Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Month End Money Recap

Wow! June was a whirlwind of activity with traveling and transitioning to summer. July probably won't be any better but the real question - in life is that a surprise? I guess that's a reality - you can't wait to budget or stop spending on a credit card for a "good" time in your life - you have to stop the leak now!

My 2009 financial goals:

1. Spend $100 or less on groceries. For the past two months the majority of my weeks I have spent $100 or less. Maybe twice have I hit my previous $125 marks. This past week I've spent $60 and I'm done for the week. Stockpiling has certainly helped - I just need so much less. So for the rest of the year I want to be stricter about the $100 or less a week so that I can cut out $100 a month on my overall grocery budget. In three months or when school starts again I may revisit to see if I can cut it down even further.

2. Pay $10 or less for dinner. I haven't cooked a lot in the past few months since I was at my parent's house so I'm still not back to my regular cooking schedule. However when I am cooking I am spending around this or less for meals. This week we've been eating at VBS with the kids - the church is serving dinner free to the kids and just $5 for adults so that is clearly in my budget AND I don't have to cook! I could do this every week :) Win-win. But for July I do plan to cook using what I have been stocking up on and really striving to keep my meals as cheap as possible.

3. Pay down debt. I will write more on paying down debt later but every month we are getting out of debt BUT I am not throwing all our extra money at it. This year we are focusing on getting used to a budget and NOT overspending at all on anything. But even if I don't put anything extra towards my debt my budgeted amount IS paying it off (we budget more then minimum payments anyway) and for now that is enough for me.

4. Continue to buy brand name clothes but pay cash. You've seen me do it and I still am. See #5 for the rest of the update...

5. No more credit cards. I did use a credit card once to purchase clothes (I know broke 2 resolutions) BUT I had a reason - I was ordering online and I wanted to see the clothes in person. Since then I have paid off what I ordered, returned a large amount of what I ordered and then re-ordered some items on sale but again to pay it off. For that purpose alone I used my card. I share this to keep myself accountable.

For July we will buckle down again and spend less where possible. My oldest will turn 9 but I will partying and gift buying on a budget and in cash. In years past I haven't been as strict as I should be but this year we will cut corners whereever we can while still making it a fun time.

The year is now half over and I am sticking to my resolutions and it feels good. It does feel tight from time to time and there have been times I'd much rather just quit but I really don't want to undo the progress I have made so far. I certainly think of credit card purchases differently. I don't think "can I make $30 monthly payments for the next 10 years?" I think "will I have have the money to pay this off next month" because the last thing I want to do is add to my debt.

How are you doing? Try to do even better in July! I know I will be.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - June 29


Welcome to the first edition of Menu Plan Monday here on Tightwads! But we're going to do things a little differently. Each week I'm going to ask a different triplet mom to share her menu plan for the coming week. It's a way to generate ideas for ourselves and encourage ourselves to cook at home. After all if these moms of triplets can do it - so can you!

My first meal planner is Donna from Zookeeping 101 and let me tell you if Donna is cooking at home any of us can! Donna has 9 children. Yes, 9. But it gets better - Donna has 2 sets of triplets.

Donna's menu sounds soo yummy - has me salivating :) Check Donna's blog for great recipes and tips for managing a large family - I know you will enjoy it. And a special Happy Birthday to Donna on Wednesday!

Monday
Grilled Chicken
Roasted Summer Squash
Salad

Tuesday
Zippy Beef
Salad
Rolls

Wednesday
My Birthday
Spaghetti
Salad

Thursday
Teriyaki London Broil
Baked Potatoes
Salad

Friday
Leftovers

Saturday
4th of July Cookout
Hamburgers/Hot Dogs
Macaroni Salad
Potato Salad
Cole Slaw
Baked Beans

Sunday
Crockpot Pork Roast
Green Beans
Herbed Rice

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Joys Of Stockpiling

The more I do it the more I love it. Seems like a simple concept - buy when things are cheap. But how do you add the cheap items on to your already full needs list?

A little bit at a time.

I admit, I am NOT a patient person. I would love the $35 grocery bill and the pantry full of groceries right away but that's not how it works.

Which leaves me still learning and figuring out the best way to stockpile my pantry.

Mostly CVS - How do you know if you're doing it right?

Today I went in and got some free paper towels - psyched about that of course but now I only have 10 ECB's for next week. I spent 12 and got 4 back. I'm thrilled about my free paper towels but I paid $3 for the hair gel for Kirk so as not to use up my ECB's (they didn't come out even and I would've had to pick up something else). For any of you more experienced - does that sound about right?



Swung by a newer HT last night and picked up some more stuff for cheap :) I know I'm addicted but you knew that already right?



I spent: $2.61
And saved: $21.83

Best part? 4 shampoos for $0.54!! They were on sale for buy 1 get 1 free and I had a coupon for $1.50 off 1 that doubled (S 6/28). I used 2 coupons. I decided to get 4 for a few cents rather then get 2 free mostly because I didn't want to argue over a coupon since the coupon would have been given me overage and HT doesn't really give overage.

2nd best part? Just more confirmation that clipping coupons DOES make a difference. My original total was $21.83 - after sales it came down to just $16.83! Then I handed over my coupons and my total was $2.61 - it really does help!

I will tell you this - while the stockpiling may go slowly it is going. That shampoo should last Kirk a good six months or so meaning I don't have to buy anymore until the price once again is low enough for me to want to head out and pick it up. And when you're sitting at home clipping coupons remember that it does pay off :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The List Was Up Early

And I got to shop on Friday! Oh I was so excited. It meant the rest of my weekend money could actually be my weekend money! I didn't have to save it till Sunday because I went grocery shopping yesterday. Pinch me :)

Of course I also wish HT would double coupons up to $1.98 every day but I imagine if they did they would lose a ton of money! Not that that would bother me but how could they stay in business?

Anyway, back to how I did.

I spent: $32.99 (yep for the week's groceries! We had enough left over to eat out last night which was so much fun and a big treat)
And saved: $60.88



A few things on my list were out of stock - a few of the free items of course! Wouldn't have increased my spending total just my savings total. Oh well, I will check back because you can't beat free.

I did "splurge" a little bit on the yogurt. We were out and it wasn't on sale but I did have a coupon so it wasn't as expensive as it could have been but still not the sale I generally hope for.

As you can probably see there's not a lot of dinner items there but that's okay. My cupboards and fridges are full - now to come up with some recipes! We did got to Giant and pick up some of the chicken on sale - okay, a LOT of that chicken on sale. For $20 I have so much chicken I could cook for weeks.

So, any chicken recipes?

I am also wondering if anyone else would like to share their menu plan for next week on Monday? It's menu plan Monday but I'm not sure you really care what I eat - I want to know what you eat :) Especially if it involves chicken!

Just leave a comment and let me know what you eat!

Can't comment? E-mail me at dorindanelson@comcast.net and I'll set you up :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

How'd You Do?

Did you spend less this week? I don't know if I did to be honest :) We didn't go out until tonight so I guess I did that. I didn't make extra meals though I did talk to friends about doing it later. Does that count?

1. When traveling away from home, pack your own snacks, meals and drinks. We didn't travel - we were home most of the week.

2. Try not to eat out at all this week. From Saturday to next Friday. We didn't go out to eat until tonight so I guess I had this covered :) Right?

3. Plan outings that are no cost adventures, such as parks and museums. Instead of going out I had lots of friends over and we had cheap fun here at the house. Oh, we did go to a few parks and are going to another tomorrow.

4. Make extra meals for your freezer for days when you have no gusto to cook dinner. I didn't do this BUT I did talk to friends about doing it in the near future. Does that count?

5. Make something from scratch that you normally wouldn't, such as bread, household cleaners, snacks, etc. I made muffins from a box - I'm pretty sure that doesn't count but that was the week I had - I mean I spent Monday night in the ER with Julianna getting some stitches in her head.

6. If you haven't made a budget (or goals for 2009) yet..DO IT! If you are all sqaured away here, check and see if there is something in your budget that you can lower, or cut out completely. This I have done and I'm always working on it.

7. Try out a new-to-you frugal idea such as washing/re-using ziploc bags, using less laundry/dishwashing detergent, re-use juice from canned fruits and vegetables, save butter tubs, amongst many others. Be creative! Yea, didn't do this.

I so hope you had a better week financially then I!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I (Heart) Being Frugal

Why didn't I do this before? I am really kicking myself! And if you haven't started couponing I ask you "why not?"

