Tuesday, August 31, 2010

$100 a week....Part 2

Okay, so its grocery day again and I and determined to get our budget to about $100 per week.  Last time I didn't do so bad but there was the follow up with three more trips to the store for random things like eggs (who knew being so budget-wise would mean 7 dozen eggs...and no that's not a typo.  7 S-E-V-E-N.  Six people consumed (in various forms) 7 dozen eggs.  That's an egg a day per person if you're counting.  And we didn't eat eggs for breakfast every morning either.  Focus, Haley, focus.  Focus focus focus focus.  My grocery shopping...yes...  Anyway, today is grocery day and my list is looking suspiciously long.  I ran out of a lot of stuff over the course of the last two weeks.  I will be replenishing random things like pink syrup for the kids' milk (yes, I realize that is a luxury item/non-necessity in most homes, but you don't know the twins...there will be rioting).  I guess really the point is to average $100 per week, right?  Okay, so off I go with my list, my coupons, and my plan.  I'll check in later and let you know how it goes and what I learned this week.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Like Waves on an Ocean

Have you ever noticed how when it rains, it pours?  Seems like everything in life works that way.  Right now it's raining bags at my house.  If you want to see what I've been up to, check out my other website.  I've got several bags I'm working on now and a couple of possible orders coming my way.  I'll be posting pictures over there as I finish bags.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Killer Deal

I managed a killer deal at the commissary yesterday.  Combining a "found sale" and coupons I knew I had at home, I was able to get two kinds of cereal for 49 cents and 24 cents a box.  That's one sweet deal.

I stopped by the commissary a few days ago for milk and walked past the "good deal" area of the store.  In two shopping baskets, right there in front of me were two things I knew my family would go nuts for.  Wheaties Fuel cereal and Kellogg's Toy Story 3 cereal each for 99 cents.  The store had 50cents of coupons for the Wheaties on a tear pad attached to the cart, which got me thinking....I probably had coupons for the Kellogg's cereal as well.  I decided to wait and check my coupon stash at home.  Boy am I glad I did.  I not only found a $1 off 2 Kellogg's cereals for the Toy Story 3, but I also found a 75 cents off 1 Wheaties making the Toy Story cereal 49 cents a box and the Wheaties 24 cents a box.  I walked out with 12 boxes of cereal for a little over $5 (we get charged a small surcharge because there is no mark up to cover overhead at the commissary).  Can't beat that with a stick.

Do you have an awesome "found" sale?  What good deals have you stumbled on lately?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Well, folks, it's that time of week again.  We're gonna take a peak and see what's on my bookshelf this week.  Last week, if you'll recall, I was reading sales ads and coupons.  This week is a different story.  With the twins in preschool  and as such napping in the afternoons due to school induced exhaustion and Noodle back in school, finally I have time to do a little for me.  Not much, mind you, but a little.  So I am actually able to read...some....when I hide in the bathroom...
Anyway, I am reading and I am ready to share the good, the bad and the ugly with all of you.  This week I'm reading Walking with the Women of the Bible by Elizabeth George.  This is actually a devotional book, but I'm reading it like it's a regular book.  This is a perfect combination for me because it is broken up into short chunks, as it is a devotional book, but the content of the chunks is good stuff.  There is lots of background information as well as insightful thoughts about women who appear in the Bible.  Even better, the author goes in order from Eve (of Adam and Eve fame) all the way through to the book of Hebrews, focusing anywhere from a page to several pages on each woman.  Some of the women we know well, like Eve, Sarah, Mary (mother of Jesus) and sisters Mary and Martha; others, we know very little about, not even their names like the bent woman in Luke 13:10-17.  It's the first book I've come across that has such an exhaustive compilation of women in the Bible.  You can check it out for yourself...I'm gonna go read a little more before naptime is over.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to School....well, To School anyway...

