You can't toss a squirrel over a tree these days without hearing someone talking about extreme couponing.
Anyway. As I was saying… these days, we're all interested in saving money. More than that, lately, I've realized that we have such an abundance of stuff and our share of financial stressors, and I've really been taking drastic steps to reduce the financial impact our lifestyle has. Small changes have helped.
I've never been a coupon clipper, but naturally, with all the buzz about it these days, I've watched from afar. A few months ago, MoneySavingMom.com shared a phenomenal Target coupon deal that I jumped on, resulting in my getting 4 pairs of my favorite jeans (Excessive? Maybe. Maybe not.) AND two t-shirts and a sweater shipped to my door for around $6. Total. Yeah. I was so excited about that, I told anyone who would listen and started to reconsider my position on the whole couponing thing.
A few weeks later, I was blessed to attend the Relevant Conference in Pennsylvania, where I gleaned some in-person wisdom from Crystal Paine, the brains behind MoneySavingMom.com, and received a sneak preview copy of her soon-to-be-released book: The Money Saving Mom's Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year
This book is chock-full of savings ideas, couponing wisdom, budgeting techniques, and EASY ways to save money and improve your financial health without having to become a financial advisor. I can't stress enough, my favorite part of this text was
's easy, practical advise for real
families with real budgets. So many
financial books I've read assume everyone has stockpiles of assets, thousands
of dollars in savings, and a desire to live successfully on credit. This book met me where I am (a bit taxed
financially, living paycheck to paycheck, wanting to eliminate our reliance on credit), and it gave me some simple steps that
left me feeling hopeful and not discouraged or defeated. Crystal
Another amazing thing? All proceeds from the book are going to Compassion International, and well… I love to support the work of Compassion however/whenever I can. The book releases on Jan 9, but you can preorder it now through the link above. Highly recommended! And, while you're at it, if you don't already follow MoneySavingMom.com… what the heck are you waiting for?!
I'm happy to say that the last month has been a very encouraging month financially, and this book certainly had a hand in that. I even bought about 75% of my groceries with coupons last week! Although I'm not sure I'll be turning into a coupon queen anytime soon, I have started some financial habits I'm sure to stick with.
1) Meal Planning: The biggest bang for my grocery buck (and, let's face it, with 5 people in the house, lots of our budget is
on groceries each month), is meal planning.
I purchased Household
Menu and Coupon Organizer, The and used it to help plan
affordable meals for the month. This
allowed me to plan for some new recipes I'd found on Pinterest and wanted to
try (success!) AND make sure my grocery budget wasn't going in the trash on
fridge-cleaning day, nawutImean? I
discovered we could eat much more affordably than I'd thought because I was so
used to going to the store and buying a variety of items that we'd combine into
meals later. Being more deliberate, a
few hours a month, means our meals are less stressful and best of all, it saved
me HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS this month. We
should come in at the end of the month for less than $300 for all groceries
(including toiletries, etc.) for a family of 5.
Not shabby, and we're not eating like paupers either.
2) Meal Remix: Re-thinking our typical "meal" and ingredients made menu planning easier and more affordable. Often, I'll use a bit less meat in a dish than usual and add some extra veggies… healthier and makes our meat budget stretch. Also, finding other sources of protein besides eating meat with every meal. Did you know corn, beans, and rice are a complete protein when eaten together? Now you do. Other affordable alternatives: Baked potato bar, pasta with fresh tomatoes, basil and parmesan, taco salad, etc. Plan a leftover night once a week to make the most of the hard work you've already done.
3) Coupon stacking: Since I shop at a discount grocery store (Food4Less) and buy generic, my usual purchases are already at bottom-line prices. (In fact, my husband works for a mainstream grocery store where we get 15% off most items, but we typically pay such low prices at the discount chain that it doesn't make sense to shop where he works, even with the discount). During my couponing experiment, I discovered that I could still buy generic at the discount store for less than the value of the coupon I had for a name brand product. This happened so frequently that it took the wind out of my coupon sails, but I did score a few tremendous deals by "stacking" coupons – combining a manufacturer coupon with a store coupon to maximize the discount. Our Safeway had a huge buy one, get one free sale the week I went shopping, and though I normally don't shop there, it was worth an extra trip to stock up on meat and snack foods at B1G1 prices. Adding coupons to the deal meant pennies on the dollar, and I walked out with a few items for nothing or next to nothing. Paying attention to inserts and big store sales may do just as much for your grocery budget at clipping coupons, so keep that in mind if you don't want to go through the hassle.
4) Money talks: Once upon a time, we had a cash-only budget and the results were incredible. Over time, the lure of the swipe-with-ease debit card suckered us back in, and along with it, lots of our hard earned moolah seemed to disintegrate into the atmosphere. Now, we're transitioning back to cash-only and loving the concrete reality of not being able to overspend in certain areas. IMO, the number one way to keep your budget on track is to use cash and tell your money where to go.
Ultimately, I don't think you'll be seeing me on an episode of Extreme Couponers anytime soon. But you might be seeing me around here a lot more often, with the time and stress I'm saving with the few financial changes we've made (with very little effort, I might add).
It's good. Really good.
Don't forget to order your copy of The Money Saving Mom's Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year today! (If you tweet/blog/Facebook about it, you can even pick up a free copy of Crystal Paine's new e-Book, 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life while you're at it. See MoneySavingMom.com for details). How's that for killing two birds with one stone?