By now, you've probably heard about the benefits of setting up automatic transfers to your savings and investment accounts or using auto-pay to cover your bills. But those aren’t the only ways automation can help you save money and time.
Tracking your daily spending can be tedious. But setting up bank or lender notifications—like a heads up when your balance is above or below a certain threshold—can take some off some of the pressure.
"This also forces you to be more mindful of your behavior and gives you an opportunity to do things differently going forward," says Kerri Moriarty, head of development at Cinch Financial. Most major banks and credit card issuers will let you set up alerts via email, text or push notification for every transaction (or just certain types, like those made online without a card present), for example, or anytime your credit card balance exceeds an amount you set.
Want to save money, but not sure what your biggest money sucks are? Apps and services like Trim, Truebill and BillShark analyze your financial accounts and perform involved tasks like negotiating your monthly bills and canceling or optimizing monthly subscriptions you may have forgotten about.
You can also use tech to score discounts without having to scour the Internet yourself. Tools like Honey and WikiBuy both automatically apply known coupon codes before you place an order. "A lot of these extensions are a no brainer. If they find you savings, great. If they don’t, it’s no sweat off your back because you didn’t go through a major effort to set them up,” Moriarty says.
Michigan mom and business coach Jaime Pfeffer automates food shopping for her family of four, saving herself the time she'd spend at the grocery store, and putting it to better use. "I typically charge clients around $200 to $300 per hour, so compare that to the time I would spend grocery shopping—usually one to two hours per trip—and you can see that I'm saving a substantial amount of time and money."
Want to take this tip to the next level? Set up an Amazon recurring delivery (or re-order past carts with a couple clicks on sites like Jet.com or Fresh Direct). This way, you’ve got essentials covered and won’t be tempted to buy one-off products you could find cheaper online.
Keeping your documents organized ensures you won’t have to scramble when you need to locate a particular file, whether it’s a receipt or an old photo.
Programs like Actions (Windows) or Automator (Mac) help you organize by performing repetitive tasks in bulk, like renaming a bunch of files in one swoop. You can also automatically tidy your computer folders by creating rules to archive or move files with certain names or after a set amount of time using File Juggler for Windows and Hazel for Macs.
It’s easy to lose track of time on your phone, whether you’re scrolling through Facebook or playing mindless games. And there's nothing wrong with zoning out—unless you’re doing it so often it’s taking a toll on your productivity.
If that’s you, consider an automated accountability partner. "I’m frequently amazed by high-achievers who aren’t aware of the digital time suck they experience every day," says David Ezell, clinical director at mental wellness group Darien Wellness. "Apps like Moment log time spent on iPhones and iPads. They can be a real eye-opener to those who tell me they 'glance' at their phones a few times a day."
With alerts to let you know when you exceed a daily screen time limit, you can also remind yourself to disconnect—and start tackling the to-do list.