I love, love, love things that save time and make life easier (who doesn’t?). I’m always on the lookout for cool gadgets, awesome life hacks, and basically anything that helps me get more things done with less time and effort. So it should come as no surprise that I’m a sucker for anything that enables you to automate your life. As the saying goes – set it and forget it!
Automation is one of the best way to build wealth, increase your productivity through the day, and now it even helps me clean the house (seriously!). Believe it or not, it’s also a great way to save money and just live a happier life.
So it’s time to share! These are all the ways that I automate my life…and a few extras that I should be doing (or wish I could do):
AUTOMATE YOUR FINANCES
If there’s anything you take away from this post (or my whole blog for that matter), please, please, please automate your finances! This is not only the absolute best way to build wealth and security, but also the best way to stay out of trouble and unnecessary debt.
Monthly Savings Contributions
The first step to saving anything at all is to automate the process. I don’t care if you start with $25 a month into a savings account. That is enough to change your life, and here is why – You will very, very quickly learn to live without that $25 a month. In fact, you will forget it even existed. Then, when you get a raise or figure out a great way to cut monthly costs, you can add to that monthly automation. In fact, you will likely be able to double it to $50/month. You will be shocked by how quickly you start to build up a savings account when you do this.
This is something that you will set up through your employer and it’s even better than the savings account automation because it is automatically deducted from your paycheck. This means you will never even realize you had it. On top of that, most employers will match a portion of this which means you’re getting extra money for your retirement account. If you have an employer that provides any match whatsoever, you need to take advantage of it.
If you contribute to a 401K then you may not be ready to also start contributing to an IRA (which is a retirement account that is not set up through an employer). But what is so amazing about automatic IRA contributions is that most banks will manage your contributions for you so that you are contributing the maximum that is allowed each year (right now it is set at $5,500). This means that you don’t have to be watching for when the government changes the maximum threshold (because who watches for that??), your bank will just automatically adjust your monthly contributions to meet the new amount.
Your Kids’ College Fund
There is a lot of debate about whether or not parents should be paying their kids’ way through school, and if they do how much they should be helping them. I, for one, am extremely determined to pay for my children to go to college and have thus been saving for them since Day 1 with a 529 college savings plan. Any savings account will work, but 529 plans are tax deductible so your money will go farther…and of course, you should set it up so that it automatically deposits money into the account every month. What is awesome about automating this process is that you know your child will likely be starting school when they are 18, so you can do the math to figure out exactly how much you need to deposit each month to reach what you think you’ll need.
Credit Card Point Deposits
I used to wait every few months and then log onto my credit card account, see how many points I had accumulated, and then sift through their offerings of gift cards and prizes to see what I wanted. Sure, it was exciting to get an Amazon card in the mail, but honestly that really wasn’t adding much value to my life. Then I came across the most amazing card ever – it was from the bank that holds our mortgage and all of their points would be automatically converted to dollars and put towards the principal balance of our mortgage – AUTOMATICALLY. You can imagine how excited I was about this. Since then I’ve done some research and come across cards that not only do this for mortgage principals, but also for retirement accounts, college funds, and savings accounts. This is a no brainer in my book!
Health Savings Account (HSA) Deposits
If you don’t know what an HSA is, you’re not alone. I had not the faintest idea what they were until after my first pregnancy…and the insane amount of medical bills that accompanied it. Basically, it is an account that money is deposited into similar to a 401K (it comes right out of your paycheck) that you can use towards any medical expenses that your insurance doesn’t cover. Any automated deposit that comes out of your paycheck is amazing because you will very quickly forget that you even had the money, yet it will be growing and growing behind the scenes. Medical bills can be devastating so having extra money ready for them is a huge relief – oh, and did I tell you they’re tax deductible?? This means your dollar is going to stretch farther. It’s a great deal!
Bill payments are a pain in the butt. They pile up on the counter until we feel like we’re ready to pay them, even though we know we need to pay them by the due date. So we keep that pile somewhere visible (so we don’t forget), which just means we’re reminded daily that we owe that money! Automating bills eliminates that unnecessary stress and streamlines the process. Most companies will set your payment for the final day anyways so you have the most possible time to make sure you have the money. This automation will save you time and add a ton of quality to your life!
In some ways insurance payments could be thrown into the bill category, except for one major difference: You never want to find yourself without insurance. In fact, insurance payments really need to be prioritized over all other bills. You need to keep your insurance and the best possible way to make sure you are always covered is to automate the payment process so you never, ever miss a payment. And there’s a huge bonus for doing this – some companies will actually give you a discount if you opt for automatic payments! It’s icing on the cake. You make your life easier, more secure, and you get a discount.
Budgeting is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do (I know this seems ironic). I’m way better at finding new sources of money than I am at actually limiting my spending in certain areas. However, I am well aware of the massive life-changing power that budgeting can have over the quality of your life. So, for people like me that hate it…automate the process! This has actually made me LOVE looking at my budget. There are a few different services that will help with this, but I’m a huge fan of Mint.com. They are totally free and a well-respected company, so you know your information is safe with them. They will pull all of your financial information from everywhere and show you tons of different charts and analytics around how you’re spending your money. It’s a brilliant service and will save you a ton of time (and it’s really eye-opening!).