It's back to go to school time here at the home of the Herd.  Itchy and Scratchy started preschool today.  They go four days a week, half days.  When Noodle started school 4 years ago, I was 35 wks pregnant with the twins.  Of course, I cried when I dropped him off, I was hormonal, right?  Today I had no such excuse.  Just like with Noodle, I made it to the door as I was leaving and started tearing up.  Mr. Smartypants started laughing at me (just like he did four years ago).  "They're just going to school...you'll see them in three hours"  Glad he can reason himself into a calm state.  I did, for the record, only shed a few tears.  By the time I got to the car, I was fine, and in total control of my emotions.  The twins, well,  they barely managed a wave in my direction as I left them at the door to their classrooms...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shopping Trip Recap

Okay, so I said earlier this week that as part of operation Penny Pincher I would grocery shop with only cash and....

I chickened out. I just wasn't brave enough to go to the grocery store with out my debit card, so I took it, but I made it a point to avoid impulse buys of ANY KIND, and I did. I only added a handful of items to my list as I remembered being low on things while cruising the aisles. I PROMISE the things I added to my list were all things that are requirements to culinary function in my house, namely, ketchup.

Have you ever noticed that some companies call it Ketchup, and some call it Catsup? Anyone have an answer as to why? Just wondering...

Sorry, random thought, (focus, focus, focus). Like I was saying, I managed to (for the most part) stick to my list. I used only a handful of coupons and managed to come out great, I think. At least, better than usual. Two weeks worth of groceries, paper goods, and of course, gourmet dog food for 6 people and 2 dogs is a lot of stuff. A large WalMart sized cart FULL. I managed to get out the door for $185.87 total. Including the $5 tip for my baggers. I do most of my shopping at the military Commissary and the baggers there do not get paid. They work only for tips. Since it is always part of my grocery shopping trip, I included it in my final price.

Proof of my trip:

The lady bagging my groceries today was impressed that I could feed six people for two weeks on that. It breaks down like this: $16 per person per week or a little over $2 a day per person. When I break it down like that I want to run up and down the cul-de-sac, waving my receipt, singing 'We Are The Champions" at the top of my lungs. But the neighbors already think I'm weird enough, no need to confirm their fears.

I did shop at Walgreens this week for a few household items (I'll go over that shopping trip in a future post) so my total did go over $200 for two weeks and we'll still have to buy milk between now and my next big trip. Even still, I think I did a bang up job this week. My ultimate goal is to get my total shopping below $100/week for everything. Slowly, I'm getting there. I figure I'm gonna attempt to potty train Moose as soon as he shows any signs of being ready. Being diaper free will help the overall grocery bill too.

A few things I did or noticed while I shopped today:

I watched unit prices to get the best overall price. I read that horrible tiny small print on the price labels on the shelf, or I busted out the calculator on my phone and figured it myself. This takes a little more time, but, because package size can vary from one vendor to another, it means I'm getting the most for my dollar, not just buying the cheapest one on the shelf. Sometimes I did buy the least expensive, sometimes I didn't because the least expensive was also the smallest.

I realized that even things that look the same size are actually not and things that look like they are larger than their buddies on the shelf are actually not. Take the juice for example...The large Juicy Juice container looked bigger on the shelf than the Mott's juice container but when I looked at the actual size of the products, the ounces were the same. The Juicy Juice was only about 5 cents more expensive, and if I hadn't read the label I would have assumed that the Juicy Juice was larger, making it the better buy, but it really wasn't. It is important not to just look at the package to see which one looks bigger, but to actually read the label and figure out the unit price to ensure you get the best deal. Cereal is another place you need to do this. Our store carries 4 different boxes of Cheerios. And the unit price varies from one box to the next.

I passed on some good deals that would have cost me more money in the long run. In trying to not spend much money and avoiding impulse buys, I passed up somethings that I might have normally fallen for. Our store had the Axe men's shower gel gift sets (1 reg. size Axe, 2 travel sizes and a scrubbie)on sale for 5.99. I had a coupon for $1.50 off the set which would have made it 4.49. That's actually a good price for what was there, but I held off to see what was in the soap aisle and ended up getting a better deal on a different brand. And my guys didn't need a scrubbie, their's are in good shape right now.

I need to clean out my pantry BEFORE I go shopping next time. I have made a habit of cleaning out my fridge before I go to the store. It makes it easier to know what I have and make room for all the new stuff I buy. I am now gonna have to start doing the same thing with my pantry. After I got home and cleaned it out, I realized there were three things I bought, that I did not need. Namely, ketchup. I knew the bottle in the fridge was low so I bought more...then I found a bottle hiding in the pantry.

