It is actually quite amazing (or embarrassing more like?) I never got into the couponing game a lot sooner. I guess I didn’t know all the details, how much it could save and how it was interconnected with so many other things. My father is very frugal and good with money. And although I certainly didn’t appreciate it when I was younger we learned a lot and I’m very grateful for it.
I was taught to save, how to budget and even about delayed gratification early on. By the time I was 10 we had a good weekly allowance system where me and my other four siblings in the home rotated jobs. We all were paid based on our skill-level (age, I’m the oldest) and when the younger one had a turn on something difficult (like dishes, I have a sister that’s 6 years younger than me) we had to help. Our jobs were periodically checked on and if they weren’t completed we were docked our pay. What was our allowance for? Well we don’t celebrate holidays so we used it to save up for things we wanted. Don’t get me wrong I had a happy childhood and we were bought clothes, jewelry, and gifts spontaneously at times from our parents. But it wasn’t like I came back to school in January and was going to have the new Super Nintendo like everyone else. My brothers and I had to save up and buy some of those things ourselves. Also we didn’t really keep candy in our house so we had ride our bikes to the nearest store to get some and part of our allowance was for that. Also we didn’t drink pop on a regular basis, it was a treat and we paid $0.50 for it.
We also had a budget for everything. We had a budget for school clothes and summer clothes. We went on vacation and we were getting three meals that day (probably some pre-purchased snacks in the car) and one activity. So for example if we stopped at the gas station and I just had to have some chips I used my allowance money. Or if we were on our way to Disney World and we drove by a Go Kart place and said, “Ohh let’s go do that,” we could, as long as we paid with our own allowance money.
Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Well it was! I had a paper route at 10 and started caddying at golf courses at 11, started a part-time job in an office at 16. Had to supplement my income somehow!
So I learned a lot. I had to learn to budget. How much did I put in the video game fund? Was I going to buy I pop today or go to the store to get some candy? And how much did I need to save for my next vacation or some brand name clothes? Yes I learned early on about budgeting and delayed gratification.
When it came to grocery shopping my father always stockpiled and bought in bulk to save on things. He has a freezer in a garage to stockpile even more. He also does rebates and usually uses coupons when going out to eat. I can never remember running to a store because we ran out of something. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him run into a 7-11 or buy anything other than gas at a gas station.
Don’t get me wrong - I still live here in a America and for the most part if I had excess I wasted it, but if I didn’t have excess I had no problem managing it and living on less.
But throughout my life some habits did stick. I never did too many impulse or convenience store purchases. When going on trips or even if I’m out for the day I bring a cooler full of snacks and drinks (not paying convenience store prices!). I mostly brought my lunch and batch cooked for myself. And then I got married . . .
To someone who may have had the exact opposite upbringing as me financially, spending money as soon as it touches your hands. And then he got laid off . . .
So with a new house 2 months later here we are trying to manage October 2008 trying to fight the monthly increasing utility costs and pay our mortgage.
And because of my upbringing and us managing things we did. With my husband on unemployment (Read 1 Â½ times the income we planned on) we didn’t lose our house. We always paid our mortgage and part of the heat and we caught up on everything with our tax return. But there were weeks that it was very hard. There were weeks that I made meals out of chicken broth, beans and spices. There were weeks I had a grocery budget of $10. But we made it. I shopped only at Aldi’s for the winter of 2008-2009.
So in July 2009 when the bills are probably at their lowest I was determined to find a way to not struggle as much this winter. (And of course prevent more fights with my husband with his spend-happy ways.) And then I got offered an on-line class on couponing and everything clicked (thanks to my frugal upbringing and probably a little to my marketing degree) and I got started right away.
I actually tried to apply half of what I learned midway in and was mortified with the results. I spent $250 at Kroger and saved $80. Granted I would’ve saved only $30-$40 but saving less than 25% was not going to help me much. I might as well just stick with Aldi’s. But I kept with the class, kept reading and researching and now I am up to saving between 60-80%. I gave it 3 months (as everyone will tell you that you must) and it DID start working. I am in much better financial shape than I was this time last year!
It was towards the end of July that I found Macomb Money Savers. The class I took recommended going to a particular website and searching for local coupon match-up sites. Macomb Money Savers was the best there was and the closest in my area! I have been a daily visitor ever since! I think it shortened my learning process by a lot! Before long I was asked to do some couponing classes and start a blog for my family, just three months after I started couponing. This winter has been such a huge difference. We hibernated most of the last winter and managed but struggled. This winter we have been able to entertain, still go out to eat and pay our bills much better! I’m looking forward to actually having a vacation towards the end of this year and managing my finances better. With my on-line banking account I can track my spending pretty easy. For 2008 I averaged $450 per month on groceries. For 2009 – the first half shopping at Aldi and the second half implementing smart shopping techniques – I averaged $265 per month. My goal for this year is $200 per month.
I also learned online from various bloggers how to work the “Pharmacy Game.” This is so crucial because I use a flexible spending account and my husband is diabetic and both of us suffer from minor chronic ailments (allergies, asthma etc.) The more allergy, cold medicine and Kleenex I can get for free the more I have left for prescriptions. Here is an example of a recent trip below is about $65 worth of products that I purchased for about $11:
I thank all the bloggers for helping me learn how to do this!
Tashena has a BBA-Marketing minor in Spanish, works as a Bilingual Supply Chain Specialist and devotes 18 hours a week to volunteer work, giving bible studies and door-to-door preaching. In her free time, you can find her blogging at Staying Lean in Oakland County.