How to Put Your Financial Resolutions on Auto Pilot

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Let’s face it: If we were well organized we wouldn’t need New Year’s resolutions. We’d need only little changes as conditions evolved, and we’d make them as soon as needed, throughout the year. We’d never need to say, “I’ll lose 40 pounds and triple my savings rate.”

Of course, many of us do need massive overhauls, but those are just too hard to do. So what are some fiscal resolutions that have a good chance of actually being followed — things that don’t take enormous feats of will power or sacrifice?

Let’s start with basic organization — the kind you can do by picking up a few file folders. Put them in a box or file cabinet and keep all those little slips of paper organized as they come in: tax documents in one file, annual statements in another, bills in a third, product warranties in a fourth and so on. Tax time still won’t be fun, but perhaps a bit less of a headache, and you’ll get your money back when the new blender explodes.

It’s also worth spending a few bucks on financial software such as Quicken, or going the free route with an online service such as Mint.com. With these, you can funnel to one place the data from all your financial accounts and have an organized way to pay bills online. Over time, you may use other features, too, including Quicken’s retirement-planning tool.

Online bill paying, through Quicken or your bank, is a terrific tool if you travel. To get the most out of it, also have your bills delivered online so you can get them when you’re away. You won’t have to worry that your credit card bill is sitting unattended at the neighbor’s while you vacation.

Many of your “payees” will also offer alerts by email and phone text to let you know if your bill is due, your checking account is running low or your credit card is near the limit. These free services wipe out a lot of life’s confusion and uncertainty.