What's keeping you from beginning? The time? The stuff you like isn't on sale? Maybe you are so rich you don't need to save money on groceries. Of course, I have no idea why you would even be reading this so I doubt that's it.

My point is - you have to start! You have to get the bug, get out there and save money.

Tonight I headed out to Safeway and Harris Teeter - in total I spent $11.00.

This is what I got:

From Safeway:



I spent $4.62
And saved: $43.70 (90%)

How'd I do it? I FINALLY received a $10 coupon from way back when they were having their Living Well promotion. TWICE I didn't get a coupon printed. Once they sent it right away, the second time it took them about 8 weeks to get it to me. Nice. But I'll take it.

It helped that Safeway is having a great sale:

Goldfish: $0.99
Popcorn: $0.99 (used $0.50 off 2 coupon from S 6/14 - doubled to $1.00 off)
Eggo Waffles: buy 5 they are $1.49 each - I stocked up on blueberry :)

Averaged out each item was $0.31!!

From Harris Teeter:



I spent: $6.35
And saved: $22.18

Those dollar doubler coupons saved me a bundle as did my $4.00 off my order from my last trip. Using coupons wherever I can.

- I used $1.00 off Juicy Juice Brain Development or Immunity from S 4/26 - final price $0.99
- $1.00 off 2 Quaker granola bars from RP 5/3 or 6/21 - final price $1.50 each - not great but I wanted some :)
- $1.00 off 2 Hungry Jack syrup (needed this!) - on sale for $2.99 - final price $1.99 each - this is an example of differing coupons - from my paper the coupon is just $0.25 off 1 whereas the Tampa paper which I had from being there was $1.00 off two which was the better deal in this situation.
- $1.00 off Mini-Wheats from RP 6/7 and since it was on sale B1G1 free the mini-wheats were free! Yea!

See, if I can do it so can you! Get out there and start saving!

*** On a side note - I didn't use the Grocery Game for today but she did put the list up early so check it out! ***

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Get Thee To Harris Teeter!

If you haven't already heard Harris Teeter is doubling coupons this week only up to $1.98!! That's right, if you have a coupon for $1.50 off then it doubles to $3.00. I am so there! There is a 20 coupon limit per person per day but it is very worth it to search through your coupons and go more then once to save the biggest buck.

Check here for match-up deals:



And I'll post what I buy when I go - looking forward to saving even more this week!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Coupon Organization

Another question I get asked is how I organize my coupons. After five weeks of being gone my coupons were a mess! Kirk didn't want to throw anything away which is fine but left me in coupon overload when I returned and an accordion file that just couldn't hold it all:


Just a mess! It was taking me twice as long to cut coupons because of all the digging I had to do:


And this is the after:



What I did:

- I took all the loose coupons and filed them in separate envelopes

- I cut out all the printed coupons separately, threw away what had expired and filed them in envelopes

- Then I took my oldest coupon packets - from way back in March and went through each packet individually to pull out any unexpired coupons that I might like to use, cut them out and filed them in the envelopes

- By the time I reached the end of April I reached the packets that had more unexpired then expired coupons and I filed those away uncut in the accordion file - I hate cutting coupoons and MUCH prefer just to cut out what I need when I need it - now that everything is filed coupon cutting will go much quicker.

In general I go through my old coupons as soon as I hit the back of the accordion file. This keeps my coupons from getting out of control and takes a lot less time then what I did today!

And a cheap way to file your loose coupons is just to take large envelopes and label them as you need and fill them up! So easy.



My categories (which by no way is the best way to do it but in case you're interested):

- Bakery (bread/baking like Bisquick and cake mixes)
- Drinks (juice/coffee/tea)
- Cereal/Boxed goods/Canned goods (yea, it's a weird mix but when I started I didn't have many cereal coupons then I had too many - I may need another envelope)
- Non-Food
- Dressings/Pasta Sauce (pasta sauce, jam, salad dressing - and pasta 'cause I didn't have anywhere else)
- Frozen foods
- Refrigerated foods (yogurt, biscuits, meat)
- Snacks/Crackers
- Restaurant
- Expiring soon - I do this one whenever I clean my files so I know that next Sunday I'll need to go through it and see if there's anything I want to use just before it expires - plus I know that after 6/30 I can just trash them all :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How To Spend Less On Groceries

I was asked recently how to spend less on groceries. She's already couponing and she's using the Grocery Game but she wanted to know how you spend even less without going crazy - in other words, without shopping the sale at every single store, every single week.

