Archive for Monday, August 19, 2002

Seeking savings

Author says ‘walking around money,’ impulse buying are top mistakes

August 19, 2002


Why is it we live paycheck to paycheck and feel like we don't ever make enough money?

With advice on retirement, technology, car buying , insurance and much more, Atlanta author and radio talk show host Clark Howard claims he can get the most out of your money in his book "Get Clark Smart."

"I believe you should spend less than you make no matter how much you make and do everything you can to avoid debt," Howard said. "That's a great way to make yourself financially strong."

In "Get Clark Smart," Howard gives advice on purchasing everyday items, to finding a great deal on traveling around the world. "Americans are buying a lot more premium grade gasoline than they need to buy. Only about 5 percent of cars in the country require premium gas, but 20 percent of all gas sold is premium," Howard said. He suggests looking in the owner's manual and seeing if your car needs premium gas because if it doesn't a person could save up to $300 a year.

"The two biggest mistakes I think Americans make are what I call walking around money and impulse buying," Howard said.

"Walking around money is when a person runs out of something and stops at a convenience store and pays a ridiculous amount of money. Impulse buying is buying something on a good deal. I tell people to look in their closets and see what is collecting dust and what they actually use."

"Get Clark Smart" is Howard's fifth book, written with the help of Mark Meltzer. The two met when Meltzer was working with a New York Times company as a consumer writer. Meltzer and Howard had discussed many issues involving consumer affairs. After the company had shut down, the two decided to share their knowledge, only in book form.

Money-saving tips and advice from "Get Clark Smart":Improve your credit score by paying bills on time and paying total debts.Don't prepay for funerals; you could move or the funeral home could go out of business.Check a builder's reputation before buying a new home.If you buy a used home, plan on putting $50 a month into a repair fund.Term life insurance only provides payment if you die; whole and universal life include investment components.Book flights and hotels during off-peak seasons to get a lower rate.

Both Howard and Meltzer agree that Americans don't realize how much money they spend in a day. "We don't realize how much we waste. Things like coffee at Starbucks, eating dinner out, or the biggest mistake of credit card debt. The money being paid for interest is really money being paid to someone else that could be yours," Meltzer said.

If a person is planning a trip, Howard suggests registering with each airline to receive special deals through e-mail. "Airlines understand people are looking for bargains. Booking online gives you proof of the fare you received and often you'll receive a 5 percent or 10 percent discount for using the Web site," Howard said.

Howard feels that choices have been both a beast and a burden to American consumers. "Things have changed so much in America. A generation ago, people used to work for one company for 30 years, then receive a pension. There was one phone company, and almost all cars came from three automakers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. I love all the competition and choice we have today, but I know it can be confusing," Howard said.

Howard also has a Web site,, that supplies an array of money-saving tips. On the Web site it has a book update section. For example, in the book, car repairs are mentioned. The update gives new tips on if your car breaks down, you should tell the towing company where you want it towed.

All of this advice seems as if it leans towards an adult crowd, but Meltzer thinks youngsters can benefit from this book.

" A person might buy this book for themselves, but it can apply to younger kids too. This might save their kids from the trial and error they might have gone through," he said.

The book has a chart that shows if a 15-year-old saves $2,000 a year for seven years and lets the money collect interest, the amount by age 65 would be more than $1 million.

Howard's goal for the book is to avoid consumers feeling like a victim.

"There is so much we can do, but we don't know where to start or how to use control," he said. "I hope 'Get Clark Smart' helps you get the most for your money."

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