8 smart things to do with your money in the time you would have spent commuting

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Working from home means more free time. Here's how to use it to better your finances.

 
  • Working from home means less commuting time. That means you have an opportunity to spend a few minutes doing money tasks you don't normally do, and save money.
  • Things like shopping for car insurance, opening a high-yield savings account, or setting up automatic deposits take only a few minutes, but can bring lasting benefits. 
  • Take a few minutes to do these things before or after work today, and help your money work harder. 
  • Read more personal finance coverage »

In a former life, I spent an hour driving to and from work each day. Now that I've been working from home the past two years, there's one rule I live by: I try to do something productive each day with what would have been my commute time.

Whether that's walking the dog or managing my money, I spend this time doing something to better my home, life, or career. 

If you're looking to improve your finances, there's a lot you can do with a few extra minutes (or hours) each day to make your money go further or grow. Here are eight things you can do in less than 30 minutes to better your finances. 

1. Open a high-yield savings account

In a traditional savings account, money doesn't grow much: It earns an average of .09%. A high-yield savings account could earn much more and help your money grow. 

Perfect for everything from emergency funds to travel savings, high-yield savings accounts often earn interest rates around 1% to 2% (those rates change along with the US federal funds rate). Moving savings into one of these higher-earning accounts can help your money work harder and grow faster, with no extra effort from you. 

2. Set up or edit automatic deposits to your savings accounts

If you haven't yet created automatic deposits from your checking account into a savings account, it's worth taking the time now. It shouldn't take more than five minutes to set up a recurring monthly deposit from your bank's website or app and start a savings habit that you don't even have to think about. Whether you're saving for the down payment on a home or to take your dream vacation, automating your savings can make it simpler

3. Increase your 401k contributions

Checking in on your 401k probably isn't a part of your monthly routine. Now that you have some extra free time, take a minute to check in on your contributions, and see if you could increase them. Or, double-check that you're contributing enough to get your company's full match, if your employer offers one. 

Most experts recommend increasing contributions at least once a year, reports Business Insider's Tanza Loudenback. If you can't remember the last time you bumped your contribution rate by a percent or two, it's time to log in and take a look. 

4. Check your debt's interest rates to see if you could save by refinancing

With interest rates falling, many people are locking in lower interest rates on student loans, mortgages, and auto loans. There's a good chance you could lower your interest rates, monthly payments, or both by refinancing and saving. 

Take a few minutes to gather information on your interest rates on any debt you have, and compare with rates available. If your rates are much higher than what's available now, it might be a good option. While refinancing isn't right in every situation, especially if your credit scores have gone down since your original loan, it might be worth looking into. 

5. Look back over your accounts to check for unnecessary subscriptions

It's all too easy these days to sign up for a free trial you forgot to cancel, or let subscriptions pile up for years on end. But, they could be costing more than you realize. 

When you have a few extra minutes at the end of your workday, pull up your credit card or bank statements and see if there are any subscriptions billing you monthly that you no longer need. For bonus points, route that money into your high-yield savings account with an automatic deposit.  

6. Put your bills on autopay 

Paying bills on time can be a big component of your credit score, and there's no easier way to make sure they're all in on time than putting them on autopay. From your credit card bill to your utilities, putting your accounts on autopay can ensure you never miss your due date and even help your credit score

Note that putting them on autopay doesn't mean you should completely ignore them from here on out. You'll probably still want to check your bills every month to make sure the charges are accurate. For credit cards, consider setting up autopay for the minimum, then logging in to confirm the transactions before paying the remaining balance every month. That way, you'll never miss a due date, but you'll catch any fraudulent or duplicate transactions before you pay in full.

7. Find a financial planner, and make an appointment

Making an appointment with a financial planner can help you accomplish your money goals by keeping you accountable, giving you advice, and organizing your financial life. Tools like SmartAsset's SmartAdvisor Match can help you start your search and find one easily, for free. SmartAdvisor will connect you with a few candidates who meet your criteria, set up exploratory phone calls, and let you choose the expert who's right for you.

Try the tool for free »

8. Shop around for car insurance

If your car insurance policy is going to be lapsing soon, spending 30 minutes gathering quotes could help you save money for the next six months or year. Every car insurance company looks at your information, driving history, and even credit history, differently. That means another insurance company could give you a much better rate. Get quotes from four or five companies, and look for the most coverage for the lowest premium.  

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

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