How to Save Time When You're Saving Money

A little effort can go a long way when it comes to money.

Alarm clock standing with coins isolated on white background
Getty ImagesYou don't need a lot of time to improve your budget.
By Stefanie O'Connell

We've all heard the recognizable Geico slogan: "15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance." It's one of the most recognizable slogans out there, along with "I'm loving it" and "Just do it." By promising a significant discount in minimal time, Geico advertises the idea that savings are simple. All it takes is an initial investment of time to research the deal, run a price comparison or call to negotiate.

Using that time-saving goal, let's take a look at other areas where a little effort can result in a boost to your bottom line:

Retail Discounts: Using gift card resale sites like Gift Card Granny, you can save anywhere from 5 to 50 percent on gift cards to major retailers, including Target (TGT), Starbucks (SBUX) and hundreds of others. Simply visit the site, search your store of choice and choose from the discounted gift cards available. The whole process takes about a minute from search to checkout. One thing to note: While many of the gift cards can be redeemed immediately online, a few will require an extra couple of days for shipping before you can use them.

Verdict: Just one minute can save you 5 to 50 percent when shopping.

Entertainment and Educational Discounts: Utilizing your local library can save you 100 percent on various forms of entertainment, from books to music to movies. In today's digital age, many libraries are making accessibility easier than ever, offering borrowing options in the form of e-books, even MP3 downloads. If you take the time to visit your local branch, you can also benefit from various free programming like performances, readings and classes.

Verdict: 15 minutes (or whatever you count as your commute time to the library) can save you up to 100 percent on entertainment and educational resources.

Clothing and Furniture Discounts: From Craigslist to thrift stores to yard sales, there's no shortage of places to find unique, vintage outfits, accessories and practical pieces for your home. This kind of scouring of second-hand sales typically takes more effort and a larger investment of time than some of the other savings strategies, particularly if you're in need of something specific. There are also no guarantees, which can be troubling to some.

My personal experience with this savings strategy has proved to be well worthwhile. I was able to find a fully functional kitchen unit that retails at $250 for just $25 with a five minute Craigslist search and a 15-minute trip to go pick it up. It still sits in my kitchen two years later, fully utilized and fully functional. If you really luck out, you might find some gems under the "free" section or by utilizing sites like Freecycle or Let's All Share.

Verdict: 30 minutes to several hours can save you up to 100 percent on clothing and household items.

Auto Discounts: New cars tend to decrease in value 25 to 40 percent in the first two years. Cash in on that massive depreciation by buying a used model. You'll need to spend some time researching vehicles and prices with sources like the Kelley Blue Book and double-checking the vehicle history with Carfax. You'll also want to have a mechanic come and do a full in person inspection. But that extra time devoted to the initial purchasing process can save you thousands in the end.

Verdict: A few hours (overall several days) can save you 25 to 40 percent on an automobile.

Service Discounts: From your cable and Internet package to your insurance rates, you can cut your recurring bills significantly by calling your providers to renegotiate. Simply ask for a discount. If that doesn't work, be prepared to quote the prices of the competition and ask for a price match or an even better rate. If you go so far as to disconnect, you might find you finally get the price you've been waiting for. All it takes is a phone call to save for months, even years.

Verdict: 20 minutes can save you around 10 to 30 percent on your current service rates.

Energy Discounts: Reduce your utility bills by going green. Things like solar panels, weather proofing windows, LED light bulbs and other energy efficient products can significantly cut your energy bill. Of course, the initial investment can take anywhere from five to as many as 20 years to pay off, so you'll have to be committed to your current location to make the green savings worthwhile.

Verdict: Hours of initial research and installation (along with years of patience) can save you up to 50 percent on energy bills.

The bottom line? Geico isn't the only place that lets you save with a little time commitment. An initial investment in upfront research can save you a bundle in the long run on just about anything.

Stefanie O'Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to "live the dream" on a starving artists' budget at

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I like these tips. Here are some more along the same lines:

1) drop the smart phone and get a "dumb" one. Save about $50 per month. Get a low-priced tablet (e.g., Kindle Fire) or use your old iPhone as a wi-fi only device. Wi-fi is available everywhere; you really don't need to pay for cell-based data plans
2) call your car and home insurance company and tell them you want to go through all your coverage because you found another carrier that is cheaper. They'll probably help you "find" 10% off or more.
3) speaking of car insurance - An expensive policy from GEICO, Progressive, etc. is not needed. You can find one usually for less than $25/month from a place like Insurance Panda. If you spend too much on car insurance from one of those big companies, chances are you are simply funding their expensive TV ads with cute animals.
4) compare what your house is really worth to your assessment. Many assessments have never been properly adjusted down to reflect the market over the last 4 years. We cut our property taxes by about 20%.
5) re-fi your 30-year mortgage to a 15. The interest rate will drop by at least 50-75 bps, more depending on your current rate. The payment may go up slightly, but it is because you are paying off your loan faster. If it's possible, get the mortgage paid off before the kids go to college. At a minimum, have it paid off before you retire.
6) review your credit card bills for all the things you are paying $10-20 per month for that you no longer need. I bet everybody has at least a couple
7) drop all magazine (paper and on-line) subscriptions. If you look around, you can find comparable content for free.
8) review your investment portfolio for ways to replace higher fee mutual funds or ETFs with lower fee ones. S&P500 funds/ETFs shouldn't charge more than 0.10% in fees. Fees may be higher for specialty funds, but they are all coming down fast. If your company 401K uses high-fee funds, talk to the folks in charge. A difference of 25 bps in fees will mean a difference of about 5% in your portfolio value after 25 or 30 years.
9) and of course the most impactful -- never carry a balance on a credit card. If you can't resist, cut up the cards.

July 25 2014 at 3:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mexazuneben's comment

@ mexazuneben --- Generally, your advice is good. However, re No. 6 on your list, not everyone is stupid enough to be paying $10-$20 every month on a credit card for services they are not using.

Also, re No. 8 on the list, I would love to know "where" you found an S&P 500 Index mutual fund that is charging only $.10 in expense fees. Even Vanguard (which has the lowest fund expense fees) is charging $.17 expenses on both their 500 Index and Total Stock Market Index funds.

July 26 2014 at 2:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply