While I have never considered myself a truly "cheap" person (though I definitely can be at times...), I definitely consider myself to be frugal. Especially in this last year or so I have increased my efforts to be more frugal. We have 6 people and 3 pets living on one income so sometimes I have to stretch the dollar until it nearly snaps. Yet, we always make do and get by. Though I may not have an "income" to speak of, I do my part by helping to save money. (Heck, one of us has to considering Aaron is a spender!)
Some ways in which I consider myself to be frugal are:
- Most of my food is homemade and often from scratch. I rarely buy dinner mixes, or cake or brownie mixes or rolls. I keep those basic ingredients on hand and make them myself. Fortunately I enjoy baking, so this works for me.
- We live in a (relatively) small house. We fit- two per bedroom- though as the kids get bigger, I swear it shrinks! But, we can afford it, so it works.
- I buy about 95 % of my childrens' clothes used. The 5 % they get new is clearance. (Seriously, how could anyone afford to buy clothes new for 4 kids?!)
- I buy my own clothes at thrift or discount stores. I seriously can not imagine EVER paying more than $20 for a pair of jeans...
- I generally buy generic brand food and other items.
- The last several months I have started making my own household cleaners and laundry detergent! My bill for laundry detergent has gone from about $200+/year to about $20/year!
- we don't drive fancy new cars (couldn't afford them if we wanted to!)
Despite being frugal, I do certainly enjoy the finer things in life as well- we do have cell phones and cable TV. I also don't cut my childrens' hair myself (though I would love to- but everytime I have tried it has ended badly!). We are also known to occasionally enjoy a dinner out (though never fancy places) when we can swing it. I feel like being frugal off-sets these things a little.
Recently however, I have begun a new endeavor- into the world of couponing! Sure, I have always used coupons- saving a few dollars here and there- but I was always jealous of those who knew how to fill a cart and only pay a few dollars. I have a few friends who have learned how to do that and they have been trying to teach me, but I have been resistant due to fear of the time it would take and feeling simply overwhelmed by it. A few months ago, my friend Abbey held my hand (metaphorically speaking) through a night of shopping the couponing way. She came over and helped me print the coupons on-line and clip others and make a list based on what Meijer had on sale. My first night was pretty successful thanks to her. Not too bad for a Newbie, I walked out paying about $9 for everything on the table below (retail value about $50)...
It certainly felt good to walk out with all this stuff I could use and getting it so cheap. It still took a couple of months though for me to really feel comfortable enough to take the leap. Let me say, the high of walking out of store with a large amount of food for a small price is incredible! It is a bit addicting. It definitely makes you want to do it again! Everytime I get home, I have to show Aaron everything I got and tell him the price. Most of the time I have to take a picture too. Here are a few examples:
My total here was about $15 for everything!
This one was better yet with everything you see here from Kroger totaling $16- with a retail value of about $80!
And this one was definitely my best yet. Everything here on the table- I paid only $6.71! It has a retail value of about $100! (The grouping on the left is from Meijer. The group of to the right was Kroger- everything from Kroger was FREE!) As a synopsis: the juice was $1.30 each (regularly $3.80 each); the wolf chili and salsa (both about $2 regular) were all free. The blocks of cheese were about 17 cents a piece (us. $2), the mustard was about 15 cents each (us. about $1.40); the pickles were 57 cents each and the pepperoni packs were about 30 cents each! And, no worries- it will all be used before it expires!
Now that I am getting into this, my grocery bill is going down. I find I paid about $600-$700 a month in groceries (which I feel is so so high, which it is.... but I find is pretty normal for my family size...). But now, I am stocking up on things on sale which gives me less to buy when I do my normal grocery shopping. Normally, I only go shopping once every two weeks- when we get paid- and spend about $300-$350 on groceries (hence times two is the monthly total...). The last time I went shopping, my grand total with couponing and ALL was a whopping $160!!! That is half!!! Wow!!!! Ya- I'm totally converted. And, I am getting name brand stuff which I never could before- and at much much lower prices then generic brands! Hopefully this will help off-set the cost of Kenny's braces (which he gets next week!) and Jacob's piano lessons.... ouch!
