It’s a universal constant and a universal complaint. We all get the same amount, and most of us treat it as a precious commodity.
We also complain about how little of it we have. We read books and blog posts about how to get more time, which really means using the time we already have more wisely.
When it comes to managing money, are you finding yourself out of time?
- You’ll “get to it later.”
- Budgeting “takes too long.”
- You mindlessly pay for things because you “need to run.”
A Life Truth
The things that get the most time and attention in your life are those that usually improve.
This is true for everything from your career to your waistline. Becoming healthier means setting aside time for proper nutrition and exercise–there are no healthy shortcuts around this reality.
To succeed with money, we need to dedicate some time to our personal finances.
But How Much Time?
Is it possible to spend too much time managing your money?
Absolutely, and when your friends find out you spend 10 hours in Quicken every week, it probably scares the hell out of them! They think…if that’s what it takes to succeed, then I’d rather not bother at all.
Here’s the key: minimize the time and maximize the results when it comes to money. Spend as little time as you possibly can to get the results you want.
If that sounds out of reach, I’d like to share 9 shortcuts I’ve used in the past or use now to get this done for my family:
(1) Find a specific time. It can be any time that works for you, and any length that works for you, but the key is that you stay consistent. Set up a review routine that includes daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks.
(2) Automate conquered components. If it’s not a problem (or no longer a problem), stop dealing with it. Automate absolutely anything and everything (savings, investments, bills) that doesn’t cause issues in your life, and only revisit those things at a set interval (I do my reviews quarterly).
(3) Use direct deposit or check scanning. If your employer offers direct deposit, use it. If your bank offers remote check deposit (or even ATM deposit), use it. If they’re don’t, maybe it’s time to look for a new bank?
(4) Simplify your account structure. Consolidating your accounts comes with many benefits, not the least of which is less time spent trying to track them all. Less paperwork, less time transferring between accounts, tracking bills and payments, and getting lost in it all.
(5) Simplify your financial systems. Quicken, Mint, YNAB, Mvelopes, spreadsheets, cash envelopes, and more–it’s no wonder that we get lost in it all. Stick to one system, or if you have a very good reason for using more than one, make sure that their functions don’t overlap. For example, I use Quicken for my business expenses and Mint for my personal work.
(6) Tackle one thing at a time. Almost every financial goal relies on one thing–the space between income and expenses. As a result, having too many goals at once puts a strain on your attention and pulls you in too many directions. Focus on 1-2 goals at any one time and you’ll use your time managing those goals wisely.
(7) Live one month ahead. The idea of a checking buffer isn’t new, but the implementation was perfected by YNAB in Rule Four. Stop living your life according to your bills, and start paying things on your schedule by using last month’s income this month.
(8) Build a healthy emergency fund. How will an emergency fund save time, you ask? When you’re faced with an emergency, you won’t spend hours trying to figure out how to deal with it, because you’ll already have the resources ready.
(9) Consider index funds for your investments. I used to spend a lot of time managing my investments, researching stocks and mutual funds, monitoring my accounts, and making trades. Since I switched to index funds a few years ago, I’ve cut that time by 99% and my investments are still performing well.
It Will Take Time
…to save time, since nothing new is learned immediately.
You might really spend 10 hours a week working with your money, until you get so good that it takes no more than 5 minutes.
Be patient, and have faith in the fact that this new life you’re cultivating is worth the effort.