On Jan. 28, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Andrea Woroch, a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert. Ms. Woroch had some amazing tips and resources to share. I could have talked to her for hours! Her money saving expertise has been featured on NBC's Today Show, Dr. OZ, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, CNN, and ABC News with Diane Sawyer. She has been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Better Homes & Garden and many others. Visit http://www.andreaworoch.com for these clips and more.
After some introductions, we jumped right into the interview. She had an amazing wealth of sources for saving money.
Amanda: "Many of us made the New Year’s resolution to save money, what are some good starting points for us?"
Andrea: "A lot of people don’t really have a good understanding of where their money is going and maybe don’t have a budget. So, I would say that one of the first things that you want to do is organize your accounts. You can get help with that using a site like Mint.com (http://www.mint.com) . They have a local app that will track and list all of your bank accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, store cards, and your entire savings in one place. The app will categorize (your expenses) so that you can see how you spend your money, how much you are spending, where you are spending, and how much you are actually saving. That’s a good starting point.
"Ultimately, saving money is a general resolution. In order to reach your resolution and be successful in reaching your goals you have to know where you are spending your money. Then, you can look at your records and say, 'Ok, now I know I am spending a lot on groceries. That’s going to be my goal over the next couple of months. I’m going to work on that section of my budget. So, I need to look for coupons, savings apps, and things to help me save on groceries. Then, I’m going to put that saved money in my savings account.' So, that would be a much more specific goal than just saving money. It will be much easier to track."
Amanda: Very true, and I am very guilty of making the broad resolution to save money. If people are limited in their time and resources, what are some ways that they can boost their savings?
Andrea: "A lot of people think 'I don’t have time to clip coupons, I don’t have time to save, I just need to get into the store, get what I need, and get out.' They feel defeated and that’s understandable, but there are easy ways to save and cut back. One thing that you can do is purchase discount gift cards for the stores that you regularly shop at. Sites like Gift Card Granny (http://www.giftcardgranny.com) are really great because they sell gift cards for Target, Macy’s, J.C. Penney’s, and even movie theaters. The average savings is 12 percent. Then, you can use those gift cards to help you cut back on everyday expenses.”
“Also, use your mobile phone. There are so many apps -- if you have a Smartphone -- which you can get to save money. Coupon Sherpa (http://www.couponsherpa.com) has a mobile app. You can get in a habit of checking to see if there are any coupons before shopping.
“There are a ton of price comparison apps. Let’s say you have to run and buy something after school. You can do a quick price comparison on your phone to see which retailer is selling the item for less so that you are not running from store to store. If you are at another store (that does not have the lowest offered price) you can always ask the store to price match. So, those are just a couple of quick ways to save without having to do too much homework beforehand.”
Amanda: “You’ve discussed some great tips using technology. What are some of your best tips for those with limited or no access to technology?”
Andrea: “If you don’t have much access to technology, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to coupon or save money when you are shopping. One tip is to learn to speak up and talk to the sales associates. When you go into a store, ask where the sales and clearance items are located. Ask if they have any available coupons. Sometimes I go into stores where I think, ‘There’s no way they are going to have a coupon!’ I still ask, no matter what, and sometimes I get a coupon. If there is something that you are going to purchase, ask if there is an upcoming sale. I was just at Lowe’s the other day and I was buying an oven. I asked if this was the best deal that they had available and he said if I could wait two weeks that they would put it on sale.
“Also, you can try to negotiate with stores. A lot of retailers, like Home Depot or Best Buy, will give managers the power to negotiate with a customer…This is usually for expensive, bigger ticket items like appliances or electronics.
“Something I think most people know, but we just need to reiterate is the importance of buying generic brands-even spices and herbs. It’s crazy how expensive those are at the grocery store! You can go to a natural food store or ethnic market and get the no name brand spices-they may not even come in a jar…maybe just a Ziploc type bag-and you can see savings of up to 90 percent. Learning to buy generic brands can really help, especially when it comes to buying cereal for your kids or even condiments and those kinds of things.
“Just learning to buy generic will save you anywhere from 30-50 percent off over the counter medicine. Also, when you go to your physician and you have prescription medicine, ask if there’s a generic that will work good for you.”
Amanda: "Kids can be very expensive! What are your top savings tips for parents? How can we save on diapers, formula, clothes, school supplies, and just the overall expense of raising a child?”
Andrea: “When we first talk about kids, one of the first things that jumps out at me is that they grow up quickly. You constantly need new shoes for school because their feet just all of the sudden grow or they keep growing throughout the year and you go through a couple of different sizes. In general, clothing is something that you should not spend a lot of money on for your children. I know a lot of people with multiple kids that will do hand-me-downs and they are lucky there. One web site that you can go to is thredUP (http://www.thredup.com) . It’s an on-line consignment store where you can sell your kids outgrown clothing and you can also buy other items and clothing for your kids. So, it may be like you are not spending any money because you’re getting rid of your stuff and making money, but you are using that money to buy something else for your kids. So, it’s a really great way to cut back on clothing costs for children and even for yourself as a mother. Maybe you have pregnancy clothing that you no longer need. You can sell it on that web site as well and buy something for yourself. It’s a huge discount compared to buying new clothes. You’re looking at saving up to 60 percent by buying consignment clothing.
“I’m not really an expert on where to buy baby formula, but I think it really comes down to comparing the prices and learning how not to be wasteful.
"Also, make whatever you can yourself. Cut back on prepackaged foods. I know that they are quick and convenient for school, but you are spending so much more money than if you just make your own Lunchable at home and buy the separate ingredients on your own. A tip for saving time on this is taking a Sunday afternoon to do all of your prep work for the week. Have everything chopped and ready to go so that you can make a quick salad, a quick dinner. Prepare a few lunches or make one big meal, like mac and cheese, a casserole, or lasagna, where you can give it to your child throughout the week for school lunch. So, those are just a few different ideas I have.”
Amanda: “Money is very tight for everyone these days, especially senior citizens. Many live on a fixed income and are experiencing rising medical costs. What advice would you give this age group for saving?”
Andrea: “Well, when it comes to medical costs the best thing that you can do for yourself is chat with your physician, chat with your dentist and find out if there is a payment plan. Maybe you can get a discount for paying cash. Maybe you can pay for future visits upfront and get a discount.
“When it comes to medicine, ask the doctor about free samples to help offset the cost of the medication. Also, find out if you can have your pills split. Often times the cost for your pills, whether it’s in 250 mg pills or 500 mg pills, will cost the same. So, you can get fewer pills for less cost if you just buy the higher (mg.) pills and split them in half. This will allow you to get much more medicine for your money. Of course, check with your physician to see if your particular medication can be split that way.
“Also, at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, you do not have to be a member to use their pharmacies. Actually, the federal law prohibits pharmacies from having a membership offering to people. So, anyone can access their pharmacies. Their drugs, in general, are 60 percent less than even at stores like CVS or other local pharmacies. So it’s a really good idea to see if you can go there and get your prescriptions. It can be remarkable savings.”
At the end of the first half of the interview, I am already overwhelmed (in a good way) with ideas. Andrea has a wealth of information on saving. Next week we will conclude the interview with Andrea. For daily tips you can follow Andrea Woroch on Twitter and/or Facebook.
As always, find what works best for you. Saving is not all or nothing. Every little bit helps.
Please send all questions, comments, and/or tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!