Monday, May 04, 2009

A Season of Frugality

Many of you know the financial strain we are facing in the Happy Meets Crazy household. Some things have actually gotten better and gone our way, lately:
*Re-financing the house which reduced our mortgage by $200 a month! Hooray!
*HUGE tax returns! More Hooray!
*The roof didn't leak all winter or during spring rains! Hooray-ish-ness-all-over!
*And others (the consistent rain means we don't have to fix our sprinklers just yet, I found a bike for Miss #2 on KSL for only $15, things seem to be falling into place with our bills, etc.).

But then Brandon got accepted into school. And other than a small sum his work is contributing (which they offer all employees who go back to get their MBA's), we are self-supporting. You know. Paying for it ourselves. With our own money. That we don't have. To go to Wharton.
I'm sure you understand.
So, we buckled down to start saving money. We've tried to reduce our spending and looked at our budget and where all of our money was going in order to make some changes. We were feeling pretty good about it until...
...two weeks ago, EMC announced a 5% pay cut across the board in order to save 2K jobs. At the end of last year (or was it in January?), they announced a freeze on all raises, and now we have received this pay cut.
[Before I go on, I want you to know that I don't blame EMC for this. They are doing what they think is best while trying to save jobs. I mean, isn't it better to have a pay cut than lose your job?
At least that is what I keep telling myself. I mean, I know many people who have been out of work for a very long time. So, let me go on the record and say I am grateful Brandon has a job! More than grateful. This is just hard, you know?]

Oh! And of course, this also came after I decided to stop teaching piano lessons for the summer. Lovely, eh?

So, we've had to tighten a bit more. The good news is that another part-time, do-it-when-my-kids-are-sleeping, job may be in the works for me. The bad news is I had to quit therapy.
Now, now! Before you all freak out that my brain needs it, let me assure you that this is a short-term solution only. I've already talked with my therapist about going back after the baby is born (when I will absolutely need that --and probably meds --the most). So, I didn't just do this blindly! I'm very aware of the decision we made.
Anyway, so I quit therapy.
But we have to pay for Brandon's flights to and from school.
Sigh, sigh, sigh by me.

See, how this is all going? We get a break...we hit another snag. We get a break...we hit another snag.
Sounds like life, to me...

Now, before I go onto my next subject (all my posts have more than one subject, haven't you noticed?), I would like you to answer some questions:
1. What are the best ways --for you --to save money?
2. What are the things you had to cut in order to pay tithing, bills, and feed the family?
3. What has been the best decision financially that you have made to get to financial security?

Next subject: COUPONS
Alrighty, then. I have slowly been dipping my feet into the vast world of "coupon-ing". It's the new scrap booking, you know! I've heard amazing stories ("I went to the store, got $75 worth of groceries, but they ended up giving me $6.00 back!") and I've seen how the results have blessed lives ("Our smallest budget is our grocery budget because we don't have to spend more!").
But I have a problem.
This is the conundrum I want all coupon ladies to solve for me (and do it nicely, okay? I don't care if I'm an idiot for not figuring it out up to this point --I'm asking for help, not a judgement on my character. And yes, I'm a bit snappy today. Sorry! No, really --I am sincerely sorry.):
I CANNOT buy the food I see in all the coupons.
I can't.
I lost 40 pounds before I got pregnant with this baby, remember? I'm not going back to buying junk food. I'm not going to buy white bread (or pasta, or tortillas) or regular dairy products (fat-free for me!). I'm not going to buy fruit snacks or chips or soda or juice or sugared cereal (unless it's Easter weekend on the cereal). I buy fresh fruit and veggies --not crackers. I try to buy healthy things (not expensive healthy --just good-for-us healthy).
But I haven't found ONE coupon on ANY of the 20 -30 websites I've visited. Not one! Everything is for the junk, people!
So, how in the world can I save on my grocery bill without buying the crap? I really want to know. I really do.
And to show you how serious I am, I've actually started shopping at Costco less (because we all know what happens when we go to Costco for milk...) for groceries.
But I really want an answer to this question because it is perplexing me. Ooh! Ooh! Let me give you an example:
I signed up to receive a newsletter about living on a dime (oh, what the heck. Here's the website. It's free, btw!). There was this series on how to cut your grocery bill in half! I thought, "Yes! I need this!" and so I read it with great joy. Until I finished it. And then I was mad. Because what did they tell me to stop doing (more or less)?
1. Don't eat out as much. Easy. Already doing this.
2. Stop buying chips and soda. Haven't bought either for years and years.
3. Keep your kitchen clean so you won't eat out. Ummm...okay...
4. Something about not eating/drinking as much food. Well, duh --that's a weight loss/healthy thing, too.

