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Penny-pinching power: Candace Lewis is proving that saving on consumer purchases can be satisfying: Lewis is saving on smaller purchases so she can send her daughter to private school.

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 malting 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 reevaluating 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 lee 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 mole 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 spend $500 or more.

Although she is a savvy consumer, Lewis is still a novice at interesting. She has used her penny-pinching habits to reduce her debt and is working on building an emergency fired. In addition to her car note and mortgage payments, she has $3,000 in credit card debt. She refinanced her home in the summer of 2002, lowering her mortgage payment by $160, which she uses to pay down debt. When sire pays off her car note in April 2004, she plans to contribute the $256 per month to her emergency fund. Her goal is to save $10,000 in three years.

Right now, Lewis contributes 6% of her salary to her 401(k) plan at work. Her company matches up to 6% and allows her to choose from a selection of mutual funds.

"Finding all of these deals can be very time consuming," warns Lewis, "but it's worth every penny," In order to stay on top of her finances, Lewis has developed these habits, which she recommends to anyone wishing to save a few dollars:

* Search online for deals. Lewis says she starts most of her bargain hunting at a price comparison site,, the partner search engine to Google. "The Web is a big help. I get e-mail notifications on sample sales and warehouse sales. It can be a lot of spam to go through sometimes, but I do find a lot of bargains by subscribing for discount offers online," says Lewis.

* Stay mindful of what you are spending. Lewis says she bargain hunts even after she has met her financial goals because she never knows what may pop up. "An extra dollar here and there that I save can get absorbed in the cost of living," says Lewis. "For instance, my commuter ticket just went up, and I'm expecting an increase in my energy bill, so my constant saving helps to offset those unexpected costs."

* Maximize your investment options. Lewis was sure to capitalize on her employer's match at work, which effectively doubles what she saves for retirement. She also established her emergency fund at ING Direct (800-ING-DIRECT), an online savings account that pays her 2.3% interest, which is much better than most banks.

Declaration Of Financial Empowerment

From this day forward, I declare my vigilant and lifelong commitment to financial empowerment. I pledge the following:

1 To use homeownership to build wealth

2 To save and invest 10% to 15% of my after tax income

3 To commit to a program of retirement planning and investing

4 To engage in sound budget credit, and tax management practices

5 To measure my personal wealth by not worth, not income

6 To be proactive and knowledgeable about investing, money management, and consumer issues

7 To provide access to programs that will educate my children about business and finance

8 To support the creation and growth of profitable, competitive black-owned enterprises

9 To use a portion of my wealth to strengthen my community

10 To ensure that my wealth is passed on to future generations
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Title Annotation:Black Wealth Initiative
Author:Spruell, Sakina P.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Previous Article:Convention calendar.
Next Article:When a man stands alone; Kenneth O'Mard faces the challenge of managing property, controlling finances, and raising children.

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