It’s an old adage: time is money. And even when lost time doesn’t lead to lost income, any time we spend doing things that don’t give us pleasure means less time available for those things that do. So then why do most of us spend up to several hours a day on rote tasks that divert our time and energy from activities that bring us income or amusement? Say farewell to menial jobs and errands by taking advantage of the stunning array of apps, programs, and subscription services that can do them for you. In short, it’s time to automate your life – and regain those lost hours.
Never Pay a Bill Late Again
Paying the bills each month is painful enough in a financial sense – don’t give yourself any more of a headache by constantly wondering if this bill was paid yet or that one was paid late. The first and easiest way to automate your life is to set up automatic bill pay, and there are a number of ways to do it.
For starters, you can check with your bank or credit union and ask about monthly Autopay options. Many financial institutions’ websites now allow their customers to set up automatic transfers to cover utilities, mortgage or rent payments, credit card payments, and student loan payments. Some of the companies you are making payments to also offer options to automate paying them. And if you are feeling a little inspired, you can make automatic payments to principal. When you set up auto-pay principal payments you will save yourself a lot in terms of accumulated interest.
Also, most credit card companies offer this option when you sign into your account online. You can set up your account to make a set monthly payment each month, or set it up to make your minimum monthly payment or even your entire balance for the month, whatever that may be. There are also programs and apps, such as Mint Bills, to help you set automatic reminders and create virtual calendars that organize all of your bills-related due dates in one spot.
Related: While we’re on the subject of finances, look into programs and apps that will automate your investing habits and start building a savings infrastructure that’s more interesting than the average savings account. For example, the app Acorns allows you to take the “round-up” money from each debit-card purchase you make and automatically invest it into your online portfolio. That means for each $3.75 latte you purchase, $0.25 is automatically plunked into your portfolio without even having to think about it.
Take Care of Your Computer Without Thinking About it
If you aren’t backing up the contents of your computer on a set schedule, you’re risking losing them. And while the frequency of backups is a personal decision, once you’ve decided how often you need to copy your files you can automate the process so that you’ll never forget or put it off to a “more convenient” time. Check out the highly-rated service CrashPlan, which offers automated backups on a set schedule for a low monthly fee. Then, also set your computer to perform self-maintenance on a regular schedule so it doesn’t bog down. There is a wide array of programs out there to automate computer maintenance, and most virus protection software can easily be set to scan on a schedule.
Connect Your Programs
There are probably certain things you do, every day or perhaps all day long, that are almost on autopilot. Why not put them actually on autopilot? Get your programs talking to each other and a world of possibilities opens up for automation. By using IFTTT, the uber-popular free service whose acronym stands for “If This, Then That” you can automatically save each picture you like on Instagram to your Dropbox account, receive a text message whenever you get an email from your mom, or repost Twitter messages from your company – whatever it is that you “always” do, it’s likely that IFTTT can do it for you and free up your time for things that actually need your full attention.
IFTTT works across your different programs and apps and allows you to create “recipes” dictating what functions you want it to accomplish without lifting a finger on your part during the day. For those using Apple products, also look into Workflow, which works in a similar way by creating automated series of actions across different programs and apps.
Feed Yourself Without a Grocery Store
Everyone has to eat, but these days there are way more options out there than driving to the grocery store. In recent years there has been an explosion in meal subscription services. Some of the best known are Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Plated, but there are lesser-known companies doing the same thing in different ways.
There are even options available for those with restricted diets, such as those needing vegan or gluten-free meal plans. If you’re unfamiliar with meal subscription services, here’s how they work: for a set fee (usually weekly) they will deliver all the ingredients you need to cook flavorful, healthy meals at home, and allow you to select from several recipes available on a rotating basis.
While you may be expected to have some basics to contribute from your own pantry – think oil and salt – many subscriptions supply absolutely everything else, down to a tiny squeeze bottle containing one ounce of soy sauce, for instance. All of the ingredients arrive at your doorstep once a week, individually labeled, in an insulated box. All you need to do is transfer them to the refrigerator once you get home, and then at dinnertime take out only those ingredient packages you need in order to make that night’s meal.
Stock Your Home Effortlessly
But what about all the non-food items normally bought in a grocery store. Obviously, you need a way to automate those purchases as well. This is where the Amazon Subscribe and Save program and the Amazon Dash Button come in. These programs give you two options to automate the purchases you make on a regular basis.
As a bonus, Amazon offers promotions and discounts to customers that utilize these services. The Subscribe and Save program allows you to set up automatic, recurring monthly shipments of any of hundreds of items, including food, toiletries, pet products, household supplies, and more. Do you go through two bags of dog food a month? Automate that delivery, and erase one errand from your life. Do the same thing with grocery staples, toothpaste, paper towels, and virtually anything else you shop for at a grocery store on a regular basis, and then go enjoy all the time you’ve freed up.
What about products you don’t go through on a set schedule, or what if you’re not yet sure how often you use things up? Enter the Amazon Dash Button, yet another way to automate ordering life’s essentials. The Dash Button is a small, product-themed plastic button that adheres to walls, countertops, washing machines, and virtually anywhere you conveniently place it.
When you notice that you’re getting low on laundry detergent, for instance, just press the Wi-Fi-enabled button and Amazon will instantly order and send you a replacement bottle. Do the same with shampoo, cat food, crackers, and over a hundred other products. There’s one caveat, however – you’ll need a separate button for each item you want to order this way. Luckily, the Dash Button is relatively small and easy to tuck away inside cabinets and drawers.
New services and products are entering the marketplace all the time, geared toward freeing up our time. Take advantage of some of ideas mentioned above, and see how automating your tasks leads to a more streamlined life.