Saving Money Archives - A Crafty Spoonful

Not So Extreme Couponing: Money Saving Tips for the Everyday Mom

With the budget we’ve set in place we’ve limited the funds we have for things like eating out and grocery shopping. So we’ve had to become quite frugal in the way we spend our money on food and necessities. One of the ways that has helped me reduce my grocery bill quite drastically is by shopping with coupons. I thought I could share my “method” with you. 

It’s not a breakthrough new plan, it doesn’t involve anything complicated and it saves me at least 40% on my grocery bill every week. And when I pair this plan with meal planning each week I am able to stick with my budget and create a healthy menu for my family.

Here’s how I prepare for a grocery shopping trip:

Writing My List

A grocery list is a must when it comes to shopping on a budget. It helps me stay focused and only buy what we absolutely need and it also helps me gauge how much the shopping trip will cost.

When writing my grocery list I first look in the fridge, freezer, cupboards and pantry to see what we have on hand already and what we might need. Then I write a meal plan for the week’s dinners based on what we already have. I double check my meal plan and the food we have on hand to make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything that will cost us a trip to the store later in the week. Meal planning helps us save money by not spending anything extra on going out to eat.

I also keep a pad of paper and a pen next to the pantry so I can write down the things we’re getting low on or that we use up as the week goes by.

Browsing the Sale Ads

The first source I go to when planning out my weekly meals and grocery list are the sales ads that come in the mail once a week. I go through each store’s ads, circle what we need, and compare prices at the three major chains in the area. I do this while sipping my coffee and eating breakfast with the kids. If there’s something I think they might like I ask them. My son has gotten great at circling what he wants too!

I adjust my meal plans based on what is on sale. By being flexible with what we eat for dinner I’m able to save  big on seasonal items that go on sale at certain times of the year. I can also help stock up the freezer with family favorites. 

Online Couponing Sites

There are a few sites that I love to browse while looking for deals at the grocery store. One is CouponMom.com. CouponMom.com not only has links to online coupons but it also has coupon deals listed by state. I simply select the state I live in, and the grocery store I shop at, and I can see all of the current deals advertised as well as the coupons I can match with the current sales to get the most for my money.  

I use my store ads and grocery list to pinpoint what items I’m looking for and where the best deals are in my area. I can gauge where I can purchase a product for the cheapest price and then re-organize my grocery list by the store I purchase the product at.

Another great source for deals are couponing blogs. There are hundreds of blogs out there dedicated to finding you the best deals around. They are also great for pointing you in the right direction when a company has a coupon on their website or social media site. I follow quite a few couponing blogs via facebook and through Google Reader. 

Clipping Coupons

After I’ve seen what’s on sale at the store, I grab my stack of coupons for the week. I receive coupons in four ways:

  • Sunday’s newspaper
  • In the mail once (or twice) a week
  • Online (Coupons.com, RedPlum.com, Target.com, Company websites, Facebook deals)
  • My mother-in-law – she’s awesome and brings me her coupons each week!

I don’t cut any coupons out until I know what I’m going to buy. And I browse through the coupons first to match potential deals with my grocery list and store ads. I do this to limit the amount of coupons I have floating around and to make sure that I’m not doing any extra work.

Once I’ve cut out what I need I organize the coupons by the store I’m going to. I put my shopping list for that store around the coupons and keep it in my wallet. When I’m ready to go to the store I just grab my list and coupons and I’m ready to go! This makes it very easy for me to shop at different stores because if I pass a particular store during the day while going about our daily activities I can stop in and pick up the things on my list without wasting gas by going to three different stores at once.

Any coupons that aren’t used go into my coupon holder. I organize them by Dairy/Eggs, Snacks, Pantry Goods, Refrigerated/Frozen, and toiletries/miscellaneous. I keep this coupon holder with me in my purse when we’re running errands in case I run into something I have a coupon for and need. This also comes in handy when we find things on clearance at the grocery store or at Target and it wasn’t on our list. 

Checking Clearance Items

When I am at the grocery store I always stop by two places when I’m done picking up all of my items. I check the clearance meat section and the clearance racks at the back of the store (usually by the back doors to the store’s warehouse).