While I was shopping, I kept a tally of what I was spending. And I really liked the way I did it...it worked well for me. My shopping list is divided into sections much like my grocery store. I have non-grocery (all my personal items as well as cleaners and paper goods), pantry (dry goods), deli (which isn't really deli, but it's the aisle where packaged lunch meat, bacon and sausage is found...hey, my list, my names), freezer (self-explanatory), dairy (again, duh), meat, and produce. As I grabbed something, I wrote down the price (rounded up to the dollar)next to the item on my list. When I finished a section, I totaled it up. This way I could see a running total of what I was spending. It was also interesting to see which sections grabbed the majority of my budget. Keeping track of what you spend, regardless of how you choose to do it, really does help keep you on track. After seeing my subtotal for non-grocery, it was easy to avoid buy extra in pantry which is where I tend to find extra stuff to buy. By the last section (produce) I was so excited that I had done so well that I wanted to keep doing well and not blow it. It kept my momentum up.

This trip was a huge success. I'm still not sure I'm confident enough to go Cash-only but I'll get there soon, I'm sure.

What tricks do you use to keep your grocery bill down?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Okay, so I'm a book worm and love to read so I thought a weekly peek into what I'm reading would be kinda cool. I read some really random stuff sometimes and run across an unusual book that is really good that I think everyone should read. So here's my opportunity to share it with you. I hope that you will join along and post a comment with what you're reading at the moment as well. Let us all know if its worth us reading, too.

This week, being the first appearance of this and all, I had high hopes of putting some fabulous book on here that actually improved my IQ (unlike the preschool TV that I usually watch that I SWEAR causes me to LOOSE IQ points). However, I have four children, three of whom are preparing for school (i.e. Mom is preparing them for school) so I haven't had time to read much. Here is what I'm reading today:

Yup, you're seeing correctly. That would be back to school ads and coupons. How exciting, right? What have you been reading this week?

Moose turns 1

Okay, so he turned one over a month ago, and it's been forever since I posted pictures, but here are a few for you to look at. My Moose is getting so big. But he's still Mama's boy.

Awesome Deal Alert!!!!!!!!

It's clearance time at WalMart again!!! Grranimals are on sale now at my local WM. I got girls toddler size boot cut knit pants and a pair of legging capris for $1 each. I also got toddler boys short sleeve striped Tshirts for $2. Check your local WM for sale prices. It's time to stock up.
*If you don't have children that wear big infant or toddler sizes, I'm really sorry. This is a heck of a deal. I'll be checking stock at multiple WMs. Be careful, though. Some of the stuff at my WM was marked down incorrectly. For the least amount of hassle, find one of those scan thingies on the pole. Check the prices ahead of time and you won't have to get a headache arguing with the checker!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Walgreens this week

As part of Operation: Penny Pincher I promised to use a variety of the most popular money saving methods out there and report back on my results. By far, one of the most popular strategies is to stack coupons with sales, rewards programs and rebates. Women all over the internet report savings of 80-90% sometimes. The gals over at The Krazy Coupon Lady utilize this theory to save tons of money on everything from toothpaste to kitty litter. This method works best if you have a multitude of stores to choose from, but I live in central Missouri and frankly, there just isn't squat around here except for Wal Mart. According to many couponers, WalMart is the devil...or at least related to him. I'll admit, I don't do very well going to WalMart with my coupons in tow. I tend to do better at Walgreens with my coupons, which is why I occasionally make the 25 mile drive to Walgreens in the next town. Of course, I typically combine it with other business I have over that direction. I will be going to get my son from his dad at our halfway meeting point tomorrow so I'll swing by Walgreens while I'm over that direction. Other weeks I combine it with a trip to the fabric store.

I have been trying this theory for some time myself and have had mixed results. Shoppers who are not fans of this method complain that it is too time consuming and complicated, with too much room for error. I would agree, except I have occasionally made out like a bandit. So, for the sake of my experiment I will continue to try it and see if I can get consistent results.

