This post is from staff writer Suba Iyer.
I have not met anyone who is not busy anymore, including kids and retired folks. The always-on-the-run lifestyle has provided increased incomes and career growth for a lot of people. For the rest of us, it has cost a lot of money. When I was super busy, I didn’t have the time or the energy to deal with anything other than my demanding office work. We think as long as we are being productive instead of being lazy it should work out in our favor. Realistically though, how much is being so busy costing us? And how much of it is worth it?
High cost of being too busy
A lot of businesses make good money by counting on us being busy and not following up. Here is a list of things that I am guilty of due to being busy.
- Home/car maintenance: We are new homeowners. I can see how demanding maintaining a home can be. It is so easy to postpone the maintenance because we don’t get any immediate benefits. Delaying/skipping maintenance can cost quite a bit of money. I know this personally from experiences with my car’s maintenance. My car has this stupid design where the glove box has an open back, where it opens into the car hood. I had a pencil in the glove box that fell into the hood. I didn’t notice it until it started making a rattling noise. I meant to take it to the shop to get the car checked. But I was too busy. By the time I got my car to the repair shop, the little pencil had already damaged my AC fan and some other components. Cost: $900.
- Not exploring other opportunities: How many of us have time to look for better career opportunities while we are working a demanding job? Even if we are unhappy, we are frequently too tired to do anything about it. It might not be always about a higher-paying job, but how many of us explored other hobbies or other business ventures that would have been more fulfilling?
- Not cancelling unnecessary subscriptions: I am sure I am not alone in this. I had a couple of magazine subscriptions for much longer than I wanted only because it auto-renewed, and I didn’t take the time to call to cancel or look for the login information to do it online.
- Not shopping around: These days it has become a routine every six months to check whether I am getting the best rates for my car insurance, home insurance, cable/internet and phone. If not, negotiate with the current company or switch to a new one. It will take only 10-15 minutes for each one and as a recurring expense can save a lot of money.
- Not asking: This might not be just being busy, but a combination of lack of time to research what is the fair price for a product or service, fear or embarrassment to enter into a negotiation and procrastination. We can save a lot of money by simple asking for a better price. We don’t do that because we never have the time to research prices and are never confident when we ask.
- Not paying attention to deadlines (Zero-percent financing expiration, credit card bill due date, etc.): Zero-percent financing sounds like a sweet deal when we get it, but the company is counting on us to get on with life and forget about it when the deal expires or not paying attention to the fine print that says “if you miss the payment one month, the 0 percent will become 25 percent”. Missing the payment for just one month will negate any and all benefits of a zero-percent deal. My personal guilt is mail-in-rebates. An estimated 60 percent of the rebates go unfulfilled. And then there are people who forget to deposit the check. Mail-in-rebates are a marketing tactic that relies purely on people being busy, unorganized or lazy.
- Not planning properly: Another one of my failures — we eat out more due to being too busy to cook rather than enjoying a restaurant. We are trying to change this now, but still have a long way to go. Buying a plane ticket or booking a hotel during the peak season at the last minute due to lack of planning can also cost a pretty penny.
- Not taking care of our health: Quite a few of us are too busy to exercise. So we pay for a gym or buy the latest model treadmill to workout at home, we try it out for a few days/weeks, and then life happens. We let the gym membership continue or the treadmill add to our clutter because we don’t want to accept any sunk cost or we are too busy to put it up for sale.
- Not trying to understand retirement/investing: One of my friends didn’t sign up for his 401k, which gave a 5 percent match for more than 3 years because he didn’t have time to “read up on that stuff”. We choose the wrong investments or pay someone hefty fees to tell us what to invest in, all because we lack the time to read up on what is right for us.
- Not looking for the best ways to make our money work for us: I am not talking about the rate chasers but there are still a lot of people who pay a high fee for a simple checking account just because they have not done the research to see if there is any better option out there. Are you paying for your checking account when there are free alternatives? Are you getting the best rate for your savings?
- Not taking time to understand all the benefits that we are eligible for: We get a LOT of free benefits from places that we already pay for — like city parks, libraries, credit card benefits, workplace benefits and insurance company benefits. My credit card company and insurance company offers a lot of discounts for places that I use regularly. My library provides free access to quite a few magazines. Lot of companies these days are providing perks like free/discounted gym membership, spa access, commuting benefits, etc. We have to take some time to see what we are eligible for and make the most of it.
- Wasting money due to disorganization: When we moved recently I found two or three of the same item not because we merged households but when we really needed something we couldn’t find it, so we went ahead and bought another one!
Most of these things can be fixed by spending a little time organizing and planning. Some areas might be costing you more than others. You can prioritize, outsource or skip stuff that is not worth much to you. The main point is to evaluate and make a conscious decision on what is best for your family.
What about you? How has your busy lifestyle affected your finances? How do you handle these “holes” in your wallet when you are too busy?
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