I thought I would start at the beginning and answer the question whether you've been couponing a while or haven't even started.

1. Use coupons! Sounds simple but believe for a LONG time I didn't and I regret every second of that - what was I thinking??

2. Pick a method to help you coupon - DON'T reinvent the wheel. There really isn't a reason to sit down with 6 different sales ads and match and find your own coupons. Use The Grocery Game or use The Coupon Mom or read blogs - don't waste your time :)

3. Make a list - know what you need before you go so you don't make impulse buys (most of the time...)

4. STOCKPILE - this is probably THE most important thing. THE thing that has saved me the most money. But you must realize that this takes time. I have come across women who spend just $35 a week on groceries or even $800 a year. Truly I'm not sure how this is possible unless they don't buy milk which costs me at least $15 a week alone. That being said you have to start somewhere - add a few things on sale here and there but as you go you will realize that your list has less needs and more sale items which is the biggest way you will save money over time. As you continue to stockpile you will need less and spend less.

5. Set a budget - It may be your goal to spend $50 a week or less but you can't start there. At the beginning of the year I had hoped for $100 a week but just starting out that wasn't feasible so I adjusted it to $125. Now that I have been stockpiling for months I am able to spend less per week - down to around $100 or less. As the weeks progress I plan to challenge myself even more - to spend even less and use what I have but I can only do this because of my stockpile.

6. Set price points - I now have so much cereal that there's absolutely no reason why I need to spend more then $1.50 a box (generally less). I don't buy toothpaste unless it's $0.50 or less. I don't buy storage bags unless they are under $1.00 - usually around $0.70 or less. At this point I often ignore items that are over $2.00 and instead hone in on items that are less then $1.00 and stock up on those items. This keeps my costs down and my savings up.

For example: tonight I bought Aquafresh toothpaste at HT:



Original price: $3.11 each
On sale: buy 1 get one free
Coupon: $0.75 off one (S 6/21) - doubles to $1.50 - used 2 coupons
Final price for 2: $0.11

Clearly within my toothpaste price point so I buy it whether I need or not and store it until I do. Means next week if toothpaste is on sale buy one get one with no coupon it's not cheap enough for me to buy!

7. Go once a week - this way you will be able to shop the weekly deals. Shopping once a month means you will run out of more food faster, have to run back for things you need that may not be on sale. And even if you go off of a list there will things you need for the month that aren't on sale - items you could've saved money on if you had bought them when they were on sale a previous week.

8. Use CVS or other drug store that gives bucks back - I'm still learning this one but I'm getting better at it every week and do agree I should've started this sooner and stuck with it longer. This allows you to purchase drug items like shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, pain relievers and even food for free or next to it.

Tonight I bought:



I spent: $6.89
And saved: $33.08 (after using my $14 ECB's I earned last week)
And earned: $18 in extra care bucks back!

The SoyJoy bars are actually a money maker:

They are on sale for $1.00
You can earn $4.00 for every 4 you buy (so free)
If you use a coupon from S 5/31 which is a buy one get one free coupon - you spend $1.00 less. I had 4 of these coupons so I spent $4.00 and earned $8.00 in ECBS!!

The Tylenol was free or $0.50

Tylenol extra strength tabs on sale for $3.99
Use coupon from R 4/5 $3.00/2
And earn: $2.00 ECB's back
Total price: $0.49 each

If you use the arthritis coupon from R 5/17 which is $2.00 off 1 then the Tylenol arthritis is free since you earn 2 ECB's back.

As for the rest of my groceries at Harris Teeter.

This is what I bought:



Not pictured: 4 gallons of milk (great sale!)

I spent: $56.36
And saved: $103.60
And earned: $4.00 off my next shopping order thanks to Kraft cheese

Best stock-up deal: Hefty Bags

Regular price: $2.59
Sale price: buy 1 get 1 free
I used various coupons from different places:
R 6/7 $1.00 off Fresh Extend bags
R 3/29 $0.55 off One Zip bags
R 5/17 $1.00 off One Zip bags

Cost for each bag:
Varied between: $0.20 to $0.30/box

I hope the tips help. Please let me know if you have any other savings tips you'd like to add!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Awesome Giant Deal!

