Congratulations, Ōdult! You can pat yourself on the back for opening a bank account. It’s a big step.
Just like getting a puppy, a bank account is a lot of responsibility. You need to tend to it, feed it, and check on it regularly. Luckily, you won’t have to potty-train it.
To start the relationship between you and your bank account off right, it’s crucial to establish good banking habits. These are habits that will help you, and your bank account, stay happy and healthy.
Direct Deposit Your Paycheck
Remember, we said you need to feed your bank account? Well, your paycheck is the best way to do this. Most employers make it easy these days to set up a direct deposit. You may have to reach out to your HR department for a form, or they may have a place on a website where you can enter your bank account information. Either way, getting your paycheck to go directly into your paycheck is usually pretty low maintenance. As an added bonus, you usually get paid a little bit earlier this way since you don’t have to wait on snail mail or deposits to a cash card.
Check Your Balance
One great habit of having is checking your balance daily or at least before you go to spend money. This will help you avoid possible overdrafts, keep track of when your paycheck hits the account, and any potential fraudulent activity. This, of course, can be done through your bank account’s mobile app, but there are a few easier ways.
Many banks allow you to text them something like “BAL” or “balance,” and you will receive a message back instantly with your account balance. If you don’t feel like waiting on a text, you can also set up a widget on your phone. Most banks offer a quick balance widget option where you can view the balance of your bank account, anytime, from your smartphone home screen. This is an excellent option if you want to keep an eye on the account every day.
Get Your Account A Buddy
You know how you can’t just have one potato chip or one scoop of ice cream? Life is better in pairs! Opening a savings account to keep your checking account in good company is a great way to start saving up for a rainy day.
The reason that you will want to open a totally separate account is so you can’t accidentally dip into the savings account if your checking gets low. The savings account will be there with your back up money for when you absolutely need it, but not until then.
These days, too, they make it easy for you to start saving money a little at a time. You can either transfer money from your checking account into your savings account or set up a direct deposit option with your bank or employer. This means that you set up an exact amount you want to go into your savings each month, and it does it automatically.
Finally, some banks and apps allow you to round up your purchases to the next dollar and drop that change into your savings account, kind of like a virtual piggy bank. So for that $4.34 lunch stop, you would round up to $5.00 putting $0.66 in the bank. This isn’t much by itself, but if you think about all the gas fill-ups, grocery store stops, or bill payments that you do in a month, you will be putting a few bucks into your savings account without even having to think about it!
Use the App
Pretty much every bank out there now has an app, and some of them are pretty amazing. You can, of course, check your balance or make payments, but some apps have even more features that make it so you never have to wait in line at the bank again!
Check Cashing: Simply snap a picture of the check, and after a day or two, it will be deposited in your bank account.
Fraud Alerts: If someone gets ahold of your card, you can be notified immediately. You can also shut your card down from the app so nothing further can be charged to your card.
ATM Locator: You can stop paying ATM fees when your bank’s app tells you where the closest free one is.
Budgeting: Some apps will help you maintain your budget right from the app. You can set up spending categories and tell the app what your goal spending amount is for each one.
Credit Score: Certain apps will show you your credit score. This is great if you are trying to improve your score and need a little motivation as you watch that triple-digit grow.
Subscription Management: Some bank apps will even help you eliminate unnecessary spending by offering to cancel subscriptions. Are you tired of Hulu or Spotify? Just drop it right from your bank app!
Say No to Overdrafting Your Bank Account
Before you do anything, turn off overdraft protection! While being allowed to overdraft sounds like a sweet deal, it’s actually just a small loan from the bank where you have to pay a fee every time you use it, no matter how much you “borrow” when you overdraft.
For example: If you overdraft by $25.00 buying groceries, you would have to pay that $25.00 back plus an overdraft fee of $35.00. Oh, and then you went through the drive-thru right after for $5.00; unfortunately, you owe another $35.00 fee for that overdraft too.
As you can see, overdraft protection can be a slippery slope. Unless you have a special circumstance, it’s just best to set your account so you can only use the money you have.
Try Out Autopay
This option may not be a good idea if your account is always in a state between binge eating cake and snacking on stale crackers. If your bank account doesn’t consistently have much money in it, skip to the next step. If your account basically always has enough money in it, setting up autopay through your bank account will make your life easier.
The first, and most obvious, advantage is that you don’t have to remember to pay a bill — your bills pay themselves. That means no more late fees or surprise disconnects if you forget. Secondly, autopay can help improve your credit score. Since you are automatically paying bills on time, each month, your credit score will slowly grow. Lastly, it can save you some money. If you are taking time to drive to a payment center or paying for stamps to mail a check or even a processing fee to use your credit card to pay a bill, you are still spending something to pay that same bill. Autopay eliminates all of that.
You may want to start using autopay on something small — start using autopay on a smaller bill like your phone or Netflix. Once your account has a consistently stable balance in it, you can set up automatic payments for more significant bills, like electricity or water.
Set Up A Budget
Having a bank account is only great if you have money in it. So setting up a budget is one of the best things you can do to keep yourself and your bank account happy. A budget is designed to help you see where your money is going and keep money that might otherwise slide away.
You can set up a budget easily by following our other Ōdulting Guide, or you may have opened an account with a bank that offers free budgeting. If that is the case or if you want to get a general idea, you can check out their budgeting option on their app or website.
One big thing to remember when setting up your budget is to create a goal for your money. You want to live comfortably, but for the extra money you find or keep, you need to know what that money will be for so it doesn’t just go towards slushies and tacos on a whim. You could be saving your money, so you have an emergency fund. You may want to save up for a big purchase, like a car. You might want to use the money you save to pay off your debts and get your life right. No matter which you choose, you can’t go wrong since all of these options are great ways to improve your life.
So there you have it, simple and easy habits you can start to keep your bank account in check. Speaking of which, have you checked your balance today? Go do that and then check back for some more great Ōdulting guides below!