Most people spend way too much time on mundane tasks. With a little forethought, you can expedite the routine and use leftover energy for things that really matter.
If we could, we’d all probably hire a personal assistant to help with day-to-day hassles, whether it’s yet another trip to Target for cereal and cleaning supplies or tackling that seemingly bottomless basket of laundry. But since most of us don’t have a Hollywood salary, we’re stuck taking care of life’s must-dos ourselves. With a few quick fixes, though, routine activities—from grocery shopping to bill paying—don’t have to be so time-consuming.
- The Daily Grind. Skip your morning stop at the coffee shop. You don’t have to give up your caffeine fix, but rather than wait in line, why not make your own coffee and save a chunk of change in the process? ”
- Brew It Yourself. Find an affordable programmable coffee maker, or think of it as an investment and save up. (How many cups at a buck-fifty would it take to pay the pot off?) Then brew away and fill up a to-go mug for work.
- Eat Breakfast. If you want to add nutrition to the mix, try a smoothie. Chop fruit the night before and place in a blender; store the pitcher in the fridge, and it’s ready to blend in the morning. Just press puree while you’re pouring your cup of joe.
- Check Mate. Still pulling out the checkbook and licking envelopes each time your bills come? There’s no good reason to do it. Say buh-bye to paper cuts—and the late fees—with online banking. You can set up payments in advance and pay with the touch of a mouse.
- Get Started. Check with your bank and find out what benefits online bill pay could have for you. Most services are free for at least a trial period.
- Gain Access. Instead of furiously checking the mailbox while awaiting your bank statement, find out what’s cleared and what hasn’t in a few clicks.
- Get a Grip on Groceries. If you’ve ever braved a busy grocery store on a Saturday morning, you know it’s about as fun as a dental checkup. But there are a few ways to simplify the process.
- Get Listy. For those who find themselves aimlessly wandering the grocery aisles, check out makelifeeasy.com for a “modern grocery list” that reminds you when it’s time to pick up certain items and tells you when particular items are on sale. Or if you have roommates, try grocerynote.com, where you can create joint lists instead of winding up with two gallons of milk but no toilet paper.
- Pick a Day. Instead of buying things as you need them, choose one day each week to complete your grocery shopping. This takes a bit of preplanning, but it’s more time-efficient in the end.
- Be Bulky. A membership to a warehouse like Costco lets you load up all at once. Sure, it’s a tad more expensive initially and requires a bit of storage, but you end up saving time and money.
- Try Delivery. If you just can’t make it to the store, consider shopping online and having groceries delivered to your door from sites like netgrocer.com, peapod.com, or plumgood.com. Online shopping might cost more than pushing a cart, but do the math. It may wind up being cheaper than eating out most meals.
- Ditch the Junk Mail. Four million tons (yes, tons) of paper junk mail winds up in U.S. mailboxes each year. Even if you stand over the recycling bin as you open the contents of your mailbox, you still have to take the time to shred. Put an end to it instead.
- Be Proactive. When you donate money, order a product, or fill out a warranty card, write “Do not sell my name or address.” When you’re on the phone with a company’s customer service rep, make the same request. When you receive catalogs, call the 800 number and ask to have your name removed from the mailing list.
- Credit This. Major credit agencies will sell your information, which means you spend your time shredding credit card applications. Call (888) 567-8688 to stop it.
- Be Direct. The Direct Marketing Association estimates that listing with their service will stop 75 percent of the national mailings that wind up in your box. Going online to register is the quickest way to see results, or you can write to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 282, Carmel, NY 10512.
- Write It Out. For a “stop junk mail kit” with form letters to send to companies, you can go to stopjunkmail.org. Or if you’d rather have someone do the work for you, then consider paying to have a site like 41pounds.org, greendimes.com, or stopthejunkmail.com end the madness for you.
- Smooth Wrinkles. Unless you’re one of the few who actually likes to iron, keeping your clothes wrinkle-free can be quite a chore. Here’s how to keep your head out of the steam clouds.
- Take Action. “I hate ironing with a passion, so I take my clothes out of the dryer right away,” says Katrina Glaim of Alpharetta, Ga. “It substantially cuts down on wrinkles.”
- Try Downy. You may be skeptical at first, but Downy Wrinkle Releaser really does get stubborn creases out. Tip: Avoid using this on silk or rayon, which could leave unsightly spots.
- Send It Out. As a last resort, have a few select items dry-cleaned and pressed each month. Ask your employer about any dry-cleaning discounts your company might know about. For a freshen up, Dryel is your friend.
This article originally appeared in CS.