Using Automated Reminders to Save Money and Reduce Stress

Using Automated Reminders to Save Money and Reduce StressAs life has gotten busier and busier, I’ve had an increasingly hard time keeping track of the many deadlines and due dates that I run across in daily life. Depending on the context, this has the potential to result in late fees, embarrassment, etc.

I’ve thus become increasingly dependent on automated reminders to keep things on track. I first started out using as a complement to my paper planner. This allowed me to create text message reminders to be sent at a future date, but I ultimately found that to be too clumsy.

In the end, I wound up switching to Google Calendar and haven’t looked back since.

Tracking appointments

I originally started out with just two calendars — Home and Work. These calendars hold all of my professional and personal appointments, our kids’ medical appointments and game schedules, travel dates, and so on.

Depending on how important each of these things are, and whether or not my attendance is required, I also set create custom reminders. For example, professional appointments get an e-mail reminder 3 hours in advance and a text reminder 30 minutes in advance.

This means that my morning appointments are sitting in my inbox early in the day and my afternoon appointments are there by lunch or shortly thereafter. The text reminder serves as a failsafe in case I get distracted (and I often do).

Expanding the system

Since I first started with Google calendar, I’ve create a third “Reminders” calendar to track random, and often infrequent, items. For example, I typically create reminders for things like life insurance premium due dates, tax due dates (though I forgot to set these up for 2010), and other financial deadlines.

I’ve also begun tracking major home maintenance items that need to be done on a periodic basis. These include flushing out our water heater (yearly), pumping out our septic tank (every three years), replacing our furnace filters (every 1-3 months), paying our property taxes (now that we’ve paid off our mortgage and no longer have an escrow account), etc.

Depending on the frequency and importance of these items, I usually set up something like an e-mail reminder 7 days in advance with another one coming a day in advance just to be sure I don’t miss it. Because most of these items are recurring, I can also enter them just once and set them to repeat at the desired interval.

Working the system

This system works great, but it’s only as reliable as the data that gets entered. I’ve thus been training myself to immediately enter any appointments or reminders as they crop up. This has been made much easier by a combination of my iPhone and a fantastic app known as CalenGoo. Yes, it’s a dumb name, but CalenGoo is a very powerful Google Calendar client.

Benefits of automated reminders

One of the biggest benefits of this system is that it frees up a ton of mental space and lets me focus on what I’m doing instead of what’s coming up. In other words, it’s a very effective stress reducer. Aside from that, we’ve saved a good bit on late fees by making payments that we might have otherwise forgotten.

Sure, you can use automatic bill pay (and we often do) to achieve some of the same things. But even if you do, it’s still a good idea to set a reminder to check your bank balance and/or transfer the necessary funds to avoid overdraft fees.

Finally, it’s well known that you can save money through regular home maintenance. By using this sort of reminder system, you can be sure to get all of your preventative maintenance done before problems arise.

4 Responses to “Using Automated Reminders to Save Money and Reduce Stress”

  1. Anonymous

    Most billers can be setup for automatic reminders which is what I have done for as many of them as I can. I have also setup ING to remind me for the billers that I’ve setup with them. I’ve only had one maybe two late payments in the past 3-4 years due to forgetting to actually make the payment.

  2. Anonymous

    I have been using Google Calendar for more than a year now and use it for almost everything (including tasks). Some tidbits:
    1) If your corporate calendar system supports ical export, you can probably integrate your calendar from work into Google Calendar, which makes it much easier.
    2) Dont forget the tasks function of GCal too. Although there are other web products like RememberTheMilk which do tasks as well, having tasks integrated with your calendar is a huge benefit for those looking for a one-stop shop.
    3)Separate calendars are useful too. You can have them be different colors and set a different reminder schedule for it too.

    Personally, I still use Quicken for my scheduled financial transactions. I open it often enough where I never miss a payment.

    Thanks for the links on the home improvement lists. About 3 years ago, we bought our first house and I was looking for a relatively complete list of things I need to do.

  3. Anonymous

    The name of the game is organizing… Not your day, but your head. Mobile phones integrated w/ your computers now offer every opportunity to keep all these little tasks/apptmnts/events in order.

    Pretty soon everyone is going to be walking around with a personal assistant. Im available if anyone is interested!

  4. Anonymous

    Time management is one of those things I have tried to find a perfect system for – but never quite there. And as I get older, I find I forget things more! But I agree, entering things as they come up is the best way to stay on top. Great post and in my weekend roundup!

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