Save time through smart buying

When people say that time is money, they mostly mean that you can earn money with your time. But it works both ways. In a previous post I discussed how we can spend money on a virtual assistant to save time. Here I will discuss some ways that you can spend money on goods or services to save you time.

Food

I have found a few cheap places to eat in my neighbourhood but my favourite is our college hall. The student cafeteria is an ideal location to eat as food is generally cheaper than elsewhere, and cooking costs are usually subsidised or paid entirely by the college. I try and arrange all of my meetings during meal times as a form of multi-tasking, and my college cafeteria is my favourite location. You’ll want to factor in travel times to and from your local eatery when doing this calculation, but for me it is well worth doing.

Shopping

When I go do a weekly shop it takes me about an hour all-told. I am about to trial using a shopping delivery service such as tesco.com to do the shopping for me. There is an initial setup cost associated with selecting which types of items I like, for example which type of muesli I buy, and saving them in the system. But once I have done this, I can save time each week by taking a photo of my shopping list and sending it to my virtual assistant to order online for me. I have not tried this yet, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

Going digital

I have spent money on a number of services that have allowed me to go digital, saving me time and hassle. Everything I have here is worth doing in my opinion, but are not that big time savers relative to many of the other items listed here. Some examples are below:

  • Movie rental – I use iTunes to rent or buy movies rather than going to a video store.
  • Digitise your life – I use Evernote to eliminate most paper from my life. Most of my formerly paper files are now stored on Evernote. I take photos of them, and uses tags and optical character recognition for each searching. This saves me time in searching through lab books, note pads, and files. An even better solution is to make notes digitally in the first place, but I still find myself wedded, perhaps irrationally, to pen and paper for many things. The main benefit of using Evernote for me is to make me footloose, allowing me to have my office with me anytime anywhere, turning more travel time into productive time. It also allows me to share my files with my virtual assistant, allowing me to delegate more.
  • Good backup – The time expense of losing all your files is quite large, not to mention the associated psychological stress. Get yourself a good backup system. I use a 1Tb hard disk in Raid-1 configuration (so that it is actually functions as a 500Gb hard disk with redundancy in case one of its two independent disks fail). To avoid the hassle of backing up regularly I use Time Machine, which does it automatically for me. I locate my hard disk in my office, so that whenever I go there I hook up to it when I hook of up for power and internet.

Graphic design and presentations

There are now professional services available that let you send edits on a print out of a document or presentation to a virtual business assistant to put the edits into the electronic copy. For example, it is much quicker to make edits to a “deck” of printed out powerpoint slides and scan them to an assistant than it is to make the edits yourself.

When I am making a powerpoint that includes a complex diagram, I often sketch the diagram on a whiteboard or on paper and send it to a graphic designer to work up into an electronic diagram rather than doing it myself.

Travel

There are a number of ways that you can spend money to gain time when faced with a situation in which you must travel.

Let us begin with a simplified assumption that the benefits gained from your time while traveling is zero. This makes the calculation quite simple: just calculate the cost saving per hour of time saved in travelling via a faster route.

A more realistic calculation factors in the value of your time while you are travelling. If you sitting down on a train or bus and can use your laptop, then the benefits gained from time spent travelling is close to the benefit gained from a spare hour, assuming that you have things to do on your laptop that you would otherwise do in your spare time.

You can increase the benefits gained from time while travelling by doing something that you would have had to do anyway. For example, I use the iPhone app “pocket” (formerly “Read it later”) to do reading on public transport that I would normally do at my computer. You could be reading this very blog post, or any other website for that matter, on the bus or while waiting for a train, instead of at your computer.

This means that if you can cycle somewhere in 20 minutes, it might actually be worth your time to take the bus even if it takes 40 minutes, as you could work on the bus. This is of course complicated by waiting times, and the enjoyment and fitness benefits of cycling, but I’ll let you figure those out.

Summary

So there were a few ways to spend money to save time. Whether or not you should be using these techniques depends on the marginal value of your time, but I’m saving that for another post. If you have any other ideas on how people can spend money to save time using goods and services please do let us know below.