The Lazy Person's Guide to Financial Success – Frugal Confessions

The Lazy Person’s Guide to Financial Success

Perhaps ‘lazy’ is not the correct adjective, but if you are looking for a simple, sleek, and financially savvy plan that you can set and leave alone, then this is the article for you. If the thought of actively managing several bucket accounts, or trading stocks (after watching stock tickers or CNN each day) just doesn’t appeal to you, it doesn’t matter. You are still able to be a financially savvy person and have all of your ducks in a row.

These steps will take a little effort in the beginning, but if you do this, then you are looking at years of freedom from paper bills clogging up your mailbox, filling out applications, or even looking at your checking account (if done correctly).  So spend the afternoon getting down to business, then forget about everything and let your finances happen.

Automate Everything—3 Hours

Visit your HR department at work, and fill out the paperwork to automatically deposit your paychecks into your checking account. You will need ID and a check for the routing number and bank account number (sometimes they need to void the check and attach it with your paperwork).

Collect all of the bills that come in throughout the next month, and write them down on a sheet of paper, along with either a customer service telephone number, or a website. Set aside two hours, and call each of these service providers or go online to their websites and set up automatic payment, either through a charge to your credit card, or through your bank account (if using your bank account, be sure to have a check handy so that you can fill in the routing number and account number). This will ensure all of your bills are paid on time (as long as you keep sufficient funds in them) without you having to put any thought into it.

Set Up an Email Bill Account—1 Hour

Are you tired of getting all of these bills in the mail anyway? Set up a new email account for free, and designate this as your bill account. As you automate everything in the above step, tell the service provider, or click on a box on the websites, to go paperless. Then, set your email address to this new email account. If you ever need to look at a bill for any reason, you can simply log into this account and check it out. However, you could potentially never see a bill again if you didn’t want to (how tempting!).

Open a Savings Account with Automatic Withdrawal—1/2 Hour

ING Direct is a great savings account with an easy user interface, and automatic withdrawals are free. After you open a savings account, connect your checking account where your paycheck is automatically deposited with this account. Then, set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account into your savings account each month. You can also do this twice a month, or other time frame you wish. I recommend setting this up for the beginning of the month, as you will earn more interest this way over the life of the savings account.

ING Direct will need to verify your checking account before it can connect. You will need to come back in a few days and spend another ten minutes with the instructions that ING Direct sends you for verification purposes.

Open a Credit Card with Cashback—2 Hours

For the person who does not want to log in and choose rewards to have mailed to them, as well as pays off their balance in full each month and thus never pays a finance charge, a cashback card is a great option for you. These credit cards will earn you money from each purchase, and automatically send you a check after you have earned a certain amount (if you select this as your payment option). You can also set the credit card bill payment up to automatically come out of your checking account each month. Make sure to choose a card with no annual fee. Apply for it, activate it, swipe it, be on your way, and once or twice a year receive a check in the mail.    

Open a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA—1 Hour

Planning for your future is extremely important, but it can also be very easy and automated. I personally use the Vanguard Target 2045 fund, which automatically allocates certain percentages of my portfolio to various areas (such as stocks, bonds, etc.) in accordance with my age and thus what risk level I should be at. Target funds are also found at brokerage firms such as Fidelity. Open an account, link your checking account to your retirement account, then designate a certain amount of money to automatically be withdrawn into your IRA each month (or twice a month, depending on what you would like).

After doing each of these steps, the only time you should need to look at your accounts is at the end of the year to see how much interest you have earned (if you are curious), as well as when you get promotions/bonuses so that you can allocate more money into your savings/IRA. You will also need to update your automatic bill payments if you sign up for new services, switch services, etc.

Sit back, relax, and let time and compound interest do its job. Good luck!

6 comments… add one

  • Crystal

    Wow…this post described my household’s financial life so perfectly it was creepy. I mean, we even use ING Direct as our savings bank, Vanguard Target 2040 Fund for my 401k, a Fidelity Target 2035 Fund for our Roth IRA, a Discover More card that gives us 1-5% cash back, and everything is automated. Creepy. :)

    Here’s my question now. What if you do/have all the above and still have surplus? For example…

    My husband and I are 26 and live in Houston, TX. He is a middle school teacher ($43000) and I am an office worker ($35000), so we do make about $78,000 a year combined before taxes. As of now, we do not have any plans to have kids…being a middle school teacher or a wife of one makes you a true believer of birth control. :)

    We bought our home as a foreclosure 2 1/2 years ago and put 20% down on a 15 year loan at 5.375%. Since I overpay the mortgage, we have about $76,000 and 6-7 years left.

