarios in which you could run into trouble:
- You charge a big purchase to your credit card and have the recurring payment set to the full balance. That could do some damage to your bank account if you weren’t prepared to pay off that charge right away.
- You have a high balance on your credit card that you’re paying down with a set monthly amount, but you’re still using that card, too. A big enough charge to the card could push the minimum amount due higher than the amount you have scheduled.
One solution is setting your autopay to the monthly minimum, then manually paying any extra — either to pay off the full balance or to pay down a high balance. Worst case scenario, you forget to pay the extra, but you’ll never miss the payment entirely.
The best solution, though, is never charging more to your credit cards than you can afford to pay off by the due date. Stick to that rule and you can set it to pay the full balance without worry.
Utilities and other bills
How many bills do you pay every month just to keep your household running? It may be half a dozen or more, all with different due dates that you can’t afford to forget. Fortunately, pretty much any bill you pay on a monthly basis can be automated these days:
Be careful, though, about which payment option you choose. Only have these bills charged to a credit card if you are committed to paying your balance in full every month — the last thing you need to do is pay interest on your phone bill. Consider playing it safe and having bills like these come directly out of your checking account.
Visit the company’s website for details on setting up autopay. If you don’t find any information on the site, give them a call. If the company doesn’t offer such an option, you’re not out of luck. You can always look into setting up bill pay through your bank.
Up until now, we’ve been talking about bills for which there are consequences if you miss payments, like late fees and interrupted service. That’s not the case for savings, but that lack of urgency is the very reason you should set it and forget it.
When you manually contribute to your savings account, you give yourself an opportunity every single month to change your mind. But when you automate your savings, it takes a few extra steps to prevent that contribution from being deposited. Sure, you could dip into it if you wanted, but once it’s there it’s a tougher sell to spend it instead.
You may already be entered into automatic retirement contributions to your 401(k) through your employer. Just keep in mind that, unless you specified otherwise, you are having the default amount deducted from your paycheck.
The default is usually around 3 percent. While that is better than nothing, it’s worth checking in each year to see if you can afford to contribute more. And remember, you’re limited to how much you can contribute every year. The 2016 401(k) contribution limits are $18,000 if you are under 50 and $24,000 if you are 50 or over.
Contact your employer’s human resources department to make changes to your 401(k) contributions.
If you are self-employed, look into an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) as a way to automate your finances. As with the 401(k), revisit your contributions at least once a year and ensure it still makes sense for your financial situation.
Of course, IRAs come with contribution limits as well — much smaller, in fact, than those of the 401(k). The 2016 IRA contribution limits are $5,500 if you are under 50 and $6,500 if you are 50 or over.
By the way, you don’t have to be self-employed to contribute to an IRA; they can be a good supplement if you max out your 401(k) contributions.
Automate your finances, but don’t ignore your payments
Mistakes get made and when it comes to your bills, you need to catch them right away.
Pick a day every month to check all of your statements, just to be sure your payments are being made on time and for the right amounts. You can set and forget your payments, but when you automate your finances, remember to follow up.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|