~ by: Jan Royston
Until I was a single mother of two, I never really thought much about money or how it was spent. My ex sure spent a lot of money that we didn’t have, but at the time, I was too intimidated to speak up. That is why he is my ex. But, I digress.
Once I realized I had to live on only what I earned, it became clear to me that I needed to actually think about how much I was making, how much I was spending and how much I needed to be saving. Well, I wasn’t making much, I was spending only what I felt I needed to, and I wasn’t saving a single dime. So, what to do in this situation?
I cried a lot and lost a lot of sleep, and after all of that I still didn’t have any solutions that were good or would work.
So, I pulled up my big girl panties and sat down one night over a cup of coffee and set up my budget. I knew what I had to make, and I knew what bills I had to pay. I know it’s not supposed to, but saving would have to come later. I just couldn’t make it work right then.
After setting up my budget I realized that I still was not going to be able to make things work. So, I had to go with Plan B (it’s always good to have a Plan B). I worked for a University and I had gotten to know several of the staff in the cafeteria so I took a shot and gave them a call.
I told them I had recently gotten divorced and needed a second job to make some extra money. I got lucky and they hired me that day into the catering department. I was able to work around my schedule with the kids, and on most occasions I could take the kids with me.
I worked a lot at both jobs. Oh, and did I mention I was taking a full load of classes toward my bachelor’s degree? Yeah! my plate was pretty full. But I did what I had to do to keep food on the table and a roof over my head.
It was hard, but I did the best I could and I think my kids felt a new respect for me even though I wasn’t there all the time.
Once I started I was able to pay my bills on time, but saving still wasn’t happening. I knew one day that it would all come together, so I just kept working and going to school and hoping for the best for me and my family.
I soon learned the art of couponing. I never got as good as the people on Extreme Couponing, but I have to say I was pretty good at it. I used every coupon I could get my hands on, I sent in for every rebate that was offered to me and I used every store card that I could. Once I got my stockpile up and running, it was easy to do after that.
I could walk into CVS, shop for a while and walk out with 5 items free and another $5 to spend on my next trip. It’s a game to them, but it became more of a game for me to beat them. I’m just a little bit competitive when it comes to things like that.
I wasn’t going to let them get the best of me if I could help it. I studied their game, clipped their coupons and soon figured out that I could get a lot of things for free or at a HUGE discount. For me, it was a rush every single time I did it. I almost danced out shouting, “I won!”
So, I know you are asking yourself exactly how I learned to do that. It is a lot of work and if you aren’t willing to put in the time it takes then it simply won’t work. And there are some up-front costs associated with it until you get your stock pile where you need it to be.
You can probably get out of CVS the first time spending about $30 – $50 to get the things you need (shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.) but only buy the items that will give you their Extra Bucks back. Generally, I have learned that if you buy $30 of those things you will get back $10 toward your next visit. So, you can look at it one of two ways: You only spent $20 for $30 worth of stuff, or the next time you go into CVS you’ll get $10 worth of stuff free using your Extra Bucks’.
Make sure you look at all of the items carefully and get the right sizes, etc. so there is no confusion at the register. Another thing to check before shopping is a trick they like to use with say, razors. They might have the ladies Venus and the men’s Fusion on sale. You have two coupons for $4 off the razors, plus the store is offering $5 Extra Bucks back on the purchase.
You will need to pay for the razors separately because you can only get the Extra Bucks back on ONE Gillette product (it’s in the fine print). Always read the guidelines and the fine print.
I try to use coupons for every single purchase I make, but sometimes coupons just aren’t out there. So, instead shop around at every store to find the best prices on anything you buy. You might be surprised at what you would pay at one store versus another. Prices vary a lot!
Grocery stores are probably the hardest places to save when it comes to couponing. Yes, manufacturers will throw out some coupons here and there, but not really enough to make much of a difference. The grocery store where I shop has a money back guarantee on their store brand, and even with a coupon I can save more money buying those items.
If I don’t like the product after I try it, then I DO write and tell them and get my money back. That’s actually only happened once.
I’ve never been able to find a good deal on meat, unless it was in the reduced aisle; and then you should cook it that day and not freeze it. However, I have found an excellent butcher in my town who carries the best, freshest and least expensive meat. I always thought going to a butcher meant fresher meat, but at a bigger cost to me. That’s not always the case. It pays to shop around!
I now make a weekly trip to the butcher and get all my meat. They know me so whenever I go in they cut my meat fresh, right there on the spot. See if you have one in your town and check out their prices.
Bread is another item that is hard to get at a reasonable price anymore. So, I go to the “day old” store in my town and get bread that would cost $2 more at the grocery store. Most of the time the bread tastes just as fresh.
Learning to use your coupons along with your store cards can mean the difference in $80 for groceries or $30 for groceries. Just think what you could do with that extra $50 you’ll be saving every time you go to the grocery store.
If you think the money doesn’t add up, start a savings account with the extra money you save each week. After 6 months see just how much money you saved. You will be surprised, and darned proud of yourself for doing it!
I never look at how much money I spend when I go on a shopping trip anymore. I know I’ve gotten the best deal that I could get, so instead I look at what I saved while I was out shopping. Looking at the positive side of spending and saving can give you a whole different outlook on “making” money.
If you want to talk money with me (or anything else for that matter), please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and please, visit me at http://www.savemoneywithjan.com and get many more tips on ways to spend and save money!