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23 Jul 2008   ·   105
Money Saving Mom

Help me out here! Should I switch my coupon organization system?

Couponclippings

Anyone who has read my blog for more than a few months knows that I’m a big fan of clipping and filing every coupon you think you might use. I got into this habit because I used to shop almost exclusively at Kroger where the deals and mark-downs were plentiful and I was often able to snag unadvertised specials for free or almost free every week thanks to having all my coupons clipped, organized, and handy.

However, as most of you know, our Kroger stores were bought out a few months ago (I’m still agonizing over the loss!) and while I’ve continued on with my clip-and-file-every-coupon system, I’ve noticed I rarely have come upon any unadvertised deals or mark-downs. And I do mean rarely, as in non-existent. Well, I did find one mark-down one time, but I didn’t even have a coupon for it.

In seeking to streamline and be more efficient, I’m seriously considering keeping my inserts whole and just clipping out the coupons I need each week as I plan my shopping trip. This would save me the hassle of having to spend a lot of time clipping and filing; it would also save me the trouble of going through my coupon box for expired coupons every month, too.

But I’m really tossing and turning over breaking tradition and completely revamping my whole coupon organization system as I know it. It’s become so ingrained in me to clip and file all my coupons in my coupon box as I’ve done it this way for going on eight years.

Does it really work to just file the inserts and clip out the coupons you need? Do you find yourself having to pass over a lot of the deals when you’re at the store because you don’t have the needed coupon with you? Can anyone reassure me that I really will not end up spending twice as much at the grocery store if I don’t clip all the coupons? Do you think I’m up to the challenge of a complete revamping of my system? 

Any feedback or thoughts would be much-appreciated.

Note: For those of you who may need a point of reference, here’s my current system and here’s the system I’m considering switching to.

22 Jul 2008   ·   50
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tips: Harvesting and putting up food

1029061assortedfreshfruitsofberries

Carrie wrote:

I just thought I’d write and remind your readers to look into picking their own berries. I just paid $0.80/pound for 75 pounds of strawberries. At the store, they would have cost $1.80/pound for frozen berries, so I just saved $75!

You can pick the fresh berries, use what you are able to use in the first few weeks and then freeze the rest to use in fruit smoothies, fruit salads, muffins, and more!  I put up about 500 pounds of fruit each
summer! (We have a family of 9 so it’s not really that much!). When the fruit is expensive all winter, we still can enjoy
an abundance of it!

If you don’t know where to find a local place to pick berries, check out LocalHarvest.org. (Thanks, Lori!)

And, if you are interested in learning more about canning, freezing, drying, and root-cellaring fruits, vegetables and herbs, be sure to check out the new Carnival of Home Preserving. Maybe someday I’ll actually learn how to can–it’s on my long list of things I want to learn how to do!

Do you harvest fruit and veggies and "put them up" in some way or shape for the Winter? If so, tell us what works for you. How would someone like me who knows nothing about canning get started doing this? I’d love to hear your ideas and advice!

Graphic from AllPosters.com

21 Jul 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Simple beauty, simply beautiful

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Today I challenged myself to create and enjoy beauty in the simple things in my everyday life–things like fresh cut flowers from our garden in my grandmother’s china (re-purposed as a vase).

See more pictures and simple beauty here and be inspired to "stop and smell the roses" in your own life!

18 Jul 2008   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: The I-Took-A-Break-From-Bargain-Shopping Edition

If you read this post, you likely clued in to the fact that I didn’t do any shopping of any kind this week. In fact, it’s been almost 14 days since I’ve done any shopping of any kind!

Jesse did make a quick stop to buy milk, bread, and a few other essentials, but I didn’t step foot in any store all of this week and almost all of last week, too. To tell you the truth, it felt really nice.

However, after only one quick shopping trip in two weeks, we’re running quite low on some essentials so I’ll certainly be making a fairly large grocery run this next week and I definitely refreshed and ready and ready to do some more deal-scoring! (If only I had all my coupons in order, though! Anybody want to come over for a coupon organization party?! It’s amazing how quickly they can get out of hand when I let them be for a week or two!)

—————–
How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and bargains you were able to snag this week on your blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and leave your link below.

18 Jul 2008   ·   48
Money Saving Mom

Extreme Frugality: What would you give up?

Over at the wonderful blog, Days to Come, Jeana is doing an incredible series of posts on Extreme Frugality this week. You must run, not walk, over there and read them here, here, and here. Good stuff.