The key to this method is planning ahead. Being extra nice to the check-out clerk will get you farther, too. I sat down with the Walgreen's ad for this week (available online if you didn't get Sunday's paper) and my stack of coupons. I have also learned to not buy everything just because it is a great deal. Even buying something at a 75% savings is a waste if it isn't something you need. And frankly, as an Army family, stock-piling isn't really much of an option. We either don't have room or are moving soon.

**couponing alert** It does take some time to get enough coupons to be beneficial in this system. Start slow, you can buy a Sunday paper and then go to The Krazy Coupon Lady website to print some internet coupons. They have a list of internet coupons you can print from your computer.

Walgreens uses a customer reward program called Register Rewards. It's pretty simple. Buy a product featured as having a RR attached to it and a coupon for a specific dollar amount will print with your receipt. You do have to pay full price (or sale price) up front, but the coupons are typically pretty good. The best deals come when you use a Manufacturer coupon on the item then get a RR. Example from my shopping last week: Gillette Proglide razors were on sale for 9.98 with a $5 RR. I had a coupon from the paper for $4 off one razor. I bought one razor, used my coupon and paid 5.98. I then got a $5 RR good for a future purchase at Walgreens. The gals over at The Krazy Coupon Lady do a really good job of explaining coupon policies of most major chains.

So on my list this week for Walgreens:

Arrid Extra Dry 99 cents ea. (limit 3) with in-ad coupon
deodorant for my hubby (this is the only brand he'll use so I have to stock up when I catch it on sale)

1 Schick Hydro Razor 7.99 - $5.00 coupon (from Sunday's paper) = 2.99
1 Schick Hydro Shave gel 1.99 - 1.00 coupon (also from paper) = .99

purchase a Schick hydro razor and receive $2.00 register reward

total expense for hubby's 3 deodorants, razor and shave gel = 6.95 and a $2 RR
I have $3 in RR from last week in my wallet so my out of pocket expense will be $3.95 and I'll be getting back $2 in RR. Not bad.

Walgreen's is also having a sale, RR promo on Venus razors, but I think I can actually do better at my commissary on those items so I'm gonna hold out.

The good about Walgreen's is that you can use a Walgreen coupon and a manufacturer coupon on the same item essentially doubling your savings. Walgreen's puts out a monthly coupon book, in this month's book they have a coupon for Listerine. I have manufacturer coupons for Listerine as well so I'll be able to use both of them.
The kicker with multiple coupons is that your total number of items purchased must equal or exceed the total number of coupons. So, I couldn't buy one bottle of Listerine and use two coupons. Too many coupons, not enough items. In order to make the transaction work, I have to add a "filler" item to my purchase. Lots of people buy a small pack of gum or something like that. I try to avoid buying something I don't need and instead try to stack my purchases with something that is simply on sale that I need. *warning* using register rewards to pay for your purchase counts as coupons.
Since each item in my purchase has a coupon, in order to use my RR to pay for my purchase, I will need to add 3 more items (I have 3 $1 RR). This is where some shoppers would get tripped up (I have made high dollar mistakes here before). By planning carefully now, I will avoid tripping up at the store. I also still need some school supplies for my kids. Walgreen's has great prices on school supplies, often beating Wal Mart by a landslide. I will be adding the following school supplies to my shopping list as well. These items are on sale and do not require any coupons:
Elmer's Glue sticks (2pk)-19 cents
Loose leaf wide rule paper-49 cents *I will be purchasing 2 of these*
I've added the three items I needed for my kids and to be able to use my RR from last week and only added another $1.17 bringing my total out of pocket expense for the trip to 5.12 + tax and I will receive a $2 RR.

Let's recap
3 deodorants
1 razor
1 shave cream
1 pk of glue sticks
2 pks of loose leaf paper
total: $5.12 plus I walk out with $2 in RR in my wallet.

And I will be carrying cash...$10 to be exact...no debit cards this time.

not bad....not bad at all.

