A storm’s a brewing and it isn’t named Sandy. This storm is a budget overhaul that came in the form of a challenge set forth by Kit’s husband Forrest. He challenged Kit to cut her budget over the next three months by approximately 18%. This storm hit Friday mid-morning.
Kit texted me, alerting to storm clouds rolling in as she headed to the mountains. At first I thought this idea seemed insane, ludicrous. I reminded her that the next three months included the months of November and December. It isn’t a very budget friendly season. But something intrigued me and I told her if she was up for the challenge I would try it as well. I once had a friend tell me you can do anything for three months. It was time to put that theory to the test.
As Kit chased children around the mountain house, I began to formulate our plan of attack. We both looked at our monthly budgets. There isn’t much room for cutting here. Except of course in the way of discretionary monthly spending. We both vowed to be better at that. Then we talked about the controllable costs like the monthly grocery budget, gas and entertainment. We decided that the most efficient and effective place to start would be grocery. We promised to both come up with six weeks worth of meal plans and reconvene on Monday.
I am no fan of the Extreme Couponing show but some how I got swept up in the bargain chasing buzz this weekend. I want to share a little of what I learned and also let you all in on the challenge so as to be more accountable. Just as with Kit there is strength in numbers. Doing this alone could be frustrating and daunting, but together it’s fun.
I started my couponing quest on the Internet. I searched all the couponing blogs that shop at my local and favorite stores. The three I shop most often are Harris Teeter, Target and The Fresh Market. What I liked about these sites is that they do the legwork for you. One great site is www.TotallyTarget.com. Here they list all the current Target coupons and match them with manufacturer coupons and in-store sales. They even list all the gift card deals. You know the –if you buy two P&G products with this coupon you get a $5 gift card. Talk about sharing the wealth. Another interesting site is www.5dollardinners.com. The founder of the site was a missionary and had to feed a lot of people on a shoestring budget (sound familiar?). It was very informative with recipes, meal plans and coupon how to’s. Here I printed out the monthly menu form and filled it in with six weeks worth of dinners. That’s really half the battle… knowing what you’re going to cook and having it on hand or ready for the crockpot.
I am already an avid coupon clipper. The major reason is because my mom can still do this task. However, she also clips the pictures of hair models and the replica of “the jewel of the sea” Titanic diamond ad. I have her clip every coupon because I give the ones I don’t use away. So I have a basket of coupons. I went online and printed out ones for specific items on my grocery list. Most stores will take both a newspaper manufacturer coupon as well as a printed coupon for the same item. Then add to that a store coupon and you’re saving some major coin.
I have a template I use as my grocery list. I filled in what was needed and highlighted the items I had coupons for in yellow. I folded that list in half stapled the sides and put all corresponding coupons inside. I will not, I repeat, I will not use one of those big ass binders with coupon protectors inside. I was done and ready to shop. But I was struck with fear. What if I missed a coupon or went over my budget. Seriously, I was second guessing my ability to grocery shop.
I decided to start small. I went to my local Harris Teeter to get some select items. They didn’t have some of my sale items and I was disappointed but I saved about $5 and only spent $35. I left the store feeling ready to tackle a big shop. Tomorrow I would hit Target. During the process I realized it would be nice to have an app that kept a running total of all my receipts. After a little searching I found Receipt Hog. This app takes a picture of your receipt, uploads it and saves it for you. Your purchase information is then used by a marketing firm to forecast trends. The neat part is they pay you in coins for each receipt which you can then donate to charity or trade in for cash. I thought it was a great way to give back. I also found another helpful app Food On The Table. This app allows you to enter your weekly menu. It then creates a grocery list of ingredients that you can keep or delete then matches the kept items with sales at local stores you frequent. OMG! I love technology.
So that’s where we’re at… three days into a major change. It’s never dull around here. I bet you can’t wait to see what we come up with next week. I’ve got to run there are coupons that need clipping.