“I’m on day x of waking up earlier!”
Over the past couple of years, I’ve made this remark to my coworkers so many times that I’m surprised I’m not always met with an eye roll or loud laugh in response.
Like starting a new exercise program or quitting an addictive substance, the secret to waking up earlier seems to be accepting your mistakes when you stumble while re-committing yourself to your goal.
My most recent effort to start waking up earlier came after reading Scott of Making Momentum’s post Waking Up at 5AM Changed My Life.
(It’s been just over a month since his post was published, so you can tell my current round of early mornings hasn’t gone on for too long.)
This time, however, waking up earlier than normal has been relatively easy. Perhaps “practice makes perfect,” but I think it’s been easier for a few reasons:
- I’m calling a 6:30 am wake-up time “early” – at least for now
- I’ve discovered a sleep routine that works well for me
- I’ve seen how waking up earlier can help my health, mood, and yes, personal finances!
This is my first round of waking up earlier since I had my personal finance epiphany. As a result, I’ve gained a greater appreciation of the financial benefits of waking up earlier. These newly-appreciated benefits (along with a disciplined routine) have helped provide the extra incentive needed to wake up earlier day after day.
Here are five ways that waking up earlier has helped me save (and eventually earn) more money.
Prepare your food for the day
I’ve written before about how I was literally eating myself into debt.
Without a food budget, it’s difficult to estimate just how much you spend on eating out and grocery shopping each month.
Odds are, if you don’t know exactly how much you’re spending, it’s a lot higher than you’d expect. This is definitely going to be true if you find yourself eating out frequently, whether with your coworkers at lunch or your friends/family during the evenings and weekends.
Waking up earlier allows you to save money on food throughout the day. You can use this time to:
- Make your own coffee and/or breakfast instead of stopping at Starbucks or McDonald’s
- Pack a lunch to take for work (although I admit, sometimes this still turns into a second lunch!)
- Start preparing your dinner if you use a slow-cooker
Using this “extra” morning time to prepare your food for the day only takes 10-15 minutes. However, you can easily save $10+ a day by making your own breakfast and lunch during this time.
Even if you only do this during the work week, you can save over $2,500 a year if you normally make regular trips to buy coffee, breakfast, or lunch.
Ride public transit to work
I’ve decided to ride public transit to work for the month of June.
In the past, I’ve had a variety of reasons not to take public transit:
- The cost of riding is essentially equal to the cost of gasoline
- It takes nearly twice as long to ride public transportation
- I’d have to wake up significantly earlier to ride the light-rail/train
- I have limited options if I want to leave the office during work hours
Over the past few weeks, though, these reasons for not riding public transit to work have slowly started to disappear – or at least become less persuasive.
Rising gasoline prices have made it slightly profitable to drive the train instead of commuting via car (not even considering the wear-and-tear on my vehicle). The economics for commuting to work via public transit varies from city to city.
Perhaps it’s a no-brainer in your city/state, but for me, I’m just content that it’s financially a wash. (Unless this becomes a slippery slope where I sell my car altogether, which would be a huge win for my expenses.)
Anyway… What does riding the train to work have to do with waking up earlier?
In the past, I would’ve needed to set my alarm clock 30 minutes earlier or more to give myself time to walk to the light-rail station. These days, I’m already awake and ready to go for the day at least an hour before I need to head into work.
With plenty of unrushed time each morning, I don’t mind the additional time needed for the convenience of skipping rush hour and riding the train. Instead, I get to use that time on the train for the next benefit: learning something new.
Take time to read and learn
After spending many hours reading during my childhood, my reading habits took a serious nosedive after graduating from high school.
This isn’t an uncommon trend. Many of us fail to make reading a priority after finishing school. In fact, one-fourth of adult Americans reported they haven’t read a single book (physical or digital) within the past year.
Waking up earlier – combined with my extra free time commuting to and from work each morning – helped me buck this trend and finally start finishing some of those barely-started books littered across my apartment.
A Pew Research study that found that American adults with an income under $30,000 were three times more likely to be classified as “non-readers.” On the other hand, reading is frequently listed as a popular habit of the world’s richest people.
Reading is an excellent way to start your day if you’ve decided to start waking up earlier. Rather than “activating” your brain right before you go to bed, schedule a few minutes each morning to read and learn while your mind is clear and refreshed.
What is it that you should read if you want to emulate others who’ve become millionaires or billionaires?
While many people love reading fiction for leisure and entertainment, the readers with the highest incomes were regular readers of non-fiction books including personal development, business and management, and historical biography genres.As a result, I’ve gained a greater appreciation of the financial benefits of waking up earlier. These newly-appreciated benefits (along with a disciplined routine) have helped provide the extra incentive needed to wake up earlier day after day.Click To Tweet
Practice a new skill
Most skills are only acquired through consistent and repetitive practice.
