Automation has almost become synonymous with convenience, especially when it comes to our money! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people saying that the answer to saving more money is to set up an auto transfer, or that bill-pay is the ultimate safeguard against late payments. But if you think it’s that easy, what you don’t know CAN hurt you.
Automation takes control of your money out of your hands and places it somewhere else. The process of automation does what it’s programmed to do, regardless of your current situation. It doesn’t know if your paycheck was delayed, how much money is in your bank account, or what expenses hit you out of the blue last week.
I’m not saying there is no place for automation, but if you’re relying on it whole-heartedly and paying no attention to where your money is going, it can be extremely destructive.
Here are 5 ways automation can backfire.
One – Overdraft fees
When you set up automatic transfers from checking to savings, that transfer will happen on time, regardless. What if, at the same time, you’re spending your last $50 at the grocery store? You’ve forgotten about the transfer that’s going to take place. Now your account is overdrawn and you get hit with a bigger fee than the amount you were trying to save! Another thing that happens to many people is they end up having to transfer that amount back to checking, when you’re low on funds. This just creates more work, and can make you feel like a failure.
Two – Late payments
If you’re using auto bill-pay through your bank, which means your bank is paying all your bills when you told them to, what happens when the amount of that bill changes? Your bank doesn’t know, they’re only paying what you told them to. And since you’re not checking your accounts regularly, you’re not aware of it either. But two years down the road, you find out you’ve been neglecting to pay an additional $25 a month, and now you owe $600 on top of the higher monthly bill. This can be hard to pay and it can negatively impact your credit.
Three – Overpayment of bills
This happens when the company is directly pulling its money out of your bank each month, but they accidentally double-bill. If you’re not paying attention, you’re out that money! And what if you don’t have enough money in the bank, to cover the double billing, on the day they take their money? Now we’re back to overdraft fees!
Four – Chaos when tracking your money
A lot of people want to link their budgeting apps to their bank account, so they don’t have to enter their transactions manually. But there are so many things that can go wrong. There are glitches where all of your transactions don’t download properly. Sometimes your transactions don’t post to the bank right away, which means they can’t post into your budgeting app right away, which means you don’t have an accurate view of how much you have in each category to spend. And, when the transactions are downloaded into your budgeting app, they’re not always downloaded into the correct category, so you have to reconcile anyway. All of these things can cause chaos and stress, when it comes to tracking your money.
Five – Paying more than you’re saving
There are a ton of automatic savings apps, like Acorns or Stash that take little bits of your money and throw it into a savings account, without you having to think about it. Great, right? But, once again, they’re deciding when to take it out, how much to take out, and you don’t know when this is happening. It could be negatively affecting your bank account. And you’re paying for this service! Is the price you’re paying worth what you’re saving? And if you’re really trying to save, why pay a company for something you can do yourself? Furthermore, if you’re on a budget and tracking your expenses, you have to figure out how to account for these unknown amounts of money flowing out of your checking account into savings. This makes tracking your spending a nightmare!
So how can you use automation to your advantage?
Start by creating your financial picture, which gives you a list of everything you’re paying for in a month. Then create your spending plan, which tells you when, during the month, you need to have money for those expenses. Plot out your spending plans, based on when and how much you’re paid during the month. Then, create your budget, which is the process of following through on the plan you’ve made and always knowing, at a glance, what you have to spend. Then you can use automation to cut out some of the tasks, but never use it to replace paying full attention to what’s happening with your money.