Have you ever been caught off guard by an unexpected direct debit bill that has wiped out your bank account? Had to skip lunch to go pay a bill during your lunch break? Gotten a late payment fee? Been worried that when you’re paying by Eftpos at the checkout there might not be enough money in your account?
Just a few years ago all of these things would happen to me on a semi-regular basis. If you’ve experienced any of those things, I know your pain. But rejoice, as today is the day where you will learn to effortlessly dominate your finances.
Automating Your Money (Like a Boss) is the most basic first step in mastering your money and putting you on the future rich path. Young people like us shouldn’t need to rely on unpredictable things like our self control or our (potentially hungover) memory! What we can do is take control by wielding technology and setting ourselves up with the correct system, then reap the rewards and enjoy a lifetime of benefits. And when we need to, we simply tweak the system to suit our new circumstance at our convenience. The system and technology works for us.
In this post I will show you how to set up your money so that your whole financial world is handled every month, with no stress and no hassles, so you can focus on the things that matter to you.
I will show you the exact tactics and methods, and even share the best accounts to use to get yourself started dominating your finances. Overall this shouldn’t take more than an hour or so to do, and you don’t even have to do it all at once.
Fundamentally, there are four simple parts to this process:
Expense Mapping – This is where you look at what your monthly fixed expenses are.
Billing Period Alignment – Here we line up all of our different bills, and have them line up so they are due at the same time each month.
Accounts Setup – This is where we set up the Bank Accounts we need.
Accounts Action – Finally, this is where we set up the direct debits or BPay recurring payments for each of our money actions, and assign our automation settings.
Ok, let’s get started.
Alright, here we simply map out our fixed expenses so we know how much we have going out each month.
Your fixed expenses will be along the lines of below;
- Loan Payments
- Pay TV
- Food Shopping (Groceries, not eating out expenses)
- Other subscription services
- Other expenses
Once we have this monthly figure, we move onto the next step.
Billing Period Alignment
Ok, now we are going to sync up all our billing periods so they fall on the day after our Pay/Salary goes into our account. If you get paid monthly on the 15th of each month (like I do), we would start by calling all of our service providers and having them adjust our Billing Cycles to land on the 18th of each month (Not the 15th, to leave 3 days grace in case of late payment, public holiday delay etc.).
What do we say to the companies? Something simple along the lines of below;
“Hi there Telstra/Optus/Foxtel/Whatever, my financial situation has changed and I need to adjust my billing cycle to land on the 18th each month from now on, are you able to please action this for me?
“I will also be setting up a new Direct Debit to pay this bill automatically from now on, are you able to please also provide me the information (Bpay ID, Account name etc) to do this?”
Take down this information for the Accounts Action step.
For the bills we receive quarterly (every 3 months) such as Power and Water, we will also ask them to activate Bill Smoothing. What’s Bill Smoothing you ask? All top utility companies offer this now, and basically they will look at your last 6-12 months usage and then average it out to project your future bills, which can then be paid monthly. Say goodbye to soul crushing electricity bills and letterbox anxiety!
For the Accounts Setup, depending on which bank you are with I recommend opening a new Transaction Account if you don’t have an account that has No Monthly Fee and a free Debit card. It amazes me that in this day and age some people are still with Westpac or other banks that charge up to $9 a month (WTF?!) just for the pleasure of having a bank account with them!
I’m personally with Bendigo Bank, pay no monthly fees, free debit card and a certain amount of free withdrawals from eligible ATMs. The Bendigo Account I have doesn’t seem to be available to the public anymore (not on their website at least) but if I was to open a new Transaction Account it would be between these 2 top picks – both are 5 star rated by Canstar.
- No monthly fees
- Free ATM access at Citibank, Westpac,
- St George, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA ATMs.
- Online Banking
- Free Visa Debit Card.
- No monthly fee if you deposit $2000 a month ($6 per month otherwise)
- Free ATM access at Bankwest, Commonwealth, Westpac, NAB and ANZ branded ATMs
- Online Banking
- Free Mastercard Debit Card.
NAB Classic Banking transaction account looks ok as well if you want to go with one of the bigger banks. In any case, pick your preference then apply online and follow the process or go into a branch to open. Or be lazy and use your current account, your choice.
Now it’s time to set up your online Savings Account, this is where alot of the magic will happen and if you aren’t already with ING Direct, it is the one I use and I find it to be the best Savings account due to no fees, a generous interest rate better than most others (at time of writing) and importantly, the very nifty ability to set up sub accounts with their own account number (useful for direct debits, payment transfers etc) under your main account.
