The Best Tips for Automating Your Finances

ComputerThe most common area for people to struggle in their lives is with their finances. Remembering to pay bills on time, putting paychecks in the bank and keeping everything running smoothly can be impossible with the responsibilities present in everyday life. Unordered finances lead to bounced check fees, overdraft fees, late fees and other problems, though. If you’re struggling with your finances, one of the best things to do is to automate them. How do you do that?

Use Direct Deposit

Perhaps the most important thing to do is to speak with your employer or HR department about the possibility of having your paycheck direct deposited in your bank account. This eliminates not only the possibility that you’ll forget to put it in the bank, but the hassle of going to the bank every week (or every other week). You’ll even find that direct deposit offers some financial savings, such as reducing fuel costs and giving you more free time.

Sign Up for Electronic Bill Pay

One of the best things about the digital revolution is the fact that most companies now offer automatic bill pay features. You can set up your power bill, gas bill and possibly even your home mortgage to come right out of your bank account on a specific day of the month. That eliminates the possibility that you’ll forget to send a payment and have to pay late fees because of it. Most companies have information about automatic bill pay on their website, and you’ll probably be able to set it all up online. In some instances, going with this payment method actually offers some savings, as well – many companies provide a few dollars off for using electronic bill pay.

Remember Retirement Funds

Planning for retirement is something that needs to happen right now. The good news is that most employers today offer some form of automatic retirement fund deduction. This comes off the top of your paycheck, before taxes are taken out and you’ll find that you don’t even miss the money. It’s sent straight to your 401(k) account, where it will sit and help you build your nest egg. Automated 401(k) payments are essential – speak with the HR department about it when you set up your direct deposit.

Use Financial Software

Finally, you’ll find that you still need to manage your finances, but with automated payments and direct deposit, tracking your cash can be confusing. Thankfully, you’ll find a range of personal finance software out there that lets you track every bill, every expense, every account and know with certainty where each dollar is going. Some of these programs offer award-winning performance and can even help you delve into areas where you need to cut back on spending, identify spending patterns and habits that need to be changed and really take control of your finances for the first time in years.

Automating your finances can be an excellent option for many people, and it’s easier to do than you might expect.

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Why Your Cluttered Pantry is Costing You Money – And How To Fix it

Small PantryIs your pantry a hodge-podge of items in disarray? Could you quickly grab key ingredients to make a pasta dish or aren’t you sure you have any tomato sauce on the shelves? For me there is nothing more frustrating that not being able to locate certain items to make a meal when I know that I just purchased them. I also feel badly when I clean my pantry and discover that I have 5 bottles of oregano, all stuffed into different little corners. It costs money to keep buying ingredients only to have them become lost in the pantry abyss. Since I cook almost all our meals at home, I’ve had to be diligent on keeping my pantry in tip top shape and in making sure I can easily find what I’ve intended to cook.

I’ve used a simple organizational method for my pantry for a while now. It is not high tech and doesn’t cost a lot of money. So with the thought that an organized pantry will allow you to stretch your food dollar even further, here are some ideas that have worked for me:

1. Remove everything out of the pantry. I mean pull out all the stuff, even if you can’t tell what it is. I usually pull out everything and put it on the kitchen table. The next step involves checking expiration dates, spoiled items, etc.

2. Discard items that are out of date. Check every single expiration date and items that obviously look like they can’t be eaten. Canned goods usually have a very long shelf life. However, opened bags of cereal and chips may have gone stale. Likewise, if you have items that you know you are not going to eat but the expiration dates are still good, arrange to donate them to a local food bank who will gladly take them.

3. Before returning items to the panty, make a plan where they will go based on use. Either sketch it out on a sheet of paper or make a mental map of locations. I keep all the items I use the most on the shelf that is at eye level. These are the flours, spices, pasta noodles, etc. Cereals go up on the top shelf while snacks that the kids like go on the lowest shelf so everyone can reach them. On the very bottom of the pantry is where I store baggies, foil, paper plates, etc.

4. Group like items together. I don’t have labels on the shelves, although I do think that is a good idea. As I return items to the pantry based on the plan I developed, I place all like items together. Canned goods are located on one shelf, but grouped by type (i.e. canned vegetables are together, soups, tomato sauces). Breads and rolls are on another shelf. As I mentioned before, all cereals are on the top shelf. Staple items are on the middle shelf since I use them the most. I have all the flours together in one area, cooking oils in another, spices placed together in a clear bin which allows me to easily see what spices I have. This makes for a very visual pantry and it’s easy to see what ingredients you have for any given meal.

5. Train everyone who will be responsible for replacing or removing items where they should go. With my system of locating like items together, everyone knows where grocery items go. In fact, the kids help to put the groceries away after my weekly trip.

6. Perform periodic maintenance. I’ve found that about every 2 months I need to do a maintenance check that everything is where it needs to be. With a very busy family, sometimes things are not returned to their proper place so we really need that periodic maintenance.