I am a huge fan of lifestyle hacking. A process by which you essentially attempt to improve or refine the things you do on a day to day basis so as to save money and time.
It’s about improving your processes, finding ways to operate more efficiently and valuing your time above all else. If time is money, the more time you can save, the more money you can make by freeing up your thinking and ideas so as to use your valuable time to either save money or make money.
I am someone who strives to live a minimalist lifestyle, retrieve my free time from daily chores and boost my productivity so that when I do something, I do it better and faster than the next person. This applies to all that I do; particularly saving money.
An example of how I use lifestyle hacking to save money
If I want to reduce my electricity bill, I don’t simply start turning the lights off more frequently or eating dinner in the dark, I instead study the peak and off-peak tariffs and learn which hours of the day that electricity is cheaper, I then, in turn, opt to do my washing between the hours of 8pm and 11pm of a night because it is 40% cheaper. This is how you can be smarter with your time and save money by doing so.
So today I would like to share with you how I view money and time and discuss the tools and methods I use to save time and more importantly, money. The goal here is to eliminate inefficiency and save money in the process.
How to save money by being more productive
We are taught that multitasking is a crucial life skill, I am convinced it is not. If you want to do something well and get it done, you need to focus and apply your energy to the task at hand. When it comes to saving money, don’t read every tip under the sun and try and change the world; focus your energy on your biggest expenses and look for smart and innovative ways to save money by lowering your costs.
Stop manually paying your bills
If you are touching a paper bill at any point in the month, you have failed. Manually paying bills, either in person at the post office or online via internet banking is a waste of your time. Instead, opt to open a fee-free bank account that will act as your primary direct debit account.
You can then deposit your set amount of money into it each payday to cover all regular debits; I do this on a monthly basis and it is much easier to manage than trying to have debits come out of your everyday account. Bills already cost you money, they don’t need to cost you your time.
Email is wasting your time and costing you money
Reading and managing emails is time-consuming and often has little impact on your ability to save money or make money. To this note, I try and eliminate the time it takes to manage email in two ways.
Firstly I use a service called Unroll.me which wraps up all of your regular emails into a daily newsletter of sorts. Essentially it collects all of your emails and displays it in a single email that arrives at a time you choose (for me it is 7am so I can tackle every email at once on the daily bus ride to work). This means your inbox isn’t cluttered with junk and you don’t need to individually manage each email you receive to act upon it.
Secondly I use another service called ‘The Email Game’ once a month to speedily go through my overcrowded inbox and reply, delete or file my unread emails. I often get an email and don’t delete it so I can look at it later; these then add up to hundreds. The email game uses a countdown timer and gamification to make me deal with 20 unread emails at a time by either replying, deleting or archiving. A great way to quickly deal with a cluttered inbox.
And need a bonus tip? If you want to save money, unsubscribe from daily emails and newsletters; odds are they are trying to sell you something and the less email you receive, the less tempted you are to spend money. Unroll.me offers this service as part of their offering; one click unsubscribes.
Create a calendar of recurring expenses
Managing your expenses is hard. You could try and create a budget spreadsheet or if you are time poor and wanting to do a quick and dirty on figuring out your monthly costs; use Google Calendars to list recurring expenses on the date they occur.
I did this by looking at my direct debit account (as mentioned above) and listing all of the expenses by date and name inside my Google Calendar. I then would set each expense to ‘recurring’ by the date at which it comes out, whether it be weekly, fortnightly, monthly or yearly.
This means I enter an expense once and never have to touch it again as it automatically re-appears in my calendar on the future debit dates.
The benefit of this and how it saves me money? I am able to sync Google Calendars to my phone and at any moment, I can check my upcoming expenses to get an understanding of my cash flow. Very handy for people like me who get paid monthly and get overwhelmed at the site of seeing a full months pay hit the account.
Open a groceries/petrol account
Groceries and petrol are variable weekly expenses that every household must pay. They are variable in that while we try and budget a weekly shopping budget, odds are our weekly shops may fluctuate; for instance, it’s not every week I need formula and nappies for the little one, but when I do it greatly blows my grocery budget out for that week.
Having an individual account for groceries and petrol in one means you are not using your own personal spending account to manage these variable budget expenses.
I use the ING DIRECT Orange Everyday account as it gives me cash back on purchases and is separated completely from my St.George Freedom Account.
Start using Drop Box
Another favourite tool I use is DropBox. It is online storage (with a free quota) that allows me to store my photos, files and digital items in the cloud. I can then access these files from anywhere in the world, including my phone and tablet.
The reason using DropBox will save you time is that you now have a central hub for everything important (digitally) online; no longer do you need to wait to get home to retrieve a copy of a document or similar, it’s now all online.
This will save you time and inevitably money.
Use ShoeBoxed if you are a small business owner
Shoeboxed.com lets you photograph receipts and immediately upload them to your online ‘accounts’. This means no longer do you need to carry around receipts and annoying slips of paper to help with your tax claim. Instead, you simply photograph the receipt, send it to Shoeboxed via the app and it is instantly added to your accounts for future records.
Get rid of distractions that don’t help your money
Stop playing with your phone, checking email, going on Facebook or browsing the net. If you want to do something well, like find ways to save money, you need to devote time to the subject and focus. Stop wasting your time on things that don’t improve your money; every second of your time is valuable so use it wisely.