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By Laura T. Coffey
msnbc.com contributor
updated 1/15/2007 7:34:11 PM ET 2007-01-16T00:34:11

If, as the saying goes, time is money, then shouldn’t you be spending as little of it as possible standing in line? The following tips can help you avoid crowds and long lines at a variety of places. These are general guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules —  and if you really hate standing in line, remember that online, phone and mail options also exist in many cases.

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1. The post office. Best times: Mid-morning and mid-afternoon Wednesdays and Thursdays. Worst times: The lunch hour, an hour or so before closing time, and the beginning and end of the week. At the U.S. Postal Service Web site (http://www.usps.com/), you can calculate postage, print postage and labels, schedule pickups, order stamps, file a change of address and request vacation holds.

2. Banks. Best times: Mid-mornings or mid-afternoons. Worst times: The lunch hour, especially at the beginning or end of the work week. Remember that ATM machines allow you to get cash, make deposits, get a printout of your last monthly statement, transfer money between accounts and make loan or credit account payments.

3. Grocery stores. Best times: Early mornings and late evenings. Worst times: Weekdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and again between 4 and 8 p.m., during the “what am I going to make for dinner?” rush. Saturdays and Sundays can be busy all day long.

4. Malls. Best times: Weekday mornings. (Malls often open at 10 a.m.) Worst times: Weekends all day long – especially during the holiday season.

5. Home improvement stores. Best times: Early in the morning (stores often open by 6 or 7 a.m.) or later in the evening, after 7 or 8 p.m. Worst times: Weekends all day long. Tip for weekend warriors: Pick up everything you need for your home project Friday night after work. The store won’t be crowded, and you’ll be able to start your project earlier on Saturday.

6. Auto tag offices. Best times: Wednesdays and Thursdays. Worst times: Monday mornings, late Friday afternoons, days before and after a holiday, and days at the end of the month. Most tax collection offices make many of their services available online and provide phone alternatives as well.

7. Driver’s license offices. Best times: Wednesdays and Thursdays. Worst times: Monday mornings, late Friday afternoons, days before and after a holiday, and days at the end of the month. Again, seek out online alternatives whenever possible because these lines can be brutal.

8. Gyms. Best times: Friday nights, and mid-mornings and mid-afternoons on weekdays. Worst times: 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday if your gym closes at 10 to 11 p.m. This problem isn’t as pervasive at gyms that stay open 24 hours a day.

9. Doctors’ offices. Best times: Early in the morning or right after lunch Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Worst times: Mondays and Fridays between 11 a.m. and noon and between 4 and 5 p.m. (Tuesdays also can be bad if Monday was a holiday.)

10. Pharmacies. Best times: Early mornings, late evenings and Friday nights. Worst times: Afternoons and early evenings most days. Many pharmacy chains offer 24-hour service and drive-up windows, allowing you to pick up prescriptions at odd hours. 

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