I don't mean to sound bitter about these women who are giving wonderful advice on how to save money --that's not my intention (more apologies). But what I am trying to illustrate is that I'm doing all of this already!! But I need to do MORE. How can I do that? How, how, how?? Help!

Lay it on me! Give me your ideas and what you have done and tell me if I'm missing something in the coupon world. And don't worry! I love looooooong comments...


Annette Lyon said...

Here's what you do: Join a website like The Grocery Game. Also get the Sunday paper, because it has other coupons that you'll actually use.

Yes, there is a bunch of crap with coupons, but I'm assuming you still use other things that they help you save on: toilet paper, toothpaste, sour cream, yogurt, shampoo, cheese,and the like, yes? Last week I got shampoo for the kids for something like 34 cents a bottle and deodorant for a quarter. Good brands, too. (Booyah!) Today I got 2 toothbrushes for 99 cents and a big huge bottle of laundry detergent (Tide) for about 60% off. Those kinds of deals can add up.

Grocery Game also tells you what produce, meats, and frozen vegetables are on sale when. My freezer's got a pretty good stockpile of those things that I got mucho cheap.

It does take extra time and effort, but to me, the savings are worth it. But yes, you do have to be careful about not buying the crap just because it's on sale.

Gio, Judi and Boys said...

I'm sure that you go to I love it. I have a friend who might help you out some too. She lives right by the church...let me know if you want her name. I haven't been able to hook up because of work but last week just on hygiene stuff I saved $20 an spent about $25. Got free razors, deoderant, etc. it was great. I'm like you trying to save where I can.

We have also done a family bugdget on the computer and we update the spending every few days that way we know exactly where we stand and how much more we can/can't spend in a category. It seems to help. Somehow we survived me not working for 4 months.

The most important thing that I can tell you is to pay your tithing and pray for guidance.
We also learned that redbox is our friend for movie night, and if you do go to the $1 theatre, take your own popcorn and snack (eat first!).

Now that it is summer water guns to play out side with and a kiddie pool are great too!

I hope the night job from home works out for you! That is why I'm doing the jetblue thing. Even though I only have one at home he needs some extra attention and this is the way for me to do both.

Exchange babysitting with a friend so you and your DH can have a date night...share a frozen yogurt or go for a walk!

Good luck!!!

Jill said...

We're doing a few things as well. It all started when I read this great book "The Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey. It has changed the way we think about money. We were able to make an extra house payment this month because of it. Here are the things we are doing without: cell phones, cable tv, newspaper subscription (although I might add the Sunday paper just for coupons--but I feel the same as you about coupons...give me something I need!). We also don't have a landline for phone service. We have internet service use Skype. We got a Skype phone that plugs into the wall and is cordless. The service cost us about $50 for the entire year (all paid upfront) and we can use it for video calls to grandma and grandpa and we have a regular phone number. We do have a pay as you go ATT cell phone, but we only activate it if we are travelling or evacuating. Another thing we decided to do was to pay cash for groceries. It's easy for me to overspend if I am swiping the card. But if I only have the weeks worth of cash, it's harder for me to part with it. I'm making my own laundry soap, and it costs less than $5 to make a 4 gallon bucket full. That lasts me a few months, and I still have ingredients to make it again. I like it a lot. I'm also trying to stock up so that I always have a back up of things. So, one ketchup in the fridge and one in the pantry. When the fridge one is empty move the other and write it on the list. When I run to the store for one thing I seem to walk out the door with $20 less and stuff I didn't *need*. I am doing the same with toiletries. Always have a spare. We've also talked to our kids about our new budget plan. We have long term goals and so when Emery asks for xyz toy, I say, do we need that? Will it help us meet xyz goal. He's totally on board, and it's fun to hear him talk about saving money. Good luck, and I can't wait to see some coupon ideas for people not living in Utah or Idaho!