Thanks to Moneywise Moms I came across a great deal at Giant for the coming weeks. A coupon for money off meat at Giant! Even better if you pair it with a sale like the chicken that is on sale this week for $1.79 a pound. The coupon is valid from June 15 to July 2 and you can print it as many times as you want. The coupon is for $5.00 off of $15.

Go here for your coupon:

Giant $5 off $15 meat coupon

Friday, June 19, 2009

Finding Freedom Friday



I was unable to put this up last week or participate because we were traveling and my parents were here all week so I thought I would go ahead and take her challenge for last week this week.

I'd love for you to join me :)

Here's the challenge:

1. When traveling away from home, pack your own snacks, meals and drinks.

2. Try not to eat out at all this week. From Saturday to next Friday.

3. Plan outings that are no cost adventures, such as parks and museums.

4. Make extra meals for your freezer for days when you have no gusto to cook dinner.

5. Make something from scratch that you normally wouldn't, such as bread, household cleaners, snacks, etc.

6. If you haven't made a budget (or goals for 2009) yet..DO IT! If you are all sqaured away here, check and see if there is something in your budget that you can lower, or cut out completely.

7. Try out a new-to-you frugal idea such as washing/re-using ziploc bags, using less laundry/dishwashing detergent, re-use juice from canned fruits and vegetables, save butter tubs, amongst many others. Be creative!

Check out the original post here: Finding Freedom Friday for some ideas on cheap outings, meals to freeze and setting your goals if you haven't. Starts tomorrow so that gives you tonight to go out if you want :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Budgeting

It's a nasty word isn't it?

It doesn't have to be! But you do have to find what works for you. Since the beginning of the year I have read books, articles and blogs on the subject and there is a lot of information out there. There is budgeting software and budgeting books - it's hard to know where to begin.

One thing I do agree with all of them on is that I should be living on 80% of what I make. While I'm not yet there I am trying - I am pushing myself to save more and spend less!

After months of trial and error I have come up with the easiest and simplest budget for us. It may not work for you but I figured I'd share what we do.

I have decided that breaking stuff down into every single category just doesn't work for us. I had started with a clothes budget and a movie budget and a toys budget and going-out-to-eat budget but it became too much. When we went out we would have to divide in our heads what came out of what part of the budget and what we had left in what category and some categories we would over-use and some we wouldn't use at all. Too much work!! I have enough work already with 3 two-year-olds :)

So instead I divide like this:

Mortgage _________
Tithe _________ (you are giving away 10% right?)
Debt _________ (this is total debt monthly payment)
Utilities _________ (phone, cable, electric, gas, water, trash - all of it)
Savings _________ (this too should be 10%)
Food _________
Gas _________
Insurance _________
Diapers _________
House _________ (this includes our alarm, HOA and other repairs)
Car _________ (includes payment and repairs)
Medical _________
Other/Free _________

The last category is basically everything else. While I know most people suggest breaking it out and assigning a value to every dollar I just can't right now. This is my basic starter budget. Someday when I get better at this then maybe I can do it different but right now if I spend the clothes budget on eating out I don't care as long as I don't go over budget in total and DON'T use a credit card.

I also don't have a clothing budget because that does not come out of our general funds. I use the money I make selling clothes to buy more clothes. Sometimes if we have extra I'll use that too but no, I don't believe that we'll never buy clothes again!

What about you? Do you break everything down? If so, what is your best tip for managing it?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Back To HT

We spent today in Baltimore with my parents and the kids - our big outing while my parents are in town. But last night my DH and I got to go on a "date" - we went grocery shopping alone :) Yea, that was fun!

