So I am at playgroup a few weeks ago and one of my neighbors had just been with a friend who coupons. She started talking about what she had learned. Her friend only spends about $20/week on food for a family of 4. She knows all the tricks. Always use a coupon but only use it when the item is already on sale. She gets many things free with this trick. And then things like if it is buy one get one free you can use 2 coupons. So if it is buy one for $4 and get one free and you have 2 coupons for $2 off then both would be free. Well the idea of saving money on food, which after my mortgage is the biggest expense we have, and some months they come pretty close, sounds very interesting to me.
So I went right out and bought a Sunday paper to get coupons. I was amazed by how many I could actually use. Now I might not always use some of the brands I cut out but if they are cheaper than what I would normally use I am for it. I have no brand loyalty. Then I went through the Cub foods ad to find out if anything I cut out was on sale. There were a few things but my best deal was hot dogs. There was a store coupon for buy one get one free and then I had $2 off. Then when I got there it had a $1 instant coupon on the package. So I was able to use 3 different coupons and paid less than $1 for 2 packages of hot dogs. Hurray for me. Of course I almost never buy hot dogs but I knew Memorial day was coming up and it would be a time I would consider eating them. I am hoping to get that kind of deal again on something I use regularly but didn't get the coupons this week. I need to re-subscribe to the paper if I am going to make this happen.
I wish I had figured out how to master this technique earlier in the month. There is a week left of the month and I have $10 in my food budget and an empty pantry. So I guess we will be going over a little. Next month my goal with coupons and sale flier reading will simply be to stay within my food budget. I don't know if I have ever done it before. In June I am going to have money left in the food category by the end of the month. You heard it here first people! Can't wait to see how it goes.
Now the question is, am I simplifying my life? Is it easier to cut coupons and read sale fliers all the time. Plus what I am reading says I need to become aware of what is a good deal on foods I buy. So if I saw a sale on chicken breasts for $2/pound I wouldn't know if that was a good deal or a bad deal. Should I stock up or just buy my one package for the week? I need to know what my target prices are in order to know if I should stock up or not. This is going to take more than a little time and effort to learn, process and organize.
I was reading through the Frugal Granola blog this weekend back when she was first describing their decision to simplify their life. She commented on the fact that making all their food from scratch is not simple but that simplifying their life was really about having a focus on family, health and time together not on actually doing simple things or doing nothing.
Somehow simple/family time seem to go together with budget/spending less. Why is that? I guess the goal is to live within our means and have savings so that every moment doesn't need to be spent wondering if we can continue living the life we have created. How long can we keep all these balls in the air? So John and I are learning to live on our income and are finding life to be so much more fun and simple as a result. Not that we are anywhere near mastering it. John still worries about whether he is makign enough money, we still spend more than our budget some months and we still sit in seperate rooms at the computer rather than sitting together as a family more nights than I care to admit. But we are trying, one step at a time, to create a simpler life.