earlfam said...

It sounds like Annette gave you really good advice on the couponing thing. I am in much that same position you are. When people tell me what fabulous deals they got on things they are usually things I would never buy. And even though I do occasionally do a price match for expensive fruit like cherries, I mostly just buy fruits and veggies and don't even look at the prices, because you can't really put a price on health. (Well, except that I don't buy organic, but that's because I'm not convinced it's worth it.)

Now, for other areas of my life where I save money. I am not necessarily suggesting that you do all of these things, but it might help to realize that there are real people out there who live without certain things that you think everybody else has. So if you decide you can give up some of them you'll know you're not alone.

#1-I like to rotate my wardrobe regularly and so I shop almost exclusively at thrift stores. Almost everything we wear came from either the Goodwill or the DI. Also all of our bikes, and every small appliance that we own, and books (otherwise we get them at the Library-sorry Annette.) You'd be amazed at the things you don't have to pay full price for.

#2 Our cell phones cost $20 at Wal-Mart, they are pay as you go and we spend about $200 a year on them.

#3 We never go out to eat. Well, almost never. Like once a year and that's usually with a gift card from one of the judges at my husband's work. If we're out somewhere with the kids and we need to get food it's always Costco pizza.

#4 No cable, no DVR. Since I've never had it I don't really know what I'm missing it's okay, but I totally understand that it would be very difficult to go back.

#5 I make all of our bread from wheat from the cannery. It costs about 20 cents a loaf and it's healthy. Wahoo!

#6 We buy our cars used and pay cash for them.

#7 We clean out own house, take care of our own yard and iron our own clothes, wash our own cars. Basically we never pay anyone to do anything that we can do ourselves. (Except park the car, strangely, cuz that's toally worth it ; )

And now lest anyone feel sorry for me or think I'm a martyr or just get the wrong impression in general, I will say that there are things that we do spend money on that other people think are silly. I spend ridiculous amounts of money on flowers and gardening because that's my passion. And we go on expensive family vacations. And we buy really big nice houses, because that's important to my husband. And we are quite generous with charities, gifts and entertaining.

The things on the list above are the things we are willing to sacrifice for the things that we want even more. Everyone has a different priority list and that's okay. I'm just giving some ideas of things that are not strictly necessary. "What did the pioneers do when their two favorite shows, American Idol and Biggest Loser were on at the same time??!!!!"

Jan said...

This year has been hard for us, grocery-wise, because during the last three years during law school, we had literally NO income and were on food stamps. It's sooo easy to buy whatever you want when it's not real money. This year, though (and forever in the future), we're back to reality. I'm so grateful to be able to pay our own bills.

Our monthly grocery budget does not include toiletries, diapers, etc, only food. But the best way we've found to save money (and I'm buying the same things you are, healthy fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, etc) is to make a two week meal plan/grocery list using the ads for your grocery store of choice. Yes, it is sometimes a HUGE pain to try to plan for two weeks' worth of food all at once (and it would be more work for you since you have 2 more kids than me), but it has saved us a ton of money. We only shop once every two weeks. We buy 5 loaves of bread at once (always a whole grain on sale) and freeze the extras. We fill the whole top shelf with milk and stretch it. We buy tons of fresh produce and eat it all before it goes bad--if we run out, we break out the applesauce, frozen veggies, etc. The more times you go back "for one or two things" the more things you will find yourself putting in your cart. We typically spend between $150-180 on our two weeks' worth of groceries and easily last the two weeks.