Jeana recently gave up couponing in order to simplify her life and I applaud her decision. While I doubt I would ever completely give up coupons, I’ve found that I’ve greatly simplified things in the past two years–especially since having two children. I’ve cut back considerably on the deals I’ll do, the time I spend planning and shopping, and I have learned that it’s okay to take a break from bargain-shopping.

Many people often wonder why, if I’m such a minimalist, do I have a website which encourages people to buy stuff? It might seem like a contradiction on the surface, except you forgot one important point: by and large the deals I post here are for food and household products–stuff that 99% of most Americans buy at least a few times per year.

One of my goals in blogging here is to not only help everyday, average Americans find ways they can save money on items they would already be buying anyway, but I also aim to alter your mindset. (You mean you hadn’t figured that out? Maybe I shouldn’t have told you!)

You see, I would wager that the majority of Americans would never consider buying the bulk of their groceries on sale with a coupon or stocking up on a good deal to last them until the next good deal. Most people might buy a few items on sale, clip a few coupons, and save a few quarters each week, but the thought of buying almost everything on sale with a coupon is very foreign to a large percentage of the population. When people start grasping these sorts of concepts and applying them to shopping at the grocery store, it often not only saves them a few hundred dollars or more each month, it also often begins to completely change the way they think about life in general.

So while I’m glad to share deals and encourage you to save money at the grocery store, my hope is that what you glean here will not stop with the clipping of coupons. Instead, I hope the things shared here will cause you to consider making other much more substantial life changes: beginning to live below your means, getting on a budget, developing self-discipline, putting a financial plan in place, thinking long-term, and be willing to go against the flow to make sacrifices now to benefit you long-term.

Speaking of thinking and planning for the long-term, Jeana asked a really great question to kick off her series which I thought we would all do well to consider. She wrote:

Lately I’ve been thinking about how over the past few years we have
found new ways to save money as paycuts and higher costs have squeezed
on our budget. I’ve been asking myself, "What is the next thing I would give up or do differently if I had to lower costs?" and then trying to do that next thing now
to put us one step ahead of the next big squeeze. I’ll be writing about
some of the new things I’ve been trying soon. For now, why don’t you
tell me: What’s the next thing you would do to create some wiggle room
in your budget, if you had to?

What would you give up or do differently if you had to lower costs? Is this something you could go ahead and cut from your budget now in order to give you more wiggle room for later? In addition, I’d love to hear how using coupons at the grocery store may have affected your thinking on other areas of life. Tell us about it in the comments section.

18 Jul 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Keeping it simple!

347385whitetulipsinvaseposters_2

It’s Frugal Friday over on my other blog today. If you’ve not had a chance to stop

by there yet, you’ll want to check out all the wonderful links and inspiration posted by fellow frugal zealots. I’m talking about taking a break from bargain shopping today. If you’ve ever felt burned out when it comes to coupon-clipping and deal-scoring, you’ll want to read what I wrote.

By the way, have you picked up on the fact that I like to keep things simple? If you really want proof that I’m an all-out minimalist, check out my recently-reorganized closets. Sometimes I wish I weren’t so ruthless when it comes to clutter, but most of the time I’m thankful for the time and energy it saves to keep it simple!

Graphic from AllPosters.com

17 Jul 2008   ·   82
Money Saving Mom

Donating items for a good cause: Share how you’ve blessed others recently!

Toothbrush

Have extra brand-new toothbrushes lurking at your home that you’d like to donate to a good cause? Go here to read about an opportunity to donate them to a dental outreach for children in Honduras.

And while we’re on the the topic of giving, I’d love to hear what opportunities you’ve had recently to bless others with your free and almost-free coupon bargains. Tell us about your random acts of kindness and generosity in the comments section and let’s all encourage each other to take time to help out those in need!

17 Jul 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Work-at-home opportunity

Polly emailed me and asked if I could post her income-earning opportunity. Since I am familiar with Polly and know this is a legitimate position and because I know that many of you are looking for ways to work from home, I’m glad to post her email. If you are interested in this position, please email Polly personally.

My husband is a consultant for a company that assists small business
owners who wish to sell their business. We make our own leads through
telemarketing efforts.

We would like to increase the number of leads we can work. If
anyone has telephone experience or would like to learn, we are in need of people to help.

The
position pays a 10% commission on the sales my husband makes. His
average sale is $6-9,000. This is a commission only position.

Some
things that are helpful: having a telephone with unlimited long
distance or a cell phone with a lot of minutes; email (since this will
be our main mode of communication); and a good attitude.