So, what is the secret? The secret is to combine store sales with coupons and- when possible- with store coupons as well! This can be a little daunting, but is made easier with money saving websites. A favorite of my friends and I is Happy Homemaker Cindy's site. She makes it very easy. She lists the stores- and then the sales and coupon match ups at each store. She tells you which flier to find the coupon in or gives the link to print from on-line when available. You can legally print two of the same coupons per computer. At one point, I had 4 working computers, but we are down to two. But, if you have access to more than one computer, you can get a lot of coupons! Just don't ever copy coupons! It is illegal and a smart cashier will know the difference (each printed coupon has it's own PIN number....) and it will ruin it for the rest of us if people keep trying to copy them. Plus, it helps to know the coupon rules of your store. Meijer doubles coupons up to 99 cents- and will let you double up to two like coupons at a time. Kroger doubles as well but will let you double 5 like coupons. But, if you have more than that at either store, you can still get them doubled, you just have to split up your transactions. It means check out will take longer, but it is worth it! Don't worry- the cashiers are used to it- just be nice to them!
It helps to organize your coupons. First, I have learned to never throw them away until they are all expired! I used to go through and clip what I thought I would use and toss the rest. It works much better to organize them by date received and don't clip them until you need them. That way, when a website (like Happy Homemaker Cindy) tells you to clip a coupon found a certain week, you know right where it is. You can get extra coupons by getting them from friends that don't use theirs or ordering extra copies of the paper. (Or, my friends....NOT ME... have been known to dumpster dive through recycling bins to find more!) If you are extra friendly to your paper delivery person and tip well, I have heard of them being willing to give you extra copies they happen to end up with as well if you ask.
Plus, stores will often have their own store coupons that you can use WITH the manufacturer coupon. If you combine these with an item already on sale, you can get things so so cheap!
Here is a couple of examples:
The Smart Balance Milk in the second picture above it normally nearly $3 a half gallon! I would never ever even consider buying it. Well, I got it free. Here is the break down:
Sale Price: $1.99/ half gallon
Coupon: $1.50 off (found in paper flier and on line... so I got several)
Coupon: $2.00/off of 4 (Meijer Meal box coupon found online the Meijer site)
Final cost- Free when you buy 4! Crazy huh? I never imagined I could get free milk! And we use soooo much milk!
The Kraft block and shredded cheese above. I can't remember the regular price, but it is near $2.00 each.
Sale Price: $1.67 each at Meijer
Coupon: $0.75/ off 1. This doubles to $1.50 off.
Final price: 17 cents each!
And, they don't expire until July so it was beneficial for me to buy several bricks because we use a lot of cheese and will easily go through it long before it expires. And, by the time I use it all, there will likely be another sale with more coupons so I can stock up again- eliminating my need to spend money on cheese.
It feels really good to be able to stock up and feed my family at a lower cost. Our church has taught about Food Storage for years. We are taught that we should store up food (up to a year where possible) to help us have a supply of food should there be a time of disaster or no money (such as from a natural disaster where we may be stuck in our house or through something such as a job loss so that we can still be independent and not rely on others). I have always had a little-enough to where I never panicked like some people when a big snow storm is looming, but always felt discouraged feeling it is so hard to to store extra food when it took all I had just to feed everyone on a daily basis. In recent years, the whole world has caught onto this idea that our church had decades ago. With the many natural disasters and poor economy, people recognize the need to be prepared. I finally am getting a stock of things and can already say that if needed, we could already get by for quite a while on what little we have stored. If I keep this up, I will have truly significant food/supply storage that will last us for a long time if needed. I love independence and don't like to rely on others.
It is a little overwhelming at first and it does take a little more time to find and print/clip the coupons, but it also gives an amazing sense of freedom and accomplishment that makes it worth it!
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