I promised I would post about one of my other little skills...couponing. Last January, we were planning to send Little Red to preschool in the upcoming fall season. We knew we did not have an extra $200 each month to pay his tuition, so were trying to figure out a way to squeek that out of the already screamingly tight budget. Since I handle the money in our house, it was up to me to figure out how to make this happen.
Well, after considerable fretting and trying to find a job that would fit my stay at home mother hours (read: nights- sleep, who needs sleep?) I started to pray for some guidance. It was weighing very heavily on my heart and I didn't know how we would make this happen for him with the financial situation what it is. So, I talked to my higher power (you may call it what you like, it's different for each of us), and asked for the knowledge and to be shown the way to make it work. Now, you may or may not believe in that, and that's okay, but it's always worked for me. I felt that I could somehow do this, I just wasn't sure how.
About a week and a half later, I was reading MSN.com (which I rarely read) and "accidentally" (I don't believe in coincidences) came upon an article about couponing and how people would save all this money with using coupons. I thought, like most people, that it really isn't worth the time to do this, a few dollars here and there, what difference would this make? But, I was intrigued when one woman said she was able to save 70% off her grocery bills. Now, I was paying attention. So, I read further and found a link to the message board that was a Godsend to our family. On this board there are many people that list how they save, how to stretch meals and shop coupons with sales. The first time I followed the advice on this board, I save $30.00 on a $120.00 grocery bill. I was ecstatic-and hooked. I looked at it this way. That's $30.00 I just kept in our pockets. $30.00 is a lot of money in our house, let me tell you. I don't spend $30.00 on myself ever, so that was amazing. The next time I shopped, I was able to save 50% at CVS on toiletries, shampoo, tp, toothpaste, stuff like that. And I earned money back to use on my next visit. Basically, I brought home $40 worth of necessities for free because I earned $39.00 to use on my next visit. Okay, now I was completely hooked. After almost a year of doing this, saving is second nature. If I can't save at least 50% on each receipt, I'm bummed out, it's kinda funny.
I also have been able to stock some shelves in the basement with food. This was something Michael and I discussed wanting to do in case of emergency. We do live in New England where ice storms can incapacitate places for long periods of time and we thought it was a good idea to try to get some stuff stocked up for this situation. Before now, I could not make ends meet with what we needed every week, never mind trying to buy more for emergencies. Now, I have 4 shelves, and they are deep shelves, so overflowing with food, a freezer full of meats, veggies and frozen fruit, I'm out of room to put anything else. And I did this all while saving money every month. Believe me, I say prayers of thanks for giving me the knowledge to make this happen for my family.
I was even able to start shopping for donations to our local food pantry. In June, I brought them over $400 worth of food that I paid only $28.58 for. This is because I clip the coupon for a product, wait for the rock bottom lowest price, then snatch them up, often for free. I will buy more then one paper each week so that I get multiple copies of coupons, then shop with those. The papers pay for themselves easily with all the additional coupons. Anyway, right now, I have over $300.00 worth of food going to the food pantry in town next week, and I think I've paid about $12.00 for it all together. Now why am I not keeping that for my family you might be asking? Well, because we only eat food that's minimally processed (except for cereal, Music Man is a cereal addict). Lots of people will eat things that are instant or canned that we will not, so I just watch the flyers, clip the coupon and wait to see how low it goes before I buy it to donate.
How could we have known that last January our economy would fall apart and that gas would go up so much along with the price of everything else? We couldn't have, but if I had not been doing this, we would not have been making it right now. We would not have been able to get through and still stay in our house that we had to pay way too much for 4 years ago. New England is very expensive and the salaries don't keep up with the prices. But, because I said those prayers and was shown the way, not only are we getting by, but I have also been shown a way to help others with the skills I've been taught. This makes me incredibly happy since I do so value helping others. All of this from a prayer to show me how to figure out how to send Little Red to preschool...and he wasn't even ready to go this fall after all.
I sat down to figure out how much I've saved this year alone. This number doesn't include the amount of money I've saved by not even having to shop for almost 2 months, except for fresh produce and milk, while I had to get rid of some of the stockpile, I outgrew the space for it (or my "store" as I like to refer to it). Are you sitting down? Because I had to add it three times to figure out that it really was right...$6,980.13. Yes, that's what I said-almost $7,000. Now, you may not think you spend that much in food all year, but if you add up what you spend each month, it's amazing. I'm feeding my self, Music Man, Maestro and Little Red and over $1,000 in donations to the food pantry and another family I help out (you know who you are, and you're very welcome), that cost me pennies on the dollar. And to think, I didn't think it was worth the time. You learn something new every day.
Wishing for your little prayers to be answered, ~Peacemom