Timers for normal people don't save much of anything. What's lost while off gets replaced when turning it back up again...standby losses aren't all that horrible. If you were a weekend only occupant, turning it off while away might.
Insulation can help, but on newer ones may not be cost effective. What IS effective is to insulate all of the hot water pipes with good insulation, especially those closest to the WH. You may need to shop at other than a big-box store to find some closed cell, high-R insulation.
Buy an energy star rated tank. One with a flue damper or closed combustion, direct vented tend to be more efficient. The cost to install, maintain, and use a tankless may never pay back verses a much less expensive tank-type WH. they have their place, and if you fit the niche, maybe. They often require a gasline upgrade, and if your winter water temps are cold, you need to account for that with a larger unit than you'd need in the summer. They require periodic maintenance, that, if you can't do it yourself, can get costly over the life of the unit.