money health weekly


Why It's Good to Automate


"Sometimes hard stuff needs to be done in order to make the stuff you love possible."

-Leo Babauta


I'm sitting down at the kitchen table with my stacks of bills, my checkbook, and a book of stamps. I'm in college and money is tight. I sit down to pay my bills once every couple of weeks, but I use a complicated system to decide when to put the envelope in the mail. It was based on 1) how much money I had in my account, 2) when the due date was, 3) the due date of the bill, and 4) how long I thought it would take for the check to clear. It takes a long time, and it's stressful to look at my finances all the time.

Fast forward to today, I don't pay bills anymore - not really anyway. I have nearly all of our bills automated. This allows us to use the time that we used to spend paying bills and use it to live our lives. I still check in every month to make sure there are no surprises, but automating bill-paying has increased our lifestyles.

Making Decisions

To understand why automating financial decisions is beneficial, it's helpful to first discuss how our minds make decisions. Think of your mind as being divided. You can think of this as being the conscious part of your mind and the subconscious part of your mind. Another way to think about it is to think about your brain as having an animal component. This is the part of the brain that acts automatically and has a strong interest in survival. On top of the animal brain is the rational, thinking brain. This is the part of the brain that we identify with as "us." This is the "you" that feels like it's making your decisions for you.

My favorite analogy comes from psychologist and professor Jonathan Haidt. He describes the more ancient, primitive part of your brain as an elephant and the rational, logical part of your brain as a rider.