Final Numbers for March – Saved $494.69

glance_0313

We’ve been eating from the freezer and stockpile quite a bit this month, but I was still surprised to come in so far below my monthly budget of $300! For the month of March I spent $182.43 to buy $677.12 worth of groceries, toiletries, and cleaning supplies, or a savings of 73%! According to the spreadsheet I’ve spent $500.50 so far this year for $1,975.52 worth of stuff, or 75% off. That equates to an average of $167 per month for our family of six, or 93¢ a day per person!

6 Tips for Shopping Farmers Markets

6 Tips for Shopping at the Farmer's Market

If you want to support your local economy AND get some fantastic fresh veggies, there is no place like the farmers market. When local farmers come together and offer their wares, you have the best local food selections right at your fingertips. Since this cuts out the middleman, you can often find some fantastic deals. To make your visit to the farmers market more enjoyable, here are a few tips:

1)Be Comfy

Dress for the weather and be prepared to walk. Wear comfortable shoes, and dress in layers if the day starts off cool. You can always remove a layer as the day begins to heat up. An umbrella or a jacket can come in handy if you run into a shower as well.

2) Bring Your Own Bags

Although some farmers will bring a supply of sacks, it helps them out if you bring your own bags. And you would hate to miss out on some yummy goods if you have no place to put them.

3) Know What You Want

The sights and smells of a farmers market can be so enticing that you overbuy. You may want to visit the market once before you actually do any buying to get an idea of what they sell. The next time you visit you can come prepared. Keep in mind, however, that the offerings do change based on the season. Make a list of what you would like, but be flexible based on what’s for sale.

4) Come Early

If you want the best selection, get to the market early. Once a vendor is out of a certain item, that’s all they have until next week, so don’t miss out!

5) Get to Know the Farmers

It really is nice to get to know more about where your food is coming from. There are often friendly folks who are more than happy to tell you about what they have for sale, what’s particularly good and what they may have in the future. In addition, the more you visit a given vendor, the more likely they are to throw a freebie you way once in a while. They are also usually good for some wonderful tips on how to prepare the food they sell.

6) Use Your Finds Quickly

One of the greatest parts of the farmers market is how fresh the food is. Use or preserve what you buy quickly so that it offers you the most nutrients AND you don’t waste anything by having to throw it away.

Photo Credit: iClipart

End of the Year Numbers & 2013 Goals

glance_2013

Here is my year at a glance for 2012 – I’m very proud of these numbers and excited to share, but honestly I’m looking forward to beating them in 2013! I’d like to thank Angela at The Coupon Project again for putting the spreadsheet together that I’m using. I’d highly recommend that you download Angela’s new updated version of the savings tracker spreadsheet for my favorite price – free!

This year I bought $10,582.20 worth of products for only $2,584.30, or 76% off. Take a look at the ‘coupons’ and ‘discounts’ columns and you’ll see that less than half of the $6,763.02 that I saved was from coupons and the majority was from sales. That shows that you can save 30-50% without clipping a single coupon if you simply buy things when they’re on sale, and buy enough to keep you until the next sale. So how much you want to save and how much time you want to spend are completely up to you, but you CAN do this!

For 2012 I set a budget of $300 per month for our family of seven, plus two cats and a dog. That’s $69/week ($3,600/52 weeks) or $10 per person, which I felt was reasonable and still allowed for some room in the budget to expand the stockpile. I’m thrilled and more than a little surprised that I actually spent an average of $50/week for all of 2012! Even though that’s just a little over $7 per week per person, I’m still going to keep the budget at $3,600 for the new year, $300 per month or around $70 a week. The kids are growing fast and seem to be eating more every day so I hesitate to lower the goal at this point. Considering that I used to spend around $325-350 a WEEK, I’m very excited to know that we can easily live with a grocery budget of just $300 a month!

Invest a Little Time in Your Wardrobe and Save!

Invest a Little Time in Your Wardrobe and SaveShoes and clothing are expensive. Even if you purchased some great pieces secondhand, you still had to spend your hard earned cash. The best way to protect that investment is to put a little thought into caring for these items—that way you won’t have to buy more to replace worn items as often.

Let’s start with your shoes. I’m very willing to pay more for a pair of good quality, comfortable and supportive shoes, but that doesn’t mean I look forward to parting with the cash. For that reason I make it a point to take good care of my shoes, and it really does add to their longevity. Don’t forget to also protect and maintain accessories like belts and purses.