Since I'm due to have a baby any day, I didn't want to do our full 2 week thing the last time we went grocery shopping, but I made a meal and grocery list ahead of time, as usual. Spent $150 STILL, even though it was only for one week. Taught me that planning for two weeks (shopping from the ads and planning meals based on what was sale) was much more efficient than shopping for one.

Cardalls said...

I find there is a lot of JUNK out there with coupons, but I get cereal...and I'm talking good cereal for .88 a box. I get dressing for salads for FREE, yogurt (the good stuff) for .10 a container. I find some of the things I save the most on are shampoo,lotion, toothpaste, laundry detergent etc. Couponing can save you even if you eat all healthy stuff. Also I have found through the grocerysmarts website that I only buy the sale items anymore..even without coupons I still save big that way! Good luck on the $$ of those necessary evils!

Julie said...

I'm a Pinching Your Pennies fan --- it's free, helpful, and allows me to plan ahead.

There are a few things I didn't buy before that I buy now (Macaroni Grill meals in a box, for example). They're white pasta and have a cream based sauce, but I can get them for $1, so when I add chicken (that I bought in bulk at the best price -- again, PYP), and frozen vegetables (that I got for $.35/bag), I can feed my family for around $4. I don't use the box dinners too often, but they're nice in a pinch.

I've gotten whole wheat pasta for $1/box (1 lb.), tons of frozen vegetables for around $.35 for a bag that feeds our family, healthy cereals for free (never over a dollar), whole wheat tortillas, orange juice (both frozen and fresh), and clementines for nearly 1/2 price -- all by matching ads and coupons. Also, tons of good cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc. It's not worth it to try and match them up yourself -- you have to use a service like Pinching Your Pennies (again...they're FREE). And I hate to say it, but you have to get multiple copies of the Sunday paper, too. There are good deals the papers do so you can get them at a discount. The only way to really get the best deals is to buy in bulk (not Costco bulk -- coupon bulk).
I found myself buying a few things at the beginning that I would never use (fruit snacks, etc.), but I have to admit, they've been nice when I've forgotten we're in charge of the snack at preschool. We don't eat them otherwise.
You can get healthy foods with coupons -- Nature Valley granola bars (again, in moderation) for $1/box, free milk (promos with cereal companies and YES, healthy cereals -- Frosted Mini Wheats, etc.).
I don't coupon shop every week because there aren't things I need every week, but I've gotten my supply up enough that on those weeks, all I have to get at the store are the fresh fruits and veggies and I'm set.
The other thing that Pinching Your Pennies helps with is they do a star rating on the ENTIRE ad -- not just the things coupons match up with. SOOO, that means that if apples are a 5 star price that week, you buy a lot and eat apples that week. Next week grapes are a 5 star -- buy those that week -- get my drift? You don't HAVE to use coupons to save money -- just buy the things that are on the best sale in produce, too. And meat (I stock my freezer when meats go on sale -- then I'm never paying premium price for chicken or beef or whatever -- I have it right in my freezer when I need it).

Anyway, my point is this:
*Don't do it alone -- go to Pinching Your Pennies or GrocerySmarts (code is G84CMS)
*Don't buy what you won't use -- you'll still save money
*Get multiple Sunday papers

Good Luck and call me if you want to talk about it!

Sara said...

I've been learning the routes of couponing and so far, what I've done is stock up on toiletries and household items, which makes my grocery budget stretch farther. You know how it is when you go to Walmart for a few things, but then you need some stuff from the "non food" side and those items are what seem to really UP your costs. Well now I am stocked up on Shampoo, razors, deodorant, household cleaners, etc so it really makes my grocery bill smaller.

