Small changes to optimize life - Part 1: Finance & bills

As a developer, I like to simplify, optimize, and automate. In software development, these actions are essential. The benefits of automation and simplification can also be applied in regular life. During the last few years, I made changes in my everyday-life to optimize and simplify. Some of them might be only relevant for Switzerland but the ideas behind them, can be applied everywhere.

This blog series is a curation of these changes. Some might also call them lifehacks:

Enter all tax bills at the beginning of the year

At the beginning of the year, once the tax bills arrive, I add them all at once into the eBanking software. Each of them gets their separate execution date. This way it only requires my attention once per year and from then on out it's automated. One less reason to access your e-banking software.

Advantages

  • do it once then forget about it (until next year)
  • total time spent is reduced

Disadvantages

  • you might need to edit your payments, once your finalized bill comes in

Setup automatic payments with eBill

Viac Performance

Most Swiss e-banking providers use eBill which has an automatic bill approval feature called Standing approvals. With this feature, you can auto-approve all your reoccurring payments based on if they match certain criteria. One method to do it is to select the fixed amount of your reoccurring payment and save it. This works great for repetitive payments such as cellphone bills, insurance, healthcare which usually stay the same unless something out of the ordinary happens.

Advantages

  • most of my bills are now paid automatically
  • greatly reduces the need for manual action in e-banking

Disadvantages

  • initial setup effort
  • you need to watch out for bills not matching your ruleset

Get a second debit card for the household account

If you're living with someone, it's really helpful to have multiple cards for your household account. In the beginning, we only had 1 card. This meant whenever I went shopping, I had to keep the receipt and then, transfer money from the shared account back to my account. It's a really small change but I'm happy that I did it almost once a week. Now that both partners have a card, whenever someone goes grocery shopping they can just use the card and don't have to transfer funds from their account anymore.

Advantages

  • no more receipt keeping
  • no more rebalancing
  • better expense tracking

Disadvantages

  • requires a signed form to be sent to the bank
  • might cost depending on your bank

Mitigations

  • it's free with Postfinance

Switch Paypal currency conversion for subscriptions to use foreign currency

Paypal has a notoriously bad conversion rate which is usually about 5% above the market value. You generally get a better rate by using your credit card conversion rate. Even more so, if you're using Neon or Revolut which offer interbank rates.

You can manage your reoccurring payments here. Click on the edit icon on Payment Method, then on See Conversion options, then switch it to Convert with NAMEOFYOURCREDITCARD. You will have to repeat this process for every subscription.

Paypal Currency Conversion

It's also a good idea to switch the payment to the local currency whenever ordering something with Paypal. Sadly I haven't found a way to set this as default.

Advantages

  • better conversion rates

Disadvantages

  • has to be done for every subscription
  • has to be done at every manual purchase

Switching my personal pension to Viac

Disclaimer: This is no investment advice.

Last year I switched my personal pension (pillar 3a) from Postfinance to Viac. Besides their intuitive interface, the main advantage is how easy you can open new bank accounts to have multiple pillars. This is recommended for tax optimizations and also allows you to have different investment strategies for different pillars. Additionally, they offer a wizard to help you find investment options matching your investment goals and risk tolerance. You don't have to invest into the stock market, they also offer regular pension accounts.

Switching from Postfinance to Viac was relatively easy. After signing up, I had to fill out a pdf, print it, sign it and send it to Postfinance. 2 weeks later the funds were transferred.

The management fee is also lower compared to Postfinance. Cash.ch has a good comparison here. There is also a slightly cheaper alternative called Frankly but they offer less flexibility.

Sidenote: I have some referral codes (4CRp5Mx, iCROXdm, yCvSl7s). By using one of the codes, we both won't have to pay the management on 500.- of our portfolio. If the codes are expired, hit me up on twitter.

Advantages

  • intuitive online tool
  • create multiple pillars to optimize taxes and have bigger investment flexibility
  • better returns & lower cost than classical third pillars
  • broad spectrum of investment options

Disadvantages

  • higher risk if you invest into the stock market
  • effort required to transfer your existing third pilar

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