It’s all too easy to procrastinate this deliberate practice when you’re at the “beginner” stage of a desired skill and don’t feel confident in your abilities – or perhaps you’ve been asked to learn a skill that isn’t of particular personal interest.
If you’re looking to develop a new skill, whether it’s personal or professional, early mornings are an excellent time to get this practice time into your day.
Author and speaker Brian Tracy has talked about the value of starting the morning by eating the frog.
The gist is this: By starting your day by completing your most difficult and important task, you’ll guarantee that each day has at least one “victory” while hopefully building momentum for the rest of the day.
Right now, one skill that I’m working on some mornings is learning how to play the piano on a keyboard. I don’t have a musical background at all, and I’m starting from scratch, but I’ve found that choosing a “fun” skill like piano helps to complement the time I spend on my career or side hustling (see below).
By practicing the piano for a few minutes each morning, I guarantee that I’ve given myself a little bit of “me time” to do something fun before diving into a day of work.
Work on your side hustle
I’ve written before about the many benefits of having a side hustle. Even if you’re satisfied with your day job, a side hustle can help complement your career by helping you:
- Diversify your income
- Discover additional purpose and meaning
- Develop new skills that could help build your career
- Enjoy a change of pace from your normal 9-5 routine
Of course, finding time to work on a side hustle while still working a traditional job isn’t easy. Yes, you can take advantage of the benefits of side hustling with just a few hours a week, but if you’d like your side hustle to go full-time, you’ll need to ramp up your time investment.
While the first couple points in this post are geared heavily toward saving money by waking up earlier, side hustling is the most obvious way to make some extra cash.
If you decide to wake up early and side hustle, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Work as an Uber/Lyft driver and accept a couple rides on your way toward work
- Create crafts or other items to see on an Etsy shop, Facebook Marketplace, or local farmers market
- Complete freelance work as an article writer or social media manager
Side hustling can require incredible discipline as it requires much more personal accountability than simply showing up to work and reporting to management. Blocking out time first thing in the morning can help you stay consistent in your efforts – it’s easy to lose your evenings to leisure or social activities. Dedicate your mornings to working on YOU.
Past attempts at waking up earlier
During my past attempts to change my sleep habits, I focused too much on what time I wake up and not enough time on overall sleep quality.
I’d start waking up earlier each morning without going to bed any earlier. As a result, I’d start accumulating a “sleep debt” that would eventually be paid off.
Within a few mornings, I’d wake up and ask myself, “Is it better to wake up at 6:00 am today – or get a full night of rest?”
That was all of the justification I needed to go back to bed.
My sleep schedule would also shift by an hour or two on the weekends. I found myself groggy on Saturday mornings and Monday mornings as my body was forced to adjust.
How to start waking up earlier
To successfully wake up earlier each day, I’ve settled into the following routine:
- Try to get a baseline level of physical activity during the day. I find it difficult to fall asleep if I’ve been sitting all day, so I’ve set a basic goal of 6,000 steps or 30 minutes of physical activity.
- Use tools like Flux and Night Shift to reduce the amount of light stimulation in the hours leading up to sleep.
- Set an alarm for 30 minutes before my target bedtime to stop using electronic devices and start getting ready for bed. A full hour would be better!
- Cool my apartment down to 67 degrees around the time I’d like to go to sleep. Not only is sleeping in a cold room better for you, but I’ve found the drop in apartment temperature to be a helpful cue that it’s time to start preparing to sleep.
- Sleep in a dark room. I’ve placed a couple pieces of particle board in my bedroom window that block out 95% of the outside light. By using two “panels,” I can slide one over to “open” the window to light.
- Turn on a portable fan to create white noise. This is helpful since I sometimes wake up due to noisy neighbors, so I can imagine it’s also helpful if you have noisy kids!
- Follow the same schedule seven days a week. I wish this weren’t necessary, but I’ve found that following the same sleep schedule seven days a week is critical for maintaining the routine.
Sounds like a lot of work, huh?
After just a couple weeks, I’ve found myself waking up feeling fully rested – often a few minutes before my alarm clock goes off – so I’m afraid I’m hooked!
I won’t claim that waking up earlier is the right decision for everyone. I’ve enjoyed lots of late nights – and been incredibly productive on my side hustles – during those late “night owl” hours.
That being said, I’ve found that waking up earlier has enabled me to save money on food and gasoline, improved my health and mood, and allowed me to start each day by spending time productively or doing something I enjoy.
If these benefits sound appealing, create a routine that works for you. Set a reasonable goal for when you’d like to wake up and go to bed. Becoming an early riser doesn’t have to be waking up at 5:00 am, but having the right routine in place can give you momentum to start each day!
Are you a night owl or an early riser? Do you have a daily routine in place that helps you save or earn money?