I have to plug my favorite money-saving site:
And she's an LDS Idaho girl, too, just like us! She has lots of great healthy meal ideas.

and i had to LOL at the comment that couponing is the "new scrapbooking." SO TRUE! lol.
Did you see Seriously So Blessed today? ;)

FoxyJ said...

I've never gotten into couponing--I prefer Target brand toiletries and they're usually cheaper than name brands with a coupon. I also don't buy many processed foods either, plus I have the hardest time keeping track of the coupons. I've also found that toiletries and stuff don't really seem to be a budget killer for me, but I only have two kids. I once bought a six-pack of kids' shampoo at Costco and it has lasted over a year so far. I often buy toiletries at Costco because they are good quality and last a long time--if you're a member and aren't getting their coupons, make sure you do. That's a good time to stock up.

Anywho, other things I do are:

1. I only go grocery shopping once a week, and I plan a weekly menu and run through my cupboards and fridge before I go. Make sure you're using up leftovers from your fridge on a regular basis (you have more kids than me so that might not be a problem). I plan my menu around the fruits and vegetables that are on sale for the week; I almost never buy fruit unless it's on sale, since it can get expensive. Keep an eye out for the major sale items each week to stock up on(there are usually 3-4 'loss leaders' that are super discounted).

2. Like others have said, use strategic grocery shopping and don't go too often. I also try and keep track of what a 'good price' for things is, so I know the best stores to buy them at and the best prices (is a 'sale' price really a bargain?). Also keep track of seasonal sales--baking supplies are cheap in November/December, baked beans and condiments in the summer, etc.

3. I've found some things, especially spices and cereal, to be super cheap at places like K-Mart or ShopKo. Most drug stores or discount stores have an aisle or two of food items and sometimes you can find really good deals there.

4. Try going meatless a few times a week. As long as you don't replace it with cheese, it can be healthier and much cheaper. We've actually gotten to the point where we just eat meat 2-3 times a month, if at all. Eggs and beans are great sources of protein. We eat stuff like quesadillas with refried beans, chef or pasta salad with beans instead of the meat, egg and potato burritos, french toast or pancakes for dinner, etc.

5. Now that my kids are getting bigger, I also monitor snacks and have rules for them. I'm a little worried about being too overbearing and creating food issues, but I also want my kids to understand that it's not healthy or cheap for them to eat three string cheeses in a day. I used to only plan a dinner menu, but I've also started planning some lunches and snacks to make things easier. My kids are also getting big enough to understand portion sizes and choices--even my three-year-old can tell me that if he has cheese for a snack he has to have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

6. As far as other money-saving, on things like clothes and stuff, make sure you check out things like craigslist or even freecycle. Also, if you have family members who get you birthday gifts or christmas gifts, you could ask for things like museum memberships or clothes, rather than toys that will just clutter up your house. I love it when my mom gets the kids museum memberships because then we have something fun to go do and don't have to feel like we're being so 'deprived'--it's good to have fun outlets that don't involve stressing about money.

Good luck!

A Thrifty Mom said...

I just wanted to say thanks to Sara for her kindness toward me and my blog. I would also like to say couponing is not for everyone...but I do think that everyone can take a few simple lessons from it and bless their lives. I firming believe that just because you have a coupon for something do not mean you should by it. But I also know that coupons help me save over $1000.00 a month. I tell everyone who is new to my site to start small, pick out one sale and save your family a few dollars. Build from there and before long you will have a wonderful food storage for your family. All of it bought at 50% off or more. By the basics and cook healthy, Good luck feel free to check out my blog

Cheryl said...

Fabulous, ladies! Thank you!
Keep it comin'... (and welcome to A Thrifty Mom!)

Amanda D said...

I tried the Grocery Game and I found that I was buying stuff I wasn't normally buying so I quit, but I did learn some new things so it wasn't a total loss. And part of my problem was going from store to store. I'm not up for that.

When we lived in Utah we were right by a Wal-Mart and right by an Allen's. I shopped at Wal-Mart because it was "cheaper". Then I decided to shop one month at each store. I spent about $150 more at the "cheaper" Wal-Mart because there was more stuff that was such a good deal that I had to get some. You know?

