If there’s one collective conundrum of our harried, cash-conscious society this is it: How do I save both money and time, simultaneously. Impossible you say? Do I have to sacrifice one for the other? Do I have to hire a personal assistant? The answer is no, not always, and with a couple of habit changes and foresight it’s easier than you think. In fact, you might be saving time and money at the same time already.
Below are five basic activities from movie renting to commuting to getting your morning buzz that, if approached with an open mind and a bit of patience, can help to keep money in your wallet while freeing up time for things that you’d rather be doing like spending time with your family, enjoying the great outdoors or simply unwinding. Most often, these money-and-time-saving tips will help you reduce your environmental footprint, too.
1. There are no lines when you shop online
Although there are certain things that you may require immediately or would be more comfortable purchasing in-person (fresh food, toilet paper, legal advice, underwear), you can pretty much buy anything on the Internet. Shopping online for consumer goods — whether it’s books, electronics, shoes, home decor or secondhand treasures — is perhaps the easiest way to save precious time and money. There’s nothing quite like hunting for the best deals from retailers across the country, or even the world, without having to visit an actual, physical store. So instead of spending five hours at the mall, including time stuck in traffic getting to and from, just sit back, relax and participate in good, old-fashioned consumerism without leaving the house.
And for all those not-so-exciting home essentials that you need on a reoccurring basis, we suggest giving Alice.com a spin. You may never spend the time fighting for a parking spot and waiting in line at a big box store again.
2. Tapped out
It’s a money-draining drag when you run out of bottled water and have to head out to your local big box store and haul home another case. It’s an even bigger money-draining drag when you throw out your back carrying said case of bottled water from your garage to your fridge and wind up spending hours in a chiropractor’s office. The solution? Don’t buy bottled water. Drink from the tap instead whether you’re at home or on the go. And even if you vigilantly recycle all of the plastic water bottles that you consume, turning to the tap is still a much more cost-effective, not to mention environmentally friendly, way to quench your thirst.
3. To ‘Flix or not to ‘Flix? That is the question
As much as we get nostalgic over the endangered species known as the mom-and-pop video store, Netflix and other on-demand and movie-rentals-by-mail services are the more time- and cost-effective option for frequent at-home movie watchers. With its flat monthly rate and no late fees, Netflix is the all-you-can-eat buffet of home entertainment — but you need to work just a little for the service to work in your favor. And by work we mean watch a movie soon after you receive it and then return it in the mail soon after that. If you receive a movie from Netflix and let it sit around collecting dust for three weeks before watching it and then take a few days to drop them it in the mail, then the money-saving perks are minimal. However, if you watch the DVDs as soon as you get them and return them poste-haste, then you’re truly getting the most bang for your buck.
On top of that, Netflix’s streaming “Watch Instantly” feature allows for even more cinematic consumption for a flat rate. But be warned, that navigating the random, rotating selection of available films requires a bit of patience and finesse in order to find a title that you really want to watch. But really, at what brick-and-mortar video store can you find “The Garbage Pail Kids Movie” and “Annie Hall” on the same shelf?
Although Netflix’s movies-in-the-mail component doesn’t offer the instant gratification that the “Watch Instantly” feature does, the time you’d spend driving to a video store and aimlessly wandering down the aisles looking for something suitable — after discovering all the copies of the new release that you’re after are out — becomes a thing of a past. True, fiddling around with your Netflix queue does take some time, but that’s what slow days at work are for.
4. A quick fix
Have you ever found yourself running late to work because everyone in line ahead of you at Starbucks was ordering five complicated, fussy drinks and then taking their sweet time to pay while flirting with the barista? Save yourself the agonizing time spent waiting in line for your fix as well as a significant amount of money by simply brewing your own coffee at home.
Sure, not everyone can replicate the fancy espresso drinks served at coffee shops, but if you’re just after a regular cup of fuel, make it yourself. Plus, there’s nothing quite like multitasking in the morning while the invigorating aroma of coffee fills your kitchen. Heck, you can probably shower, dress and eat breakfast in the time you’d spend parking your car and waiting in a daunting, morning rush line at a coffee shop.
5. Don’t drive yourself crazy
Many city dwellers opt to drive to work each day because they believe it’s quicker and more efficient than taking public transportation or biking. When you consider the time spent in traffic and hunting for parking (not to mention all the time you spent complaining to co-workers, your spouse and your therapist about gridlock and the lack of parking spots) then relying on mass transit or a bike makes perfect sense.
For urbanites, not driving is obviously a much cheaper and eco-friendly way to get from point A to point B. And then there are the numerous, important side benefits of not getting behind the wheel. Biking, for example, is an excellent form of exercise and can help you achieve that “gym body” without spending time at or money on a gym. And taking a train or bus allows you to do all sorts of things that you wouldn’t be able to do while driving like reading the morning paper or a magazine and interacting with/gawking at your fellow straphangers.
Thumbnail tease photo: Paul Sakuma/AP