Polishing your leather shoes is one of the best ways to prolong their life. Trust me, this lost art really does help. I also like to spray suede or leather shoes with a waterproofing spray before wearing them for the first time. This is especially helpful in colder climates as it helps cut down on the amount of damage done by road salt.

There’s also a shoe repair shop in town that does very reasonably priced work. Check to see if you have something similar. I have had heels replaced, soles repaired and grommets replaced when necessary. Granted, I have had to spend a few dollars here and there to do so, but it has saved me from having to spend a bundle on a new pair.

Clothing can also benefit from a bit of maintenance. A little TLC will help your favorite pieces enjoy a longer life—and keep more cash in your pocketbook!

One mistake I think many people make is to wash any piece of clothing they have worn, no matter how short the time. Now, I’m not saying stop washing your clothing—obviously there are some items that need to be laundered with each wearing. However, unless they have been obviously soiled, I tend to wear jeans and jackets or sweaters (if I’m wearing another shirt underneath them) more than once before I wash them.

Laundering can be very hard on your clothes—especially the dryer. I am also very careful to never throw my work clothes, since they tend to be pricier, or more delicate items in the dryer—yes it’s quicker, but instead I hang the items on a rack and let them air dry. It keeps them looking nice longer and reduces my carbon footprint a bit as well.

We keep a basket in the laundry room and the family knows to put any items that repair there. I try to take a few minutes each week to mend anything that needs mending. Some weeks I’m lucky and don’t need to, but I make it a point to replace buttons, re-sew loose hems and re-stitch seams as necessary. If I wait, something will inevitably make the situation worse—I’ll lose the missing button, the tiny rip will turn into a huge tear or the kids will catch a heel in a loose hem and destroy the bottom of a pair of pants. An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure!

Photo Credit: iClipart

Cut Your Budget with Plan Ahead Weekday Dinner Prep

Cut your Budget with Plan Ahead Weekly Meal PrepWe all know how easy it is to get sucked into the drive-through or to pick up that takeout menu and order dinner, but it’s hard on our wallets. With a little planning, we can avoid those traps.

1) Make a Plan

I like to cook on Sundays, and have meals ready to go for Monday through Wednesday. Thursday then becomes “leftover day.” You choose what works best for you and your schedule.

[Read more…]

Girlfriend Get Togethers that Won’t Break the Bank!

Girlfriend Get Togethers that Won’t Break the Bank!

One of the most cost effective ways to get a sanity break is to spend some time with friends. Getting together does NOT have to be expensive. We don’t have to shell out big bucks at an expensive restaurant or a trendy club to have a good time and spend some time with the girls. Here are a few less expensive ideas:

1) An Accessory Swap

We all have those accessories that simply take up space because we never use them. Host an accessory swap, and everyone wins! Pull out the items you’re tired of or bought and never worn, and have your girlfriends do the same. Think costume jewelry, scarves, barrettes, headbands, inexpensive watches, etc. If you aren’t using them, maybe someone else can! This concept also works for clothing if you and your friends wear similar sizes. It’s a win-win—everyone has a good time, gets rid of things they don’t use AND scores some “new to them” items that will have a new life!

2) A Cooking Party

Everyone has to eat, so someone has to cook. Choose an entrée that everyone likes, then get together and make enough for everyone to take home to their families. Have everyone bring some of the ingredients and an appropriate pan or dish to take the meal home in, and share in doing the work. You’ll have a great time AND come away with a meal ready for a busy night!

3) Pajama Party

Remember the slumber parties we all went to as young girls? They were always so much fun, even if there was no “slumbering” actually happening! Try a grown-up version. Invite the ladies to come over in comfy jammies (or change into them at your home if they don’t really feel like driving in their flannel pj’s!) and do the things we did as kids: pop some popcorn and watch movies, maybe try out a few new hairstyles from the current magazines, play “Light as a Feather.” Sounds silly, but sometimes channeling our inner child and being silly is just what we all need!

4) Wine Tasting

If your group of friends enjoys a nice glass of wine, a wine tasting may be just the ticket. Have everyone bring a bottle of their favorite wine, break out the wine glasses and enjoy trying each other’s picks. If you want to get serious about it, check out some books from the local library to help educate everyone on the various types of wines.

