A major weapon in your frugal arsenal lives in the kitchen, either on the stove or the microwave. A version of it lives in your cell phone too.
It’s the humble timer, and it can save you money in a lot of ways. Here are 10 right off the top of my head…
1. Laundry reminder
Without the timer, I’d probably forget to move the sheets and towels to the dryer, and then back upstairs. I’ve never lost a single item of clothing to laundry-room thieves.
2. Bus buddy
When I want to catch the 12:29 p.m. bus, I set the timer to ring at 12:19. That gives me time to shut down the computer, grab my bag, and head to the corner. If you’re a commuter, set the timer so you’re ready for the carpool or the bus/train/ferry. Miss the carpool and you’ll have to drive in alone, which costs more than sharing gas expenses. Miss public transit and you’ll be late – and showing up late to work is never a good idea, especially in these times of tenuous employment.
3. Beverage chiller
I prefer my iced tea really cold, but I don’t like an ice-diluted drink. So I pop the can or the glass into the freezer for 10 or 12 minutes. Tea is one of the cheapest beverages you can drink, and it’s so refreshing on super-hot days.
4. Utility watchdog
How long should a shower last? Set the timer for that amount and obey it. This cuts water/sewer bills and the utility costs to heat the water.
5. Ergonomic boost
I set the timer for an hour and start writing. When it rings I get up to shut it off – and while I’m up, I do some stretches. Fewer painkillers are consumed by people who don’t spend hours in a row hunched over a keyboard. Bonus: The less sore and exhausted you are, the more likely you’ll cook dinner instead of ordering it.
6. Food-prep partner
When you come home with groceries, set the timer for half an hour (or what you think you can spare) and speed your way through as much preparation as possible. Tasks like starting a pot of beans, grating cheese, washing salad greens, boiling eggs, grilling or roasting chicken, and cutting up fruit can be done semi-simultaneously. You’ll wind up with the elements needed for easy lunches and dinners during the week.
7. Manic maid moments
Assemble your cleaning supplies, set the timer for 20 to 30 minutes, and clean as though someone were paying you to do it. Which, in fact, someone might be doing: If you do this two or three times a week you might find you don’t need a housecleaner. Don’t have a housecleaner? You’ll find that a clean, well-ordered place is conducive to happier, less impulse-shopping-prone people.
8. Workout taskmaster
Third day in a row without any exercise? Even if you’re tired, set the timer for 20 minutes’ worth of stretching, exercise biking, Wii Fit, or whatever you’ve got. You will feel better afterward, both physically and mentally – and again, the more proactive you are about health, the less you’re likely to pay out later in doctor bills.
9. Extremely efficient couponing
Gather your coupon sections, set the timer for 10 minutes, and clip furiously. Set it for another five minutes and file the coupons alphabetically and by category, for easy use later on.
10. Scheduled relaxation
Reduce stress levels and improve overall health by doing meditation exercises or gentle yoga stretches a few nights a week. However, you probably shouldn’t use a kitchen timer for this. I tune my clock radio to the classical station and then set its alarm to go off in 20 minutes. A session designed to lower blood pressure should not culminate with a strident BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.
Readers: Do you use a kitchen timer or your cell phone alarm to keep you on task?
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