I'm all for making your own bread. So easy to do. I also use powdered eggs for all my cooking so I can buy a 6 pack of eggs and have it last all month (we don't do a lot of eggs at breakfast). I'm also buying a lot more generic than before. I find that some of it I like just as much, and some of it isn't as good so I go with the real thing.

Good luck!

Oh, and sign up for SWA Ding! They've had a lot of INCREDIBLE deals lately. You might be able to find some cheap flights for Brandon.

Janelle said...

Do an insurance audit. Make sure that your home/auto/life insurances are the best value!

Cancel all monthly subscriptions that automatically deduct from your account. $12 for Tivo, cable or newspaper totally adds up!

If cars are financed, see if you can renegotiate for lower financing rates.

I found that my grocery bills went down when I did food swap because I don't buy food for dinner thinking we'll eat it and then don't.

Don't use the air conditioner this summer. I know, yuck and double yuck.

And if it really, really got bad:
no preschool, no baseball etc. because you can supplement it yourself with playdates, music time etc. Our current costs for extracurricular for kids is maybe $25/mo. I have other people's kids over my house everyday. Girlscouts was cheap and we do things as a family instead of organized sports.

I've been emailing you. Did you get the thing my sister and I made? Check your gmail account from either April or myself.

Moddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moddy said...

don't really have anything to add to the coupon thing. But one thing we did with our power/gas bill was to have the companies put it on budget pay (it's called different things in different areas). They average out your bill for the whole year and you pay the same amount every month, it has actually been very helpful.

FoxyJ said...

Two more non-food related things:

You may want to consider getting some sort of rewards card for the plane tickets. It takes a lot of discipline to pay off the card each month, but if you're making a lot of big purchases it can really add up. The mileage ones may not be the best idea because they can be difficult to use, especially if you need flights at specific times. But you can get cash back, or we even have a card that gives us Amazon gift certificates. We use them to buy fun things for ourselves that wouldn't be in the budget, or sometimes we use them for birthday/holiday gifts or even textbooks. Amazon has a lot of things available and we usually plan our purchases to get free shipping.

We've also discovered some ways to save a lot of money shopping on line. For example, my husband needed new glasses and found some at the store he liked. But they were pricey, so he wrote down their exact product number and then found an internet site selling them for a discount. And then he googled 'coupon code' for the particular site and got 20 percent off. So use the internet to research and possibly make bigger purchases. If you look for coupons with google you'd be surprised what you'll find. We also recently made a reservation for an upcoming move and found a coupon for 20 percent off our truck rental. That's a big savings!

Summer said...

Well, I don't know if you realize I run a frugal blog as well. I'm huge into coupons and I we don't buy much junk food.

There are certainly lots of coupons for junk but there are a also great ones. I see one regularly for bread (not just white), pickles, yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, cold cereal, hot cereal, juice, eggs, etc.
When you combine them with store sales or coupon promotions you can often get the name brands cheaper than store brand.

Also, even if you never use food coupons, the toiletry coupons are totally worth it!

Come check out my blog to see the savings I manage to get with coupons. I share lots of tips, freebies, rebates, etc.:

Alos, there are tons of frugal blogs that are area specific, blogs that do supermarket sale and coupon matchups. I have ab unch of good ones in my blog roll.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I've got nothing that hasn't already been said.

LOL on Earlfam's comment about the pioneers and their tough TV choices!

flip flop mama said...

I'm with you on the fruits and veggies. That's mostly what I buy. I tried doing coupons but it wasn't worth it to me. I do my shopping once a week and plan out 4-7 meals at a time. Then I make sure we eat them. I like all the ideas that people have put out there though. Maybe I'll try coupons again...

Never A True Aggie said...

I feel your pain! We are in a similar boat. This is what we do.