The clearance meat section is a section for meat that needs to sell within the next two to three days. The use or freeze by date is quickly approaching and the stores want to get it off their shelves fast so that they can sell the meat coming in. The best part about these meats is that the date they go off of is the use by or freeze by date. Since we have an extra freezer in our garage we can stock up on meats that go on clearance. As a note, I always use up these meats within a month of purchasing. I’m sure they’d last longer but that’s our family rule.

The clearance racks at the grocery store are just like the clearance racks at the department stores. The store is trying to phase out items that are taking up space on their shelves. And I’ve found some amazing deals here. I check the clearance rack for bread, sweets, miscellaneous food items and toiletries. Day old bread is perfect for french toast casserole and other delicious meals!

A few months back I was able to find Earths Best organic baby food for $5 a flat and they had three flats. I also had two Earths Best coupons with me so I bought two. I ended up paying around $0.15 for each jar of baby food. I made my own baby food most of the time but wanted a quick and easy solution for meals on the go. Talk about a deal!

So by writing my list and sticking with it, checking the ads and deal websites, clipping coupons, and browsing the clearance items I’m able to really make the most of my grocery budget. I’ve been able to cut our grocery bills in half with this method and it takes maybe 1/2 an hour from my day.

What do you do to save money on your grocery bill? 

This article was first featured on February 24th, 2012.

Planning for the Future: Retirement Planning

While I am far from retirement I have started planning for it from an early age. The one thing my dad always talked about as soon as I was old enough to get a job was to start saving early so I would have enough put away when I was ready to retire. Yes, at age 16 I was already well aware of retirement planning.

And I did what I’m sure other teens did not do. I listened to my dad. And at the age of 17, when I was eligible per my company’s regulations, I opened up a 401K. At first I simply put in a certain percentage, not quite sure what matching was and how it would benefit me.

Then my dad taught me the benefit of being aware of how company matching could do for my savings and I increased the percentage I was putting away each week. Lucky for me my husband also felt the same way about early retirement planning and had already started his 401K as well.

But I’m sure many aren’t lucky enough to have a dad like mine who pushed me to save at such an early age. So I’ve come across some great tips while researching ways to continue my retirement planning now that I’m a work-at-home mom.

Retirement Planning at an Early Age

1. Set up an automatic retirement savings plan –

Whether you contribute to a 401K through your work or set up a savings account on your own, start putting away a percentage of each paycheck starting now. The sooner you start saving – and investing – the sooner you’ll be able to retire.

2. Take advantage of employer contributions –

As I mentioned before, the company I worked with would match our 401K contributions up to a certain percentage. If your company offers this then you should definitely be taking advantage of this. Who can say no to free money? Usually there is a cap on what they’ll match to so make sure you know all of your company’s guidelines and regulations.

3. Leave your money where it is –

While it may be tempting to cash out on your 401K for that new car or a down payment on a house, you aren’t doing yourself any favors! Consider sitting down with a financial planner to plan out how to save for large purchases or investments without touching your savings. You’ll be thankful in the long run.

4. Sit down with a professional –

Still lost with all of this talk of savings? Consider sitting down with a professional and going over your finances. From there you can determine just how much you can be putting aside for retirement and how long you’ll continue to do so. There are so many great resources and apps out there for us to use. Take advantage of the knowledge at your fingertips!

Have you started planning for retirement?

With our financial planning laid out and a plan for retirement always in the works I feel a lot better about our future. I definitely don’t want to be working past 65 if I don’t have to. And if my husband and I are still lucky to have our health by then we want to be able to use that time to enjoy ourselves.

Planning to retire a little sooner than I am? Consider reading this article on 7 Tips for People Planning to Retire in 2013 to find out if you’re ready to retire sooner!

Disclaimer: Information for this post is sourced from Genworth Financial in partnership with the SheHeard Influencer Network. All opinions are my own.

Money Management Tips: How to Prepare For an Emergency

Since taking over the family’s finances when I became a work at home mom and attempting to reign in on our spending and pay off our debt I’ve come to realize just how important it is to prepare for the unexpected.

As important as it is to recognize the day-to-day expenses, it’s also very important to set aside funds for things that just happen. A few months ago my daughter was bit by the family dog. All is fine with her now but at the time I had no idea what our bills were going to look like after our ambulance trip and ER visit.

Lucky for us we put aside funds for emergencies like this and are prepared. And while it was a very scary thing to go through, not having to worry about paying the bills afterwards was a relief.

money management tips emergency

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