April 4, 2017
If you want to grow your savings quickly and effectively, maybe you should try automating your financial tasks. This smart move will help you pay bills on time, invest without lifting a finger, and, most importantly, save money.
Below are 11 simple ways to start automating today.
Install a Smart Thermostat
This is my first winter in Detroit, Michigan, and I have the electric bills to prove it. To cut down on my energy costs, I started researching smart thermostats.
Smart Thermostats help you reduce your energy consumption, thus lowering your electric bills. For example, if you want to save money while you’re at work during the summer, a smart thermostat will automatically adjust the AC when you leave the house. You can also control it from your smartphone – letting you readily control the temperature in your home.
Smart Thermostats can be pricey but with a little research, you can find rebates to offset the costs. For example, the very first smart thermostat, Nest, which is now owned by Google, costs $249. My price, however, was lower as I was offered a $75 rebate from my energy company. The caveat: I had to purchase and install the Nest by the end of the year. To give you another example of how you can save, the Nest website reports that most of their customers save $131-$145 per year. This means the Nest actually pays for itself in just over a year if you’re eligible for rebates. Besides the Nest, other smart thermostat companies, including Ecobee and Honeywell, may offer similar rebates.
Streamline Your Groceries
I love throwing Oreos in my grocery cart just as much as the next person. Lately, however, I’ve been automating my grocery lists and this has saved me big bucks – and cut down on the amount of Oreos I buy. For example, I started using a service called The Dinner Daily which creates a dinner menu for me based on my grocery sales that week.
To get started, I select my preferred grocery store and The Dinner Daily provides me with a meal plan and grocery list. Then, all I have to do is add in a few breakfast and lunch items, and my list is complete. If you want to take it a step further, most grocery stores now offer delivery to your car. To take advantage of this, you order your groceries ahead of time and a store employee will bring them to your car for a small fee.
If you don’t want to drive to the grocery store, no worries. You can also find a company that delivers groceries straight to your door. Some companies that provide this service include Peapod and Amazon Fresh. You can also check out Instacart and Shipt.
If you find saving money challenging, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a 2016 study by Go Banking Rates, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. Luckily for you, there are ways for you to buck this statistic by improving your own savings automatically. For example, if you join Chime, you can bank without fees. Plus, Chime rounds ups your spare change and automatically deposits this amount into your savings account. This can help you save around $400 per year.
Subscribe to a Household Goods Delivery Service
Groceries aren’t the only necessary items that you can get delivered to your front door. You can also subscribe to delivery services for household items, like toilet paper or cleaning supplies. By ordering these items in advance, you won’t end up running out at the last minute to buy these necessities at a costly drugstore or convenient mart. Plus, this sure saves you time. And as you know, time is money.
Some great discount home delivery options include Amazon’s subscribe and save and Target (free shipping and 5% off with a Target Red Card). If you want to get even more specific, there are many specialty subscription companies too. For example, if you like fresh flowers, you can get them delivered automatically to your door through The Booqs Co. And, let’s not forget about Fido. You can even set up auto shipments for your pet food via Chewy.
Create Travel Alerts
Planning a trip or vacation can take a lot of time. But, there are ways to score the best deals on travel without wasting time constantly refreshing price comparison websites. For example, you can create flight alerts for your preferred route. You can also sign up for automated texts or emails to learn about price reductions at your dream hotel.
Several travel sites offer fare alert features, including AirfareWatchdog, Hopper and Skyscanner. You can even use a website like TripAdvisor to track vacation deals. To do this, become a member, go to your profile and click subscriptions. For there, you can select subscriptions for TripWatch, Air Watch, and even RentalWatch. By entering your preferred destination, you’ll be alerted when prices drop. To try it out, I am now watching airline prices to Montego Bay, Jamaica because hey, a girl can dream.
Make Contributions to Your 401(K)
If you have a work-sponsored 401(K), now is the time to set up automatic contributions. According to a published report, a third of Americans don’t have anything saved for retirement at all. This might be due to the fact that it can be hard to allocate extra money to save when you’ve got mounting bills or debts to pay off. But, if you set up automatic withdrawals, you’ll get used to living on a smaller paycheck. Plus, you’ll be on your way to building long-term wealth.
Your retirement plan isn’t the only way you can start automatically investing while you’re young. Thanks to some new investing apps, you can get started without a lot of money. For example, Acorns offers a feature to help you invest your spare change. All you need to do is connect the cards you use every day to their app, and Acorns will automatically round up and invest your spare change for you.
Another company, Betterment, helps you take control of your investing in smart automation. You start by setting up automatic deposits to your accounts. Then, Betterment will take that money and automatically invest and rebalance it for you. According to Betterment, you could earn 2.9% more than you would investing on your own.
Sign Up for Unroll.me
If you’re tempted by all those promotional emails in your inbox, you might be a good candidate for Unroll.me. This is a free service that rolls your subscription emails into one daily email. This way you won’t be tempted to spend money in the middle of the day when your favorite store has a sale. You can also easily unsubscribe from stores that are too expensive or that you no longer patronize. For example, I have over 300 email addresses rolled up automatically with this service. This prevents me from whipping out my credit card every time Old Navy has a sale.
Set Up Recurring Invoices
If you’re a business owner with regular clients, you can set up recurring invoices using accounting software from Freshbooks or Intuit’s Quickbooks. This can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in lost income. For example, I recently told my piano teacher that I owed her $400. She never sent me an invoice, but I knew it was due. For someone like her, recurring invoices would ensure that her students received invoices. This means she’d be more likely to get paid on time and would be able to easily keep tabs on missing payments.
Install a Browser Extension
A browser extension – like the free shopping tool Honey – works by automatically searching the web for better prices. It then adds any relevant coupon codes to your shopping cart when you go to purchase that item. So, if you’re shopping for clothes and you use Honey at checkout, you might end up with a promo code that you didn’t know existed. This helps you save automatically without searching the web for promo codes that might not work.
Pay Your Bills Automatically
Excessive late fees can affect your bottom line. Yet, when life gets busy, it can be hard to stay organized with your bills and this can mean missed payments. To avoid this scenario, try putting your bills on autopay.
I automatically pay my bills, including my mortgage, wireless and cell phone bills. Then, at the end of each month, I quickly check my bank account to make sure that all my bills were paid on time.
The great thing about paying bills automatically is that even if there is a glitch with auto-pay, which recently happened with my Internet bill, the service provider will usually refund you for late fees incurred due to a technical glitch.