Women are working more hours—on the job and at home combined—at the expense of sleep and leisure activities. But there are some simple steps you can take to reclaim some of that "me" time, that can benefit your finances, too.
Men and women spent 7 hours and 54 minutes and 7 hours and 20 minutes at their jobs on a typical work day last year, respectively, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' annual Time Use survey, released in June. For women, that's the most time worked since the survey began in 2003.
Although the gap between time on the job comes out to just 34 minutes, the smallest on record, women end up putting in more working hours than men overall when child care and household chores are factored in.
On the days when they did household activities, women spent two and a half hours completing chores like cleaning or laundry, while men spent two hours on the same activities. Working women with young children spent more than an hour providing physical care, like bathing or feeding, while men spent 26 minutes, according to the survey.
"Women are working harder. Why? Because we have other obligations," says Gemma Toner, founder and CEO of female-focused coaching network Tone Networks.
So where are those extra working hours being pulled from? Sleep, for starters. Compared to the 2018 Time Use survey, women are getting about 10 minutes less sleep, with most clocking 8.5 hours. Women are also getting less leisure time.
For working women who start their second shift at home, making time to relax, socialize, or even get an extra 10 minutes of sleep may feel like a tall order. But if you don't claim your time, someone else will, says Joelle K. Jay, author of "The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership." If you're feeling overwhelmed at work or elsewhere, for instance, she suggests physically removing yourself from the noise for a few moments.
Here are three ways to reclaim time for yourself that can have a positive effect on your well-being, and your wallet.
Taking 5-10 minutes to set up automated payments is a smart financial move. Not only can it save you time every month you'd otherwise spend paying those individual bills, but it can also help you avoid late fees if your busy schedule means a due date slips past unnoticed. About 6 in 10 consumers still make individual bill payments—and of those, 46% have recently incurred a late fee or penalty, according to a 2018 report by survey and analytics group Aite.
Make sure you're not wasting time in the pursuit of saving a little money—a pitfall that's known as a time trap. Some examples include driving miles out of the way to save a couple of cents on gas, or booking a trip with connecting flights to get a slightly lower fare.
To sidestep time traps, experts suggest thinking about whether the financial payoff will justify the extra time you're spending. It can also help to be meaningful with your open time: If you free up 30 minutes, what's the most valuable use of that half hour? You might be happier practicing the guitar or taking a power nap, than you would surfing Facebook or watching TV.
"There's an opportunity that women have to change the verb from 'finding' time, to 'claiming' time," says Jay. "If you're looking to find time you leave it to chance, but women and all people can create a better time for themselves."
Outsourcing small tasks like grocery shopping, yard work, cleaning, and meal prep can be a cost-effective way to reclaim some time. In a series of articles in the Harvard Business Review, researchers found that spending as little as $40 on something that saves time (in their example, an hour of home cleaning through TaskRabbit), will make you happier than spending that money on "stuff"—especially if you use that purchased time to do something you enjoy.
"Once you start to make that investment in yourself, you feel really good about it, and you can find more time because you realize you are better for it," says Toner.
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