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May 2011

The Time Equation

Every minute saved adds up. The few minutes you spend reading this article could save you hours every month.

The few minutes you spend reading this article could save you hours every month.

Life is short, and you have better things to do than plan tomorrow night's dinner or dig around your house for that bill you may have forgotten to pay. So why not find more time for the things you really care about? Get started with these time-saving tips for some of life's responsibilities. Then, enjoy adding up all the extra time for the things you enjoy.

FOR YOUR FINANCES: Save 1 hour 30 minutes per month

If you're not in the finance industry, chances are you're not a natural when it comes to managing your bills, budgets and balance sheets. Sure, we know it must be done. But when it comes right down to it, many of us want to avoid the nitty gritty details of budgeting.

Here are a couple of quick, easy-to-implement ideas that will make an immediate impact:

Automatic payments. First things first: Arrange for automatic payments. “Though the idea of this makes some people nervous, once you've tried online banking, you'll never go back,” writes Julie Morgenstern, acclaimed author and time management expert. Auto-payment is an option available for practically every institution you owe money to—your credit cards, your insurance, your utilities, you name it.

Want to pay your 21st Century Insurance bill automatically? Enroll in 21st AutoPay® and save time, money and a few trees while you're at it. Visit 21st.com for more information.

Time saved: 30 minutes per month

Create a budget. Not all companies offer the option to charge a credit card, so when you enroll in auto-payment, be sure to have a balance that supports the withdrawals. If you have a budgeting system that works for you, kudos! Skip to the next section. If not, allow us to introduce Mint.com.

Mint takes the budget process online, making it easier and – gasp! – actually kind of fun. Since its public launch in 2007, the site has helped more than 1 million users budget effortlessly and effectively. You supply the secure site with your account information, and Mint categorizes your spending in real time. Over a month, you'll see how much of your income was eaten up in your rent or mortgage, how much you spend on groceries and what your tendency to eat out is really costing you. It could be just the reality check you need to reconsider how you spend your hard-earned funds.

The site also breaks down your purchases into customizable categories, helps you set savings goals and tracks your progress. Want to finally take that anniversary trip to Bermuda? Answer a few quick questions, like when you want to travel and how much you plan to spend on the trip, and Mint will set up automatic monthly goals and track your progress. Being in control of your finances has never been so easy.

Time saved: 20 minutes per month

Sort your paperwork. As much as we try to go “paperless,” the pile of mail on the kitchen counter remains an inevitable fact of life. The cure? Make it a habit to sort it each day.

First, designate an intermediary location for “pending” mail, which can include bills that need payment or paperwork that needs to be filed. Next, put aside letters and magazines you want to spend more time with. Then, upon first sort, toss anything that's truly junk.

The busiest households may benefit from sorting mail and paperwork by topic and by person, so you're never again left scrambling for your daughter's swimming lesson certificate when you'd rather be hitting the pool with her before class starts.

Time saved: 40 minutes per month

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