How to SAVE BIG: Don't Sweat the Lattes

Leamy CoverCourtesy John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
"SAVE BIG: Cut Your Top 5 Costs and Save Thousands," by Elisabeth Leamy

For weeks now I've been counting down and adding up. Counting down to the publication of my new book and adding up the savings strategies I have to share with you. Now one number is at zero: the countdown. It's complete. "SAVE BIG: Cut Your Top 5 Costs and Save Thousands" is out and in stores! The other number, my savings tally is at $1,176,916. That's the amount of savings I demonstrate in the pages of the book.

These savings are possible, not by giving up every little pleasure. That guilt trip is over. Have a latte! Leave the lights on when you leave the room! Enjoy that long, strong shower! I think you're going to like my way of saving a lot better.

VIDEO: New book offers tips to help you save thousands of dollars.Play

To SAVE BIG means to save more than a $1,000 at a time. In fact, I guarantee that every tip in my book has the potential to save you at least $1,000. How is it possible? If you figure out where you spend big, you can save big. Our Top 5 costs are: houses, cars, credit, groceries and health care. Instead of giving up life's little pleasures and conveniences, wouldn't you rather target these big, boring expenses? Here are some of my favorite examples.

Houses: 60 percent of our homes are over-assessed and yet only 2 percent of people fight their property tax assessments, according to the National Taxpayers Union. Put those two stats together and you can see that you have a good chance of winning. In fact, most people who try it win at least a partial victory. And lowering the value on which your local government bases your property taxes is truly the gift that keeps on giving because it resets your rate for years to come.

When you buy a car, you can follow the crowd and buy one of the most popular makes and models at a premium. Or you can buy what auto Web site calls a "dark horse car." A dark horse car is equivalent in quality and style to a popular brand but costs about 20 percent less.

For example, maybe you'd choose a Nissan Altima rather than a Toyota Camry. Buy it used and you will save even bigger. Cars depreciate 45 percent in the first three years, so if you buy a low-mileage, 3-year-old car, you are getting a 45 percent discount. I will never buy another new car.

Maintain a High Score

Did you know that just one 30-day late payment, can sink your credit score, and that it's worse if you have a good score to begin with? Did you know that opening a new store credit card because it'll get you a 15-percent discount will also knock 10 to 15 points off your score?

Maintaining a high score is one of the biggest ways to save big, and it's free. You just have to know the do's and don'ts. I know them well because I used to have marginal credit myself and, in my book, I share them with you. Raising my score has saved me tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the years.

Do you hate scrabbling around for coupons in hopes of saving 80 cents? What if I told you you can save 80 percent on groceries instead? The secret is to use coupons without clipping coupons. You click not clip, taking advantage of fantastic free Web sites that do all the work for you. The sites alert you to opportunities to use coupons in combination with other offers, so you double down on your discount. Check out to get started.

As for health care, the key is to approach it as a consumer instead of a patient. If you have one of those plans where you pay little or nothing when you go to the doctor, you're probably paying too much. Huh? How? Because those "platinum plans" cost a pretty penny in up-front premiums. If you're relatively healthy, you're probably paying for more health care than you actually use. Instead of giving your money to an insurance company, you can give it directly to the doctors who take care of you and SAVE BIG.

I could go on and on. And I did. In my book; 338 pages. For weeks now, I've been sharing my best tips in this column, because the need seemed pressing what with the crummy economy. I will continue to do so, but if you want it all, now, it's all in the book. Check it out at the library if you want. That can be your first savings. But do give the idea of saving big some thought. I truly believe it's an idea that could change your life. Let's have a national dialogue about how to SAVE BIG … not small. Write to me here with your best savings solutions. I will feature the best ideas in this column and the best of the best on "Good Morning America."

To read an excerpt from "SAVE BIG," click here.