It’s way past time for me to update you all on our financial freedom quest.
The past year I think can be described as, steady. No big ups, no big downs. We didn’t pay off anything major, we didn’t really go into more debt. We just stayed steady. We also didn’t try very hard. Getting out of debt is something that has to be at the forefront of our priorities if we want to get it done and it wasn’t. I have a big list of excuses that include work, kids, and laundry, but really we just let it slide under the rug. Don’t worry we didn’t go crazy on anything and we are still very frugal. I think our biggest money sin is and always has been eating out. When we get busy with basketball season we eat out a lot. I try to pack snacks for everyone, but I don’t always get it done. We also eat out on Sunday after church, nothing elaborate, but it’s a habit we need to break that would save us a nice chunk of change.
As I was writing this post it was getting really long, so I’m breaking it up in parts. I’m not sure how many as I’m still working on it. So here’s part I
Coupons and Stock Piling
Last year about this time I dove deep into couponing. Clay built me shelves in our basement to store product and I filled them with shampoo, conditioner, feminine products, body wash, toothpaste, tooth brushes, toilet paper, deodorant, cleaning supplies, laundry soaps, school supplies and food. Every week I went out and spent my grocery budget on the big sale items at Walgreens, CVS and my local Kroger store. I did this until about the end of September when I got too busy with work and school. Then I dropped the Walgreens and CVS shopping and just concentrated my weekly shopping at the grocery store which is huge, and has just about everything we need except clothes. I even get my gasoline at the grocery store station.
Here’s the big shocker; all the stock piling I did last summer has lasted us over a year. Occasionally, I would pick up more items if there was a really good sale and I had a coupon, but the bulk of my stock piling was from the summer. I love not running out of bathroom supplies or dish soap or tampons or LAUNDRY DETERGENT. It’s the greatest feeling to have those items on hand. It’s also great for company that forgets a toothbrush.
I’ll keep couponing this year the same way, waiting for a good sale to use a coupon to add to the stock pile and focusing mostly on food items. I’ve learned a lot this past year about what I should pay for items and what I would NEVER pay. I also don’t buy something just because it’s free. If the coupon is for something I would never use I don’t save it, I’ve learned it’s just not worth it to me to do that. However, I do buy a lot of things that I would NEVER buy if I didn’t have a coupon. So, my view of name brand products has completely changed.
I have noticed food prices increase and the coupons are not as good as they were a year ago. My grocery budget which includes all household items is $1000 per month. I have about $300 left to spend this month and I did a huge grocery hall last night. I’m hoping I can cut our budget down to $800, but it might be difficult as I foresee food prices increasing again, so for now I’m leaving it. Last night I save almost 50% on my groceries. I usually don’t do that well, but man was I ever pumped walking out of the store. I had the right coupons for that sale. It was AWESOME!! I keep glancing over my receipt and doing fist pumps. Yes, I am a competitive couponer and I currently hold the self-proclaimed title of Awesome Shopper.
A few pointers on coupons:
1. Do your homework. Visit websites that tell you how to get organized before you shop. There are a lot of websites out there that are very helpful. Spend some time browsing them and pick a few that make sense to you and help you match up sale items with available coupons. After a few months you’ll get the hang of it.
2. Get organized before you shop. I use a giant 5 star binder to organize my coupons before I go to the store. I buy anywhere from 3-10 Sunday newspapers. Then I staple, cut and organize by category. This takes me about an hour. I also subscribe to several coupon sites where I can clip and print coupons. I don’t do this every week because it’s more time-consuming and I have to print the coupons, but this week I did because my store was having such a great sale on items that we use and I wanted as many coupons to match those sale items as possible.
3. Get your family on board. I couldn’t coupon if my family wasn’t supportive of this habit. The newspapers take over the family room when I’m sorting an it takes time to get organized. The shopping trips are long and if the kids are with me they have to be patient. Clay loves that I do this especially when he see how much I’ve saved.
4. Avoid getting sucked into a super great deal on things you don’t need/want/use. I’ve done this a few times and then realized that just because that thing was free doesn’t mean we’ll use it. I bought several toilet bowl cleaners and the fact is, I don’t use them and they smell terrible. I also bought some medicine that I thought we might use. But, I think it will expire before we ever need it. I don’t buy dog or cat treats, room deodorizers or hamburger helper. Those items always have coupons. So, now I don’t even bother clipping those coupons. Ignore the stuff you know your family doesn’t need and don’t buy it just because it’s a great deal. Some couponers may think differently on this than I do because they donate a lot of those items, which is great. Some day I may get to the point where I can do that as well, but for now I’ve got to keep it simple.
5. Keep your coupon binder in the car. I bring mine in to add new coupons and then it goes right back out to the van. It is such a bummer to forget it at home and pay extra for the items that you KNOW have a coupon in your binder….at home, ugh!
Please fill free to leave links to your favorite coupon sites or tips on your shopping habits. I’ve learned a lot from all of you over the years.