Penny-Pinching Power

These days, just about everyone is looking to “make a dollar out of 15 cents,” says 34-year-old Candace Lewis. Lewis was never one to pay close attention to her finances, but once she had her daughter, she realized that she had to tighten the straps on her pocketbook in order to make ends meet.

“I could always save a buck, but the real crunch came when I decided to send my daughter to private school,” says Lewis, a single mother who works in the corporate technology billing department of a securities firm in downtown New York City.

To afford the $650 per month tuition for her 6-year-old first-grader, Jurnee Wade, Lewis practices Declaration of Financial Empowerment Principle No. 6: to be proactive and knowledgeable about investing, money management, and consumer issues. Lewis researches even the most basic services before making a move, and her wise choices have paid off. Looking over the Excel spreadsheet she has created for her expenses, Lewis notes, “I have reduced my monthly bills by $146 per month just by re-evaluating some small bills, like the cable and the telephone bill.”

Before she settled on her telephone provider’s one-rate plan, Lewis called another phone company to compare rates. She did the same with her cable and car insurance. She also found that satellite TV is a better value for her money than cable. Instead of paying $70 per month for cable plus HBO, she switched to satellite TV without HBO and pays $55 per month. “I wasn’t watching HBO anyway, and with satellite, I get all the channels I need like Lifetime, Disney, Hallmark, Nick 1 and 2, and PBS Kids, which are ideal for my daughter.” Lewis was sure not to switch until she found a deal for free installation and equipment on the Web.

The Internet also uncovered one of Lewis’ proudest finds. Living in New Jersey, where auto insurance rates are among the highest in the nation, she diligently searched online for cheaper auto insurance. “I’d been researching car insurance for over a year before I found NJCURE on the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance Website,” says Lewis. NJCURE is a nonprofit group that offers insurance at a discount to people it considers to be good drivers.

“I was paying $2,336 per year for insurance on my 2000 Acura Integra, and now I’m paying $1,975 per year,” says Lewis, who is also planning to pay a one-time fee of $55 for a defensive driving course that will save another $100 per year on her insurance for the next three years.

An all-around savvy consumer, Lewis also shops with discipline. She clips coupons every Sunday and whichever supermarket offers triple coupons gets her grocery money that week. And instead of taking a 20% off discount on a $200 Coach handbag, Lewis rallies her friends and office mates to also make purchases from the designer handbag company so that her discount can be higher. During certain times of the year, Coach offers a coupon for 40% off, if you