We all know that there are lots of ways to save money if you’re willing to put forth a little time, but what about ways to save time, money and effort that don’t require any extra work on your part? Here are five free time and money saving technologies that I use every day. They’re seamless, easy-to-use, and take just a few minutes of setup before they become an automated everyday convenience.
- Picasa’s screenshot function. Even if you’re not into Picasa’s photo-editing services, I still recommend that every online shopper or online bill-payer have Picasa. Why? Because when Picasa is running, all you have to do is press the “print screen” button on your keyboard and Picasa automatically takes, saves, and files an image of your computer screen. Unfortunately, I learned about this function after my bank charged me an eighty-dollar late fee for a bill that I had paid on time, but of which they had no record and I had no proof (other than the entry I had made in my check ledger). Now I have Picasa set to automatically start whenever I turn on my computer, and I take screenshots of every order I place and every bill I pay with the press of just one button. Next time I need to consult a record of my online financial activities or an online order, it’ll all be right there waiting for me with no extra effort on my part.
- Craigslist’s photos plugin. Do you shop on Craigslist? If so, you’ve probably spent more than a few minutes clicking on multiple search results to look at pictures of advertised items. Well click no more! This plugin from Craigstoolbox causes listing photos to load within the search results. No more clicking on every hit that contains the word “loveseat” in order to see if one of them is the color you’re looking for. Just search, skim the photos that automatically load, and only click on the listings that have photos you like.
- Library Elf. Library Elf’s free basic service sends an e-mail when your items are almost due. For a scatterbrain like me, this is a huge money saver. No more late fines! To see if your library is supported, click here. And if you want additional services like notifications of books on hold or subscriptions to multiple libraries or library cards, those are available for a small annual fee.
- 1-800-goog-411. This ad-free (and cost-free) directory service will search for and automatically connect you to any business. I barely even use Internet directories any more; it’s much easier to simply dial this memorized number and tell the phone what business (Dominos? The doctor? The pediatric dentist? The craft and frame store? All the craft and frame stores?) I’d like to access. This is particularly convenient when I need to call the pediatrician and clean up kid puke at the same time.
- 1-800-FREE-411. This service requires that you listen to an ad and it doesn’t auto-connect you to your requested phone number like GOOG-411 does. However, it covers residential and government listings as well as business listings. Great for when you’re out and about and you need to find a friend or government office’s phone number quickly.