July 25, 2014

How to Get Started With Couponing & Coupon Sites

I’m not a huge couponer but I do use coupons and they do help me save money! Every little bit of savings adds up in the long run! Do you want to start using coupons but have no idea how to get started?  Here are some basic steps for how to get started with couponing and at the bottom of the post is a list resources to find printable coupons.

Here's a basic guide for how to get started using coupons and a list of resources for printable coupons

If you’re not familiar with couponing it can be a bit intimidating at first!

A coupon is a piece of paper (or digital “piece of paper”)  from the manufacturer or store that offers you a discount for a specific item. Coupons can be used at most stores that carry that particular product. To be able to receive the discount you need to purchase the item that the coupon is for and give the coupon to the cashier (it’s easier to refer to paper coupons but coupons are also available in a digital format).  The cashier will run your coupon across the scanner and the amount of the coupon will be taken off your purchase price of that item.

How to Get Started Using Coupons

1. Start gathering your coupons. There are many places you can find coupons.  Newspapers, magazines, in stores,  online printables, and ones you can load to a shoppers card or app. In the newspaper almost every week you can get the Red Plum and Smart Source inserts.  The first week of each month Procter and Gamble has an insert in the paper as well.

Many magazines have great coupons as well.  All You is always full of great coupons.  Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Family Circle and Red Book often have manufacturer coupons.

You can also look for coupons on products on store shelves when you walk though the store.   There are  a lot of great websites to get coupons from like coupons.comredplum, Mambo Sprouts (natural & organic coupons). There are also times you can get great coupons printed out right at the register.

If you have certain products or brands that are your favorite try emailing the companies or calling them to request coupons.  Some companies offer special coupons if you follow them on social media sites as well.

When you are ready to take on more coupons start asking friends and family members to save any unused coupons or complete inserts they have.  Some people also choose to have more then one paper delivered to their homes. There are also coupon clipper sites you can get more coupons from.

*You can usually print out more than one coupon but you can not make a copy of a printable coupon

2.Decide how you want to organize your coupons.  There are three well known “systems”, the binder, the small coupon organizer and keeping the entire insert.

* Keeping a coupon binder is great but can be very time consuming. You’ll need a 3 ring binder, baseball card dividers and section dividers.  If your binder is organized just right and you come across an unexpected sale you can easily flip through to see if you have a coupon for that item.  It is best to organize the coupons in your binder by certain categories. This will take more time in the beginning but in the long run will save you time and money.

* The small coupon organizer is great for organizing coupons if you’re not going to try extreme couponing.   You could combine this system with the binder method and when you have a certain trip planned you can get out all the coupons you know you will need for that trip out of your binder and organize them in the small organizer. Check out the way I organize my coupons here

One way to organize coupons is to use a small expanding file -see how to use this system efficiently

* Keeping all the inserts is a great option too.  You can organize them in a little file box by date which will help when searching the deal hunting sites and they tell you which date to get certain coupons from.  Be sure to regularly clean out your expired coupons.

You can always donate the expired coupons to the troops.  They must be clipped manufacturers coupons. You can send them here:

Support Our Troops® 
P.O. Box 70
Daytona Beach, FL 32115-0070

Couponing-how to get started

3. Check the sales circular for your grocery store. When it is time to do your shopping, go though the stores circular ads and make your grocery list. Go though your coupons and match the sales with what coupons you have in your coupon stash. This is how you save!

*B1G1 (Buy 1 Get 1 Free) + coupons saves you money.  Stacking (a store coupon + a  manufacturers coupon) saves you money. Knowing your lowest price for an item + using a coupon saves you money (see my post on how to make a price book here)

You want to be as organized as possible so you won’t get overwhelmed when you are checking out. You may want to start out by just going to the store for your coupon items if you’ve never used coupons before or if you’re using a lot of coupons. Once you’re comfortable with the whole process you can then combine your trips and get your coupon and non-coupon items in the same shop.