5) Picnic in the Park

This is especially nice if you have young children because you can take them along and let them have a blast together too! Pack a cooler with some sandwiches and snacks, grab a blanket to sit on and your favorite pals, and you have the makings of a wonderful afternoon! Bring a camera—you can always get some great candid shots of the kids playing in the park!

Photo Credit: iClipart

Frugal Gift Giving Ideas

Frugal Gift Giving Ideas

The holiday gift giving season is getting underway, and for those of us pinching our pennies, this can definitely add stress to our budgets. Let’s use this as an excuse to get creative with our gift giving. Not only can we save some cash, but we can also give memorable gifts!

1) Give the Gift of Time

Sometimes the very best gift is the gift of yourself. Think about the people on your list. What do they like to do? Plan a day to do that WITH them. Do you have a family member who enjoys hiking? Plan a unique day of hiking and enjoy the outdoors together. Do you enjoy cooking? Offer to teach younger family members how to cook. They get new skills and the gift of your time. How about a movie buff? Borrow some DVDs, pop some popcorn and plan a night in.

2) Give your Services

We all have talents, and this is a great way to use them. Whether it’s sewing, babysitting, gardening, or housecleaning, give a “service gift certificate” for your loved ones to enjoy.

3) Preserve Some Memories

It seems we are constantly snapping pictures these days now that cell phones with cameras makes that easy. But what do we DO with all of those photographs? Make a collage of special photos from throughout the year or frame an especially meaningful one and present it with a handwritten note about what those memories have meant to you.

4) Journal It

This is an especially good gift for a parent or child. Find a pretty journal—or create one yourself—and fill it with all the wonderful memories you have of that person. Let that person know how special they have been to you throughout their lives. Let a parent know how they have helped shape who you are and made the holidays memorable for you. Tell your child how happy you were when they came into this world and highlight how you felt during big moments in their lives.

5) Gift Cards

No, a gift card isn’t always as meaningful as some of the previous ideas, but sometimes we get these cards as bonuses with purchases, as rebates or rewards. Save those—watch for expiration dates of course—and use them as easy gifts.

6) Free Samples

Peruse online freebie sites throughout the year, “like” various things on Facebook and redeem coupons for freebies that you get in the mail or in your email. Often you can create a really nice gift from these by putting them into a pretty basket or cute container. This is especially true of health and beauty items—these seem to be plentiful, you can easily make a fun “relaxation” basket from these, and who wouldn’t enjoy getting that as a gift?

The best part is, you give yourself a gift too—the gift of a mailbox NOT filled with holiday bills in January!

Photo Credit: iClipart

How to Negotiate for a Better Deal!

Let's Make a Deal!Do you think everything is a set price? Think again! Sometimes you can negotiate your way to a better deal. The first rule of thumb in sales is to ask for a sale. The same can be said about getting a deal—if you don’t ask for one, chances are you won’t get one. There are a number of things you can ask for a better deal on and often get it.

1) Credit card interest rates

The race for your dollar is a tight one, and credit card companies do not want to lose your business, or the money you are paying them in interest each month. If you have a high interest card and you wish your rate was lower, ASK! Call the card company and tell the rep that’s what you are looking for. You can often mention a competing card that has a lower rate that you are considering switching to and accomplish your goal. Or, if bankruptcy is possibly on your horizon, mention that—the card company would rather get some of your money than none of your money. If the rep can’t help you, ask for a supervisor.

2) Cable, satellite and phone services

These fields are super competitive these days. Arm yourself with the competitor’s deal information, then call your current company and let them know you are planning to switch unless they match that deal. Be prepared to switch if they can’t match it.

3) Cars at the dealership

This one kind of goes without saying, but always, ALWAYS negotiate. Whatever the salesperson tells you is the bottom dollar is often NOT the bottom dollar. If they don’t accept your lower offer, thank them for their time, tell them you will be looking elsewhere, and walk away. It’s amazing how many times the “bottom dollar” can suddenly get lower when the salesperson thinks they may lose the sale.

4) Scratch and dent items

Many times stores will offer “scratch and dent” items at a lower price. You will often see these items in a clearance area of the store. Ask for a manager and see if there may be an even better price—the last thing that manager wants is for that merchandise to continue to sit on the sales floor! I’ve personally bought office chairs and filing cabinets for a great deal because they had small scratches on them.

5) Slightly flawed items in department stores…clothing, framed art, furniture, etc.