Follow the process to open up your ING Direct Savings Account and once complete create your sub accounts. The structure should be something similar to below, which is exactly how I had mine setup initially.
- Master Account
- Home Deposit
- Emergency Fund
Master Account is the main account I use to send funds from my Transaction Account to my Savings Account. Then once the money is in there, the automation actions divides it up and sends the set up amount into each of the sub accounts.
Home Deposit – Exactly what it sounds like, money for the next Home Deposit (assuming you want to buy a house, which may not be everything it’s cracked up to be).
Holiday – Money for my next holiday
Car – I know that my car registration is around $700 a year and that I will likely get a service every year for about $200, so I automate $900 a year into this account. Say goodbye to massive Car Rego bills hitting you hard once a year in a lump sum.
Emergency Fund – I highly recommend setting up an emergency fund so you have money to dip into whenever an unexpected emergency takes place such as medical expenses or if you lose your job. I recommend filling this one up with 2 months of your fixed living costs before putting anything into your Home Deposit or Holiday fund. Great peace of mind to know you have some back up if something unforeseen happens.
Some other sub accounts ideas you may want to set up are other significant expenses that will hit you someday far in the future like Wedding, or something that comes around each year like Christmas Presents, Valentines Day etc or simply something moderately big ticket that you want to buy at some point such as New Car, 60 inch 3D TV or Macbook etc.
OK once we have all that sorted, it’s time to make the magic happen.
First log into your Transaction Account and set it up with recurring payments to pay all of your bills each month, 3 days after you get paid each month (if you get paid weekly or fortnightly there is an additional step below). You can set up the individual amount to pay for each bill and use the Service Provider’s Bpay code, or just their account details, this information is found on the bill, or you can use the info you got when you called them all up to do your Billing Period Alignment.
[*Bonus Points* If you can trust yourself with a credit card, get a card that has no annual fee and earns rewards like the Coles Mastercard, and set up all your bills to charge from that each month, then set up a monthly recurring payment for that same amount to automatically pay onto the credit card from your Transaction account. You can earn anything from around $100 to $300 a year in rewards depending on how much your bills are]
After setting up your automatic bill payments then set up a payment for 80% of what’s left over each pay to transfer to your ING or equivalent online savings account, leaving you a 20% pay week bonus of guilt free spending money in your transaction account.
Once this is done, log into your ING Direct or equivalent Online savings account and set up your Master Account to shoot back 20% of that amount into your Transaction Account each week. The money left over after your food shop is your weekly Guilt Free Spending Money! Spend it on what you want, including dinners, clothes, going out with your friends, whatever. And because it’s coming in weekly, you will always have money coming in each week in case you spend too much over the weekend! So now you won’t have to worry about spending too much in the first two weeks after you get paid, and have to slum it on 2 minute noodles every night in the last week before your next monthly pay.
Next, as for the final 20% that went into your Master account, set up your Master account to divide it up into your sub accounts monthly. I recommend a ratio of 50% (of the 20%) to a long term goal sub account (such as House Deposit) and then the rest to the other Sub Accounts based on your savings goals/timelines for reaching a certain amount on the others. Remember you should prioritize filling up your Emergency Fund with 2 months living expenses before filling up your other Sub Accounts.
*If you are paid weekly or fortnightly*
If paid weekly of fortnightly, the only difference it that you need to create an extra Sub Account in your Online Savings Account named Bills, and each week divide your monthly expenses by 3.8 (there is 4.2 weeks on average per month) and send that amount to your Bills Sub Account each week, then set up the recurring bill payments to draw from that Sub Account once per month. Then set up 16% of your total Pay to go into your Master account each week.
Also as you are getting paid weekly you won’t need to set up the weekly Guilt Free Spending Money, as what ever is left in your Transaction Account each week after your automatic actions is your Guilt Free Spending Money (minus food shop).
You have now Automated Your Finances Like a Boss! All your bills are handled automatically, you’re saving 16% of your pay for your future goals, and you have Guilt Free Spending Money to live your life with today.
Congratulations, you are now on the Future Rich path.
(*Legal Disclaimer* I don’t have a fancy MBA or CPA, so this guide is general in nature and does not constitute financial advice as everyone’s personal situation is different, get qualified advice from a boring financial planner in a grey suit etc before making any financial decisions.)
Leave a comment below with any questions about the process, challenges you faced, mental barriers that stopped you doing it, or how you felt after you completed Automating Your Finances (Like a Boss). I read every comment. -aj