We’ve all heard by now that signing up for automatic bill pay services can help you avoid those pesky late fees. And it’s no secret that setting up a recurring deduction for savings and retirement can keep your finances on track. But what else should you put on cruise control to make your life easier? Here are seven more things to set and forget so you can focus on the important stuff in life.
1. Recurring appointments
Most healthcare providers these days can schedule check-ups for you at regularly occurring intervals, automatically and electronically. This takes the pressure off you to remember to schedule them, and it also helps to ensure that you’re taking advantage of any insurance benefit you’re owed. For example, I’m eligible for routine teeth cleanings every six months, but for the first year that I actually had dental insurance, I didn’t manage to schedule a cleaning for almost nine months. Now my dentist automatically schedules my next cleaning for exactly every six months, which means it’s on the same date each October and March, and I never miss an appointment. Same goes for yearly checkups at your primary care doctor and optometrist’s office. If you’re like me, you’ll never remember to schedule stuff on your own, so let someone else do it for you.
2. Packing lists
I know some people enjoy planning the new outfits they’ll wear on trips, but I am not one of those people. I loathe packing. I also travel a fair amount for work and play, so it’s something I was dreading pretty regularly. Then I got wise to the idea of making a spreadsheet for each kind of trip and various climates. I have one for a three-day work trip, one for a long weekend, and one for a two-week trip to a winter destination, which is what I do over Christmas each year. Now that I’m a year into this practice, my lists are all road-tested, and I can pack for any trip in 15 minutes. It also means that I never forget my phone charger, earplugs, or rain jacket. Having a dedicated spreadsheet of every item I pack not only takes the guesswork out of what to bring and ensures I have everything I need, but it also helps if my bags are misplaced, which has happened more than once. That way, when the airline asks me if I can name what was in the lost luggage or if I need to request reimbursement or replace items, it’s as easy as printing off my automated packing spreadsheet.
3. Technology backups
When I was in college, it seemed like such a chore to back up my laptop to my external hard drive that I almost never actually did it. Then I lost about a semester’s worth of work in an unfortunate computer crash — and never made that mistake again. It’s so easy to set up an automatic backup for your computer, phone, and tablet via WiFi that there’s basically no excuse not to. Don’t risk losing precious photos or work to a broken, lost, or stolen device. Take 10 minutes to set up an automatic backup system for every time your device is on WiFi, let the magic of technology take care of this task for you, and rest easy forever.
4. Birthday and anniversary reminders
Unless you’re on Facebook daily and connected with every single person you know, it can be hard to remember all the birthdays and anniversaries of the people who are important in your life. Instead, use your digital calendar to remember these occasions for you! Spend some time going through the entire year and put birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones on your Google or other electronic calendar so you never forget again. If you want to kick it up a notch, have your calendar remind you three days out so you have time to drop a note or card in the mail.
5. Outsource a problem
These days, it seems like there’s a service for everything. Pick the task that you dread most and see if the service for it is worth the cost to you. If you don’t have an in-unit washer/dryer or loathe doing laundry, shop around to see what it would cost to send it out. Does going to the grocery store give you hives? Sign up for a grocery delivery service instead. You can take the guesswork out of meal planning, have someone walk your dog, or pay someone to clean the house once a month. Perhaps your budget doesn’t allow for all of these, but even setting up an online recurring toilet paper and toothpaste shipment will make your life a little easier and give you one less thing to remember.
6. Automate One Cleaning Task a Week
Streamline your cleaning routine by assigning a day of the week or day of the month for specific cleaning tasks. For example, I have a friend who does laundry every Thursday evening, no matter what. This way, she heads into the weekend with a closet full of clean clothes, and never has to walk past a full hamper and think to herself, “Wait, when was the last time I did laundry?!” In my house, we clean the bathtub one week, mop the kitchen floor the next, and the last week of every month we clean the refrigerator inside and out. This way, each thing gets done once a month and we’re never asking ourselves when the last time we did X was.
7. Refilling prescriptions
If you take any daily medication, you probably know the annoyance of realizing you’re on your very last pill and may not have time to refill the prescription without skipping a dose. Not only is this annoying, but in some cases, it can negatively affect your health and/or modify the efficacy of the drug. Luckily, most pharmacies can auto-renew prescriptions at 30-, 60-, or 90-day intervals and email or robo-call you when your medicine is ready for pickup. Even better, some will mail you your medication so you don’t even have to go retrieve it in person. With these two options, why is anyone still standing in line at the pharmacy?
Not every chore can be solved by technology and automation (although it seems we’ll get there eventually). However, it can definitely be used to make life easier and ensure you don’t miss crucial appointments, birthdays, and household tasks. Automating these seven things will keep your life running smoothly and give you more time and mental energy to focus on what you love. Use technology to your advantage, set and forget with these tips, and your finances won’t be the only thing on autopilot.
A grant writer by day and personal finance fanatic by night, Marisa is an avid traveler who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. When she’s not reading or writing for work or play, she enjoys running, thrifting, and searching for the most authentic Mexican food in the city.
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