Let me tell you about my buddy Marc. He's what we at the Fool call an LBYMer (or a "Live Below Your Means" -er). In English, that's a Fool who's fully committed to saving money in any legal way. (And sometimes not so legal in Marc's case. But I digress.)
A little more than a decade ago -- 1994, to be precise -- I got a letter from Marc. Inside was a photocopy of a coupon for a 12-pack of Olympia beer. If you've been to college, you probably know Oly. Especially if you went to college on the West Coast, as I did. ("It's the water.")
Anyway, back to the letter. As I read, I realized that Marc had, through a combination of coupons and in-store rebates, found a way to get paid to drink a 12-pack of Oly. Let me say that again: Marc got paid to drink beer, and he wasn't at a frat party or a monster truck rally or on the set of a Bud Light commercial.
Un-freaking-real, I thought. And, of course, I vowed to do the same. But I've yet to live up to the challenge.
Almost as important as beer
Believe it or not, there's a lesson here: Anything is possible when you shop for the best deal. Take appliances, for example. You could call a retailer like Sears if you need a new dishwasher. But that'll cost you. Sears.com shows various models selling for between $199 and well over $1,000.
Now, what if you tried one of the popular comparison-shopping sites? Here's what comes up:
- Froogle found 114 possibilities, including a "like new" Whirlpool model for $200 and a sleek new Kitchen Aid for $689.
- Shopping.com found 16 models at less than $350, including one for $159 from Amazon.com.
- Shop.com found ... nothing of relevance. (The site is more geared toward fashionistas than frugalistas.)
And don't forget eBay. The auctioneer makes plenty of moola selling new items. A search for "new dishwasher" found the same bargain offered by Amazon.com, but for $4 less.
A side dish for your beer
Maybe you don't need a dishwasher. Or for that matter, any new appliances. That's fine. Why not save on groceries? Sites such as Coolsavings.com and Valpak.com offer coupons for the savvy shopper. (But be warned: Your "membership" requires that you answer tons of questions. It's only after the inquisition that you get your coupons.)
Better still, you can comparison-shop for sundries. Typically, that would mean clipping the Sunday circulars, but it doesn't have to be that way. The Web can help. Consider ShopLocal.com, which finds offers for you by ZIP code. Though hardly a perfect service -- the site seems to play favorites with vendors -- it could prove helpful in creating a price book for items you need regularly.
Here at the Fool, we believe wealth is created through a combination of smart spending and smart investing. Mastering both is no simple task, but any Fool can learn how. That's why we're launching Motley Fool GreenLight, a comprehensive money-management service.
No, you won't learn how to get paid to drink a 12-pack of brew. (But that would be sweet, wouldn't it?) You may, however, learn how to trim your car insurance bill, or how to refinance on the cheap, or how to get someone else to pay for your vacation. And those are savings you'll be able to deposit in the bank. Or spend on beer. Sound intriguing? If so, sign up for a sneak peek of GreenLight. It's on the house.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers likes beer, and wine, and Blue Collar TV. Oh, yeah, and he likes to save moola, too. Git-r-done! Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile . Amazon.com and eBay are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.