The busy girl's guide to saving money without shopping around

Oct 20, 2014 at 8:00 a.m. ET

Shopping around for the best deals can take time — time a lot of us simply don't have. But there are easier ways to save, ways that don't take up precious time in your schedule. We're sharing some of the simplest ways to save money no matter how many to-dos top your list.

By the numbers

A recent survey conducted by American Express found that 29 per cent of those surveyed listed busy schedules and 37 per cent listed lack of discipline as factors that make it difficult for them to shop around for good deals. Only 26 per cent of Canadians consider themselves savvy shoppers, even though 92 per cent of those surveyed believe it's important to shop around to find the best deals. So how can you save without taking the time to shop around? Here are a few effective ideas.

Use a credit card that gives you cash back

You need to shop anyway, so it makes sense from a savvy-shopping perspective to use a credit card that gives back each time you use it. For example, the SimplyCash Card from American Express gets you 5 per cent cash back on all eligible purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants (up to $250 cash back), and 1.25 per cent on all other purchases for the first six months. After six months, you'll continue to receive 1.25 per cent on all purchases. That means that every time you buy something, from gas to ingredients for dinner, you're getting money back — without even trying.

Set up an account to auto-save

Check with your bank to see if you can set up one (or more) of your savings accounts to automatically take money from your chequing (or main) account each month. You can set the amount — even $20 a month can go a long way in the long term when it comes to generating savings. After a while you won’t even realize money is leaving one account and going into others where you won't see it, and therefore you can let it build up.

Use a comparison shopping app

Comparison shop with the swipe of your finger by installing a comparison shopping app onto your smartphone. There are many to choose from, and most work by scanning the bar code of the item in question. The app will pull up prices for the same item from both online shopping sites and brick-and-mortar stores if there are any nearby. Some to check out include RedLaser, ShopSavvy and Barcode Scanner.

Bring your own coffee and lunches

It's surprisingly easy to rack up your monthly spending on lattes and lunches alone. Sure, sometimes you have no choice but to grab that to-go coffee minutes before your first meeting or to get lunch on the go, but you can save a whole lot by bringing food and coffee from home. Set your coffee maker to have a steaming cup ready for you as you get out of the shower, and aim to make taking your lunch to work easier. Either bring DIY sandwich items like veggies, hummus and other spreads to work and keep them in the fridge, or make big-batch dinner items you can take to work for lunch the next day.

Plan a clothing swap

Shopping for new clothes each season is fun, but it can be pricey, especially if you don't have time to comparison shop. Instead of buying something new, arrange a clothing swap amongst family, friends and even co-workers. Have everyone bring gently used items they no longer wear, arrange them by size before the swapping starts, and then ideally everyone can leave with a few new (previously loved) items of clothing, shoes and accessories.

This post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this post, however, are purely my own.

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