There are lots of  coupon match-up sites that do a lot of  the hard work for you!  They tell you what’s on sale and tell you where to find a coupon for that item (see the resource list below for some of those sites)

4.  Check your stores coupon policy. When preparing your first coupon trip you will want to be sure to check out that stores coupon policy which can usually be found on the stores website. It is best to print it out and have it with you at the store.   If you can’t find it online ask someone at the customer service desk if they can get you a copy.  It is always good to have a copy with you in case anything comes up at the register because some stores limit how many coupons you can use on a certain item and other things.  (Sometimes you get a cashier that needs to be reminded about the store’s coupon policy)

5. Double check your items and the coupons you are going to use.  Before you check out, check your list and make sure you got everything that you planned on getting with your coupons and that you have the correct coupon. It’s a good idea to count how many coupons you are going to use if your are using a lot of them. It’s easier to make sure that all of them scanned properly when you check your receipt when you know the total number of coupons you used.

You may have to visit a few different stores to maximize your savings. But by using coupons you will be able to get sale products to stock up on for cheap or sometimes even for free!

Coupon Resource Sites:

  1. Krazy Coupon Lady
  2. Money Saving Mom
  3. Southern Savers
  4. Passion for Savings
  5. Hip2Save
  6. CouponMom
  7. I Am That Lady

Happy couponing!

13 Unique Ways To Save Money

Written by Jess Weaver for A Cultivated Nest.

Are you tired of being in debt? Maybe you just want to save some money for something special. Well, there are many ways you can save a bit of cash, while still living (and loving) life that may not be your ordinary way to save money!

13 Unique Ways to Save Money

Here are 13 unique ways you can start saving money right away:

#1. Get Weird
Hear me out, start picking up every penny, nickel, dime, and dollar you see on the street. People may look at you a little weird, but it’s a great way to save up money over time.

#2. Leftovers
Make it known that you are willing to accept any one’s hand me downs and leftovers. This leftover thing doesn’t need to be weird. Just take leftovers when people offer them to you (after holidays and family gatherings, work functions, church functions). Better you use them than to have them thrown out.

#3. Don’t wash your hair
If you usually wash your hair every day try every other day or every third day. You’ll save money on hair care products and water.

#4. Go With a Store Bought Phone
In today’s day and age, you can save a ton of money by going with a store bought phone. Straight Talk has the same service (in most locations) as the bigger brands, like AT&T and Verizon.

#5. Hang Around Thrifty People
If you are spending a lot of time with people who spend money, then you will probably spend a lot of money as well. Hang around cheap/thrifty people and you are less likely to spend money.

#6. Be “Stingy”
Americans spend way more money than they really need to. It’s time to get a little stingy with your money. You don’t need to go out with your friends every weekend or leave the house every day (unless you work of course). Stay home and watch the dollar signs add up.

#7. Go to Bed Earlier
I know some of you have to stay up and work or whatever it is you do at night. However, going to bed when it gets dark outside is one way to save money on electricity.

#8. Detail Your Own Car
You probably ignore this part of your car anyways, but in case you get the itch to pay someone to do this. Don’t do it. Simply wash, wax, and detail your own car to save some money in the long run. If you’d like to make extra money, you could even start a little side business in the car detailing department.

#9.Use a Clear Jar
Every time you get some change –  a penny, quarter, or dime put it in the clear jar. It’s amazing what you can save over a short (or long) period of time. The clear jar helps you see your progress a little better.

#10.  Clearance Section
Have you ever stopped and looked in the clearance/markdown section of the grocery store? It’s not just old food that’s sitting there to be bought. Most of the time this is food that is simply changing labels (companies decide to upgrade branding from time to time). They put it in the clearance section to make room for new stuff or a new meat sale starts and they have to get rid of meat to make room.

#11. Get Rid of Not Only Cable but Your Internet
If you want to really save money, consider getting rid of your internet. This might take some getting used to, but there are plenty of free WiFi spots all over town.

#12. Skip Couponing (if you’re an over spender)
If you are an over spender, sometimes couponing can lead to you spending more money than you would without couponing. Only coupon for what you need.

#13. Recycle Everything
No joke, recycling  or repurposing can help you save a lot of money. However, you don’t want to be one of those people on a television show because you decided to collect every single piece of paper you came across (trust me).

I hope these tips for little things you can do to save money help you!

