Over the course of this Transaction Cleanse, I’ve talked about the phenomenon of “stealth transactions” a few times.  You know, you’re going about your day, minding your own business, avoiding transactions, maybe even sleeping.  Then bam! It happens. Through the magic of automation, you’ve purchased something without taking a single action.    

The recent near auto-renew of my CBS All Access pass would have qualified as a stealth transaction, had I not been acutely aware that it was going to happen and stopped it just in time. Little did I know, my New York Times crossword puzzle subscription was set to auto-renew right around the same time.  Of course, I was clueless (pun intended) that this was going to happen, having set it up quite some time ago.

The crossword puzzle subscription had about 6x as high a price tag as CBS All Access. Yet I spent way more effort trying to head the latter transaction off at the pass, simply because of where my awareness was at the time. In this case, all’s well that ends well.  In fact, I could no more give up my crosswords than I could give up “The Good Wife.” So ultimately, the right thing happened. And boy was it convenient!

And there’s our big lesson for today: when it comes to personal finance, autopilot works. Whether it works for you or against you depends on what is being automated. If, as discussed in the article Retirement Savings Regrets, I’ve Had a Few, you set up your 401k, IRA, or even a plain old savings account to make ongoing automatic contributions, you might wake up one day and find yourself ready for retirement. On the other hand, when it comes to expenses, “set it and forget it” is the most convenient to spend more than you intend. Beware autopilot!