Sometimes you run across an item that is just slightly flawed—a shirt with a missing button, a picture frame with a nicked corner, or a piece of furniture that has been scratched. Often you can get a 10-20% discount on these items just by asking. Many cashiers are empowered to offer these discounts if you ask. If not, sometimes they can call a supervisor who can extend that discount to you.

6) Bulk items

Any time you are buying in bulk, it’s a good idea to see if you can get a bulk discount. Ask to speak to a manager to find out if you can get a lower price if you are buying “x” number of items.

Photo Credit: iClipart

7 Ways to Save Even More Money on Packed Lunches

7 Ways to Save Even More Money on Packed LunchesOne daily expense that may add up quickly in the monthly budget is the cost of school lunches. Buying lunch at the cafeteria on a daily basis can be expensive, and you’re bound to spend more the more children you have. As you may already know, packing your child’s lunches can save you a significant amount of money. Here are some other ways to save even more on lunches prepared from home:

1) Stock up on reusable containers.

Invest in reusable containers and in quality lunch boxes or bags instead of spending money on disposable containers and plastic bags. You’ll save a whole lot of money in the long run.

2) Use reusable bottles.

Spend a little to purchase quality reusable water bottles for beverages, too. They’ll come in handy for water, juice, milk, or whatever it is your children want to drink at school.

3) Purchase goods on sale.

Check your local grocery store for sales on cookies, crackers, juice, and other lunch box staples. If prices are low on your child’s favorite snacks, then stock up on them for days that you’re running low on supplies at home.

4) Save on condiments.

Save the extra napkins and packets of mustard and catsup from fast food restaurants and use them for your packed lunches. It may not seem like a big deal, but in the long run, you’ll save quite a bit on these little extras.

5) Stay away from single servings.

Juice boxes and individual bags of chips may seem extremely convenient, and there’s nothing wrong with buying them occasionally. However, if you’re on a tight budget, it may be hard to ignore the difference in costs between the single-serve items and the larger ones.

6) Pre-package your snack items.

Buy your cookies and chips in bulk and ask your kids to help repackage them in individual containers or bags at home over the weekend. Store them in a basket on the kitchen counter and you’re ready for the school week ahead.

7) Make your own goodies.

If you’ve got some idle time over the weekend, make large batches of gelatin or pudding, place them in individual containers, refrigerate them, and pack some on days you’re almost out of food items. You can also try baking goodies such as brownies or cookies instead of buying them at the store.

Photo Credit: iClipart

5 Hidden Moving Costs You Should Watch Out For

Woman moving inMost people will tell you that moving can be a stressful, chaotic and expensive experience. No matter how organized and careful you are with your moving budget, you’ll find that additional costs can quickly and unexpectedly add up. If you want to reduce your moving costs, then here are some hidden moving costs that you should watch out for:

1) Packing supplies and materials

A number of moving companies charge extra for packing supplies and materials such as boxes, bubble wrap, and packing tape. The cost of these materials can easily add up to hundreds of dollars, so start collecting sturdy boxes as early in the moving process as possible. Make sure to be thorough in your packing so that the moving company doesn't have to redo your work later on.

2) Disconnection fees.

You may not be aware of it, but some moving companies charge extra if they do more than just pick up your boxes and load them into the truck and vice versa. Asking movers to disconnect gas lines or disassemble furniture may cost you more than expected.

3) Long carry or stair fees

Some moving companies charge extra if the movers have to carry your furniture up the stairs, or if they have to walk a very l

ong distance to get to your home. Natural obstacles or narrow driveways may also make it more difficult for movers to carry your items from one place to another. If you’re moving to the ninth floor of a certain apartment building, you must remember to ask the moving company about these additional location fees.

4) Charges for very heavy items.

Do your movers need extra equipment or manpower for heavy items such as hot tubs, grand pianos, and the like? Inform the moving company of all of these large items and check that they include lifting fees in the estimate. You don’t want to get caught off guard when you see your final bill.

5) Time

Some moving companies bill by the job, while other companies bill by the hour. Hiring a company that charges by the job may mean that they’ll move fast, while going with a company that charges by the hour may mean that you’re not just paying for the drive to your new home, but for their breaks, too. Be sure to ask about this payment method to ensure that your movers don’t take their sweet time on purpose.

With so many things to think about and pack, it can be easy to miss out on a few details. Take these hidden moving costs into consideration and you’ll find yourself more financially prepared for your big move.

Photo Credit: iClipart

zp8497586rq