You might also like:

How to Make a Budget Binder & Free Printables
Budget Binder - Bill Paying Schedule Linking To: Thrifty Thursday

How To Get Started With Canning

Home canning is definitely experiencing a revival! Today I have Sadie Lankford sharing some tips for how to get started with canning.

Great tips for how to get started with canning

Thinking of canning? Here are some tips to get you started.

Do your homework. Read books about canning for beginners (check your library before buying any books), watch YouTube videos, and read articles (like this one!). Take notes, so you can use them when you get started.

Buy supplies as you can afford them or ask around before buying. The basic supplies you’ll need (or might want) include:

– Canning jars. I use ones that I bought for $9 for 12 at Wal-Mart. The seals were included.

– A funnel and ladle, for filling your jars.

– Tongs/jar lifter ( to lift the jars from the water bath.)

– Large stock pot

– Pressure Canner and Cooker

–Non Metallic Spatula

-Cheesecloth to separate solids from liquids

canning equipment

Sterilize, sterilize, sterilize. This step is so important to me when it comes to canning. It might be because I’m overly-cautious, but I always recommend sterilizing your lids and jars in hot, soapy water. After they’re washed, place them in a boiling water bath for up about 8-10 minutes. You can leave the lids in the water until you’re ready to use them, just to be safe and reduce the risk of them coming in contact with something before you seal the jars.

Related article: Prep, Pick, Preserve

Slice and dice! Follow your favorite recipes (I find mine on Pinterest) and slice your fruits and veggies. Keep in mind that tomatoes should have lemon juice added to them before you can them to ensure they keep the proper pH level. Add ascorbic acid solution to fruits so they don’t brown before you can them.

Fill ‘em up! Fill the jars with your vegetables (and/or fruits), and cover them with your pickling solution or boiling water just so you can cover all of the produce. Grab the lids from the water bath, wipe down the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel, and seal them. Next, is processing.

ball jar filled with pickles

Select the correct processing time. The processing time can vary, depending on your ingredients (are they hot or raw?), your jar size, and your elevation. Check out this chart to help you select the correct processing time. The lids of your jars will (or should) make a slight “pop” noise after they’ve been removed from the pot.

Do more research. If you’re still unsure on how to do something, check out books from the library (or buy them from Amazon), and read other how-to guides on canning, pickling, and preserving. It seems that while the basic steps are the same, each person does it a little differently so it’s always great to hear other perspectives.

Remember your why. Canning is a lot of fun, but it’s also work. If you get to a point where you start to get frustrated, remember why you started canning. Was it to save money? Was it so you could ditch the preservatives? Or maybe it was so you could make some extra money! Whatever your why, keep it in mind!

Sadie Lankford  blogs at Slap Dash Mom where she shares lots of different things like recipes, crafts, fitness tips & parenting stories.

15 Great DIY Money Saving Household Cleaners

Moving to a greener lifestyle often means giving up some things we have become accustomed to and while that can often be scary, it can also be really amazing if we give it a try. One thing that I first did when I decided to live a greener lifestyle was to get rid of as many chemicals as I could. I started with my cleaning supplies. I was worried that switching to a greener DIY approach would mean my homemade cleaners wouldn’t be as effective as store bought cleaners. I’m happy to report that I was wrong (although I’ve found they do take a bit more elbow grease or time to soak).

15 natural household cleaners you can make your self
So if you are getting started on making your own cleaners whether out of a desire to be more eco-friendly or just because you want to save some money, here are 15 great DIY Money Saving Household Products to get you started!

15 DIY Money Saving Household Cleaners

1. Homemade  Cleaning Wipes from Organized Home

2. Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent from The Frugal Girls

3. Homemade Carpet Powder By Crunchy Frugalista

4. DIY Hardwood Floor Cleaner by Clean Mama

5. DIY Soft Scrub Abrasive Cleaner by Saved By Grace

6. DIY Orange Basil Vinegar Cleaner by The Happier Homemaker

7. DIY Stain Remover for Clothing by The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking

8. DIY Glass & Window Cleaner by The Dabblist

9. Homemade Swiffer Wetjet Refills by Surviving the Stores

10. DIY Miracle Deep Cleaning Spray (For stuck on food, grease and soap scum) by Saved by Grace

11. Make Your Own Liquid Laundry Detergent by One Good Thing By Jillee

12. Screen Cleaner (for Tvs, Computer Screens, ipads etc) by Brown Thumb Mama

13. Homemade Reusable Dryer Sheets by Clarks Condensed

14. Homemade Citrus Cleanser by One Good Thing By Jillee

15.  DIY Liquid Soap from A Cultivated Nest

These are all easy to make, eco-friendly and frugal!
15 diy money saving household cleaners (roundup)