This
position is not for the faint of heart, but is very lucrative. We are
asking for at least 5 hours per week but would like up to 15 or more.
You will be calling businesses on the west coast during business hours
(7:30am-5:30pm PST).

I would very much like to speak to anyone
interested in this as soon as possible. We are in desperate need so I
would like to get started on this ASAP. I have good Dunn &
Bradstreet leads ready to be emailed to you now along with scripts and
forms. I will offer all of the support you may need.

Thanks so much for your consideration!

Polly Stankuviene from Nevada
stankuviene @ yahoo.com 

16 Jul 2008   ·   58
Money Saving Mom

The Debt Avalanche: What Do You Think?

I read an interesting article by Consumerism Commentary last week (hat-tip to The Simple Dollar) on "the Debt Avalanche":

If you have a certain amount of money available to pay off a portion
of your debt each month, even if that certain amount changes, there is
a mathematically correct way of paying off that debt. You can call this
approach the Debt Avalanche. It is similar to Dave Ramsey’s popular “debt snowball” method, with one small but important detail: With the Debt Avalanche you will pay off your debt faster and pay less total interest to banks and lenders.

The simple calculation for the Debt Avalanche
requires only the interest rates for each debt account. This assumes
that all debt accounts have the same tax liability, but if that’s not
the case, determine your interest rate after taxes for this calculation.

Read full article.

When my husband and I got married, we purposed to stay out of debt if at all possible while he went through law school. Now that law school is behind us and we’ve avoided debt this long, we’re really determined to completely avoid debt in every way, shape, and form for the rest of our lives.

We’ve sought to debt-proof ourselves through a number of means: living on less than we make; living on a strict budget; building a six-month emergency fund; communicating openly and honestly as a husband and wife about finances; and investing in good life, health, and disability insurance. Only God knows whether we’ll be able to completely avoid debt our entire lives, but we are quite determined to do everything we can to keep from being enslaved to it.

While you all well know that I am a huge Dave Ramsey fan, since I’ve never been in debt, I personally can’t say what works or doesn’t work with regards to getting out of debt. And I don’t necessarily think the same exact steps will work 100% perfectly for each and every person and situation.

So, what do you think? I know a number of you readers are seeking to get out of debt and I’d love to hear what is working for you. Do you think that Dave Ramsey’s "Debt Snowball" method is the method for debt reduction? Or would you agree more with Consumerism Commentary’s proposed "Debt Avalanche"? What has worked for you?

15 Jul 2008   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Review: Children’s Orchard

Childrensorchad_logo

I’d heard rave reviews of Children’s Orchard from various friends for a number of years, but I’d always sort of let them go in one ear and out the other thinking that a store specializing in name brand children’s clothing, furniture, accessories, and toys was likely well out of our budget, especially when it came to used clothing.

However, since I’m always willing to try something once and the girls were in need of new clothes, we decided to stop by our local store a few weeks back. And was I ever in for a shock!

Fellow frugal friends, I’ve been missing out all these years; Children’s Orchard is a goldmine! While there were some like-new Tommy Hillfiger and Gap clothes which I quickly passed by as the price tag was near $10 each, there were boat loads of nice clothes for $4 and less! In fact, I found a number of nice tops for the girls for $2 each.

The store we stopped at was well organized and offered an abundance of clothes from newborn to size 10-14. The average price seemed to be around $3 per item and the majority of the clothes were in great condition. Not all of the brands were name brand–I saw a number of Wal-Mart brands sprinkled throughout the clothing racks–but there were also lots of Gap, Children’s Place, and Gymboree items to be found, almost all of which were very reasonably priced.

101_0285

[See those adorable almost-like-new matching shirts my girlies are wearing? I found them for $1.99 at Children’s Orchard!]

We had a budget of $25 per girl and I was thrilled that we were able to stretch that to buy enough to last them through the Fall with some extra month left over (well, if Kaitlynn doesn’t up and grow two sizes in two months like she’s been known to do!). A few of the items we purchased were brand-new and still had the tags on!

For those of you in need of 0-12 month clothes, I would especially recommend this store as I noticed most of the prices on those clothes were $1.50 or less–which I consider to be a great price for like-new, high quality baby clothing. Judging by the quantities of clothing at the store we shopped at, you could easily buy your baby’s entire wardrobe for a year or more for less than $50 (or more like $25 if you’re a minimalist like me!).

Children’s Orchard often has storewide sales which would net you even greater savings! You can sign up for their email updates here and be notified of when the store nearest you is holding their sales. In addition, Children’s Orchard will buy back your gently-used children’s clothing. More details on that are here.

