Most people who know me and my family would likely not consider us synonymous with the word “frugal.” At 40 years old, with 17 years of marriage under my belt, I’m fairly new to the money saving world.
Oh sure, when I quit my day job to stay home with my first baby, we switched from Honey Nut Cheerios to the store brand of the same cereal. But our foray into frugality didn’t extend much further. Until recently, that is. Pushed to pay more attention to what goes out of our bank account by a series of unfortunate events, I started nosing around the internet to learn what I could about how to get the deals.
I’m not sure how I stumbled onto Bargain Briana, but I was intrigued at the thought of matching coupons to sales to get the most bang for my grocery buck. I started printing coupons at home and renewed my lapsed subscription to the Sunday newspaper.
Being serious about saving money can be overwhelming. I wish I could say that I’m an expert. But saving money is hard work!
From time to time, I stress over which store I should go to. There’s the one that doubles coupons, but is across town. There’s the megastore that’s closer but that has a smaller selection of brands to choose from. It’s times like this that I wonder if I’m over-thinking this whole frugal thing? Then I just remind myself how far I’ve come and reason that saving something is better than saving nothing.
I do big shopping about once each month and try to sit down with a menu plan, my coupons and the store ads. Because I’m not really in the groove of the routine yet, it sometimes takes me two hours or more just to get ready to go to the store. And sometimes that seems like too much work. However, when I hand over my stack of matched coupons to the cashier at the store and watch my balance drop by $37 (as it did on my last trip), that prep time doesn’t seem so bad.
Those small victories at the register have given me the confidence to push my family to make some more extreme cuts in our budget. Some of those moves have been more painful than others. Last summer we sold a car that was paid off. We used some of the profits to pay down some debt and bought an older used car for cash. I still miss the car we sold. That’s probably been the toughest financial decision we’ve made.
One thing that I thought was going to be painful but didn’t turn out to be so bad was cutting the cable television. It seemed like such an extreme, counter-cultural decision. But once I figured out that almost every Indianapolis Colts game will air on network television, my husband and I decided to pull the plug. In addition to the $70 extra dollars in our bank account each month, I’ve gained free time and sleep because there’s not an endless supply of mind-numbing shows vying for my attention. And we’ve cultivated a new relationship with Arthur, Word Girl and other kid-friendly characters on PBS. I do wish that Food Network would stream its shows.
From where I’ve been to where I am now, I’ve made big strides — though I am no where near the level of such frugalistas as Bargain Briana. I do SwagBucks, but I don’t do CVS extra care bucks. My coupon “system” can only be defined loosely as such, but I’m still able to leave the store on most big trips having saved at least $20. I still eat out too much, but at least I look for coupons that help take the sting out of that expense.
In short, I am a frugal newbie, baby-stepping my way to bargain brilliance.
When she’s not pursuing unbelievable deals, you can find Amy at The 4th Frog Blog, dishing up true stories of a working wife and mother of three…warts and all.