I think Sharon makes several important points for new couponers- most importantly setting realistic goals and being patient with yourself.
This can be an overwhelming process and I have lots of bad days too! Even the most experienced person can get thwarted by a nasty or ignorant cashier. There have been many times when I have been ready to throw up my hands and give up on this process. Ultimately the money we are saving and the upgrade to our lifestyle makes it worthwhile to me to continue on this journey.
When I got laid off in February, we decided to cut our weekly budget from $50 to $30. I thought for sure we’d be eating Top Ramen several days a week, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how far I have been able to stretch those dollars! We increased the budget a tiny bit but overall I find the more I challenge myself, the more creative I have become. I am also reminded of Dave Ramsey’s advice- which is to look at yourself as an employee when managing your money. If you were the boss would you fire yourself?
I will be posting another article soon in my tips for new couponers on how to maximize savings without using coupons. I think living within or below your means goes way beyond the grocery store so stay tuned for my upcoming series on how to give generous gifts while on a tight budget. If you missed part one of the series for new couponers- click here.
- I get free stuff. I use coupons and deals to “treat” myself to indulgences. As I was unpacking the free bottles of Nivea Body Wash this weekend, I commented to my husband that I never would have bought them in the past when we spent four times what we spend now. I adore Nivea and always considered it too expensive to buy- I used to buy the store brand. Now that I know how to coupon and play the drugstore game, I always have fun, new products to try.
- I stay focused on our goals. As I discussed here, I have our current financial goals taped to the wall of our closet (aka my office). My husband used to balance all of our accounts once a month and we’d have a budget meeting and he would update me on what we have in savings etc.. I then update the goal we are currently working on (right now it is getting 6 months of expenses into savings), which is posted on the wall as well. We have started doing this twice a month now as our progress has been impressive and it helps with my impatient nature to see more frequent success.
- I change my mindset. My daughter and I take frequent walks in our neighborhood. This is the hardest part for me as most of our neighbors have beautifully landscaped homes with lawn services, brand new paint, fences etc.. etc… I always feel like our house is the worst in the community- especially since professional services are not in our budget and we both hate yard work. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, I focus on how lucky we are to live in this area! What an enviable position to be in- a perfectly located area with no traffic, no crime, every amenity of a metropolitan area and not a shabby house for miles. Despite being in California, there are no foreclosures in our community. We can virtually leave our doors unlocked and not worry about a thing.
- I remember what is important. Our income is significantly less than it was a few years ago but we are so much happier! I used to work in a job I hated for employers I hated. Now I enjoy blogging and I am so happy to be able to stay home with our daughter. My husband used to commute 2 hours a day. Now he commutes six minutes and comes home for lunch. He has an incredibly flexible schedule and we always get comments because he is active in all of our daughter’s extracurricular activities.
- We are honest with ourselves and others. We don’t drive fancy cars because we paid cash for what we drive. I don’t have $150 highlights and a $200 hoodie to wear to Safeway because we have chosen to become debt free rather than living paycheck to paycheck. I always assume people have all those things because they make significantly more money than we do. A friend recently confessed to me they have almost $100,000 in consumer debt- between school loans, cars and credit cards! The worst part was the blase attitude they had about the debt! I assume that is an extreme example but there is no way to know what other people’s situation really is.
The funny thing is- the more I blog about great deals, the less motivated I am to get them! Don’t get me wrong, I still love a great deal and I love the challenge of stretching our dollars from week to week. I think I just want less stuff. I am content with the stuff we have and honestly don’t have any desire to spend my time in malls or sitting at the hair salon.
Here are a few other great articles from other bloggers on this topic:
How to Want Less by It’s Frugal Being Green
Don’t Envy Debt by the Stretchy Dollar
I watched Dave Ramsey’s special, Townhall for Hope, last night and watched several Earth Day specials (OK I watched Oprah) this week and couldn’t help but find links back to living a frugal lifestyle.
I caught a reoccurring theme of consciousness in everyday life, whether it be with finances or how we treat our environment. In my opinion, frugality is all about being conscious with how you live. We choose to live on a budget and to limit our indulgences so that we can instead focus our resources on the things that are important to us. We constantly choose to trade off short term gratification in an effort to focus on the bigger picture.
An example of this is our conscious decision to stop using paper towels. It may seem insignificant but I used to spend $12 or so a month on paper towels- that is $144 a year! While that may seem like a small amount, if you consider our $35/week grocery budget, I was paying almost 10% of our budget toward paper towels. We consciously decided to stop using them in both an effort to save money and in an effort to become a little more green. It has been months since I paid for paper towels and we haven’t missed them for a second. It is all these small choices we make in our every day lives that ultimately contribute to the bigger picture.
This lesson really hit home to me last year when we were house shopping. We found a lovely bank owned home in a nice neighborhood that we had placed an offer on. The homeowners had clearly been forcibly evicted as they had left a house full of items ranging from children’s toys, to food to the flat screen TV. We were amazed and frankly disgusted at the amount of waste- considering the bank was there literally throwing things in the trash. Being frugal in nature, I couldn’t help calculate all the little things that probably would have easily amounted into one more mortgage payment to keep that family in the house. There was a bag of Bath and Body Works lotions and soaps, a little girl’s dress with tags still on it, all sorts of fancy food items in the pantry, toys scattered everywhere- not to mention that giant TV. All of it representing time those people spent away from family, probably working in jobs they hated, the stress of not being able to pay the bills and ultimately what I can only guess was tremendous humiliation and terror at being forcibly removed from their home– all of it going straight into a dumpster.
So while it may seem like only $3 a week for paper towels, it is all those little things that add up in the bigger picture. We take shopping bags to the grocery store and when I forget, I bring back the disposables to recycle. I rarely use ziplocs as tupperware serves the same purpose. I choose not to buy a cart full of produce every week as I know we can’t possibly consume it all. Every time I throw away spoiled food it equates to time my husband spent working and time I spent shopping rather than having fun as a family. To me, learning to coupon and living a frugal lifestyle is about being responsible and taking control over our lives. A wonderful side benefit to taking responsibility is that we are more informed consumers and we are less wasteful in our lifestyle.
We have also made the conscious choice to surround ourselves with motivated and happy people. I always figure you aren’t going to lose weight working at a donut shop, therefore I choose to surround myself with positive people that take responsibility for their actions and that are leading productive lives. That is why I love reading all the positive and motivating frugal blogs out there. We also watch Dave nightly on TV to stay focused on our ultimate goal of becoming debt free.
I enjoyed reading SimpleMom’s post here about becoming debt free. Stories like hers always pick me up when I start to feel a little deprived or lose my motivation. Imagine- no debt. To anyone! What an incredible freedom.
Crystal also had a nice perspective on Dave’s program here. I find MoneySavingMom to be a great inspiration in her zen approach to frugality. Whenever I start getting a case of the I wants I can also count on MSM to help put things back into perspective- especially when it comes to couponing! I could easily have 10,000 free bottles of shampoo in my garage and even if I got them all free there was still a price to pay in effort and time. Did you know Crystal and her family are on track to pay cash for a home? Truly remarkable!
So overall this week I came away with a renewed sense of purpose and pride. What about you? Did you learn anything new this week or set any new goals?
If you missed Dave’s special it is being rebroadcast on Saturday on the Fox News Channel.
As I mentioned here, I heard about great Kashi waffle coupons that were not available in my area. I decided to trade for these coupons and was able to purchase 10 boxes of Kashi Waffles for .50/box.