I have been thinking a lot lately about the intersection of time and money. One similarity? Little leaks.
On the How to Money podcast a few weeks ago, the hosts mentioned finding a figure that some 2 million people were still paying AOL $20/month or thereabouts for the privilege of getting dial-up access to the internet. (Apparently this figure is from 2015…but still!) Maybe some number of people are thrilled with their service, but I bet some other proportion has smart phones and whatnot, but signed up in 2001…and then just never canceled.
Money leaks happen because any individual instance of the payment isn’t so high. $1000 would get noticed and stopped. $10? Not so much. Leaks also happen because stopping the leak can be painful, and possibly un-economic in the short term. You might have to call customer service and argue with someone. Maybe you’ll stand firm, but then the charge still appears two months later, so you’ll have to call again. Undertaking an unpleasant task that will likely cost you more in time than you save in money — at least in the first month — never feels fun. So it’s easy to put off.
This can happen with time too. I check the home voice mail once every 7-10 days. This task is on my plate because, for years, I used the home land line as my work number. But then I fully switched to my cell except for some live radio interviews. There’s almost nothing of interest in my voice mailbox, but given that my office phone # is still out there in people’s files, maybe one out of 30 messages is worth noting. Listening to 30 robo-calls, even if I delete quickly, takes time. My husband has been on my case to download some app that apparently allows you to see the voice mail, so you can delete those 10 robo calls from the same number instantly. But setting it up sounds vaguely complicated, and like I’ll probably need some information about the home phone account that I’ll have to track down, so I’ve put it off. Instead I “pay” the 10-15 minutes a week this task takes.
So what’s the best way to deal with these leaks? I welcome ideas! Personally, I like the idea of designating a block of time to plug them. When you designate a block, you don’t feel like you’re taking time away from other priorities; for this specific window, plugging this leak is the priority! I occasionally set a day to unsubscribe from things that have crept into my primary inbox from bulk/spam. (Though please don’t unsubscribe from my newsletters!) Normally I just delete the unwanted stuff. On that day, though, I follow the unsubscribe links. It takes a bit more time, but probably pays off over a few days of lighter deletions.
In a similar vein, you could take 90 minutes to go through your credit card statements and flag anything where you’re not getting your money’s worth. You could then start visiting websites and calling, tackling the biggest ones first. In 90 minutes, you could probably earn back a reasonable chunk of change — especially if you do the mental trick of aggregating what you save this month with the next 12 months. Multiplying any number by 12 (or heck, in the AOL case…120…) tends to make it more respectable!
In other news: This has been a reasonably productive week, given that I took two half days to do kid-related things (Atlantic City on Monday afternoon and Wednesday from 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. or so to hit Sesame Place for Mommy Day #3). Sarah and I recorded three episodes of Best of Both Worlds in 3 hours on Thursday. We were efficient! I recorded 10 episodes of Before Breakfast, thus getting enough ahead of the game that I’m good for my two August vacations.
Speaking of which…I’m off now for the week and will not posting as frequently. I normally aim to do a Best of Both Worlds post around Tuesday, at least, but I have been told I won’t have great internet access. If so, look for updates when I get back!
Photo: Sink, fortunately not leaking
8 thoughts on “Friday miscellany: Plugging time and money leaks, vacation blogging note, etc.”
*shrugs* Get rid of your landline altogether?
I have been painfully aware of several “small leaks” for a long time and your post just inspired me to schedule a block of time to get rid of them for next Wednesday when I should be able to spend about 2 hours. A quick mental calculation tells me I’ll save about $315 in the next year by doing it, so thank you, but it also means I wasted $630 in the past two years of postponing it, yikes.
For the answering machine, why not just change the outgoing message to say that you are no longer using that number and to call your new number to reach you? All legitimate callers who want you reach you will call your new number so you never have to check it again, and eventually it will get full an incapable of taking additional messages. I have an email issued by my part time job that gets tons of mass mailings and spam, so I have an automatic response directing to the email I check regularly, and go into this inbox only about every 6 months to do a mass purge taking only a few minutes because I don’t check it at all. If someone fails to reach me, it’s their own fault.
@Morana – good for you for carving out time to change this! Yep, stinks to have lost $630, but better to not lose $315 this year too, right?
I may do that with the voice mail. I keep the line to use for radio and such. It’s also the one our township has for emergency alerts – I need to figure out how to get those to my cell instead.
Have an amazing trip! Can’t wait to hear about it!
@Jamie- Thanks! there will be a full write-up upon return!!
Maybe I am not a typical person, because I actually enjoy stopping these leaks and I get satisfaction from calling and cancelling stuff I don’t need anymore. It makes me feel so smart, haha 😉
One way I do this is to look at my recurring bills once a quarter or so. I write down everything and seeing the recurring expenses all in one place makes a larger impact on me. It helps me remove ones I don’t need (for example, I recently decided to reduce how often I wax my eyebrows) and feel good about some (I don’t need my NY Times subscription, but I love supporting a newspaper).
Time leaks were a problem for us as we seriously underestimated how much time those few minutes here and there added up to. My husband coined a phrase to help increase the value of those smaller blocks of time: the power of a quarter hour. This was something that he began reciting as a mantra when the to-do list increased and he felt like available time never matched the demand for it. But the lesson was really reinforced for us when we tracked our time for 3 months (thanks to Off The Clock!). Seeing in black and white how long certain tasks actually took was eye-opening. We could clearly see how we squandered small blocks of time throughout the day, how we could tighten other activities and transitions to gain time, and how some tasks that we had overestimated in their demand could actually be easily fit in in those powerful quarter hours. We are still trying to intentionally plan how to better use smaller blocks of time, but the idea of time leaks is one that we’ve been thinking much about too!