How Three Super Savers Do It

Saving Money

How Three Super Savers Do It

Take a look at how real people put cost-cutting ideas into action and watch their savings add up. Collectively, Michele Harrison, Mike and Vjera Silbert and Stephanie Dunshee offer a combined

They've put saving first and mended spendthrift ways.
Their ideas add up to: Annual Savings of $5,200

When her daughter McKenzie was born three years ago, Michele Harrison decided to reform her spendthrift ways and pay down about $6,000 in credit-card and auto-loan debt. "Saving was a new concept," says Harrison, 42, a single parent. "It was always: Spend everything once you have it. Every payday was a windfall."

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Harrison, who lives in Maricopa, Ariz., where she is a data-center coordinator for Wells Fargo Bank, started saving by studying her budget. She found that dining out every day was gobbling up her income. Brown-bagging her lunch and eating dinner in saves her about $1,820 a year. And capping her grocery budget saves another $125 a month, on average.

Harrison's Costco membership got her a cheaper auto-insurance policy (with free roadside assistance). That cut her annual car expenses by about $300. Plus, she makes fewer driving trips, saving hundreds of dollars on gas. Harrison also dropped her $28-a-month land line and her $65-a-month cell phone, and she now uses her work cell phone exclusively, limiting personal calls to free nights and weekends so her company doesn't pay anything extra. And she scaled back satellite-TV service.


Now Harrison has a tough time parting with her hard-earned dollars. "I want to be debt-free," she says. "That's a legacy I want to pass on to my daughter." -- Stacy Rapacon

They set out to save on everything from diapers to taxes.
Their ideas add up to: Annual Savings of $10,000

Lawyers Mike and Vjera Silbert of Philadelphia welcomed their third daughter in August. And although bringing a baby into the world can put stress on anyone's finances, the super-saving Silberts have managed just fine.

Since introducing Lola to big sisters Anya, 7, and Maya, 4, the Silberts have trimmed their budget, starting with food. The family eats out less often and cut $30 from its weekly grocery bill by using coupons and buying store-brand products, says Vjera, 36.

The Silberts save on formula, diapers and wipes by buying in bulk on And they will save an impressive $2,300 in taxes this year by using a flexible spending account through Vjera's employer, Wolf Block LLP, to pay for child-care expenses.


But their biggest savings yet, says Mike, 39, was refinancing their 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Slashing the interest rate from 6.125% to 4.75% put about $500 per month into the family budget. The Silberts also invested in a programmable thermostat to lower the heat while the family's out or asleep, cutting their heating bill by about $150 a year. -- Stacy Rapacon
She created a budget that cut expenses by 10 to 20 percent.
Her ideas add up to: Annual Savings of $2,660

Stephanie Dunshee was always careful with money. But the 46-year-old pharmaceutical executive really began to focus on saving when layoffs became more common in her field. "I started cutting back about two years ago to see if I could live well on less," she says. "I could."

Dunshee drew up a budget of everything she buys, then tried to cut each expense by 10% to 20%. That exercise, she says, "really causes you to get creative."

Dunshee saved $460 per year by dropping her land line and using only her cell phone. She and her extended family saved $700 by consolidating their cell-phone bills with a family plan.

Coupons from grocery circulars and Web sites, such as Smart Source and Red Plum, cut Dunshee"s expenses by about $100 each month. She takes advantage of double- and triple-coupon offers, and tracks down coupon codes for online retailers. Using a credit card with rewards points saved her $200 on Christmas gifts. A programmable thermostat saved another $100.


The strategies have paid off in more than just savings. Dunshee took a severance package from her employer in October and is considering a career change. "My overall goal is to work at a job I really enjoy, even though it pays far less," she says. "Given my frugality and that I've saved and invested well, the recession isn't causing me the same kind of anxiety others are feeling." -- Kimberly Lankford
Save $50 a Day
Pay Less for Banking & Loans
Pay Less for Health and Insurance Costs
Pay Less for Utilities
Pay Less for Food
Pay Less for Transportation
Pay Less for Investing Costs
Pay Less for Leisure
Pay Less for Must-Have Trends
PLUS: How These Super Savers Do It