Tips For Saving Money on Organic Meat

Post contributed  by Christine Tolhurst

Most people know there are ways to save money on organic fruits and vegetables, but if you are trying to go as organic as you can in your diet, you will notice the sticker shock when you go to purchase organic meat.

Great tips for saving money on organic meatYou will often find that the price is double or more what you are used to paying! Even when it’s not organic, meat is hard to save money on. Here are some tips for saving as much as you can on organic meat.

How to Save Money on Organic Meat

  1. Buy a whole or half of an animal and split the cost. Get some friends or family members together and directly buy from the farmer. Many times, this is the cheapest way. Each of you can split the cost and the meat. Just make sure you have the freezer room!
  2. Look for wholesaler sales in your area. There are some great wholesale companies popping up that directly sell to the public via “events” (like Zaycon). They ask you to pay for and reserve a large portion of meat (usually entire cases) and you come to the event, mostly held in business or church parking lots, and pick up your order at a later date. Many times, these wholesalers deal with farms that do not practice factory farming techniques such as corn feeding and often the food is natural and cage free.
  3. Buy from farmer’s markets. If you are lucky enough to have an expanded one held in your area, you can often get organic or grass fed beef and other meat at these events. Since they come directly from the farmer, you can ask questions and they are often cheaper. This is a great way to go if you don’t have the space for a whole or half of an animal.
  4. Check out wholesale clubs. These big box stores like Costco are starting to meet the demand from consumers to bring in more organic choices and one of them is meat. You can often find it much cheaper when bought in bulk at these low-cost buying markets.
  5. Just like with meat that is not organic, the less desired cuts are often cheaper when they are organic as well. While these may take longer to cook, they are perfect for crock pot recipes!
  6. Check to see if your community offers a CO-OP. This is kind of like a members only way to shop where it is run by volunteers (usually the members, so it might mean you will have to do some volunteer work as well) and collaborates with local farmers and producers to contract with them for a low price that is desired by the co-op community. Sometimes you can get organic and natural meat at 20-30% off store prices!
  7. Visit your local old fashioned butcher shop. He or she may have some great tips for you and insider places to buy from and they may even have some great sales themselves.
  8. Be aware of portion size. The recommended size for meat is about as big as the palm of your hand, typically about 3 ounces.  Use less meat and round out your meals with more vegetables or grains.

Follow these tips and buying organic meat will be much more affordable!

Christine Tolhurst enjoys finding bargains, reading, and cooking. Her blog, Saved By Grace was started in 2011 and led to a passion for writing and sharing her tips for frugal living as well as a fun mix of other random topics.

Linking to:  All Things Thursday

7 Ways Your Smartphone Can Save You Money

There are so many ways you can use your favorite techy gadget to save you money. If you are going to take it everywhere you go, why not put it to work for something besides Facebook or Angry Birds? Here are some ways your smartphone can save you money that you may not have thought of!

7 ways your smartphone can save you money

Ways Your Smartphone Can Save You Money

1. Apps, apps and more apps. Everyone knows that the best thing about having a smartphone is all the fun apps you can put on it to simplify life and keep you entertained. However, did you know there are apps out there to help you find the best price of gas in your area (Gas Buddy)? Or how about apps designed to do the price matching for you when you head out to buy groceries (Favado)? There’s an app that gives your rebates on purchases (Ibotta). Target has a mobile coupon app that  will save you money (Cartwheel). Most of these apps are free, and they will help you keep your finances in check.

