I thought I’d write and share some about MY job. Andy and I both feel that God wants me to be a SAHM (stay at home mom), and therefore, with His help, I have had to develop some new skills to save us money to enable this to happen. The first place I really looked at was clothing for the girls. To that end, we make use of yard sales, hand-me-downs (mostly Hannah to Abba now, but when I was in Tidewater, my pal BF kept me stocked – those clothes are now on kid #4!) and thrift stores. Thrift stores are limited in Alleghany, so when we go visit family in Tidewater, we make the most of our trip and hit Thrift Store City (“sigh”- Anna!!) and a new one over near Bayside High School, my old stompin’ grounds.
That part is easy and fun, but it was the weekly grind of grocery shopping that really had me stymied for awhile. Once I got the hang of it, however, it is where I can save my family even more and make our dollars go farther. Here are some of my tricks:
First, we have a budget. We aim for $75/week for groceries…usually that runs over, but never over $100. By groceries I mean basically whatever we can buy in Food Lion, so it includes dipes, vitamins, cleaning products, paper goods, etc. Some folks who figure out a grocery budget separate some of that stuff, but I include it. I hope to change this to a cash-only envelope system so that if we have money left over it goes into next weeks’ envelope, savings, or whatnot. We’re just not there yet. I need a small desk of my own, I think, to better organize myself here.
Second, before I shop, I make three lists. The first is an ongoing, “we’re almost out of” list that’s posted on the fridge. The second is my “stockpile” list, which includes shelf-stable or freezable items we keep an inventory of. I research these to get the best price (with coupons+sales) and buy in bulk when I get them at a great price. By stockpiling, I am not stuck running out to buy, say, tomato soup not on sale, because I can wait a couple months for it to go on sale and buy 10 cans. The third list is also one I research well by finding internet coupons, newspaper coupons and alerts on deals from some of my favorite money-saving websites. These are bonus items – can’t pass up deals - such as the Nestle hot chocolate mix I got from Wal-Mart on Friday – it was $2/2 packages. I had two $1/off coupons, so I got 2 boxes for FREE. Also, a $30 Bayer Contour 2 Blood Glucose Monitor at CVS…it was on sale for $30 and I had a $30 coupon, so it was free….I don’t need, it but I will donate it to the church or a local adult home…but, even better, I had a CVS coupon for $5 off a $30 purchase, so I got $5 back – meaning they paid me $5 to take that glucose monitor. Pretty cool! So, this third list is stuff I might not be looking for or it might be something I don’t normally buy, but if it is 75% + off, then I will get it as long as I stay in budget. I match up the store circulars with the coupons I have on file, then I put my lists (all written down on one piece of paper so I can see it all at a glance) at the front of my coupon notebook and off I go to the store.
Third, I organize my shopping trips. I have three stores to choose from: Food Lion, Wal-Mart and Kroger. Kroger is about 12 miles further to drive to than the other two, but it is right near Andy’s office. If we go there, we usually make a day of it and pack a picnic lunch so we girls can get some extra Daddy-o time. Some weeks I will only go to one store, but other times I’ll hit all three, especially if Food Lion has a 3-day only sale. I shop when the girls are in good moods, well-rested, or else I leave Hannah home with Andy. I am less likely to impulse buy with a list, and I stick to my 50% rule – it has to be 50% off (with coupon) if I’m going to buy a non-necessity. I carry my coupon notebook into the store with me in case I come across an unadvertised sale – or better yet, find something on clearance (like the True North Almond Clusters I found at Wal-Mart once for $1.50/bag, normally about $4 a bag and I had 3 $1 off coupons! Gotta love it!)
My reward? I get great satisfaction knowing that I have saved money and am able to contribute in a tangible way to our economic goals. I generally save about 40-50% on our total grocery bill ( I like shopping at Kroger because it shows at the bottom of the receipt how much you save, and I hold off giving my MVP card till the end at FL so it takes it all off at once after it has been subtotaled). It is also a challenge and a little mental gymnastics. I hope that I am teaching my girls the value of Daddy-o’s work – that we don’t just go and randomly get things, but that we are good stewards of our money. I hope that I am teaching them that we are disciplined in what we do and don’t buy, that we wait and do without some of the “fluff” sometimes – but our needs are always met. I hope that they see what I do as important so that they will be inspired to take their household management jobs seriously – be they married, single or still living at home. Money management is something that I just don’t have a firm grip on. By staying in a budget and working hard to pay off credit card debt (a whole ‘nother post) we are showing them and ourselves that our actions have consequences, and we are indeed slaves to our debt at this point.
Whew, this was a long post. But I just got back from Food Lion where the register rang up $105.10, I handed over my coupons and my MVP card and it flickered to $55.45, so I thought I’d share with you how I did it.
Have any questions? Want more ideas/tips? Wish I’d just go away?? J