Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Did someone say SALE?! My road to frugality.

I have NEVER been a money conscience person.  I even joke about not EVER looking at prices (sorry for making some people cringe).  When asked how that could possibly be I simply reply, "Well I only shop at stores where I know I can afford what they have to sell."  Leaving out the part about being able to afford maybe 1-2 items that they sell, not 10!

I'm not exactly sure where this lack of money sense stems from but sometimes I think back to the days of junior high... it's the night before a band concert (don't judge) and my mom and I are in search of the perfect white top and black skirt for me to wear.  I always being self conscious, and never wanting to stand out, run around to every store looking for the perfect outfit that will blend in with everyone else.  Of course, this is nowhere to be found.  As the night ends we settle on "the best we could find" and the next night I can barely focus on anything other than the horrible outfit I have on.  This traumatizing moment has led me to the motto of "If you like it buy it as some day you may need it!"... and that motto has led me to credit card debt.  Not the best motto I guess. :)

Recently after finding out I was pregnant with child #2 I realized I had to get my finances under control. I started this journey with a New Years Resolution "Get Finances Under Control."  There, I was set... not so much.  I had a lot to learn.  Over the past few months I have read books (thanks to my friend Shannon who is very wise with her money!) and have researched couponing (along with my new frugal partner in crime, my sister-in-law) and have even resorted to shopping at garage sales!

Here are some things I have learned over the past few months...

Grocery Shopping
1. Check your grocery store's weekly ad for discounts and make your meal plan around those discounts.  I had the most fun I've ever had at the grocery store when I went for the first time and actually LOOKED AT THE PRICES!  Who knew a bag of chips cost $4.00+!  I try not to buy them now unless they are on sale.
2. Buy store brand for items that you can't tell the difference.  My husband Luke had a really hard time with this one.  When I started telling him about my new found grocery shopping attack plan his sarcastic comment was "Next thing I know we will be eating store brand ice cream!"  After this I have made sure to only buy store brand items that I will be using in a recipe so he can't see the box and therefore won't know the difference ;)  don't tell him that.  Things like tomato sauce, canned vegetables or butter are good ones.
3. Cut coupons and organize them in something that you can take with you to the store.  Plan ahead and incorporate them into your meals when you can but also have them on hand in case you see something that you missed putting on your list and that way you have your coupon with you.  Make sure when using coupons that you only buy things you are going to actually use AND don't just buy that brand because you have a coupon.  Sometimes the store brand or another name brand is cheaper even with the coupon.  Buy that brand instead and skip the coupon.  I like to only use a coupon when the item is already on sale so then I feel like it's a double bonus!  Some stores like my local grocery store offer double coupon days... I now shop on those days in case I have a coupon to use.  My store doubles the first 5 coupons up to $1.00 each so that's an additional $5.00 in savings just for shopping on that day.  Ok, so some of you are probably thinking... who cares about $5.00.  Well, it all adds up is what I have to say.
This is my coupon organizer.  It fits in my purse so I can whip it out when needed.  I organized mine according to how my local grocery store is organized.

Baby Items
Getting ready for baby #2 is easier than the first as most of the big things I already own, however, I'm now having a girl and my first one is a boy so clothing is something I will need to purchase.  I know from dressing my little guy that not only do they go through an entire wardrobe every 3 months but they still need multiples of everything as outfit changes happen frequently.  I know I've spent hundreds of dollars every time my son grew out of his clothes.  This time I'm preparing ahead of time and doing it smarter.  I have to say that shopping for girls clothes is much easier than boys... and WAY more fun! :)  I have been to a few garage sales already and a local consignment sale called Just Between Friends.  If you have one of these sales near you I would highly recommend going.  I picked up 68 items for my baby girl all for a little over $100.00!  Some of them look hardly worn too.  They give you these huge IKEA shopping bags to put your clothes in while browsing and at one point I had to start kicking my bag along on the floor because it got too heavy to carry!  There is another one of these sales coming up in May and I have already made an assessment of what all I already have so that I can make sure to buy only what sizes I still need. (disclaimer, this sale is better for girl stuff.  I have tried to find boy clothes and typically the selection is limited.  They do have other baby items though so don't be discouraged if you have a boy)

Here is some of my loot from the JBF Sale and garage sales!  Nothing here is brand new.  

Shorts, skirts and pants are in the drawer, along with a few onesies that I didn't have enough hangers for!

Groupon and Living Social can help you to still have fun and enjoy restaurants and services you like at a discounted price.  Most of the time I'm not interested in their offer of the day but when I find one I like it's super exciting!  For example, I just purchased a pedicure and manicure for only $25.00!  Now typically I would do my own to save money but with my growing belly getting in the way of touching my toes a monthly summer pedicure is a must.  I typically pay $50.00 for just my pedicure so to get both services for $25.00 is awesome!  Again, make sure to only buy deals that you a.) will actually use and b.) would have bought anyways.  Otherwise your just spending more money because it's on sale.

Stock Up/ Buying On Sale
Walk into my laundry room/storage area (in a small apartment you have mix use rooms, for example I store my dutch oven, bread maker and food processor in the closet of my guest bathroom) and you may find a mass of kleenex, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.  This is because I have changed my ways from buying something when I need it to buying it only when it's on sale.  This way I am guaranteed to get the best price.  For these household items that I use all the time I browse the local Target, Walmart and grocery store ads to see who is offering the best deal and then purchase what they have.  I have also been keeping track of what I've been paying for these so to make sure that I only buy when it's the best discount available.  Sometimes I walk away with 12+ rolls of paper towel, 24+ rolls of toilet paper... and it starts to add up at the check-out.  I then remind myself that I'm set for the next few months so to spend a little more now will be better in the future.

Mountain Dew anyone?  Obviously it was on sale for 4 12 packs for $

Eating Out vs. Eating In
Most people know that cooking your meals at home saves you money.  This is one I already knew! :)  The one thing I wasn't so good at was saving left overs and so in return wasted a lot of food.  In an essence this is a planning problem.  I make dinner every night except Fridays (that's Luke's night, which typically means ordering a pizza).  Luke doesn't eat left overs so I make an entirely new meal every single night.  Sometimes these recipes would feed an entire family of 4 and instead of thinking ahead I would simply throw the remainder in the garbage (another cringe moment, I know).  Now, when planning my weekly menu I PLAN for left overs!  I love left overs and since I eat lunch at work every day I now either save it in the fridge to eat within a few days or if there are tons of left overs I package them up in individual serving sizes, mark the date and what it is on the container and throw it in the freezer.  Not only does this save me money by not wasting but then I don't have to run out and buy a $7.00+ lunch every day!

The Library
I love reading and books in general and always just purchased my books from a store but then my friend reminded me of the library!  I don't think I've had a library card since middle school so I felt like a complete novice when I went in to get one.  Now when one of my book holds comes in I get super excited!  Not only do I get to read this amazing book but it's free!  Plus, I never let myself read because I feel as though I should be doing something else but if I can only keep the book for 14 days I am more apt to allow myself to read so that I can finish the book!

Here is my current library read, thanks to my friend Lindsay for recommending.

I hope by candidly sharing some of my new found enlightenments that you may be inspired to go out a save a dollar.  I'm still learning so any ideas that you have for me send them my way!

**Side note.  The morning after writing this post I attended a Matilda Jane trunk show at a friends house and relapsed.  A few cute dresses and pants for baby girl later and I'm forced to admit that my frugality is obviously a work in progress!**

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