A few ways to simplify our life

By Baptiste Wicht | Updated: | Financial Independence

(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links)

Recently, I realized that too much optimization of our finances was creating complexity that I did not want anymore. Optimization of finances is about balance.

Until recently, we were optimizing for the best price. Now, we are trying to make our finances simpler in a few ways. In this article, I will discuss what we are planning to do.

Optimization is all about balance

Sometimes, it is essential to realize that optimization for the best price often has a downside. Basic optimization is generally good. But when you overoptimize for prices, you give up something else.

For instance, if you have three different payment cards, you introduce complexity to each of your payments. You have to think about which card you want to use for each expense. And you have to carry them with you in your wallet.

Of course, it is not the end of the world. But you have to ask yourself whether it is worth it. Sometimes, it is, and sometimes it is not. There is no right or wrong answer.

Another example is when comparing prices. If you are buying something online, you could compare every website to find the best price. It would yield the best price, but at the cost of your time. Or you could use a good website that you know has good prices and use that one. That does not mean you should be dumb about your expenses. But you should consider that the cheapest is not always worth finding.

The last example would be when shopping for plane tickets. You could spend a lot of time finding the absolute cheapest tickets. And you could even take tickets that take you to different places first to find the best itinerary instead of a direct flight. However, you would spend time twice to buy the tickets and once in transfer between airports.

It could be entirely worth it if that allows you to do what you want. But you may want to keep more comfort and save time.

These days, I am finding more and more that I prefer time over money. I do not compare services that much anymore. For instance, when I shop online, I use Galaxus by default. They do not always have the best prices, but they have good average prices. And they have everything, so I save time.

Simplifying our credit cards

So far, I have used what I consider to be the optimal credit card strategy:

  • Swisscard Amex for maximum cashback on domestic purchases
  • Cumulus Mastercard when the Amex is not accepted
  • Neon for paying in foreign currencies

I still believe this is a great credit card strategy. However, it means I always have three cards in my wallet. And it especially means that even in Switzerland, I have to think about which card I should use.

I want to make that simpler. For that, I am going to stop using the Swisscard American Express. If the Amex was accepted everywhere, I would only use this card, but I do not want to carry two credit cards.

I have accumulated about 50 CHF of cashback with this card in the last year. Moving these expenses to the Cumulus will mean losing about 33 CHF. This difference is not significant enough to warrant having two cards for me.

I was even thinking about stopping using the Cumulus as well. However, I would only have a debit card, and many things still require credit cards. So, I will use only the Cumulus and the Neon card.

It does not mean I do not recommend the Amex anymore. If you want to be optimal and if you can use it enough, it is still the best credit card available in Switzerland. But when we put the pros and cons in the balance, it was not worth it anymore.

Centralizing our insurance policies

Optimally, you want to find the cheapest insurance provider that meets your needs. However, we have so many different insurance policies:

  • Base health insurance
  • Complementary health insurance
  • Legal protection insurance
  • Building insurance
  • Household and Personal Liability
  • Car insurance

Currently, we use different providers: Assura and Helsana for health, Generali for legal protection, and Helvetia for other insurance.

If we have a claim, we need to deal with too many different companies. I currently do not want to deal with that. So, I am planning to consolidate with fewer providers.

This year, I have canceled all our complementary health insurance policies from Helsana and will move them to Assura. It may not be the cheapest, but I wanted to have a single provider and am satisfied with Assura as the base insurance. As a bonus, we will save money compared to Helsana.

I will also move my legal protection insurance to Helvetia in the future. Currently, I cannot cancel it but should be able to in 2024. Again, it may not be the cheapest, but I prefer having one less provider rather than having the cheapest.

So, we are balancing the ease of dealing with insurance providers with the price per month. We could save a little more money by keeping things separate. But we decided it was not worth it.

Reducing our online accounts

When I started my financial journey, I tested many things. For instance, I still have several P2P accounts, such as Mintos. And I also have some crowd-investing accounts like Crowdestor.

Since I do not plan to invest in these services anymore, I will start closing these accounts. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as it sounds since this means liquidating some of the loans I still have. And it also means that I have to wait until some of the loans and projects are unblocked.

It will likely take me over a year to close all these accounts. Once this is done, I will also be able to close my Revolut. I am keeping it since I will use it to receive money from my P2P accounts.

Another account I plan to get rid of is my Zak account. I have opened it when writing my Zak review and have not used it since.

Keeping all these accounts means I have to keep track of them in my net worth, and I also have to keep them secure and change passwords from time to time. So, I should try to close them.

Other ways

I have outlined so far how we chose to simplify our financial life. But there are other ways for you if you want to.

One thing I would recommend to everybody is going paperless. Once you are paperless, it is so much simpler to find documents! And it is also a great way to reduce the clutter at home.

You could also reduce the number of expenses you have by cutting down some monthly subscriptions. Doing that will save you money and make paying bills easier.

