Have I told you how much I love spreadsheets? I loooooove spreadsheets. So much so that my husband recently reminded me that "sometimes God's plans don't fit in a spreadsheet." It was a good reminder since I tend to put my trust in numbers. I practically moved him down here with a spreadsheet. A formula here, a calculation there ... and voila! ... NY to NC in no time!
I keep track of all our bills with one handy dandy spreadsheet so when my husband was recently laid off I sat down with my "Money 2009" document to figure out where we could possibly cut back. We have income for everything we need and plenty of things that we don't. There are several things we prefer not to give up (internet, cable, cell phones) but have agreed that if necessary we will give up whatever we need to.
After a little research I decided the easiest & quickest solution for saving money is on groceries. Our family of 3 has been on a budget of $90/week for the past two years. Once a month we need to spend about $115 to cover things like t/p, cat litter, and detergent. But generally $90 takes care of all our snacks, meals, and occasional treats. We stopped eating out and have learned to appreciate home more than we used to. We grill and steam and bake and sear to our bellies content and if you've seen us recently, you know we are quite content! But now with Thom out of work we are challenged to spend less.
I felt assured that we could save money with coupons by reading blog after blog. Moneysavingmom.com couponmom.com and dealseekingmom.com for starters. But the more blogs I read the more stressed I became. While the whole notion of "couponing" has overwhelmed my brain I decided it was the only way we could save money. So I better get a grip!
The biggest challenge for me was tackling the CVS situation. If you google "cvs deals 8/2" you should find plenty of links to what I'm talking about. This all was mentioned to me a few years ago by my local barista during those moments of coffee-waiting chit chat but I didn't get it. It seemed like she was spending a lot of money on things she didn't want or need and called it "savings"! So here I am 3 years later reading about CVS for newbies and I finally see the light.
If you don't want the details ... quit reading now. The gist of the following lengthy explanation is that I essentially spent what I would have on diapers and batteries ($25) and got $20 in free stuff. Feel free to move along to your facebook now to find out who's picking their nose or on their way to bed.
Details for the newbie:
1. I had a goal in mind. Diapers. I knew I needed to spend money on diapers, so why not do it somewhere that would let me get a bunch of other stuff for "free".
2. I read a lot of blogs about CVS deals and found helpful information. Try here for starters.
3. I mulled it all over, followed blogs, and planned for 2 weeks.
4. I clipped coupons and organized coupons while mulling.
5. A week ago my husband said he needed razors. I checked and there was a deal so instead of buying them at W@lmart like we usually do, we paid the same amount of $ at CVS but got a coupon in return for $2 for a future trip. Technically this was our starting purchase.
6. I printed an online CVS coupon for "spend $15 and get $3 off". So now I had a total of $5 to start with at the store. I knew I'd be spending at least $15 on diapers.
7. I checked todays newspaper for deals and started a spreadsheet. (Of course!)
8. I made sure I had the right coupons for the items I was purchasing, wrote down my CVS 101 details on my envelope and headed to the store.
One of the things that stressed me out was the multiple transaction process. I didn't know if there was some CVS etiquette that should be followed. For instance, do people go in and purchase their first set of items, leave the store, go back in and purchase the second set? I was anxious about that and decided to just go ask the clerk.
I walked in, grabbed a cart and said to the first clerk I saw "I have a question! I'm new to this CVS extra bucks thing and was wondering if there is some type of etiquette I don't know about. To get the most out of the deals I read that people will make several separate transactions. Can you do that all at once by separating items and just paying for them separately?" And she confirmed that I didn't need to leave the store, put on a disguise and re-enter the store.
I had 20 minutes before the store closed so I made a quick trip through the aisles to get the things on my list. I'm sure I could have done better compared to the professional CVS moms, but I was thrilled with what I got. I made a few mistakes (forgot a coupon, wrote down the wrong price on my spreadsheet, etc.) and there were several items that were already sold out, but overall I think I did well. I spent exactly the same amount of money on diapers and batteries that I would have a month ago except now I got a bunch of stuff for free! And I still have $5 in extra bucks for next time.
Here's a link to my spreadsheet and a few pictures of my transactions. Total out of pocket expense was $24.87