Easy Personal Finance for Lazy People
Establishing good personal finance habits requires education, determination, and a plan. It can be a lot of work. But it doesn't have to be. And laziness definitely isn't (or at least it shouldn't be) an excuse to drop the ball. Personal finance is easy if you approach it with the right frame of mind. (See also: The Five Minute Budget)
1. Automate Your Savings
Saving isn't easy for the lazy — it takes discipline. And if you're not manually depositing money into your savings on a regular basis, automating your savings is one way to build your cash reserve without lifting a finger. Schedule automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account once or twice a month, preferably a few days after receiving your paycheck. Easy!
2. Sign Up for Online Bill Pay
Paying bills on time might also be a challenge if you're financially lazy. Maybe you procrastinate opening statements or fail to write down due dates, which triggers late payments and added fees. Online bill pay is offered free by most banks; and with this service, you can pay your creditors online through your bank, and even schedule future payments by due date. It's the easiest and most flexible way to manage bills. You don't have to write a check, get stamps, or worry about missed payments. Just make sure you have enough in your account to cover any withdrawals. Easy!
3. Skip the Adjustable Rate Mortgage
An adjustable rate offers a lower interest rate, which can save you money each month. However, the interest rate on an ARM isn't permanent, and a rate adjustment after the first three or five years can trigger a higher mortgage rate and mortgage payment. If you're proactive and watch the market, refinancing to a fixed-rate mortgage before your first rate adjustment might avert higher payments. But if you're lazy with finances, you're better off getting a fixed rate from the start. This way, your rate doesn't change for the duration of your term, and you don't have to think about a new mortgage in the next few years.
This strategy also applies to rewards credit cards — just skip all the craziness around rewards points and spending categories and choose a rewards card that rewards you with cash or statement credits.
4. Budget With an Envelope or Jar
Budgeting is the best way to live within your means. Some people deposit all of their paycheck into a checking account, and then withdraw cash or write checks as needed for household expenses and extras. This can work, but with all your cash in the bank, you'll need to balance your account frequently to keep track of every debit card swipe, check, or ATM withdrawal — which can become a real hassle. There are apps and spreadsheets to help, but these tools aren't always easier, especially if you're not tech savvy. Or if you're too lazy to open the app or spreadsheet.
There is a simpler method. Rather than deposit all of your cash in the bank, keep some of your cash at home in a safe place. Use jars or envelopes to hold cash for various money categories, such as groceries, gas, or entertainment. You're still paying your bills online (see above). This is an easy way to keep control of your other spending.
5. Enroll in Your Employer's 401(k) Plan
Lazy financial habits today have a tremendous impact on your financial future. It's easy to shrug off retirement planning when it seems so far off. And if you're lazy, you probably don't have the desire to meet with financial planners or educate yourself on various options. However, the less you know and the longer you put off saving for retirement, the less you'll have — and the longer you might have to work.
For simple, hands-off retirement planning, enroll in your employer's 401(k) plan once you're eligible. The company deducts a percentage from your paycheck and deposits funds into a retirement savings account. And depending on the company, your employer might match your contributions. It's essentially free money for participating in the plan. Choose an investment option that's based on your time horizon (that's how long you plan to work or invest) — most employer 401(k) plans offer these — and let it grow on autopilot.
6. Ask for a Raise
Whether you need extra cash to pay off credit card debt or buy a house, you might give up on your goals if you don't have the income. Getting a part-time job to supplement your full-time income is one way to earn extra cash. But if you don't want to work any harder than you already do, ask your boss for a raise. Pay increases are based on work performance and skill. So, do your homework and make sure that your salary request is comparable with your experience and education.
7. Get a Whole Life Insurance Policy
Term-life policies are cheaper than whole-life policies, and you'll receive more coverage for your money. But term policies typically end after 10 to 20 years, at which time you'll need to shop for a new policy. If you don't want to think about life insurance in the future, buy a whole or permanent life insurance policy. You'll pay a higher premium with a permanent policy. However, if you purchase this policy when you're young and healthy, you'll receive a lower premium that will never increase.
What's your best personal finance advice for the lazy. Come on, get off your couch and share in comments!