This week, you, the readers, have once again chosen the topic for my column and I'll tell you what it is in a second. This happens whenever a cluster of you ask about the same subject. We've been having a dialogue about my new book, SAVE BIG, and the ideas in it for saving big money. Many of the strategies in SAVE BIG are things you only have to do once in a while, to reap the savings for years. When I was writing the book, I saw that as a benefit, because it also helps you save time. Rather than scrambling to save a little bit of money every day, you focus on saving when these big opportunities come up -- like when you buy a car or refinance your house or choose your health plan.
To me, saving bigger instead of smaller is like working smarter instead of harder. But I heard from many people who were frustrated with this concept because they need solid savings NOW. I hear you. It's tough out there. My book contains plenty of savings ideas that anybody can accomplish at any time, and I'll try to do a better job of including them regularly in this column. Here's a sampling of the calls for help I received followed by my best short-term savings advice. One hint: even if you focus on the immediate, it's still possible to SAVE BIG!
Q: PLEASE TELL US HOW TO SAVE MONEY NOW, NOT 30 YEARS FROM NOW.
~Read My Lipstick
Q: Need real savings for now ... tough times. Need advice from someone who knows what it's like to struggle.
Q: I've yet to find competent direction as to what to do about some of the really terrifying things happening right now with homeowners, people about to lose jobs, and managing credit cards so they don't get cancelled because you pay them off monthly and the credit is there if you need it.
For those, like the folks above, who need an immediate source of savings, I have one word for you: groceries. Here's why. Not everybody owns a home, a huge cost but also a huge source of savings. Not everybody is in the market for a car, another big chance to save. And not everybody has much of a choice of health care coverage, if they have coverage at all. But everybody has to eat. And bathe. And do laundry. That's right, when I talk about saving on groceries, I'm not just talking about food.
The grocery category includes personal care products from shampoo to shaving cream and and household items like dishwasher detergent and paper towels. If you look at it that way, groceries are the fourth biggest expenditure for American families. In fact, the average family of four spends $10,692 a year on groceries, according to the IRS. (I'm not sure why the IRS is sticking its scary nose into our grocery bills, but it is!)
So let me outline the three biggest ways to save on groceries. I call it being a "Guerrilla Grocery Shopper." The nitty-gritty details are in my book. (Check it out at the library if you want, but check it out!) Meanwhile, here are the nuts and bolts to get you well on your way.