Here's what I got:



I spent: $57.53
And saved: $80.65
Not pictured: 3 gallons of milk

Some of my best deals:

Kraft Cheese - they weren't on sale but if you bought 3 you got $3.00 off so instead of $2.99 for a bag of cheese they were $1.99 - then I had a $1.00/2 coupon that I printed at coupons.com so each bar and bag of cheese cost me $1.50

My favorite deal of the night was on the Pop Tarts. They weren't on sale either - regular price is $1.99/box - I had 2 $1.00/2 coupons and one $0.55/1 coupon (RP 6/7) so I bought 5 boxes - 4 boxes at $1.49/box and 1 box at $0.89 for a total of: $6.85 - because I bought 3 boxes of Kellogg's Pop Tarts I receieved a free Redbox DVD rental - another savings of $1.00. Then on all 5 boxes is a ticket to mail in to receive a free movie ticket - you need 5 to qualify for a free movie ticket. A movie here costs me $10.25 so ultimately I made: $4.40 on the deal! I'll take that any day :)

Crystal Light also a good deal because of coupons.com - they were on sale B1G1 free - regular price $4.19/each - down to $2.10 each with a $2.00/2 coupon they were just $1.10 each - some cheap drinking around here!

What I've noticed in the past few weeks shopping in FL -

- coupons there are generally lower in value - this is because they don't double in FL so manufacturers market lower value coupons - like my $0.55/1 Poptarts - by me I didn't have such a coupon - I had $1.00/2 - essentially you are getting the same deal if nothing is allowed to double but because coupons double here in a lot of VA stores that $0.55 coupon is more valuable to me. So, if you are using the GG and are wondering why your coupons don't match up be assured that somewhere they do and it is not the fault of the GG - just smart marketing on the companies part to make you spend more so be sure and double check her list to what you actually have.

And be sure to check your HT coupon policy -

- the official policy is that only 1 coupon can be used on a Buy 1 Get 1 Free promotion even though the item rings up half price. My HT has always allowed me to use 2 coupons which has been great (Publix allows this even though the 1st item is charged full price and the second is charged $0). As far as I know they still are but it is something to be aware of. Always know your stores official coupon policy which can be found somewhere on their website if you look for it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

CVS Week #2

Week 2 went a little better then week 1 - at least I spent less :) That is the goal - every week I am planning to spend less and see if I can get this ECB thing going.

Here's what I got:



I spent: $19.32
I saved: $46.80 (with sales, coupons and my $11.00 ECB's from last week)
I earned: $14.00 in ECB's
Total OOP: $5.32

What I did:

For the most part I stuck with products that earned me ECB's though I decided I would also pick up items that were really cheap such as the 2 deodarants that ended up being $1.29 for 2 and the cereal that was $0.88 after coupon (R 6/7).

ECB's Scenarios:

Schick Quatro Titanium Razor or Trimmer - on sale for $7.99 - down from $11.99 - used 2 $4.00 off coupons from S 6/14 - earned $6.00 ECB's from the 2 - making my total cost for 1 razor and 1 trimmer: $1.98

Purex Complete 3-in-1 laundry sheets - these are brand new - washer and dryer sheets all in one - sounds pretty cool - washes, takes away static and works as a dryer sheet and it's good for a top loader or a front loader - first I've seen. They were on sale for $6.99 down from $8.99 - I used 2 $2.00 off coupons from S 6/14 and earned $4.00 ECB's back - so they ended up being $2.99 each - each pack does 20 loads.

Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste - on sale for $2.99 - used $0.50 off (PG 6/7) and earned $2.00 back in ECB - final price: $0.49

The only non-sale, non-coupon purchase was the 4 pack of toothbrushes because my kids really needed it but I earned $2.00 back in ECB's so it made it worth it :)

I'll share my HT trip tomorrow - DH is waiting to watch a movie...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Will Post Tomorrow...

I had hoped to shop and post today but I am too exhausted. We made it home last night at 11:30 - the kids did pretty well but it was a very long day and today is my husband's birthday. So, tomorrow I will head to Harris Teeter and CVS with the Grocery Game and I'll post then. With my best sales since I have had interest :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Confessions of a CVS Newbie!

Once again I am committing to try CVS. I keep thinking I'll try and then I don't or I think I don't need anything so I don't go. But here in Florida I'm once again talking to my friend Valerie who introduced me to the Grocery Game and she is convinced we should both give it a try :)

So, yesterday I decided to go. Here's what I got:



I spent: $33.64
And saved: $20.43
And earned: $11.00 ECB's

I'm calling this my "inital investment" since I had no other ECB's to spend to reduce my out-of-pocket expense. Of course $7.99 went to diapers of which I was hoping to get $5.00 ECB's back (it was rumored there were some) but those did not print on my receipt :( I didn't really expect it since I had also heard the deal was over but figured it was worth a try - it was still a good deal and we can always use more diapers! :)

And the candy is for our trip back to VA on Friday - nothing makes a kid quiet like some candy :) Otherwise I would've skipped that deal. But still $25 to earn $11 isn't bad. Hopefully next week my OOP will be MUCH lower.

