Thursday, March 17, 2011

Loopy

With the economy being what it is (unpredictable/depressing/frightening), and my husband's job suddenly and unexpectedly being cut back to almost nothing, we've really had to tighten our belts. As I've mentioned before, we are aggressively trying to work our way out of debt (we've paid off 47%! Yay us!), so thankfully we are already in the habit of trying not to spend. I hate to use the dreaded F-word, but I'm really trying to figure out how we can be more Frugal (What? You were thinking of a different F-word?).

Wisdom from Dave Ramsey
 I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but I've joined the coupon brigade. I've always dreaded this, as clipping coupons seemed to me a slight waste of time and money. Especially since we typically don't eat a lot of prepackaged, prepared foods that coupons typically hype. I may hate cooking, but four out of four Chases agree that my homemade lasagna tastes way better than the Stouffer's version.

However, after coming across a few blogs with tips on how to squeeze every last cent out of your budget, I figured I'd give it a try. I collect coupons every week from my in laws and several generous friends. We also got an almost-free one year subscription to the Sunday Los Angeles Times. So each week I sit down and clip almost every coupon from the various papers. Then I take the grocery ads for the five grocery stores within a five mile range of our house and match up what is in the ad with what I have coupons for. Then I only buy the things that we actually need, going (if I have to) to each of the five stores to get the best deal for particular products.

I've been doing this regularly since January, and per my register receipts, I've saved almost $800 in three months. Is $800 in three months worth an hour of my time every week? Heck yeah! Also per the receipts, I save anywhere from 55% to 70% on each shopping trip. Considering sales tax in our city is just shy of 10%, I'll take every percentage point I can get! The crazy thing is that I haven't changed our eating habits at all. We still don't have a stack of Stouffer's in the freezer or anything that ends in "Helper" in the pantry. What we do have is a house filled with soap, dishwasher detergent, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, OTC medicines, and a ton of brand name boxes of cereal that I've gotten absolutely free thanks to shopping only the sales and only for what I had a coupon for. And everything else I've gotten for at least 50% off. Far from being something to be slightly ashamed of (after all, we don't want to project that we're saving money, only that we have tons to spend, right?), I'm finding that I can't stop talking about it! No, I'm not going to turn this into one of those blogs about saving money and living frugally (there are a ton out there already), but I did want to share the impact this has had on the boys.

First of all, they see me sitting at the table, clipping coupons while they do homework. They see me with the ads, making a list and matching up the coupons. And both of them have come with me on separate shopping trips to see that I don't buy anything that isn't on sale that I also have a coupon for. When they start saying Oooooh Mom! Look! Fruity Candy Coma Roll Up Sugar Stix! Please-oh-please can I get some? All I have to say is, "I don't have a coupon and it's not on sale." And without whining or complaint, they say alright and walk away. All I can say is WHY DIDN'T I TRY THIS SOONER?

However, kids being kids, they still want their Fruity Candy Coma Roll Up Sugar Stix, and yesterday I won the Best Mom in the Galaxy award from my children because I brought home five boxes of Froot Loops.

Good source of Fiber! Made with Whole Grain! Sprinkles!

Five boxes of Froot Loops that I got for free, mind you. I had five about-to-expire $1 off any Kellogg's Cereal coupons, and Froot Loops were on sale buy two, get three free. I think I actually made money off this little sale/coupon combo. Which I used to buy fresh produce of course!

Michael did a triple take at the Froot Loops, because I normally forbid food of this kind in our house. Filled with sugar and food coloring, it goes against every instinct I have about how children (or adults that matter) should be eating. But you know what? I really didn't mind at all this time, which won't be repeated. We're all sacrificing, pitching in, and pinching pennies. And it's tough to constantly be saying no to every request that costs money. So surprising the boys with something I would normally always say no to (even if it was always free), was like reassuring them that although times are tight, we're not destitute. At least not yet. Oh no, we're simply a little loopy from our sugar high!

2 comments:

jaeckerb said...

It's nice to hear of a family with similar values having tried the coupon thing and been able to find some savings without having to resort to buying processed foods in bulk and whatever strange items you happen to find coupons for! That you can make coupons worthwhile without going off the deep end!

I'm curious if you guys also shop at Trader Joe's? Seems like that's a potential limiting factor to one's savings since I don't think they offer coupons. What stores have you guys found beneficial when it comes to using coupons? Thanks for any thoughts!

Heather Rose Chase said...

I Love Trader Joe's, with a capital L! I buy a lot of fresh produce there and I can't get enough of their Pasadena Salad. I think their prices on the things we buy there tend to be very competitive or else they are things you wouldn't find coupons for to begin with.

In addition to TJ's, within two miles of our house we have a CVS, Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons, and another local family market that keeps changing its name. There is also a Food-4-Less slightly further away. I simply cut out most coupons and then sit down with the ads for those stores to match their sale prices with the coupons I have. Some weeks I go to all four markets, but it's worth it if I'm only getting things for free or close to free. Sometimes the money saved is worth more than I'd make in an hour working doing freelance copywriting, so for me it's totally worth it. If I'm getting a lot of our household goods for free, then I can spend more on the produce at TJ's, you know? Also, I've noticed many coupons for products sold at Whole Foods Market, which makes it almost worth it to shop there! I adore them, I just can't afford them!

CVS has this thing called Extra Bucks, and with planning, couponing, and a little initial investment, you can end up shopping there for free or almost free. There are plenty of blogs out there that tell you how to do it, just Google CVS Extra Bucks Tips or something along those lines. Good luck!