So we find out this month that the government has the capability to use “secret courts” to get permission to read our emails and listen to our phone calls.

Depending on whose version of the details you believe, this is either a total lack of privacy and we should be outraged or, it’s harmless and so what.

But the government isn’t the only one who has records on you.

Let’s continue with a Monday Money slant to this topic of Big Data.

Saving money and wise spending has been the focus of the Monday Money series I began last year when my wife and I decided to see how much we could save with a few changes and we found over $3000 a year we could trim.

Yesterday I did what I usually do over the weekend, make a trip to a local grocery store to buy stuff for my lunches. When I was a kid my parents were coupon clippers. We’d buy stuff if we had a coupon and save 5 cents.  Double Couponing was the rage as stores would battle each other to get your grocery money. We would end up eating all kinds of stuff that we would not have normally bought because we had a coupon.

These days stores still accept coupons but many have switched to a store card.  Kroger owns most of the grocery stores where I live (including Scott’s) and so I have a Kroger card. These plastic cards are offered by my drug store, coffee shop, gas station, and a few restaurants too.

My advice is to use them…wisely.

For example,my most recent grocery total was $83 before they swiped my card. I like to wait until they’ve rung up everything before I give them my card, so I can see the total on the screen and then watch it drop. This weekend it dropped 26 bucks.  a 30% savings.  This weeks total included several items that will last a month or more.

I also earned some points to save ten cents a gallon on my next fill up at their gas station which will result in another 3% savings.

Doesn’t sound like much, but this is free money*.

Here’s the *disclaimer…

The only way this works is you have to buy stuff that you would normally buy, or it’s a good substitute.  A couple months ago I bought cans of soup that I don’t buy regularly, but hey, it’s soup and I am eating those 10 cans at the rate of one per week for lunch. I selected “healthy” versions with lower salt, less calories, and flavors that I would like.

In other words, don’t buy a bunch of crap that you don’t need, just because it’s on sale.

The other part of this *disclaimer, you are giving up some of your personal information when you use one of these cards.  They are tracking your spending habits.  They know we have a cat.  Last year they sent me coupons for free cat food because they know I buy it regularly.

Bottom Line.  You can save money with those store cards if you shop wisely and don’t care about the big data collection that everyone is doing anyway.