55 Ways to Simplify Your Finances

One of my over-arching goals in life and a founding principle of this blog is to find the simplicity in things.

Today’s inter-connected and Internet-ized world bombards us with information, and that can be overwhelming to the point where we stop thinking, and just process all day long.

Finding ways to prune the incoming information load, and to have moments of reflection in your life is critical to long-term success.

For today’s post, I’ve prepared a list of 55 things you can do to make your financial life a little simpler. Some are complicated projects, and some take only a few minutes to complete. But all will guide you in the direction of a straightforward and functional financial system.

  1. Reduce the number of accounts you own to one of each type.
  2. Cut the number of budget categories you track to less than 15.
  3. Sign up for automatic monthly billing for your regular bills.
  4. Enable automatic transfers to savings and retirement accounts once a month.
  5. Carry only one debit and one credit card in your wallet.
  6. Try cash for a few months to reduce the time you spend reading over bank statements.
  7. Find all-in-one investment products that match your desired allocation.
  8. Take advantage of direct deposit if it’s available at your workplace.
  9. Avoid making the major financial mistakes to save yourself the headache.
  10. Get a receipt organizer, but only keep the ones you’re likely to need for taxes or returns.
  11. Stop eating out all the time and learn to cook at home for savings and taste.
  12. Do the 20% of work that will get you the 80% of results first. Then, worry about the rest.
  13. Subscribe to the do-not-mail and do-not-call lists to reduce temptation.
  14. Enable online billing and statements to reduce mail.
  15. Buy a used car with cash to avoid taking out another loan.
  16. Designate a place to collect all tax-related information throughout the year.
  17. Consider a single insurance company to consolidate billing and get discounts.
  18. Get rid of a family car and learn to carpool.
  19. Move money in even chunks to simplify accounting.
  20. Figure out what you really need and get rid of the rest.
  21. Use budget billing to level out your monthly utility payments.
  22. Stop buying new things that you’ll have to sell a year later.
  23. Slow down. If you need to be in a hurry, try these tips to manage your money.
  24. Before you file something, determine if there’s a legal requirement or need to retrieve it in the future.
  25. Learn the retention periods legally required for certain financial documents.
  26. Go vegetarian to cut out meat costs from your budget.
  27. Rollover your 401(k) accounts into a single IRA account.
  28. Use a wish list to consolidate all your ‘wants’ in a single place.
  29. Keep all important documents in one place – preferably a safe-deposit box.
  30. If it makes sense financially, bundle certain services like cable, internet, and phone.
  31. If you can, consolidate due dates of bills to the same day of the month.
  32. Use graphics to make your money easier to understand.
  33. Use an adult allowance to stop tracking fun and personal spending.
  34. Use the standard tax deduction. Unless you expect to itemize, there’s no reason to track expenses all year.
  35. Buy a good shredder and use it often.
  36. Use your bank’s online bill pay to avoid writing checks.
  37. Create a financial calendar to keep track of important dates.
  38. Consolidate debt or loans into as few accounts as possible.
  39. Use a paid or free personal finance software to track your financial life.
  40. Spend a day at home and clean out your financial files.
  41. Get rid of accounts that charge you fees to keep them open.
  42. Stay prepared for unexpected expenses and let them ‘roll off’ when they come through. Don’t stress.
  43. Think “KISS” – Keep It Simple Stupid, when it comes to your money.
  44. Think about the time cost of any new bill, purchase, account, or other money move.
  45. Figure out what you really want out of life and set your financial priorities.
  46. If you’re a long term investor, stop checking the market and your investment balances.
  47. Buy non-perishables in bulk at your wholesale club.
  48. Set up a standing appointment once a week to check in with your money.
  49. Develop a financial buffer so you can stop checking balances between these appointments.
  50. Check in with everyone else in your family using monthly reports.
  51. Eliminate unnecessary expenses and subscriptions that clutter up your bank statement and suck out cash.
  52. Use an envelope system for your budget to give each dollar a job.
  53. Meditate about your finances – you’ll get plenty of ideas.
  54. Use the 60% solution for your budget.
  55. Read personal finance blogs – it’s good for you and you might learn something.

(Photo credit)

23 thoughts on “55 Ways to Simplify Your Finances

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  2. Number 12 is killer – that could encapsulate them all, maybe…. but it’s so hard to achieve. Having sharp focus on the 20% most important will also distort your perspective after a while so it’s important to find ways to step back and reassess/rebalance priorities, make sure you’re still on right track. But #12 really depends on #45, too.

    1. I struggle with this one a lot. I always have so many things on the to-do list, and it seems like all of them need to be done.

      In reality, just doing those most difficult and most important makes me feel accomplished and satisfied.

      At the same time, it’s important to spend time and “clean up” the 80% you never get to…

  3. Cut out credit cards completely. For emergencies, have a baby emergency fund in your checking account that you don’t otherwise touch, then a real one (i.e. a much larger one) in savings.

    I don’t say this just because I’m anti-debt. Credit cards do not make life simpler. Even if you pay everything on time, even if you have a great credit score, even if you do everything “right”, they will find a way to screw with you. Trust me, I know from experience. And you’re much more likely to spend money you don’t have with a credit card than a debit card. But everyone thinks they’re different, I know, I know.

    I do have two debit cards, though. One is the household checking account that I share with my husband. The other is a “personal” checking account with fun money automatically deposited into it with every paycheck (he has the same). It does make budgeting a lot easier — and is a secret to marital bliss if you’re sharing your finances with someone else.

    In fact, we really don’t budget per se. We each get our fun money, and we know all our regular bills — which are few nowadays, thankfully, and automatically paid from the joint account. That just leaves buying food, which we don’t put a specific amount towards, but which doesn’t vary much, and then anything else that crops up just comes from what’s left. And then what’s left goes towards savings or the rest of our debt we’re paying off (beyond what we automatically pay at the beginning of each month).

    1. Thanks Meg! Ironically, I have a two-part series promoting responsible credit card use coming up tomorrow, but I’ll put it out there and see what people think.

      1. I look forward to reading it! But as you probably figured, I think the most responsible thing is to stay far, far away from credit cards. The statistics are just scary. But again, everyone thinks they’re different! I know I did — as did my husband. And why shouldn’t we have? We know we’re smart and “responsible”. I graduated top of my university. He’s a math whiz. But now we’re paying the price for our own stupidity and lack of responsibility.

        And the thing is, if you actually ARE responsible with money, then you don’t need a credit card! (Nor do you need those cheesy rewards points that most people don’t even use except as an excuse to spend more on the credit card.) But if you aren’t responsible with money, then you definitely need to stay as far away from credit cards as possible!

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  5. Kudos to number 55. I am trying! I would love to see an article on how your readers have put your advice to use. You have given alot of great tips and I’m curious as to what has been put into play. After all isn’t that the whole point of sound financial advise? Keep up the great work!

    1. Hopefully, some of the comments that folks share will help show how people put these tips to use. Certainly down the road, I’d love to hear about everyone’s experiences in more detail.

  6. I like #49, develop a financial buffer. I know that having stagnant money doesn’t make you money but having a buffer in your account means you don’t have to check it every day and stress about whether or not something will clear. I like my buffer b/c it saves me time, and time is money.

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  11. Am I the only one that finds humor in simplifying by providing FIFTY-FIVE different ways to do so? Hehe. All kidding aside, it is a fantastic list, and a great resource to continually refer back to. I like the advice of reducing your accounts down to one of each type.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Heh–that’s pretty funny, Jason. I guess I could pick a “top five” from the list above, but I think they’re all pretty useful in one way or another. #1 (reducing accounts) would definitely be in my top 5!

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