Some people would also recommend automating your finances to make it simpler. It may make sense, but it is not always a great idea. The problem is that when expenses are automated, people start to forget about them. And when you forget about expenses, you do not think about optimizing expenses. It is why I recommend not automating your personal finances. But many people will disagree, so you have to choose what works best for you in the end!

Conclusion

These last few months, I have been thinking about how we could simplify our financial life. In some cases, we can optimize for both price and simplicity, but usually, when you optimize for the best price, you give up something, which often complicates your life.

For instance, having three payment cards in my wallet may be optimal for my finances but forces me to think about which to use for each payment, which is not what I want anymore.

It is all a matter of balance. In some cases, the best price or returns is the way to go, but not always. Sometimes, optimizing for time or simplicity makes more sense.

What do you think? How do you plan to optimize your life?

Baptiste Wicht is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

24 thoughts on “A few ways to simplify our life”

  1. When I’ve started my FIRE journey and reading all these blogs, I was excited to adapt all these strategies, but then i’ve immediately adapted to my needs and time indeed, and that should indeed be pointed out more often. Time&Quality are more important, more then a 10% discount.

    I’m 99% of the time wallet-less and just use my neon card with gpay, so i said goodbye to the cumulus. As you, I don’t automatise my finances, I rather see and know what I pay every month, so having to worry to pay the cumulus every month and having and additional account to check for my monthly expenses was just additional burden. And all this was to get 2 chf per month the most…

    And I swore to never be like a friend of mine, who would stress and be obsessed for montsh before buying a new phone, or a camera that he wanted, giving up of months of possible enjoyment of the product just to save 30 chf out of 800 for example

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for sharing!

      Yes, this should indeed be pointed out more often and I should have talked about it earlier too.

      I would rather be phone-less than wallet-less :P

      Delaying too much just for the sake of bargains it not something I do either. When I want something, I think a while about it and then I buy but I don’t wait for the next sale to get it cheaper.

  2. An amazing read which I is also something I thing of a lot. I too have come to the realisation that “time is money”. Cheap is not always the best if I waste more time achieving it. Your tips are really on point. Something that I also do is I make it a point to sit with my finances once a month and see what I can simplify.

    1. Hi Rasta,

      I would not say that time is money, but I would say that time is better than money.
      It’s a great idea to make a point to simplify your finances. I also have an item on my todo list each month to try to simplify them.

  3. Hi Baptiste,

    I agree with you, except for the automation of the finance. If you track your expenses and bill, you will see them and can optimize them.

    Keep up with your blog always like to find a new entry when visiting you.

    Cheers, S

    1. Hi S,

      I am not sure I understand your comment, I am not for automation either :) I am not automating anything in my finances. Is that what you disagree with?

  4. I’ve been using your credit card strategy for the last year or so and have recommended it to others also. My wife eventually has figured out which card to use most of the time too and it’s good. I forgot to pay the Amex once or twice which incurred some fees, but I still ended the year with about 300CHF cashback which I think was worth it.

    I like having more payment options and accounts as it gives me flexibility in situations where I may not be able to pay for something, or where I could save money paying for something with a particular card. I also like having Revolut and Wise and even some other P2P and financial accounts as it just provides me with multiple options for transfers/conversions etc.

    I can 100% understand the desire to simplify though. As you say, you have to weigh up the pros and cons of your situation.

    The only time I close financial accounts is when they cost me money to keep open – that’s a no-no :)

    Thanks for sharing with us as usual Baptiste!

    1. Hi Daniel,

      I completely agree with you that this strategy can entirely be worth it. I would still recommend it to people willing to optimize their cashback.
      Options are great in most cases indeed :) After a while, I realized I don’t use any of my options :)

      Thanks for sharing your experience! And well done with so much cashback :)

  5. Hi Baptiste,

    I figure out that the approach you are presenting makes sense.

    I have followed quite some of the recommendations in your website and I have two comments over your decisions.

    For the credit card, you cut on the swisscard. I understand you want to reduce in the number of cards but is it not keeping the swisscard duo cards more beneficial due to the amex cashback 3x more cashback vs the cumulus? I assume then it is all dependent on how much you use with the credit cards.

    Second comment is about the Revolut. I use the revolut to charge it with swissfrancs from my credit cards when having large expenses that are in currencies other than CHF (holidays for example). Since you are considering closing the account, do you have another strategy to cover this? Or you just use the Neon?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi David,

      My rationale with only the Cumulus is about the simplicity of choice. I won’t have to think about which card to use anymore. If I keep the Visa and the Amex, I will indeed have one bill, but still two cards to choose from and two cards in my wallet.

      I am entirely replacing Revolut with Neon. I don’t transfer money abroad much, so I don’t mind paying the fee with Neon. And using it abroad is always as good as Revout.

  6. Great article as always!

    When it comes to insurance, one additional factor to keep in mind is making sure they actually help you out when needed without too many questions or challenges. I keep all insurances ex healthcare with Axa. Competitive pricing, but more importantly no excuses when you have a claim and great service. Had to use them for several instances and always very quickly to help (legal insurance) or no questions asked on reimbursement (basement break in; car damages; iPhone screen breakage).