    We have one car loan at 4.1% and have about $12000 and 3 years left. My car is paid off and is only 4 years old with 37,000 miles. I will drive it until it won’t drive anymore.

    We have no other debt. We do use credit cards for almost everything (I love my Discover), but we use them for the rewards and to budget. They get paid off every month.

    We have an emergency fund that should be able to supplement us for a full year if only one of us was unemployed or 4-6 months if we both lose our jobs at the same time.

    For retirement, we put 6% to my 401k which is matched at 6% (12% total to a Vanguard Target Fund). We also contribute to my husband’s state pension, I’ve been contributing the maximum $5000 to my Roth IRA for the last two years (Fidelity Target Fund), and my husband invests about $2500 a year in the stock market.

    And my husband is currently getting a masters, which we have been paying for 100%…but he is set to graduate next year.

    So, when we have some extra money starting when my husband graduates (about $1000 a month), what should we do to maximize its effectiveness? Do we get another Roth IRA, increase my 401k, put more in stocks, pay off the car, or put it towards the house? Or do that in some combination? What is your suggestion? Other readers, what would you do?

    We are a little stumped ourselves simply because we will have options…which hasn’t happened before since we had this sort of financial checklist that doesn’t leave anything at the end of the month.

    And before anybody berrates me for not having any fun, we do have a vacation/fun money account that funds our annual big trip, little weekend outings, and any large “fun” expenses as well. We also have a small “allowance” each month for whatever we want, so we aren’t just wasting the next 25 years of our life waiting for retirement…we just have alot of cheap fun (board gaming with friends, potluck parties, etc).

    I also posted this on Amanda’s Houston Chronicle page since it seems different people read at different sites. I apologize in advance if this seems repetitive. Amanda, please feel free to remove this if you rather not have it on both pages. Thanks!

    • FruGal

      Hello Crystal!

      No worries on double posting–it’s true, I think there are two different crowds that read my blogs, so that is great you will get different perspectives. I think Aurora has a great comment in that you should think about the things that you want in order to prioritize your money. Paul and I also are big into being debt-free (besides the mortgage, which we will be working on after the last of our car loan and the last our student loan!). To me, it just will feel freeing to be debt-free. Also, if something should happen to one of us, or if we have kids, then we would be able to go down to a one paycheck household without much hurt. If you want to take mini-retirements, which are talked about in the book on my right hand side bar the 4-Hour Workweek, I think that is another way I would use extra cash flow. For example, work for a few years, then take off a year to do anything you’d like, then work for a few years, and take off for six months, etc. That way, you can enjoy free time while still young. Ofcourse, you need to have a job that will allow sabbaticals (which a teacher’s position may, and I know at our office we can take a six month leave of absence without pay). In order to do this, you would need to save up extra money for your living expenses and loss of paycheck for the months/year that you will be taking off.

      Also, I read a great blog called Get Rich Slowly, and he has an article called What Next? (http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2009/02/06/what-next-the-third-stage-of-personal-finance/) , which discusses what to do after you are out of debt, maxing out your retirement, etc.

      I hope these thoughts get you started thinking, and also that more readers give you their thoughts!

  • Aurora

    Crystal, I would say it depends on what your and your husbands goals are. Do you wish you could travel more, or to a more expensive place? Save towards that. Do you dream about retiring early? Throw more money towards that goal. Maybe you enjoy entertaining friends & family, so investing in upgrades to your home/kitchen/outdoor living space would bring you a lot of satisfaction and years of memories? Maybe a combination of these things?

  • Aurora

    Oh one more thing – if it were my decision, I would personally want to pay off all my debt as quickly as possible (especially since interest on savings accounts is so low right now), so I would first take care of the car loan, then throw money towards the mortgage. You said you’re already pre-paying the mortgage, and thats what we do too. How liberating it will be to not have a mortgage payment… some day! Imagine the decisions you’ll have to make when you have all that extra cash flow each month :-)

    • FruGal

      Hey Aurora–

      Great comments and thoughts! I replied to Crystal’s, but you and I think alike:).

  • Crystal

    Thanks Aurora,
    Our main goal is to retire early at the same level we are now since we like the way we live and we don’t like having to work.

    No matter what, we will be completely debt free in 8 years or less…maybe we will use half for paying down debt and half for retirement. Thanks again for your suggestions!

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