Monday, June 20, 2011

Being Frugal: My First "Haul"


That's forty dollars and thirty-five cents.

Fourty dollars and thirty-five cents.

I think I've said it a hundred times today. That's how much money I saved on my first real attempt at being a real couponer.

I know there are people on tv who are saving literally thousands of dollars, and so my $40.35 may not seem like that big of a deal, but when you're used to saving a buck, maybe five on a good day, this is huge.

The thing that's always concerned me about couponing is that I felt like the only way to save money was to buy stuff you don't really need or ever use, just because you have a coupon. But what I've learned is that if you watch the sales, cut out every coupon that you *may* possibly use some day, and are flexible about your brands, you can save money on things you'd buy anyway. I'm proud to say that today's "haul" only included things I would have bought at some point anyway, even if the brand was different.

So, here are my goods.

I bought the following items:

-2 boxes of Fiber One Cereal
-4 bottles of Pantene shampoo
-1 bottle of Frank's Red Hot
-1/2lb Thin N Trim Ham
-1lb Land O Lakes American Cheese
-1 Head Romaine Lettuce
-1 Cucumber
-1 Avocado
-3 Tomatoes
-2lbs Green Mountain Coffee
-1 pkg Hannaford Seedless grapes
-1 jar Kraft Mayonaise
-2 pkgs Thin N Trim Chicken Sausage
-1 bag Hannaford Light Wheat Bread
-1 can Geisha Mandarin Oranges
-2 1/2 gallons Turkey Hill Tea
-1 container French's Yellow Mustard
-2 boxes Wheat Thins
-2 Boxes Wheat Thins Stix
-1 container Coffee House Breve Cream Creamer
-1 container Bailey's French Vanilla Creamer
-1 Cantaloupe
-2 boxes Planters Nutrition Bars
-1 package Jello Pudding
-1 package Hannaford Pudding
-1 box Shake and Bake

Total cost for all items before coupons and sales: $116.16
Total paid: $75.81

Again, not the thousands of savings you see on tv, and I didn't walk away only spending $20, but I did walk away spending well under our weekly budget, with products I would have bought anyway,and with a stockpile of goods that I don't have to buy in the weeks to come.

So, laugh if you must, but today, I felt like a rock star. I even sang out loud with my windows down as I drove away from the stores.

So, how'd I do it? I won't lie, it took some time this weekend, and a few weeks of practicing and saving coupons. But there are 2 major things that allowed this to happen. 1. I bought items that were on sale, that I had a coupon for. I never buy Fiber One cereal. But it's not because I have anything against Fiber One, there's just always been cheaper options. Today they were 2/$5 at Hannaford and I had an additional $1/2 coupon. Combine the deal and I got two boxes of brand name cereal for $4. 2. Shaws doubles coupons up to .99. This is huge. Planters Nutrition Bars were on sale at Shaws only for 2/$5. I had 2- .75 coupons which Shaws automatically doubled to $1.50 each. After the sale, the coupons, and the doubling, I got the bars for $1/box. Awesome!

Again, it took some time, some planning, and two separate trips to two different grocery stores, but in the end, I saved what I consider to be some serious bucks, and learned some great tips to do even better next time. Give it a shot..this is actually really fun!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Keeping it Organized - A Simple Fix

Yes, I know I've been absent lately. Let me put the last two and a half weeks together for you with one simple picture:

No, that is not really me. But yes, that is how I've been feeling.

I've been stressed. I love all of the aspects of my life, but sometimes when they all pile up at once, it gets to be a lot. My days start at 5am, and most days I literally don't stop moving until I crawl into bed at 10pm. Here's a sample of a typical weekday for me and Jim:

5:00am -Wake up. Wake the baby, feed the baby her bottle, shower, do hair, get dressed, feed baby breakfast, clean kitchen while baby eats, walk dog, feed dog, feed cat, change baby, pack car, leave house at 7:15. Drop baby off, go to work. Work hard until 4:30. Pick baby up, come home, walk dog, make dinner, eat dinner, feed dog dinner, play for 45 minutes, give baby bottle, tubby time, put baby to bed. Jim studies. Kristina edits/manages photo business. 10:00pm - turn off computer, close text books, brush teeth, crawl into bed, collapse.

Man, that's exhausting just to read.

When life is crazy, things stack up, and you live in a tiny 960 square foot ranch with a husband, baby, 80lb dog, and cat, you have to find ways to keep life together. For me, our lack of space is a real thorn in my side. There is ALWAYS something in my way. And in a small space, you have to have small things. A small kitchen table. Small countertops. Little floor space. Staying on top of the clutter is key, and is something I've really struggled with since Molly came along. There just hasn't been as much time as there used to be.

A few weeks ago we were at Target, and I stumbled upon two small things that have made a huge difference, in both my stress level, and the clutter.

Our house, sadly does not have a mudroom. Instead, you walk directly into the kitchen. Consequently, the mail and all of our junk from the day, goes directly on the table. I picked up this really cute mail sorter, and it has made such a difference. Each day we get the mail, and it immediately is sorted into my pile, and Jim's. We are each responsible for our own slot, and mail is no longer lost in the mix, forgotten about, and best of all, is no longer on the table.

I got a bit crafty and made fun "K" and "J" labels for the slots in each pocket.

The organizer is placed on the wall in the kitchen, just as you walk into the house. This way it's easy to remember to use it, and since we walk by it so often, the things in there are not forgotten.

I also picked up this really fun magnetic organizer for the fridge. It's dry-erase so you can use the slots for whatever you'd like. I always have piles of things on top of the fridge that need to either be filed, or looked at later, so now they go into here. It's an easy way to organize the things that belong downstairs when we don't have time to go downstairs and file them.

This is just a start, but so far, my table has stayed clean, and the top of my fridge isn't overloaded with piles. It's funny how just a tiny change really can make a big difference in stress and time.