14 Jul 2008   ·   24
Money Saving Mom

Becoming a WAHM: What Are Your Passions, Skills, and Gifts? – Part 4

Once you have determined you’re willing to put in a tremendous amount of effort in order successfully work from home and you’ve streamlined your life and developed organization, and started living on a budget, you’re now in great shape to pursue planning and preparing for setting up your business.

There are thousands of possibilities out there so where do you begin? I recommend you spend some time praying and seeking the Lord for direction, talking things carefully over with your husband, and doing some in-depth evaluation of your own heart.

What are your goals for working from home? How much time do you want to invest? What kind of income would you realistically like to be making?

After considering your basic goals and guidelines, take a few weeks to map out your ideas. Don’t worry about being thorough and organized at this point, just get your ideas down on paper. Just for the fun of it, I encourage you to also write down what your dream WAHM job would be.

Hopefully by the end of a few weeks of thinking through this, you’ll have a fairly large list compiled. Take this idea list and think about it in terms of what your life goals are, what your abilities are, what you are passionate about, and what your likes and dislikes are. If you are married, ask your husband for his counsel and input. Also, ask your close friends for their thoughts and ask other home business owners for input.

It is very important you take your time when thinking through all of these things. The last thing you want to do is to be hasty in your decision-making and end up rushing into something which you quickly find out was not at all what you enjoy.

At the same time, though, don’t get so caught up in the planning and preparation that you never do anything. You’ll never go anywhere if you never do anything, so don’t get stuck in a rut of spending months or even years planning your new business venture and then end up never doing anything. A month or two of planning and thoughtful decision-making should be plenty.

For those of you who currently work from home or own your own business, how did you first decide to do what you are doing? What has been your greatest source of inspiration and how have you meshed your passions and gifts into a marketable skill or business venture?

11 Jul 2008   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: CVS (and SEVEN winners!)

Thank you, friends, for your kind comments on my earlier post. It’s been a long week and I’m feeling rather worn-down and worn-out, so your encouragement truly lifted my spirits. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people!

As promised, I’m going to share the winners of The Couponizer and Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom. However, instead of announcing two winners, Amy Bergin said that so many people entered that she wanted me to choose an additional five winners. So, folks, without further ado, the seven randomly chosen winners are:

Laura (rolamarfarm@)
Jana Kelley
Amanda (davidgolf@)
Jenny Cooper (jennylcooper@)
Laura Cooper (any chance you’re related to Jenny above? I promise I randomly drew winners here!)
Kristin (kashley628@)
Darlene (dstone728@)

I’ve emailed all of you with further instructions but if for some reason my email didn’t come through, please get in touch with me ASAP. Thanks!

And now for Super Savings Saturday

I had a fairly productive shopping trip this week but I failed to get a picture of everything I bought since we had to leave shortly after I got home. However, I did get a picture of my CVS run:

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I just did the Olay deal and bought some Pert shampoo for $0.50 since we are running low on shampoo (yes, can you believe that?):

Pert – $2.50, used $2/1 coupon
Olay – $4.99, $5.99, $5.99, $5.99, used $3/1, $1/1, $3/1, and $3/1
Used $3/$15 Face Care coupon
Used $10.50 in ECBs
Paid $1.32 out of pocket
Got $10 ECBs back

Not the best CVS run ever, but considering that I only bought stuff we need and will use, I was happy with it.
——————–
How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and
bargains you were able to snag this week on your blog (with pictures,
if possible!) and then come back here and leave your link below.

11 Jul 2008   ·   171
Money Saving Mom

Living like no one else

I just got a less-than-nice comment from someone about our van situation. The basic gist of the comment was (I’ll edit the part out calling me a liar, etc.): "Why on earth if your husband is an attorney and you make money from home can you not just go out and get a new vehicle??"

Since there are quite a number of people who read this blog, rude
comments are pretty normal and I’m pretty used to it–it’s part of blogging in a public forum. However, after I deleted the comment, I got to thinking…

You know, we could go buy a vehicle. We could take our emergency fund money and go buy another used vehicle or even a new vehicle. We could take our house savings and go buy another vehicle. We could even do what most normal Americans do and just go take out a loan for a new car.

But here’s the deal: while we have money in our bank account, we don’t have money saved or allotted for a new vehicle or even a used vehicle. And guess what that means? We aren’t buying a new vehicle or even a new-to-us vehicle. Not right now at least.

We had money to pay for the car repairs, we don’t have money to pay for a new vehicle right now. We’re very hopeful that the mechanic will have our van in good working order by tonight and we’re very hopeful that after replacing just about everything there is to replace on it, the van should run beautifully like it used to.