AUTOMATE YOUR HOME LIFE
Now time for the fun stuff! This is how you can take chores off your plate and make your life easier so you can spend more time doing what you love (and some of these ways will actually save you money)!
There are some big reasons to invest in an automatic thermostat (Nest Learning Thermostats are the winner in this arena). The most obvious is that you’re just going to be more comfortable! Since you can set the thermostat to change the temperature of the room depending on the time of day and day of the week, you will be walking into a room that’s ready for you. No more fiddling with the temperature yourself. But an even bigger reason to invest in one of these? You can save a ton of money by lowering your utility bill if you alter the temperature when you’re out of the house or sleeping. For the vast majority of people, this investment pays for itself.
Apartment dwellers, I envy you (at least, those of you that don’t have to contend with outdoor pests trying to work their way into your home). For the rest of us, pest control is something unavoidable and if you find yourself in that position, then you definitely need to consider automating the process. My husband and I go through Terminex, but I’m sure other pest control companies have similar deals. Basically, we have signed up with a subscription where they will come out quarterly and spray for the bugs they know we have to deal with. They have all the information on our house, so they know where we do and don’t want them spraying and exactly what to spray for. They don’t require us to be home for the process (because it’s all outside) and they just automatically charge our credit card when they’re done – so we don’t have to do anything and we will always be living pest free!
Whaaaaattt, you say? YES – automate your vacuuming. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you already know about my love affair with the Roomba. If not, it’s ok, I’ll tell you everything you need to know. The iRobot Roomba is a robotic vacuum that you can preset to vacuum whenever you want. When it’s done, it will roll itself right back to it’s charger to refuel and get ready for tomorrow. If that isn’t amazing enough for you, then consider the Roomba’s close cousins – the iRobot Scooba (for scrubbing) and the iRobot Braava (for mopping).
Remember way back in the day when we used to rush home from wherever we were and pile in front of the TV to get ready for our favorite show to come on? Well Thank God those days are over! Now, you really don’t even have to sit through the commercials and there are a ton of ways to automate your tv addiction. In fact, we’ve cut our cable entirely because of all the options that don’t involve watching a show in real time. Netflix and Amazon Prime give you the ability to binge-watch entire seasons of shows, OnDemand will let you watch anything you’ve missed over the past few weeks, and DVR will record anything you want so you can watch it the second you have a free minute. This automation saves time, money, and is just plain awesome.
This is an oldie, but goody. Automatic coffee brewing used to be the norm for everyone until the Keurig entered our lives. That simplified things so much that we forgot how much we liked our coffee ready for us when we walked downstairs. Luckily, Keurig didn’t forget. And finally they developed a new brewing system that lets us not only brew a carafe of coffee, but will let us set a timer so that once again our coffee is waiting for us. Love it!
Household Product Purchases
What is worse than realizing you’re out of paper towels? Maybe realizing you’re out of toilet paper? Or how about diapers and wipes? This happens to me all the time. You just take these items for granted! Thankfully the brilliant minds at Amazon have once again come up with a concept that will change our lives forever. With their Subscribe & Save program, you can subscribe to regular deliveries of whatever products you pick. And of course there’s a great incentive! When you do this, you get up to 15% off…every single time the item ships! It’s a great deal that will save soooo much time, money, and frustration.
Litter Box Cleaning
This isn’t the only pet care automation on my list, but it is possibly the best of the best – an automatic self-cleaning litter box. You will have to work with your cat to get them used to the robotic cleaning, but once they are happy, you will be happy. The litter box will automatically sift through the litter and push any “mess” into a disposable container. Not only does this save you time, but wouldn’t this be at the top of your list of things to take off your plate?
Cat and Dog Food Purchasing
My husband and I have been doing this since Day 1 of our little kitties’ lives, so we’ve been spoiled by never having to go out on late night runs when we discover we’re out of cat food. The woman who we adopted our cats from set us up with Life’s Abundance food so we’ve never looked into other brands, but I’m sure tons of other companies will offer this service. It makes life so much easier!
If automating the purchase of cat and dog food isn’t exciting enough for you, you can actually automate the feedings. This is especially amazing if you’re going to be at work late or are in need of a weekend getaway. Our poor pets don’t get nearly as much attention as they used to once kids enter the picture, so this is a great way to make sure they’re at least getting the food and water they need!
This used to be a dream for only the wealthiest people (because it typically involved hiring an actual person to do it for you), but now it’s just a cost-effective, efficient method of shopping for anyone. You can work with your local grocery store to have your groceries waiting for you, you can use services like Amazon’s Subscribe & Save for non-perishable foods, or you can purchase from specialty stores that will send you pre-made, ready-to-eat meals.