There are tons of other great promos in this week's Walgreen's ad, but since this is my experiment and not my attempt at saving YOU money, I am only going to highlight the deals I'll be using.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Operation: Penny Pincher

Okay, so we all know the economy is crappy. There's really no nice word for it, but there are plenty of not-so-nice ones. Even though I personally don't have to worry about our next paycheck (at least not yet), I'm still raising 4 kids on one (not so big) salary. I gave up my career climbing the corporate ladder in retail in early 2006 when Mr. Smartypants and I discovered we were expecting. Good thing. A week after I quit, we found out we were having twins...and no one wants to pay that daycare bill....I promise. Well, four years later and one more baby, we are still living on one income. And plan to continue to do that until further notice (i.e. they all go to school and I get bored...ya right). Being a Stay At Home Mom (known further as SAHM) has its advantages: my laundry stays done *smirk*, my house stays clean *snort*, and I always have time to cook warm, wholesome meals for my family *choke*. But the most important advantage is that I get to hang with my kids all day. Hey, preschoolers can have some deep conversations (Mom, why is Dora's dress purple?) Regardless of our reasons for my lack of paying work (I work, trust me, I just don't get the lovely paycheck at the end of the week...Mr. Smartypants would have to win the lottery to afford my paycheck anyway), we are living on one income. So I feel my job is to stretch that income as far as humanly possible. This is the way I can "add" to the family bank account. If we can live well on as little as possible, then there is more money at the end of the month to do whatever with. So what does this novel of wandering thought mean? I'm trying hard(er) to save money and I'm taking you along for the ride.
This mission we're on is a journey through all the money saving techniques and tricks we can find. My ulitmate goal: find the best way to save the most money while feeding my family yummy, nutritious, healthy meals. I will be posting often about this with daily and weekly missions to save money. I would love for you to try these ideas yourself and let me know whether or not they work for you. Some people swear by coupons and national chain drugstores, others, Wal-Mart, still others, warehouse clubs. I will be trying several different popular techniques and reporting my results and my opinion.

This week's mission: PAY ONLY WITH CASH

I don't mean avoid using my credit card. If you're using your credit card to pay for groceries you either a.) need to see a financial planner and a credit counselor or b.) have your finances in such good order that you need not participate in this...just keep using your card, paying it off at the end of the month and collecting those frequent flyer miles....oh, and send me a postcard from which ever cool place you go to with those miles.

What I mean is I'm going to use COLD HARD CASH...you know that green paper stuff we used to get in birthday cards from Grandma, before she started sending us Paypal payments for our birthday.

This is the theory...if you go to the store with only your budgeted amount in your purse, you are less likely to spend extra money on impulse buys like 8-2 liters of Dr.Pepper just because you found them for 35 cents each because you don't have to security of your bank account balance to fall back on if you go over "just a little bit".

My pre-shopping opinion of this:
This could work beautifully or this could backfire seriously. My concerns: Making sure what's on my list won't exceed my budget before I ever go. The time consumption involved with keeping a running tally of my spending while in the store shopping.

My goal: Pay only in cash, come in $10 less than budget, treat myself to starbucks with the leftover cash.

My shopping day this week is Thursday morning and I will have only Moose with me. Itchy and Scratchy start preschool this week (wooo-hooo, party at my place!!!) I'll report back Thursday afternoon/evening with the results.

What do you think about this?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

So It's Been A While

Okay, so it's been a while since I've actually put anything on here. I've decided to make a come-back...just in time for Social Security recipient, Brett Favre to attempt another season in the NFL. I have intentions of putting something on here almost daily...I have pent-up SAHM angst to be rid of. What? You didn't know a SAHM had angst? Just take typical teenage angst, add dirty diapers, crayons on walls and 8500 loads of laundry. That is SAHM angst. So prepare yourself. There is much in store. Including some (somewhat) regular appearances of "What I'm Reading" and a money-saving/frugal living/tightwad (depending on how you choose to look at it) section. I also promise to share what we're having for dinner...unless its fish sticks or frozen pizza...can't have any of you believing that I feed the Herd anything other than perfect, home cooked, nutritious dinners now can I? So, thanks in advance for sticking around to watch Brett Favre yet again... Just kidding...thanks for being patient while I went AWOL from the blog. I'm back to do my time!