    Christophe

    1. Hi Christophe,

      That’s an excellent point. I have had a great experience so far with Helvetia but only needed to use the insurance once. I have never used any of my other insurances (save health insurance).
      However, it’s difficult to know in advance.

  7. Hi Baptiste,
    It’s also what I figure out after my first year of tracking expenses. The more account and cards you have, the more it’s long and complicated to track.
    We have a slightly different setup based on a shared account, I have explained this in an article as well.

    In our case I’m more looking to stop the Cumulus Cembra card, as it’s not supporting eBill, and it’s under my wife name, she forgot twice to give me the bill to pay as you have only 2 weeks to pay (you might be on holiday or just too busy and forgot about it) and the late fee + interest are so crazy high that we lost already everything we saved in Cumulus points.
    We also have the case that due to too complicated setup, the wrong card was used (Amex used abroad or to book an hotel in foreign currency). This cost some money as well.

    I don’t automated the payment of variable eBill, only the one I know in advance more or less the amount (insurance, telecom, electricity, school/daycare,…) but at least it’s all in the same ebanking and I get notified in many way with reminder so it’s hard to forget.

    On the other side, the Cashback as eBill, a good mobile app to check where you are (missing from Cembra) and we are spending quite a lot with the Amex, we are about half way to year and already close to 150frs waiting to get back (cashback is paid once per year only).
    On top of that the Amex Cashback come with a MasterCard (or Visa) so you can still use it to pay when Amex is not accepted (still quite rare for our habits) and it all comes on the same bill, easier to pay and to track. Difference between Cashback Mastercard (0.25%) and Cumulus (0.33%) is really marginal.

    You can have only your Amex and Neon with you and the Cashback MasterCard (and possibly Revolut) as virtual card on your phone. It doesn’t work everywhere and you cannot withdraw cash this way but if you use it only 2-3 times per months it might be ok.

    Regarding insurances we moved from 2 to 5 this year. It’s quite some extra work, especially in the beginning but in our case the money saved (more than 900frs per year in total + 100frs bonus once) is worth it.

    In a different way, I had a discussion with friends also with kids, that were ordering most of their groceries online. I was arguing that it costs to much but then we calculate the cost of the car (amortization, gas, parking,…), the possible small snack/coffee you get at the supermarket and the small chocolate or toys the the kids beg to have, as well as all impulse buy you might made that you would have not by ordering only what you really need, makes your online shopping not so much more expensive. And you save quite some time, which is very valuable for families.

    So in general I agree, when you have a family you have less and less time for you, so taking most of this time to manage finance, insurance and grocery shopping is not welcome. I always try to optimize time vs money spend/saved but we don’t always agree with Mrs on some of these points, we might end up with compromises.

    1. Hi Eluc,

      Thanks for sharing!

      For me tracking is not an issue, it’s more the mental exercise of having to choose for every expense :)

      Yes, it’s easy to miss a bill with Cembra, especially since we only get a dumb email without the actual bill… And using the wrong card can be more costly than having an optimized setup.

      I didn’t even know the cashback card had ebill :P And I hate that they have a mobile app only. We really have a different view :)

      You make an excellent point about online shopping and kids. We don’t have this “problem” yet, but I am expecting it will come soon enough and this could increase our bill. But if you shop at Lidl like us, doing online shopping at Migros is really a huge difference that I am no (yet) willing to compromise on.

  8. Great tips! I am also using a very similar strategy on all topics you mentioned (shopping, insurance, Cards). I am tempted to get rid of my PostFinance account and stay only with Neon, but have not yet done that, mainly because it would mean some work involved (changing my main account everywhere, setting up all payments, Ebill, etc.). One thing to add about online shopping, is that although Galaxus is generally my 1st option too, lately Microspot has catch up and have almost or even everything Galaxus has with slightly better prices (in most cases) and the same delivery times (or even same day if you live in certain cities). Another tip is also to use Toppreise.ch which not only shows you the cheapest but also the price development over the last months. For flights I tend to go with direct flights 99% of the time, even if that means paying a bit more, but it saves me a lot of time and work (especially if you are traveling with kids) and reduces the risk of losing the luggage or even the connecting flight. For that, Google Flight and its nice comparison and track pricing features help a lot.

    1. Hi,

      Yes, changing bank account is a hassle!
      It’s true that Microspot sometimes has great prices. But I have been happy with support with Digitec, so I keep with them, it’s just simpler. Even if not optimal from a price point. At the beginning, I was always checking on comparators, but then every order was with a different company and I started having accounts everywhere. I’d rather pay more and have a single account.

      Direct flights are really nice luxury. I have never traveled with kids so far, but I already know we are only going to take direct flights when possible with our son.
      I have never tried Google Flights, I should use that next time!

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