Stock investing isn't for the faint of heart, but the rewards can be sweet indeed.

Consider this: For the 10 years that ended with 2006, Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), and Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC) have all shellacked the S&P 500. Taken collectively over that stretch of time, these stocks have returned a whopping 26.4% on an annualized basis. At that rate, if you'd spread $5,000 evenly across each of them at the beginning of that period and ponied up, say, $20 for each transaction, your initial investment would now be worth more than $50,000. And that's after accounting for commissions.

Owning Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), and EchoStar (NASDAQ:DISH) would have led to even bigger gains: They've all returned more than 30% on an annualized basis over the past 10 years.

Sweet, no?

Sweet, yes
Make no mistake: When you plunk down money on stocks, you're taking your chances. The rewards can be huge -- see above for details -- but that's the payoff you receive for the risk you're taking. There are other financial calls, however, that you have more direct control over, ones you can take action on beginning right now.

You don't have to pay $20 a pop for stock trades, for instance. Something closer to half that amount is more like it. What's more, you can make even your short-term cash (i.e., your emergency savings) work for you. There's no need to have it sitting idly by in a low- or no-interest bearing account, after all, when there are plenty of places to park it and earn handsome sums in return.

Last but not least: If you qualify, some credit cards will pay you to make purchases. Indeed, my hunch is that, if you're not holding a rewards card, you probably could and should be -- and one without an annual fee to boot!

The Foolish bottom line
Fact is, there are loads of money-saving (and -making) tips that you could take advantage of if you only had time to track 'em down. Alas, like most of us, you probably have enough on your plate as is.

Want some more tips? I encourage you to check out Motley Fool Green Light, the Fool service that's designed to be your personal-finance concierge. Each month, we bring you action-oriented ideas that you can put to use with little in the way of muss or fuss. Click here and a completely free 30-day guest pass is yours for the taking. Your pass provides access to our archives and the current newsletter issue, which includes tips for fattening your nest egg in 2007 and beyond, as well as a financial-planning calendar that'll help you take care of business throughout the year. See you there!

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and co-advises Motley Fool Green Light with his pal Dayana Yochim. At the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. Time Warner, UnitedHealth, and Starbucks are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. UnitedHealth and Symantec are Inside Value selections. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.