The 3 Golden Rules of Saving While Shopping

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The President wants to help the middle class? He should have suggested these 3 golden rules of shopping

During his state of the union address in January, the President talked about helping the middle class: they can certainly use it.

The White House Middle Class Task Force has been advancing ideas to ease the financial burden for middle-class Americans: things like doubling the child care tax credit, limiting student loan payments to 10% of discretionary income and adding a “saver’s tax credit” to encourage more savings.

All good ideas. But there are other things we can all do to help ourselves right now that will radically reduce our spending.

Example? The three golden rules of spending less. So here’s another look at the three golden rules of saving while shopping…

  1. Don’t buy name brands when it’s not necessary and the generic is cheaper.
  2. Don’t buy new what you can buy used
  3. Don’t buy alone what you can share with others

While these rules may seem obvious, it’s obvious that many people don’t follow them. Twice during my 20-year television career I’ve taken a cameraman to Walgreen’s and staked out the generic aspirin. It doesn’t take long to find someone who’s reaching for the name brand when the identical generic equivalent sits inches away. When I proceed to ask them on-camera why they’d pay twice the price the identical thing, they invariably respond with one of two explanations: “it must be better because it costs more” or “that’s what I’ve always bought.” What’s kind of funny (and a little sad) is that many of these people will also insist their actions aren’t influenced by ads. Here’s a story I did about generic drugs

If a generic isn’t as good as a name-brand, fine. Don’t buy it. But when it’s the same thing? I don’t need a White House Task force for that answer.

Buying used is also something that saves big: maybe more than the combined ideas of the President’s task force put together. The cash for clunkers program caused 600,000 Americans to buy (and many probably finance) a new car. Sure, it helped the auto industry and the $3,500 – $4,500 rebate was nice for those who bit. But buying a car that’s a few years old instead could have saved those people ten grand. Here’s a story I did about why I hated Cash-for-Clunkers.

Sharing tools and other seldom-used things with neighbors can also save big-time. But before you do that, be sure and decide in advance who’s getting what and/or paying what should anyone move or otherwise need out of the co-op.

Bottom line? I’m all for Washington helping out the middle class. But no matter what class you’re in, help yourself by following the golden rules.

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