Not long ago we talked about automated bill pay, savings, and investing to help reach your goals faster, but what if you could make your money work even harder? By that I mean — turning your bank accounts into a really awesome budgeting machine.
Most people don’t realize all the functionality that your bank can provide — and if not your current primary bank, an alternative or secondary online bank that can be used to up your whole financial game. I’m talking about a bank like Ally Bank that allows you to set up multiple checking and savings accounts (with no hidden fees) and can make automated transfers to help you build your best budget yet.
Today you’ll learn how to turn your bank account into a full-fledged budgeting machine, so you can stop with the spreadsheets and budgeting apps, and start being more proactive with your money management.
Here’s the layout of a well-oiled bank account budget.
If you liked that, be sure to check out the video on my channel, Wander Wealthy by Tess Wicks.
The Income and Fixed Expenses Account
You start with your income account — the account that takes all the deposits — from your paychecks to your grandmother’s birthday gifts to you. This will be a checking account that makes regular transfers to your other accounts and pays all your fixed monthly bills but nothing else.
Fixed expenses include rent, utilities, cable, cell phone and internet, required loan payments, insurance payments, and for ease of understanding, you could include those monthly subscriptions that you pay as well. Anything that is relatively consistent in price and payment timing. Add all of those payments up and keep that number earmarked to ensure you always have it available to pay your fixed bills.
Double-check that these fixed bills are being paid on the correct date — if you’ve already gone and activated your automated bill-pay, you may have already done this. Withdraw these bills from your “Income and Fixed” account a few days after one of your paydays. This will likely be after the first of the month or mid-month. Most companies will allow you to tweak your due date on your bills so give your landlord, the utility company, your cellphone and cable or Internet Company, and your loan administrator a call.
The Savings Account(s)
Once your income enters the respective account, you should do the most important thing almost everyone fails to do — pay yourself first. If you have an employer-sponsored retirement benefit and you take advantage of it, you are probably doing this already. But what’s more important than saving for your retirement, which could be more than 20 years away for some of us, is saving for your short-term future and emergencies that could set you back for years to come.
Paying yourself first includes retirement, but also includes your emergency savings account and other short-term goals that you would like to achieve within the year. That’s why I say savings account(s), because you’re bound to have more than one goal.
Upon getting paid, create an automatic transfer to send money to your emergency savings fund — a separate savings account — and any other short-term savings goals you might have with an individual savings account earmarked for that purpose. This is why it’s so important to find a great bank that will let you open up as many savings accounts as you want with no monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements.
For a few examples, some people set up a travel account (if you’re not to the point to build yourself a Travel-Inspired CD Ladder), an account for attending other people’s weddings and the expensive holiday seasons, an account for taxes if you’re self-employed, and an account for any other items you might like to pre-save for like the newest smartphone or home decor for your fixer upper.
Figure out how much can realistically be loaded into each one of your savings accounts, and schedule those automatic transfers to happen from your “Income and Fixed” account after every single paycheck or at least once every month. You could even set up direct deposits from your employer to be extra proactive.
If overspending is a bad habit that you find yourself in, then it’s critical to pay yourself first. This can help to ensure you have enough liquid cash to cover your bills and save for your future.
The Spending Account
Now it’s time to see your budget machine really work for you. Whatever is left over after you’ve set money aside for your mandatory fixed monthly expenses and paid yourself first through savings, you now have the remaining money to spend, guilt-free.
There’s never been a better feeling than to have a guilt-free spending account. This account will be the one that pays for your discretionary and variable expenses like food and entertainment. This account will pay off your credit card when you spend on these items, or better yet, just use your debit card to avoid adding to the balance on your credit line.
Check your spending account to make sure you have enough in there to spend. Use this money to pay for gas, groceries, drinks with friends, concerts, games, dinners, and shopping. In an emergency, transfer some emergency funds to the spending account so you can get yourself out of a bind.
When you’re finally on that big vacation, transfer the money from your respective savings account to your spending account because now is the time to use that excess cash you’ve intelligently saved for yourself.
When the holidays roll around, transfer some funds to your spending account out of your Holiday Account. Do the same when you’re in the thick of wedding season and need some extra cash to pay for gifts. And when it’s finally time to buy that flat screen TV you’ve been eyeing (and by “finally time,” we mean you hit your pre-savings goal) transfer the money from that goal-based account to your spending account and pay for it outright.
Never stop automating your savings, and you will be more empowered and capable of spending guilt-free.
For more savvy money tips check out the Wander Wealthy YouTube Channel and continue to visit the Ally Do It Right Community to get more information on optimizing your cash.
Tess Wicks is the founder of and voice behind Wander Wealthy, a podcast and YouTube channel for millennial women who want to make smart and savvy financial decisions. She is a wealth and mindset coach, who provides tools and education for online coaches and service-based entrepreneurs.