It's Possible to Save BIG Regardless of Income Level

Greetings, Big Savers! Last week I presented my second Savings Makeover on "Good Morning America," in which I found $188,852 in savings for a Virginia family using some of the easy savings strategies in my new book, SAVE BIG. (Click here to view the video and here to read the in-depth Web article.)

VIDEO: Elisabeth Leamy helps the Stricklands save thousands of dollars.
Save Big by Tweaking Family Finances

The response has been overwhelming. Thank you! The vast majority of you wrote in to say "pick me, pick me!" for the next "GMA" Savings Makeover. I am in the process of preparing my next one, and, as promised, it will feature a family with credit card debt, to show that there are savvy strategies even for folks in that tough position. As always, a few naysayers wrote in too. I love that! Seriously. I welcome the vibrant, vigorous debate -- and the chance to nip inaccurate perceptions in the bud. Here goes!
~Elisabeth

Saving at Any Income Level

Comment: I was pretty disappointed in your coverage. This family is way beyond the "national means." Maybe it would be helpful if you did a story on the "average" family. We just rolled on the floor laughing at anyone who would even consider a $600.00 cell phone bill and wonder why they might be in financial distress. This is not real life for most of us. That is half a monthly mortgage. Get real people with real concerns that we can relate with please.
~crinehart57

Comment: I'm sorry but -- yawn -- is this really reality?? A successful veterinarian with a nice house and no debt? My husband and I have 4 children and are $40,000 dollars in debt from just trying to get by in this economy. Our debt has been accumulated through just needing to buy groceries, gas for the cars and helping our kids get through school and clothing them. Hopefully, the next family you pick is a little more real to life to what is actually happening in the world today. Thanks!!!!
~shellyo1223

Answer: I know it seems counterintuitive, but most savings strategies can work for anybody, regardless of their income level. In fact, the questionnaire I use to determine savings possibilities for people doesn't even ask about income!

For the Virginia family in my second makeover, I recommended switching to a cash back credit card ($1,599 savings), getting a cell phone plan that better fit their calling patterns ($829 savings), price matching at the grocery store ($6,240 savings), switching health insurance plans ($6,756 savings), refinancing both their mortgage and home equity line ($24,808 savings) and paying extra principal toward their mortgage (148,620 savings). The total savings from these six strategies was a whopping $188,852 and I think that giant number is what overwhelms people.

Bear in mind, these same strategies work for people with lower expenses, it's just that the resulting savings will be proportional. The Virginia family has the same concerns as everybody else. It's just that those expenses are amplified because they're a family of nine! C'mon people. A $578 monthly cell phone bill is not extreme because they're paying for six phones! At $96 per cell phone, that's pretty typical. Of course, I'm happy that we reduced that bill by running it through www.FixMyCellBill.com.

I sympathize with folks struggling with credit card debt. I used to have a bad credit card habit myself and dug out of debt dollar by dollar. That's why a couple weeks ago I devoted this column to better-smarter-faster ways to pay off credit card debt. (Click here to read it.)

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