Saturday, June 18, 2011

This post isn't about couponing, it's about finding space and money . . .

Okay, this post isn't really about couponing and matching sales.  But it is about frugality.  I am talking about those books sitting on the shelf, taking up space.  That unused home school curriculum that is waiting for the next child.  The pair of jeans or little dress that is waiting for the last few pounds you are hoping to lose.  The baby outfits and carseats in storage.  Sure, it's frugal to hang on to stuff if it is going to be used in the next few years, but if not, then seriously consider ridding yourself of that unused clutter.  More than unused curriculum, but also unused clothing and children's items.  Some things are worth saving, but not much.

For example, there is over 10 years between my youngest son and his older brother.  Why hang on to clothing for 10 years?  Unless it is really something special, 10 years is a long time to hang on to clothing.  If it contains elastic, most likely the elastic will be gone.  Any stains that seemed to be washed out miraculously reappear after years in storage.  There are several options for ridding ourselves of unused clothing.  1)  Take it and donate it to Goodwill.   This is a great option and a tax savings since you can deduct the value of the donation.  Salvation Army is another place.  2)   Take it to a consignment shop.  This option will actually net you some cash.  Check in your area and be sure only to take the cleanest stuff in the best condition.  Most consignment store either consign the articles or pay you directly.  Some will also give you more for your stuff if you take store credit, which means you can purchase items from the store.  3)  Pass along items to friends or family who can use them.  Hey, we all need help in this economy!  4)  Recycle stuff in bad shape for rags.  Many places, especially rescue centers for horses, dogs, etc, need rags and will be happy to take old towels and t-shirts to cut up for rags. 

For curriculum and books, again you have a few options.  1)  Sell on resale sites - - Catholic Swap is one yahoo group (books must not have anti-Catholic bias in them).  You can also resale on alibris and amazon.  2)  Donate them - - we have a used book store here that accepts donations.  Some will pay (like Wonderbook) and some will not, but will offer a receipt so that you can deduct your donation from taxes.  You may also be able to donate books to your library for their book sale.  3)  Give them to other people who may be able to use them.  Check with nursing homes for books that would be good for older people.  You could also host a swap with other home schooling families and swap out your used curriculum for things you may need.

Toys are always hard to part with, both for children and even parents.  Nostalgia often plays a big part in deciding what to keep.  Children are often willing to purge when they know they can earn money from selling toys at a yard sale.  (A good way to get rid of many things beyond just toys.)  Some toys, especially those in good condition, may be accepted at consignment stores (the ones that sell baby and children's items may also take toys).  Just make sure the toy is in good condition, not broken, and has most of its accessories with it.  Toys can also be donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.  Some ambulance companies will take stuffed toys in good, clean condition (and not too large) for use on their ambulances.  And, I know of a preschool that would take McDonald type giveaways to use as prizes in their prize box, so be sure to check there too.  They may also take other toys in good condition for the children to play with.

Lastly, those baby items.  Some are really worth hanging on to, while others should be parted with.  Let me give you an example:  I hung on to the infant seat with my last daughter.  It was in okay shape and wasn't involved in an accident.  The cloth cover was worn, but I found something to cover it with, and since they are not in them for very long, I figured it was okay.  Wrhat I didn't know is that my seat (seeing as it was also used for her older brother) was expired!  Infant and children's car seats come with an expiration date, usually six years from date of manufacture.  Now lest you think that this is a way to generate income for the car seat industry, the reason behind it is that all plastic degrade over time.  So, older car seats can actually pose a danger to the children they are supposed to protect.  All baby products should be checked for recall notices and recent safety notices prior to donation or sale.  The latest thing to be banned for sale are cribs with drop sides.  Those baby items that are in good condition can be resold at consignment shops.  Again many will offer cash or store credit, which is great if you need larger sizes on shoes or clothing. 

One of the things I hope to do this summer is to purge our home of those things that either don't get used, played with or worn.  Hopefully this will simplify our lives a bit easier. 

God Bless!
Jennifer

Monday, June 6, 2011

How I did . . .

Well, I didn't come out with $100 worth of groceries for $14, but I didn't expect that also.  Plus, I am relatively new to the concept of couponing and matching sales.

I went to Rite Aid, Martin's and Weis - all in the Hagerstown area.

Rite Aid - - the deal here was definitely on razors.  The Sunday papers had coupons for men and women's razors, and they were on sale - $9.97 for the men's (down from 10.99 to 12.99) and $8.99 for the women's disposable (down from $11.99).  The men's razor had a $4.00 coupon in the Sunday paper and the women's was for $2.00 off.  Both razors were tied to a $4.00 and $3.00 plus reward (which means that they gave you coupons for $3 and $4 off your next shopping order).  So the bottom line for the women's razor was $3.99 and for the men's $1.97.  The men's razor is not a disposable and came with only one extra blade, so now we can wait for refills to go on sale.  =)  I also picked up some Colgate toothpaste ($1.75/tube w/sale and coupon) and some Pantene shampoo and conditioner - and walked out with $18 in coupons towards my next visit.  Not too bad.  (Yes, I could probably save money if I used different brands or store brand, but I like Pantene.)

Martin's - - There are a few things I like about Martin's.  There are three in the area, but my favorite by far is the one out at Northpointe.  First, the store is laid out nicely, with wide aisles.  Secondly, they have these handheld scanners that allow you to scan and bag your groceries, so all you have to do is pay upon leaving.  Great job for tagalong children!  Third, they offer gas points that accumulate along with your purchases, so you get credit for every $ spent - - whether it is just a few on a quick trip or hundreds for a larger trip.  And, last, they offer quite a few bargains.  The best deal was on Suddenly Salad - yes one of those bad boxed items - but these can be dressed up with fresh veggies added in, so don't discount them altogether.  They were 10 for $10 and with a 50 cent coupon (doubled) on the purchase of two -- that brought them down to 50 cents per box.  Everything I bought was on sale, and for some I even had a coupon.  I spent about $125, but I saved about $66, too.  I also accumulated 40 cents off of gas purchase.  Which in the long run equates to about $12.00.  I will take it!