Groceries: We have a store called Aldi here that is cheap. But, there is no Aldi where you are. I have found that Walmart has the cheapest prices for dry goods like pasta, bread, jam, etc. They also have the healthy pastas there now and healthier choices. I have also found a produce market nearby that has cheaper produce. Utah might have some. I am thinking more on the west side?

I don't do coupons usually because we don't get a paper and I find it just a pain. For your new baby though, sign up for and You will get coupons sent to you in the mail for diapers. I am making my own wipes. I also signed up for and have about 8 coupons for $5 off and I am sure I will get more. I am breastfeeding, but have to use formula ever one in a while.

Other household things: I totally go to Craigslist first. We have had some really good deals. The kids only get one to two pairs of shoes a season.

We also put our school loan in forbearance while I was on maternity leave just to be safe since I did not pull an income. They were very good about helping us there.

Dinners: I will buy a chicken roast it and make soup the next day. I can get a chicken for about $5 for the whole family. I buy a lot of frozen meat. Oh, recently I found this out. If you go to the grocery store late, like around 10 or 11, they put deli meat out that has not sold that day for cheap. They also sometimes put out bakery bread and meat that did not sell.

Good luck!

Richelle said...

I didn't read all of your comments, so sorry if this is a repeat. I did notice the mention of the grocery game, which you pay for (although very little). I think you can get basically the same information for free. I use and a lot. Since I started "couponing" I haven't bought Sam's Club diapers because I have been able to get Pampers or Huggies for at least as good a price per diaper. It takes a bit more work, but you can find some good deals. I will never pay anything for razors or toothpaste anymore because I know I can get them free. Other toiletry items I can get for super cheap. When you don't have to pay as much for that kind of stuff there is more left over for groceries. There are good deals (even free things) on more healthy stuff from the grocery store (like sour cream or oats), especially if you have a grocery store that doubles coupons.

Good luck!

sariqd said...

Couponing isn't for me. But I certainly admire those that make it work for them!

These are some things we did and some we continue to do... With 2 incomes coming in, we made the decision to put one person's income into savings for a whole year. Essentially just pretending we didn't have the additional income. It saved us when one of us lost our job and decided to go back to school.

We make a monthly food budget but incorporated multiple uses of food. Ie - oven-baked chicken could then be used for chicken a la king. Tacos could then be made into enchiladas... etc. We do our grocery shopping 2 times a month and for fresh produce, we either grow it ourselves or check out the local farmer's market. Something to consider is working with another family in a community garden (if your area has those). You split up the work and the produce.
We also don't buy presents. We GIVE THEM, yes. It's just that we use whatever we have in the house to create something.

There are a myriad of things to do to help save money... I think the most important thing is to be consistent and also make sure everyone in the family gets on board with it. For kids, make it a game into which spying for excellent deals rewards with homemade ice-cream or something.

I'm sure all of this stuff has been said in the previous comments... :)

Cristy said...

OK, my husband and Oprah have all tried to convince me to coupon, but I JUST CAN"T STAND IT! I already lots of the things naturally that people above me recommend, so it's really tough to cut back. The newest thing I've found though that works for the non-coupon-cutting-searching-gal is:
This girl goes through all the circulars and emails you what are the absolute lowest price, what are the ok sales, and what is not a sale, and it helps so much to just know what to stock up on when it's super cheap. (More for food storage/provident living stuff)

Nancy said...

This is a tough one. I found that it's hard to focus on money and health at the same time. I can make all sorts of meals if I don't care about health and calories. And of course you have to factor in what is your time worth. You can make a full-time job out of saving money. I guess that's the point for stay-at-home moms but it's tricky.

Also, when do you start eating into that food storage and stop adding to it? Is this that "emergency" for you? We've done that a bit this year. We eat down the food storage but I felt GUILTY and panicky because what if there was an emergency. Um, I think we are in it so I just had faith that it wouldn't get worse (like the stores closed down or some terrible catastrophe.) Now that things have loosened up, I can add to the storage again. Phew.