I also came across this site which I thought had a great explanation on CVS (to compliment what Cherie has already posted): Money Saving Mom

She had a great article for why to try CVS and how to get started. One of her pieces of advice was to start out only buying what ends up free with ECB's - to start small and build your way up. She also suggested trying it for a few months before giving up.

Based on her advice I've decided to actually try it to use my extra care bucks to earn more extra care bucks and see what I can get for free or really cheap. And if I don't need it I have a plan to donate it which I'll share at a later date.

If you haven't signed up for the Grocery Game yet consider adding CVS for your trial 4 weeks when you do. It's a great way to get a list and get yourself started. After 4 weeks you may even be able to do it for yourself without the list though I've been using my mom's list this week and that has been invaluable.

Tomorrow I will be packing and Friday we will be traveling so I will post again on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why Families Of Multiples Need To Budget

To some of you this is completely obvious. Clearly when you have multiples you get one or more children then you bargained for when you began trying (or sometimes not trying) for.

But you might be suprised at how often I get asked who pays for my kids! I've been asked if the government helps me. It's not a surprising question considering how public some families of multiples are. And everyone knows how some families received free diapers, baby food, vehicles and sometimes even houses. And then there's John and Kate plus 8 who have their own TV show which was once reality and is now just a show about them getting lots of stuff.

So, it's not surprising that people would assume since we have triplets, and triplets are something they don't see every day, that we must surely get some government help.

This couldn't be further from the truth. While it might be true for some who have very high order multiples (quintuplets or higher) those of us with "just" triplets are left to fend for ourselves. We may get a few coupons or a box of diapers or formula the rest is up to us. And the rest can be quite expensive.

A recent article by ABC News Money brought this point home:

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Story?id=7747473&page=1

Featured in the article is Rachelle Wilkinson of the Wilkinson Quints

So if you've ever wondered why I clip coupons - now you know!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

He Misses Me :)

Once again Kirk did some grocery shopping for me and he did a fine job though he may have picked up the wrong cereal box which threw off the whole plan! It happens. They try to trick you :)

HT was having a sale - buy 3 Kellogg's cereals and get one free but one of his boxes wasn't the sale box so he ended up paying more.

Still he did pretty good.

Here's what he got:



He spent: $56.18
And saved: $73.51

It was the diapers that cost him the most so he didn't go over budget at all :) It's just a reminder to check the coupons and re-check them and then check what you are buying to make sure they match. Very important!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bonus!

Have you ever paid attention to the mail-in rebates on cereal boxes or other food? I really haven't. The free movies, the free toys - whatever, I rarely give it a second thought.

But lately I have been paying more attention. Before I left VA I filled out a form from my Poptarts for a free movie. They had been on sale and I had bought so many that I figured I might as well. So I mailed the form in with all my little cut-outs from the Poptarts and a week or so ago Kirk got a coupon for a free movie. Since he's home alone for a while longer he took himself to the movies for free :)

Here in FL Publix and General Mills are running a free movie ticket special. This I knew and figured if I had a chance while I was here I would try and check it out. Today I scored!



As I always do I check the coupon mom to see what the "big" sales for the week are and their coupon match-ups. She never has a list as easy to follow as the Grocery Game but she generally gives me a good idea of what I can expect come Sunday. One of the items was fruit snacks and fruit roll-ups. I was too excited to wait till tomorrow :) The kids love them and we were completely out.

So, when my mom said she needed to go to the store I was more then happy to tag along and pick up the big sale items. As I was grabbing up as many fruit snack boxes as I could grab (kidding) I noticed a number of them had little tags on them that said "Get 2 Free Movie Tickets"



After a little bit of digging I came up with 8 boxes - 2 short of my 10 needed for my free movie tickets. At a second Publix (my mom forgot something and had to go back anyway!) we found 2 more.

The best news is I spent $11.00 on 10 boxes of fruit roll-ups/fruit snacks (they were on sale Buy 1 Get 1 free and I had a coupon) and got 2 free movie tickets up to $24.00! Talk about a return on my "investment" especially since I know movie tickets by me are now $10.25 a person!