2. Use your calculator function. The calculator on your smartphone is one of the best ways to make sure you stay in budget. Just use it while you go through the store and add up things as you go along or figure out exactly how much a % off is (this is especially good if you’re not great at math). This way, there are no surprises when you get to the register on what you will be paying and you can better monitor if something is really a good deal.

3. Use your smartphone as a camera. No need to buy a fancy camera. These days smartphones take great photos and there are several apps that you can use to edit your photos to make them even better.

4. Look up digital coupons and deals in-store. Many times, advertisers do not advertise some of the deals they have. Instead, they have them available only if you search them out online. Google digital coupons that can be used right at the register while you check out. Also, find out if your favorite stores do digital text coupons. One store, Target, has an SMS text service that will send those that subscribe coupons periodically that contain a QR or Bar code that can be scanned for savings.

5.  Track your spending with your smartphone. If you are trying to keep your budget in check, getting an app that allows you to track your spending, such as the one from MINT.com, will help you do that. MINT’s app allows you to track spending, deposits and more while keeping an eye on all your bank activity. OneReceipt let’s you track your spending by taking a photo of your receipt & uploading it to your account.

6. Save money on gas AND not buying a GPS system  by using your phone’s navigation. Typically, most smartphones have built in navigation or you can get a free app. Even if you are not new to your area, you may be taking the longer way around to your destinations. Use your navigation to find routes that are the quickest way to get to any destination thereby saving you not only time, but gas.

7. Use your smartphone to compare prices. If you really like to compare prices, but don’t want to drive from store to store, use your smartphone at one store to look up prices at nearby competitors for their prices on the same item. You may find that you are already holding the lowest price on that item, and which case you just saved time and money by not having to drive all over. Plus, your smartphone gives you the ability to not only compare brick and mortar store prices, but also hunt for a better deal online. Use the lower price to price match!

Hope this gives you some new ideas. How do you use your smartphone to save you money?

 

how to use your smartphone to save you money

 

Thrifty Finds, Frugal Hits & A Miss

It’s been a while since I shared some of our frugal doings and thrifty finds. Instead of having garage sales we’ve been donating our stuff to Goodwill and of course, I have to run in while my husband drops stuff off. At least we’re donating waaay more than I’m buying! :)  Here are some recent thrift store finds.

Thrifted rooster print

I found this fabulous rooster print for $3.93! It says French Roosters, 1 in a series of 2 and its from Target. I don’t ever remember seeing these at Target?

thrift store pasta maker

We found a pasta maker! Can’t wait to try this out.

Thrifted Davis and Waddel pepper mill

Look at this fabulous yellow pepper mill! It’s a Davis and Waddell and retails for around $30 I paid $1.91!

We also got a Weider Workout Bench for $8 (it’s too dark in the garage to photo graph it).

Here are a few money stretching ideas that we did:

fresh picked lettuce

- greens are going strong in the garden so we haven’t had to buy any lettuce or kale (although if it gets any hotter my lettuce will bolt)

Sherwin Williams cedar deck stain

- after getting an estimate of $1300 to pressure wash and stain our deck (not including the screened porch floors), we bit the bullet and did it ourselves. Maintenance people…if we hadn’t let the deck go for as long as we did it would have been a much easier job!

- we started unplugging our washer and dryer when not in use. Our outlets are behind our units so it’s easy for us to do. The first bill that we got after implementing this was for a few weeks was 775 kWh used down from 877 kWh used the previous month and we had already turned the ac on a few times.

Frugal fail – I had read that people were putting their deep freezers on timers and having them cycle on 12 hours off 12 hours. We tried 6 hours to begin with and experienced no problems in the first few days and then I noticed that some things we’re feeling a bit soft in our freezer. So we discontinued using a timer on our deep freezer. It might have been our timer (it was an old one) or  our freezer (it’s old too) or something else.  I know other people had great success reducing their electric bill with no issues by having their freezers cycle on and off. So you may want to test it for yourself.

Found anything great at the thrift store lately? Have any frugal tips you’d like to share?

Linking to: Thrifty Thursday

How I Organize My Coupons

Let me say first off, I am NOT an extreme couponer. I use coupons for the things I normally buy and I don’t spend huge amounts of time clipping coupons. I’m more into using my price book (link) and using the pantry principle (link). But if you do one or both of those techniques AND use coupons, you can save even more! In order to be able to use my coupons at the grocery store without spending a lot of time rummaging around looking for what I need,  I organize my coupons in a way that allows me easy access to them. I’ve been using this system for a year now.

