Time is a critical component of cheesecake making, as you need to bake it a low temperature so that the middle of the cheesecake gets cooked before the outside gets overcooked.
It doesn't necessarily need to be attended time, however, as there are plenty of recipes that call for shutting off the oven after a few minutes, and leaving it overnight.
The time to mix the filling mostly depends on both preparation ahead of time (making sure that you have the cream cheese at room temperature) and what equipment you have (you can just leave a stand mixer to run for the most part, whereas a hand mixer requires you standing there for a while ... and if you have neither ... well, then it's a whole lot of work). It might be possible to work it in a food processor, but I've never tried.
Yes, you can use animal crackers. Or whatever other hard cookie you have (ginger snaps, chocolate wafers, biscotti), although I'd avoid ones with chocolate chips, raisins, or other 'mix-ins' or coatings (eg, dipped in chocolate).
Make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature before you start -- take it out of the fridge about an hour before you're going to use it.
Find a recipe that calls for unattended baking.
Get a stand mixer, if you don't already have one.
Get a membership to one of the 'warehouse clubs' (eg, Costco, Sam's Club, BJs) for cheaper ingredients ... but it's only cheaper if you manage to use up the larger sizes before it spoils.
Watch for sales on the more expensive ingredients (eg, cream cheese) and stock up when it's on sale (and the 'best buy' date is still a ways off).
And you might also consider that there are other styles of cheesecake that don't use cream cheese, but they're quite different. Italian cheesecake uses ricotta, and isn't nearly as sweet or smooth as Jewish or New York cheesecakes. And if silken tofu is inexpensive in your area, you might be able to substitute for some of the cream cheese (although you generally need to add some lemon zest or similar so you don't lose the slight tang); you can find recipes on the internet.