How 15 Minutes a Week Saves Me Thousands of Dollars Every Year
At least once a week I sit down with my calendar for 15 minutes. Why? Because I know that when I don’t it costs me money. Had I not done my check this past Sunday, I know for a fact I would have been out at least $100 and likely closer to $200 or more. If this exercise was able to save me an average of $100 per week every week, I’d save $5,200 – almost enough to max out a Roth IRA (or take a pretty solid vacation).
You’re probably wondering what the heck I could possibly be doing to get these results week after week, so here is the secret: I ask myself three questions.
1. What Am I Eating?
Food is a huge expense in my budget. Groceries, Eating Out, Ordering In. That, I would never change. Spending $200 on a meal I enjoy- no regrets. Spending $200 on groceries that went bad and got tossed or on food at a coffee shop- that kills me.
When I don’t look at my calendar for the week, it is impossible not to waste money on food. (And I include spending on things that don’t bring me joy in my definition of waste.)
This week, I had evening commitments on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday night and a lunch meeting on Wednesday. We’re also out of town this weekend. Had I been on autopilot (as I often am) and not checked my calendar, I would’ve gone grocery shopping buying food for the week’s meals. I would’ve spent at least $100 on food, half of which I can almost guarantee would have been wasted. Instead, I used what we had in the fridge, freezer and pantry for the meals we’d be home/need to bring lunch and had my boyfriend pick up eggs which is all we needed. #score
2. How Am I Getting Around?
Transportation is an item that sometimes barely makes a dent in my budget and other times blows it the hell up.
One word: Uber.
There is absolutely something to be said about convenience. And sometimes if my options are drive or Uber, Uber is actually the better choice for me financially given parking costs and headache. Looking at my week ahead gives me the ability to move things around and actually determine what the best transportation options are from both a financial and logistical perspective. If I don’t look at the week ahead, I miss out on the opportunity to save money in this area.
This week, I had to go into Boston for a Tuesday night board meeting followed by a Celtics game. By looking at the week ahead, I changed a few things around in my schedule so I could leave my office a bit earlier, park at my house, and take the T into the city instead of Ubering or driving. Had I not made adjustments to my calendar, I would have likely Ubered instead of driving because of the locations of the meeting and the game, and I would’ve spent $40 to get into the city instead of $2.40. Yes, I had to leave earlier to take the train than had I Ubered in, but I can just as easily check my email in transit as at my office so there was no reason not to.
3. Do I Have Any Important Deadlines?
In order for this one to work, you have to get into the habit of putting deadlines in your calendar (sometimes I even do a reminder a week or two in advance of the real deadline). Examples of deadlines would be:
Credit Card Payments Due
Expiration of Gift Cards
Expiration of Rewards of Certificates
Expiration of Warranties
This sometimes takes a bit of work and forethought in the beginning, but eventually it becomes second nature. And if you do it right most of the time, the few times you forget or miss won’t kill you.
With regard to bills, late payment fees and interest cost you money. Dings to your credit score also cost you money in that when you go to borrow money for something, you’ll likely pay more in interest. You may have had the experience of being able to call and get these fees and interest reversed. I have too. But think about how much time you had to spend on the phone with customer service and how annoying it was. I’m not saying don’t get your fees reversed if this happens, what I am saying is that time is money and if you can avoid it altogether- why not? Side note: If you set up all your bills on autopay you do not need to put the due dates on your calendar to avoid late fees. This is for people who don’t want to set up autopay for whatever reason- I am not one of them.
Missed expiration dates on rewards, gift certificates, and warranties are what planning ahead really saves me from. I can’t tell you exactly how much money I’ve lost in not paying attention to these in the past, but I can tell you it was a significant amount.
The scenario usually goes something like this. I buy something, and also purchase the warranty. Said item breaks, is damaged, etc. within the warranty/exchange period. I put getting the item fixed, replaced, or exchanged on my mental to-do list. Months go by. Finally, I get my act together and get over to [the Apple Store, Best Buy, Macys, Clothing Store] only to find out that all this time has passed and now I have to chuck the thing and buy a new one.
The solution? Reminders in my calendar.
This week I didn’t have any reminders that saved me money, but last week I received $100 in Visa gift cards in the mail from a rebate. The paperwork said the value expires at the end of June. For this, I put 3 extra reminders in my calendar that say “$100 Visa Gift Cards Expiring 6/24/18”. One reminder in April, one in May, one in early June, and one on the due date. Why? If I just put one in June I’ll just blow the $100 on something I don’t need. If I keep reminding myself periodically that I have them, I have the luxury of being able to spend them on something I would’ve bought anyway with cash.
This stuff obviously isn’t rocket science, but it works for me over and over again. 15 Minutes per week and some regular forethought to potentially save hundreds or even thousands of dollars? Why wouldn’t you do it?
The first step is to pick a day of the week that you know will normally work for you. For me, this is Sunday because it’s normally my cooking day.
The second step is to pick a back up day so that you have no excuse not to spend the 15 minutes. For me, this is Friday of the week before. Fridays are usually light for me, and if we’re out of town for the weekend I know it’ll work.
The last step is to actually ask yourself the questions on your scheduled day and make the necessary adjustments.
If you decide to implement this into your weekly routine, I’d love to hear about your results. Either shoot me an email at email@example.com or post about your results on my instagram or Facebook page.