Watering the Plants
If you’ve only got a few potted plants around the house, then watering them may actually be therapeutic. But if you’ve got a ton, then all of a sudden this because a perilous task where you’re constantly trying to keep your plants alive. Even worse is when you travel and they inevitably dry out. There are some great outdoor systems that you can set and forget altogether and some really cute indoor options that will at least drastically cut down on how often you need to water (or at least save them when you’re traveling!).
Again, apartment dwellers, you have no idea how lucky you are. I am so glad we moved into a house with a big yard, but I can not emphasize enough how much work it is to care for everything. Mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, shoveling the snow, watering the plants – it adds up to many, many hours a week! If you’ve got the time and love to be outside, then this may not be the automation for you, but if you’re busy with work and kids and life, then you need to consider automating this process. You can hire a lawn care service that will come every week to mow, rake, and water. Even just paying a neighborhood teenager to do it each week will be worth your money! And if you’re still really dead set on doing it yourself, at least invest in a leaf blower, snow blower, and good lawn mower. The amount of time it will save you will pay off.
AUTOMATE YOUR DIGITAL LIFE
I know for a lot of you this IS your life. It’s so easy and rewarding to be an online entrepreneur these days that more and more great forms of automation are cropping up to help us manage our digital lives. And even if you aren’t spending most of your time online, you can still really benefit from a lot of these automations!
Trust me, you’re not the only one that hates that notification that pops up and says something along the lines of “you’ve got 90 seconds to save everything you can, because then we’re shutting you down for necessary upgrades.” I hate it too. BUT…I have also lost everything to computer viruses, so I know how important it is to let all of your updates happen automatically. It costs nothing extra and even though it feels like an inconvenience, it is soooo worth it. Our entire lives are basically digital these days, so letting your computer perform necessary updates is essential for not only your computer’s health, but also your digital life’s health.
Social Media Posts
If you don’t have an online business, then you may not have a true need for social media automation, but who knows, maybe you’ve got personal goals to meet! If you do have an online business however, then you really, really, really need to be automating your social media posts. It is so important to be consistent with your audience, not to mention that you most likely want to expand your reach. There are a lot of options out there, but here are the ones that I use and have grown to love:
- Buffer – I use the free version of Buffer for scheduling my Twitter tweets and that works great for me. They can also be used for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ posts. The paid plans will let you schedule way more posts and tweets, but at this point I’m willing to check in every couple of days as opposed to paying! I know a lot of people that love the paid plans though, so it seems they are worth the money.
- Tailwind – This is the plan I do pay for and I fell in love pretty quickly. Tailwind schedules your Pinterest pins and provides analytics for what is getting a lot of action. If Pinterest is important for your business, then you definitely need to consider a pin scheduling tool like Tailwind.
- Facebook scheduler – I use the internal scheduler for Facebook and I’m really happy with how it works (when you type in a post on your business page, you have a drop down by the Publish button that gives you the option to schedule for later). Again, this is free which is a big deal!
If you find that you aren’t liking those or need more support, here are some other popular options:
- BoardBooster – This is another pin scheduling tool that I have heard good things about. I started with Tailwind, so by the time I went to try out BoardBooster, I was already hooked on Tailwind’s structure so I stuck with them.
- Hootsuite – This is another popular option for tweets, Facebook posts, and Google+ posts that works similar to Buffer.
Blog Post Releases
If you have a blog, then this is a crucial automation that you need to be taking advantage of. Not only are there prime days and times that people are more likely to open your posts, but consistency will really help you readers so this is an opportunity to get ahead of the game. Wordpress offers this functionality when you are creating a post, so it doesn’t involve downloading special plugins or apps.
This used to happen all the time – I’d be working on an article or blog post and one of my automatic updates would occur (see above). My laptop would shut down….without saving anything. I would be devastated. Then I was introduced to Google Docs. I didn’t take it seriously until I discovered the two greatest features in the world of online productivity – 1. automatic saving and 2. saving to the cloud. This means that as I’m typing, Google is automatically saving everything I do AND every document I have can be available to me anywhere I have an internet connection. This means I will never lose anything…ever. AND it’s free.
Your News Fix
This is what I used to do when I had hours upon hours of free time on my hands: I would check out Yahoo’s featured stories, then I’d head over to Huffington Post’s small business section. Then I’d see if The Onion wrote anything funny and then I’d scan through CNN’s breaking news. I’d check on some of my favorite bloggers, but usually only if I got an email reminding me that they posted something new. Then my husband told me to download Feedly. The rest is history. Feedly (which is also free) pulls all of the headlines that I like to read and lays them out in categorized sections. I tell it what news channels and blogs I want to see and it does all the work of putting them in one place and giving me a small snippet to see if it’s worth clicking through. It’s one of my favorite free apps and definitely worth the download!
So there you have it! 24 different ways to automate your life. If you’ve got your own brilliant ideas that I forgot, please share below! And if you’re looking for more ideas and inspiration for living the good life, check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the Entrepreneurial Life!
Follow Nikki @ MBAsahm’s board Entrepreneur Living on Pinterest.