How to Automate Your Personal Finances

Kyle Scheer
6 min readMar 27, 2022


The System: Quick and Dirty

Use a simple spreadsheet each month to tell you where you should put your money. Each account you have (checking, emergency savings, debt accounts, retirement, etc…) is a bucket, and each bucket flows into the next bucket. Determine the order of the buckets, and for each bucket, determine your goal amount (Ex: $2,000 emergency savings, $0 credit card debt). Each month update your account balances, and move the money as specified. Adjust your buckets occasionally as needed.

What the spreadsheet looks like.

Here is the spreadsheet

You can find more details on the formulas used in the spreadsheet by clicking the link above.

The System: Explained

The guide to solving the question, “Where should my money go”?

This system is for people who want to think about money less. With a little bit of up-front work, you can save a lot of time and stress.

Step 0) Prep Work

  1. Have monthly income that exceeds monthly living expenses
  2. Know your typical monthly expenses

Additional automation tips to prepare:

  1. Automate bill and credit card payments
  2. Automate “mandatory” general or retirement savings (depending on your situation and desire)

How It Works

Think of where you put your money as buckets. Your checking account is a bucket. Your savings account is a bucket. Your retirement account is a bucket, your credit card is a bucket.

You fill (or drain, in the case of debts) a bucket to a desired level, and then you fill (or drain) the next bucket with what you have left. The money flows from one account to another.

From the excess of one, the next is filled

The spreadsheet will tell you if a bucket is “overflowing”, and where to put the excess money you have.

Example bucket system. You’ll create your own based on your financial picture and preferences.

Step 1) Create and Order Your Buckets

The first step to using this system is to create your buckets.

Each bucket should have:

  1. A name
  2. A current amount (AKA account balance. Debt balances should be negative)
  3. A desired amount ($0 for debt)

A list of potential buckets (with recommended balances):

It is important you have the equivalent of at least 2 months of typical expenses to provide a cash buffer for automatic bill/credit card payments, and for any fluctuations in monthly expenses.

Categorize these debts into low interest (0–4%), moderate interest (4–10%), or high interest (10%+) debts. Try to pay off high-interest, then moderate, then low.

Examples include wedding expenses, college, a car (if you really need one), etc…

Order Your Buckets

These buckets should be ordered in a way that makes the most financial sense. I highly recommend using the r/personalfinance subreddit’s “Prime Directive”, which outlines recommended financial priorities.

A guide to where your money should go. View source here —

To be clear, each of the above boxes ARE NOT a bucket. A bucket represents a place to put money (or debt) only, not an individual budget line item.

I’ve included some more detailed notes on this flowchart and the buckets that would be created from it in the Extra: Bucket Recommendations section below.

Step 2) Download and Customize the Spreadsheet

Download the spreadsheet here.

  1. Put the Bucket Name in column B.
  2. Put the Current Amount in column C. The current amount for debts should be negative.
  3. Put the Desired Amount in column D. The desired amount for debts would be $0.

Step 3) Update Monthly and Move Your Money

  1. Each month, put in a new current amount for each bucket. This process is made easier if you consolidate your financial information using a service like
  2. Look at the “Money Moves” column and transfer the money as specified.

Step 4) Periodically Reassess Your Buckets

Occasionally reassess your buckets to make sure they still align with your financial goals and personal situation.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you find this tool useful!

Extra: Bucket Recommendations

I relied heavily on this flowchart from the subreddit r/personalfinance to create my buckets. Here is my recommendation for your buckets, but you can do what you want.

Not everyone will have or need all of these buckets. Assess which are right for you.

Bucket 0: Contribute up to your employers match automatically for any employer-sponsored retirement accounts (like a 401k)

Bucket 1: Checking account. Desired amount: twice your monthly expenses

  • Twice your monthly expenses gives you a nice cushion for any unusual spending patterns, so you feel secure in automatically deducting your expenses

Bucket 2: Emergency savings account. Desired amount: 1 month of expenses (to start)

Buckets 3, 4, 5…: High interest debts. Desired amount: $0

  • Any debt over 10% interest rate, with the 3rd bucket being the highest interest (AKA the avalanche method), the 4th being the next highest, etc…

In the spreadsheet. The desired amount for “debt” buckets will always be $0, and the current amount will be shown with a negative sign. Ex: $1234 in credit card debt will be depicted as -$1234.

Debts are depicted as negatives and the desired amount is zero.

Bucket 2.5: Emergency savings account. Desired amount: 3 - 6 months of expenses

  • Go back to your emergency savings account and increase your desired amount to 3 - 6 months of expenses

The next bucket is listed as Bucket 4, but it would just be 1 more than whatever is next after high interest debt.

Buckets 4 ,5,6… : Moderate interest debts. Desired amount: $0

  • Any remaining debts with over 4% interest rate, with the higher interest first (just like with high interest debts)

Bucket 5: Roth or Traditional IRA. Desired amount: maximum limit

  • Contribute up to the maximum yearly limit for a Roth or Traditional IRA. Resets to $0 for the next year
  • I like the Vanguard Target Retirement Funds as an investment for how straightforward they are

Bucket 6: Required, large upcoming purchases. Desired amount: cost of purchases

  • College, professional certifications, a car so you can get to work, etc…
  • Set aside in a separate savings account

Bucket 7: Company retirement plan (usually a 401k). Desired amount: 15% pre-tax income

Bucket 8: Health Savings Account (if eligible). Desired amount: maximum contributions allowed

  • Desired amount is the amount contributed in that year, as it resets each year

Bucket 9: 529 Education Plan. Desired amount: up to maximum tax credit

  • Desired amount is the amount contributed in that year, as it resets each year

Bucket 10, 11, 12…: Low interest debts. Desired amount: $0

  • Any remaining debts with the higher interest first (just like with high and moderate interest debts)

Bucket 11: Other savings goals. Desired amount: customized to goal

  • Vacation fund, saving for vehicle, down payment, etc…
  • Recommend putting this in a second savings account than your emergency savings to avoid confusion

Bucket 7.5: Company retirement plan. Desired amount: maximum contributions allowed

Bucket 12: Taxed Investments. Desired amount: to infinity and beyond



Kyle Scheer

I like writing about things that interest me. I’m hoping some of it may be interesting to you as well. Keep up with me and my projects at