Numbercruncher

Pogue’s Basics can save you lots of money a little bit at a time.

In December, a client – a major financial institution – asked me to write a post on ways that someone could save $18,000 in the new year. I have no idea where the number came from, and the customer is always right, so I wrote about the usual: contribute to your 401(k) to save money on taxes. Get a home energy audit. Bring a lunch. Etc.

It was all good advice, but there was one problem with it. Most of the items on the list were one-off items. Sure, you can save money buying a late-model used car instead of a new one, but how often do people buy new cars? The article I wrote ignored the small and painless things you can do to save money every day. It will take forever to save $18,000 using less toothpaste, but why spend any more on toothpaste than you have to?

But the client was happy, and the check cleared, and to a certain extent, that’s all that matters.

While working on that story, I received an email from David Pogue’s publicist. Would I like to review his new book, Pogue’s Basics: Money: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) About Beating the System, and do an interview with him? Pogue had been a technology writer for the New York Times, and he has since written several books. Many are how-to guides for different software packages, but he has also written three books in the Basics series, filled with helpful tips for life in general.

I said I would love a copy of the book and would do the interview only if I could find ways to save money in it. I’m a rather serious tightwad, schooled very much by The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle. It’s really dated, but its philosophy is that most of us can learn to save money on small things so that we can do more with our lived and keep our savings muscles flexed for when the big purchases come along. Some twenty years ago, it helped me realize that I could have the life I wanted for much less money than I thought. Because my family has been so cheap for so long, there aren’t many tips we don’t know.

Ah, but you see that I am doing a review here. I did find ways to save money in David Pogue’s book, mostly through better use of Amazon Prime. And so, I talked to Mr. Pogue.

After a laugh about our last names (which rhyme, are unusual Irish names, and are mispronounced more often than you can imagine), we got down to business. He wanted to compile tips for saving money that were not necessarily obvious, were ethical, and didn’t trade off time for money. “I’ve either tested them all personally or confirmed with the company involved,” he says. Many of the are things that people don’t know or have forgotten about, such as contacting your cable company to pause service if you are taking an extended trip.

Given the interests of the typical Popdose reader, I asked for his best tip about saving money on popular culture. For movie fans, he suggests buying discounted tickets in advance from Sam’s Club, Costco, or AAA. Also, Groupon sometimes offers Fandango discounts.

The tips in this book should cover its price, even if you are already pretty tight with a dollar. And hence, I recommend it.