Real Mom Talks Money: Small Changes Add Up
Real Mom of O'Fallon shares money saving tips.
In my last column, I mentioned that one of my resolutions for 2012 is to save money. I’ve received a lot of reader inquiries asking exactly how I plan to do that. It seems that many other O’Fallon moms are hoping to cut back on their expenses and put a little extra money in the bank each month, too.
First of all, I want to go on record stating that I am in no way an expert on saving money. My husband would tell you I am an expert on spending money. I am, however, a mom who likes to maximize my resources. Read: get more bang for my buck.
The first thing I did was to create a way to track our finances that works for me. My husband had created a spreadsheet years ago that he likes to use, but it didn’t work for me. I need something that breaks everything down in categories.
I have to be honest, until a few weeks ago I couldn’t tell you what the amounts of our phone bill or trash bill were. His budget spreadsheet just didn’t work for me. However, now that I have found a system that works for me, I can tell you that our trash bill is quarterly, not monthly. Once I got all of our expenses organized in categories, I was able to figure out where we could cut back.
The obvious starting point for us is grocery shopping. With a little bit of time and research, I’ve been able to make big strides in this area. I’ve learned there is a secret to couponing, and it is preparation.
Now, don’t misunderstand, I am not turning into one of those ladies from the show “Extreme Couponing.” I’m just trying to save money purchasing the things that we use on a regular basis. I have begun to pay more attention to the weekly ads and preparing for my grocery store trips. I try to plan our meals based on what is on sale for the week. I also go to three different stores, but I’m saving on average $30 a week by doing this.
First things first, you need to first figure out what a good deal is. For instance, last week Target had Pepsi soda on sale. You could get either six packs of bottles or 12 packs of cans, mix and match any Pepsi flavor, four packs for $12. I had a coupon for $2 off the purchase of two six pack bottles of Pepsi products. That meant I got four packs of Pepsi for $10 or $2.50 each.
Usually a 12 pack of cans or six pack of bottles is around $4. So that was a good deal. Just because something is “on sale” doesn’t make it a good deal. For instance, cans of Chef Boy R Dee were on sale at Dierbergs for $1 a can. Walmart’s everyday price was $.88 a can. Not a deal at Dierbergs!
Another tip I learned from a friend is at Shop and Save. On certain Thursday’s, they will run a $10 off of a $50 purchase special. If you purchase an Entertainment Book, there are coupons in there for $5 off a $50 purchase. So, on “coupon Thursday” you can save $15 off of a $50 purchase. There are exclusions like alcohol, milk and eggs.
The Entertainment Book is full of other great savings. My younger son needed a new pair of tennis shoes and there was a coupon in the book for $10 off any purchase of $50 or more at Famous Footwear. I could have bought the shoes anywhere, but I saved $10 by purchasing them there.
My last tip is to look at your TV, phone and internet services. I discovered we were paying almost double for our home phone and internet service than what the local provider was advertising. We’ve been loyal customers for over five years, so I called them up to find out how we could save some money.
They lowered our bill by $25 a month and increased our level of service. That’s $300 a year!
While these tips may not seem like a lot, the savings are starting to add up. So far this month I’ve already saved $106.41 (yes, my spreadsheet tracks the savings)! This is savings on items we would have been buying anyway, but now I’m more prepared when I go into the store with my coupons and I know which store has the best price on the items I need. Sure it takes a bit of time, but I’ll gladly spend a few minutes to save so much more!