Weis -- This isn't one of my favorite stores.  The set up can be quite odd and each store is a little bit different which is confusing if you shop at more than one.  However, they do have some good sales from time to time.  One deal was $1.99 for boneless skinless chicken breasts.  Martin's had split chicken breasts, buy one get one, for $2.97 a pound, which is the better deal, but then if you don't like the bones and skin, you would have some work ahead of you.  It's worth it to me to spend the extra and it isn't much anyways.  Weis also had some freebies - - like free milk if you purchase Activia (which was on sale and I had a coupon for it).  I also got some free ice cream since I bought Mrs. T's pierogies (again they were on sale and I had a coupon).  Kellogg's cereal was also on sale for 5 for $10, bringing it down to $2 per box (I tell my kids I will not spend more than $2 per box).  I also had a couple of coupons and if you bought 10 you got 20 extra points for gas, as long as you purchased the minimum requirement.  I also had coupon for $25 off a $150 order which brought my order total down to $125 and I had an additional $8 off on coupons.  I netted 50 gas points which equates to 50 cents off per gallon or about $10.00 in savings.  Weis runs their gas points differently.  The max fill up is 20 gallons and you only get points for every $50 spent in one visit.  Per my receipt, I saved a total of $93 on this particular visit. 

I didn't come close to the $100 for $14 - - however, I purchased about $50 or so worth of produce - - lettuce, tomatoes, berries, grapes, bananas, potatoes, etc.  This makes up a large part of my grocery bill.  I am also hoping that between what I bought and what I have here already, that I do not need to make such a big trip until next month.  Sure, we will need to get milk and bread, but that is not a big deal. 

I am working on the second part of being frugal and that is menu planning.  My idea is to come up with about 20 - 25 meals that we eat regularly and to rotate them throughout the month.  Eventually, it would be great to develop a shopping list around those 20 - 25 meals, but that is for another post, another day.  You can find my starting list under the Menu page.

God Bless,
Jennifer

Changes and some change . . . .

My daughter had sporadically posted on this particular blog, but doesn't do so any longer.  So, I am taking it over and dedicating it to blog about my foray into couponing and hopefully frugality.  

There are several sites out there that deal with couponing.  Some you pay a fee for and others are free.  All say they will teach you how to get a lot of groceries (as much as $100 or more) for a little bit of money.  There are a few catches though - - first, and foremost, you have to work at it.  That means that you have to do some work.  There are some easy shortcuts, but still you must work and learn when items go on sale - - believe it or not there is a cycle.  Second, you must plan and not be a needs-based shopper.  What you are purchasing this week is not what you use this week, but you stockpile certain items when they go on sale.  I have a couple of issues here, but I will discuss this later.  Third, if you are into organics, you can still coupon, but your savings may not be as high.

The "game" of couponing can save a lot of money at the grocery store.  I, myself, have gotten brownie mix for 25 cents a box, cereal for as low as 75 cents (name brand, too), and more.  These deals have never constituted a large part of my order, but I felt good saving $60 or more off of groceries between coupons and store sales.  Luckily, there are many websites out there that do much of the leg work for you.  Unfortunately, living in Maryland, not all grocery stores are listed, so that means you will have to do a little bit of work.

Do not think that couponing and sale shopping means that you need to drive to several stores to get the bargains.  The cost of gas could quickly eat up your savings if that were the case!  What most sites and books suggest, is that you learn the sales cycle at your favorite grocery store and shop when items go on sale.  This makes sense, but it also means that you need to be willing to buy today what you may need next week or even next month - which means stockpiling when you get a great deal on say, cereal.

Which brings me to some of the issues I have:  first, many of the items that you have coupons for are for overprocessed foods - - things that come in boxes that need to be reconstituted or frozen or shaped and reformed.  You know what I mean - - foods that are "convenient" foods.  Many times these items are not as good for you as food that is freshly prepared. 

Secondly, how good it is to stockpile?  Some items don't expire - like soaps and shampoo, but others like food, usually have an expiration date.  I bought some pretzels through a dry foods bulk order coop that went stale well before we could eat them all and ended up throwing a couple of large bags away.  Is that a bargain?  (OK -- we forgot we had them in the basement, so maybe it's a storage issue, but still it was sad to throw away food.)  If we stockpile, are we hoarding like the farmer in the Bible who filled his barns and then died?  Just some questions I have.  What do you think?

And third, does couponing tempt us to purchase items that we will never use?  There are items in my pantry that I had bought quite some time ago that have been in there since the beginning of time - - okay, not quite that long, but you get my drift.  Cans of soup that I bought marked low-sodium by mistake, for example. (Yes, these expire!)  I guess you can clear them out before they expire and send them to the local food bank, but I swear there are some that I have had in there since we moved here eight years ago!  Does couponing tempt us to buy things that perhaps we should leave on the shelf at the grocery store? 

As I mentioned there are several sites that deal with couponing.  I am putting these along the side margin for your perusal.  I currently use Coupon Mom for printing coupons from on-line.  It's free, so that saves me money from the get go!  There are also several books out there that touch on couponing and frugality.  I will post those, as well.  Many of these can be borrowed from the library.

God Bless,
Jennifer