You’ve heard it said that time is money. Well, it’s mostly true, and money is time too. Money buys you time, to retire, to pay someone to mow your lawn or watch your kids. In the same way, when you’ve got a little free time to spend, you can use it to save more money.
Here are a few ways to spend your time that can yield savings–big and small. I’ve included how much time I estimate they’ll take, based on my own experience or how I would go about doing them.
Saving Money on Groceries and Staples
1) Learn how to play the CVS game.
This is one of the more time-intensive ways to save money, but once you’ve learned how to do it, it becomes a lot faster (I hear). CVS offers coupons, sales, and ExtraCare bucks (good as cash) which you can combine to get lots of goods for little to nothing. Check out the tutorial linked above or this CVS tutorial on Being Frugal is Fabulous, or head on over to IheartCVS.com for in-depth instructions, plus tools and deals. (estimated time: several hours spread over several days of figuring it out and practicing)
2) Clip old-fashioned coupons.
If that’s too intense, try sticking with the old-fashioned kinds of coupons. You can get these in newspapers, fliers in your mailbox, receipts, at your workplace (mine has a box for people to bring in coupon sheets), and at your local library (depending on your library).
Stockpile the ones you get and use free time to sort through them and clip the useful ones. (estimated time: 5-20 min)
3) Find coupons and deals online.
Take some time to subscribe to blogs which regularly post coupons and deals. Then, when you’ve got the time to check your feed reader, see what you can save on right now.
estimated time: 20 min to subscribe, you can check reader in one go or here and there, 5-30 min)
Also visit places like FatWallet if you’re looking for a specific coupon.
(estimated time: 10 min)
4) Create a price book.
You use a price book to track the prices of items you regularly buy. It can be something as simple as tracking toilet paper and bread sales to tracking all your staples to tracking anything you might buy. The advantages of having a price book are a) comparing prices at stores more easily, b) finding out if an item is really on sale, c) figuring out the sales cycles at your local stores.
For more on creating a price book check out this price book post at Gather Little by Little.
(estimated time: an extra 10 min during shopping every week, another 20 min a week to compare stores. Or an extra hour to check out extra stores)
5) Organize your pantry.
Whenever I clean my cupboards, I discover things I’d stuck somewhere and forgotten: noodles, rice, spices, saran wrap. Saves me money on buying new items when I’ve already got what I need. Also keeps the money from being wasted if the food goes bad.
(estimated time: depends on your cupboards, for me about 30 min)
1) Combine your insurance plans.
If you’re insured under two providers (i.e. one home/renters and one car), you may be able to save some money by bringing them together. Call both providers and ask what kind of deal they can offer you or bringing over your auto or home/renter’s plan.
(estimated time: 30 min)
2) Call around looking for new deals.
It’s comfortable to simply renew your insurance year after year. But you could be missing out on savings with another insurance provider. Call the major companies (State Farm, All State, Erie, etc) and get estimates. Even if it’s not time to renew, you can tuck that away and call to confirm the offer’s still available when the time comes to renew.
(estimated time: 1 hour)
Save Money Banking
Ok, with banking it’s more like making money, but since the money goes into your savings account, it still increases your savings.
1) Open a high(er) interest checking or savings account at ING Direct or somewhere similar.
Many free checking accounts pay no interest. Why not switch (or move most of your checking) to one who does? I use ING’s Electric Orange Checking for everything but paying the rent. My money doesn’t earn much, but it earns over .25% more than my Wachovia checking. And I can immediately transfer money to my ING Savings, which is earning 1.4% and transfer it back before I need it (though savings accounts are limited to 6 withdrawals per month).
Neither is much to brag about considering rates a couple years ago, but rates go up just as they go down.
(estimated time: 1 hour)
2) Create a CD ladder.
One thing I love about ING is that it’s so easy to create a CD ladder there. Check out my post for screenshots and information. Opening a CD ladder can help you earn more on money that would have been in savings otherwise.
(estimated time: 15 min if you already have an ING account)
What about you?
This post is far from comprehensive, just some money-saving ideas that I’ve been thinking about lately. What have you found gives the best ROI when you spend free time to save money?