What we thought was a small problem with the van has mushroomed into weeks of work. Just when we thought it was fixed, something else would go wrong with it and we’d have to take it back to the mechanic again. It has been a much longer and costlier process than we were ever expecting and yes, it’s been frustrating, but that doesn’t mean we just throw in the towel and go buy another vehicle.

Have we considered buying a new vehicle? Absolutely! Do we wish we had piles of cash sitting around without a name on them so we could just go buy a new vehicle and forget all the hassle of trying to get our much-used van fixed? You better believe it!

But you know what? Waiting until we can afford to buy something and trying to make do with what we currently have is how most people used to live. We’re learning patience, we’re learning flexibility, and we’re learning to be content with what we have.

We still have one running vehicle and if need be, we can go back to being a one-car family again. It’s not my first choice, but we did it for a few years and I’m willing to do it again.

Yes, we’re "living like no one else". Yes, a lot of people think we’re really crazy. Yes, sharing what I share on my blog means that some people aren’t going to understand, are going to question why we’re doing what we’re doing, and some people will say rude comments about our life choices.

You know what, though? While I don’t like car problems and I’d not have chosen the kinks in our plans they’ve resulted in the last few weeks, I’d much prefer to wait until I can afford something before I buy it. I much prefer not having to live paycheck-to-paycheck. And I much prefer not being slave to the bondage of debt.

We’re living like no one else so that someday we can live and give like no one else!

11 Jul 2008   ·   17
Money Saving Mom

Happy Frugal Friday! (And so much for dressing up like cows!)

Well, so much for our Chick-Fil-A pictures! Our van ended up not getting fixed like it was supposed to, so we are car-less again today. Oh well, I’m sure you all weren’t that anxious to see me all dressed up like a cow anyway! 🙂

While I’m disappointed we don’t get to have a fun and memorable outing with the FishFamily, I’m counting my blessings that at least we have electricity and air-conditioning today. Yesterday, the electricity went out on our whole block for a few hours. So we had no electricity, no A/C, no internet, no car… we sure got the house nice and clean, though!

Life has been interesting around here recently. You just never know what the next day will bring–or even the next hour!

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Instead of Chick-Fil-A, the girls and I are walking to the library. It’s a nice free and fun place to hang out for a few hours and they love it!

Don’t forget to check out Frugal Friday over on my other blog. I’m sharing about foraging for mulberries and there are a host of other great tips left, too.

9 Jul 2008   ·   27
Money Saving Mom

Financial Shape in 2008: Monthly checkup

It’s July and time for another Financial Shape in 2008. The year is halfway over! How are things looking for you financially?

Here’s our update:

Short Term Financial Goals for 2008

1) Have our fully-funded emergency fund in place (6 months’ worth of living expenses) by the end of April. As of March 11, 2008–DONE!
2) Switch health insurance plans and open an HSA. We
were approved for our new health insurance plans in April and have also
set up our HSA. Done!

3) Start up an IRA and invest at least 5-10% of Jesse’s income in this. Started in March. (We plan to increase this to 12-15% of Jesse’s income as soon as we purchase our home.)
4) Open up a mutual fund for each of our children and invest $50 per child per month in it. Started in March.

5) Save up and invest $30,000 this year towards paying cash (100% down) for a house in 3-5 years. Now
that Goals 1-4 are finished, we’re working super hard on Goal #5!

It seems like the story of our life recently has been unexpected expenses! Between medical bills, increasing costs, and car problems after car problems after car problems (oh and did I mention car problems?!), it’s been a little mountainous here and I’ve had to fight the urge to feel frustrated. I know God is allowing these things to teach me patience and perseverance.

At any rate, I am here to tell you that we put a whopping $0 in our house savings fund this month. I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve struggled to not feel incredibly discouraged about this–especially because I had high hopes for this past month. However, I am trying to learn to turn my would-be frustrations and discouragement into gratitude.

While we ended up spending a lot more money than we’d planned on and we didn’t save anything like we’d hoped, we have so many things to be thankful for: a nice rental home with air-conditioning, plenty of food to eat, an emergency fund, steady income, two beautiful daughters, one running vehicle (currently!), good friends who’ve encouraged us so much recently… the list could go on and on. We have so much more than we need; we are truly blessed!

Hopefully next month I’ll have some savings to report, but for this month, I’m trying to focus on counting my blessings instead of calculating our lack of savings.

———————————–
How did you do in June? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2008, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in June and the areas
you hope to improve in July. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don’t have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let’s all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!