So be sure to take a look at what you're buying. Some of those mail-in items are a great deal especially when you can get them free - I mean you're already stocking up on the food cheap so why not??! And if you're anywhere near a Publix be sure to check out ClickCallMail to register for your movie tickets - you have to sign up then enter your codes when you get them. The promotion is good until 10/31/09 and you can earn up to 10 tickets or 5 redemptions per household.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Shopping At Gymboree



Last night I took a trip to Gymboree and picked up some clothes for the kids. I think I wound up with a pretty good deal.

All of the above cost me: $108.14
The original retail price for all of this was: $340.70!!

Of course I would never pay that but if I were to have bought them at full price that's what it would cost.

At full price Gymboree is a very expensive kids clothing store.

At sale price Gymboree is extremely reasonable. In fact, it gets better - I earned a $50 Gymbucks on my purchase - meaning in the future I can take $50 off my $100 purchase (if you do the math this results in an extra 25% off my purchases). What I paid averages out to $6.36 a piece! That means for next year's swimsuits for the girls I paid just over $6!! That even beats Wal-Mart!

It may not beat a thrift store but I'm getting the size I need, it's brand new and I can re-sell the items when I'm done.

How did I do it?

Currently Gymboree is running a number of sales - woven shorts are $10 cheaper (instead of $22 or $26 they are $12 or $16 a piece) - they have items on sale for $7.99 - like the watermelon tops I bought which are from a brand new line and not an old line.

On top of that everything is 30% off right now plus I can use a coupon with the sale. There is a 20% off Gymboree coupon in the most recent issue of Family Fun magazine (June/July - on stands now).

It's the same basic principle as grocery shopping. You buy what's on sale and use a coupon :) I also hit the clearance rack - the bluish shorts with frogs were on sale for $5.99 before the sale and the coupon which brought them down to $3.35!! That's one way I can buy ahead (they are size 3 and 4 for next summer).

Obviously buying at the end of the season is the best way to outfit your kids cheap but it's not my favorite way to shop because 1. I generally don't have extra money for next year's clothes and 2. I have no idea how big or small my kids will be next year BUT when the deal is this good I don't pass it up. Plus I had my eye on those bathing suits for a while and the girls didn't need them this year :)

So before you right off a brand-name store as too expensive check it out - you may be very pleasantly surprised! And yes, I paid cash.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fee-Free Weekends In National Parks



Thanks to Kelley at 3 Peas N A Pod for alerting me to this great deal this summer!

Some U.S. National Parks are having free entrance weekends. According to their website these weekends are:

* June 20-21, 2009 (Father’s Day weekend)
* July 18-19, 2009
* August 15-16, 2009

So check it out for an inexpensive vacation or weekend near you :) I believe I'll be heading to the Shenendoah's on one of those weekends and I can't wait!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Learning Curve

I certainly believe that couponing has a learning curve. You've seen the commercials and the shows, you've read the blogs - woman goes in to the store and gets $100 of groceries for $0.50! What? My bill NEVER looks like that. Seriously I try but real life gets in the way and I leave the store with good deals but less money then I had hoped.

Kirk went to the store for me last night and he did okay. I mean he's trying so I am NOT complaining but couponing is just a teeny bit harder then it looks (not much but it does take SOME work - if it didn't everybody would already be doing it and would be good at it).

Here's what he got:



He spent: $84.70
And saved: $77.22

Yes, that will put a small dent in our monthly budget but I will make it up somewhere since $60 and $85 are over even our $125/week budget. Not to mention I had to spend about $20 at Wal-Mart for things like milk that I didn't get at Publix.

So there you have it - our weekly budget is blown. But it happens. And that's okay.

My point is - even if you've tried couponing in the past and you got frustrated or you didn't save what you wanted or you had a bad week just keep doing it. Like dieting, like learning, like life it takes some time to figure out and you have to give yourself a break and try to do better next week.

Eventually I will be that crazy woman on TV who spends $10 and gets $200 worth of stuff but so far that hasn't been me and that's okay :) Besides, I did mention that I have 5 kids right? AND don't have the time to go to 12 different stores every week for their sales?! So, until my children become magic couponing angels I will just deal with what I've got and be thankful for my savings.

And for the Grocery Game which does save me hours and hours of time!!