I strive to give good advice here in this column every week, and now I'd like to tell you where I turn when I am seeking good advice. After weeks of telling you about the ideas in my own book, "SAVE BIG," today I want to tell you about some books that have inspired and educated me.
"Be CentsAble: How to Cut Your Household Budget in Half," by Kristin McKee and Chrissy Pate
When these two moms decided to quit their jobs to stay home with their kids, they desperately needed to reduce their household bills. Kristin McKee and Chrissy Pate teamed up and figured out how to chop their grocery bills using price matching, stockpiling and, yes, couponing. These authors were already making an impact with their grocery savings workshops taught online and in living rooms all over America. Now they've taken that same life-changing information and packed it into this fun, friendly book. Pate and McKee "get it." They know how busy we all are. So they provide simple savings solutions that work in a whirlwind. They are my grocery gurus. "Be CentsAble" provides the cleanest, clearest explanation I've heard of how to cut your household budget.
"The Coupon Mom's Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half," by Stephanie Nelson
I know Stephanie Nelson from her days at "Good Morning America," where she passionately educated Americans about how easy it is to match coupons with sales to get products for free and then donate any goods you don't need to food pantries. Her "Cut Out Hunger" program has evolved into an essential -- and free -- Web site. CouponMom.com flips the entire couponing process over. Rather than randomly cutting coupons long before you need the products, Nelson's site lets you enter products you need, then tells you where to find coupons for them. Her book is an extension of the site with clever advice on how to cut your grocery bills no matter what your lifestyle.
"The Power to Prosper," by Michelle Singletary
There have been several times in my life, debt reduction, job changes, a new home purchase -- that I needed to save as much money as possible. Each time, my husband and I went on what we called a "spending freeze" where we could only buy groceries and gas. Essentials. No frills allowed. I found it challenging, but liberating, and now Michelle Singletary of the Washington Post has written "The Power to Prosper," a powerful book devoted to this idea of going on a financial fast. She suggests a 21-day spending diet during which you're not even allowed to use credit cards or window shop. In these tough financial times, her advice is right on. Working with her church, Singletary has personally taken thousands of people through this financial fast and bears witness to how it can change your life.
"Homebuyers Beware: Who's Ripping You Off Now," by Carolyn Warren
Practicing mortgage professional Carolyn Warren has the inside scoop on all the dirty deals perpetrated by some mortgage brokers and lenders. Her first book, "Mortgage Rip-Offs and Money Savers," was a bestselling phenomenon, because it revealed money-saving secrets that only an insider would know. When the housing market started spiraling downward, Warren rushed to provide a new resource with up to date information relevant to the new realities of mortgage lending. She's done it again. Warren writes in this fabulous perky- sneaky style, while revealing the tricks and traps her fellow mortgage professionals use to make money off of you.
"Your Credit Score, Your Money and What's at Stake," by Liz Pulliam Weston
The biggest of ways to SAVE BIG is to protect and promote your credit score so you can get loans for less. I happen to know this personally because I used to have bad credit. Yup. I calculate I have saved about $132,000 over the last decade because I raised my credit score and got a lower interest rate on my mortgage. Where did I learn the smart steps to take? From Liz Pulliam Weston's "Your Credit Score." Weston has a reputation for getting it right where others go wrong and this book proves it. She describes in detail exactly what you should -- and shouldn't -- do in order to maintain a good credit score. This is the definitive book on the subject. And a good credit score is more important now than ever.
"Girlfriends 2.0," by Cindy Morrison
Notice that all of the books above were written by women? I think of them as my "girlfriends' guides" and here's one more on that precise topic. Girlfriends 2.0 is what happens when you take a strong, smart woman and give her a layoff and a cancer scare to deal with all at once. Cindy Morrison survived -- and thrived -- by tapping into her network of great girlfriends and now she writes about what she learned. She considers girlfriends more than just a casual resource and offers advice on how to drop the "Needy Nancys" and "Sabotage Suzis" in your life. Instead, Morrison says your girlfriends can give you a solid foundation that can propel you to greatness. Whether you're trying to save money, start a career or build a business, "Girlfriends 2.0" is savvy –sassy-- and an inspiration.