Organizing system for coupons using an according file

Because I want to save time while grocery shopping, I spend more time upfront organizing my coupons. I only cut out the coupons for products that I normally use (so I’m not cutting out every coupon that I see).

The way I organize my coupons is to use a little expanding file that you can find anywhere (mine is from Target). They typically have 12 – 13 slots. That’s not enough space to really have my paper coupons properly organized. I think what most people do (because this is what I used to do) is to have 12 broad categories and all the coupons from that category go into that one slot.

So, for example,  in the “Canned” category most people would put all canned products together and then you’d have to sift through all of them to find the coupons for canned fruit.

coupon organizing system

With this system I break up that larger category into smaller ones. For example, in my Canned category I have Canned-fruit, Canned-vegetables/beans, Canned-tomatoes/salsa(includes pasta sauce), Canned-other (misc canned products like tuna & soup which I don’t buy a lot of). This way I can go directly to the canned fruit coupons without sifting through all the other canned product coupons.

coupon organizer

So there are main categories and sub-categories. Now your sub-categories will be different from mine because we all have different shopping needs.  You can make your sub-categories whatever it is that you buy.  I don’t buy cereal but maybe you do so you might need a main category for “Breakfast” and then sub-categories for whatever “breakfast” things you buy. Or you can put “breakfast cereal” under the main category of “Packaged Goods”. I don’t have a lot of categories for “Cleaning” because I make a lot of my own cleaners. You may not. Do what works for you!

coupon organizing system using subcategories in an according file coupon clutch

There are certain things that I mostly purchase at Target, so I made one of my slots a main category of  “Target” and then I have sub-categories of  Target-beauty products, Target-body wash/lotion, Target-dental hygiene, Target-hair care and so on. Even if I find a better deal on those products elsewhere I still have my coupons organized in such a way that I know where all my lotion coupons are etc.

So decide what main categories you use and then what sub-categories make sense for you.

How I Made My Coupon Organizer

Materials:

  1. coupon organizer/expanding file/coupon clutch
  2. label maker (or you can hand write your categories)
  3. card stock to make dividers (or large index cards)

Directions:

  1. decide what main categories you want to use
  2. decide your sub-categories
  3. cut enough card stock dividers – mine measure about  6″ x 4″ ( I alternated yellow, green and blue for my categories)
  4. label your dividers with the main category first – followed by the sub-category  {example: Canned-fruit, Canned-meats, Canned-tomato products, Canned-vegetables and so on}
  5. alphabetize your dividers.  My first category is Baking, the next is Beverages, Canned and so on. You can alphabetize your dividers within your main categories or not. I have Baking-supplies first, then Baking- cake mixes/pancake mix because I buy mostly baking ingredients (flour, yeast, sugar etc). I need those coupons more than the cake mix ones. But arrange them in a way that works for you.
  6. Insert your dividers into your coupon organizer and add your coupons in the appropriate sections
  7. That’s It!!!

Before going grocery shopping I usually check an online coupon matchup site like Southern Savers to see what the sales are and also what coupons I can print out. I also download coupons to my grocery store loyalty card. If I’m going to Target I check for coupons on that site and at the store I scan everything to see if there are any Cartwheel savings.

expanding file coupon organizing system

Like I said before, I don’t spend a lot of time clipping coupons and this system wouldn’t work if you are a heavy couponer (just because there’s not enough space in these expanding files for all the coupons you would need to use).

I’m always looking for ways to save money and I really believe that little things add up. Some of us have more time than money and once you invest a bit of that time in setting this system up, you’ll find it so much easier to find and use your coupons. That’s the important part, if you don’t use them they can’t save you money!

Hopefully this system will help those of you that would like to be a little more organized with your coupons!

You might be interested in my Frugal Living/Simple Living board on Pinterest.

Follow Me on Pinterest

7 Ways Your Smartphone Can Save You Money

7 ways your smartphone can save you money

Creative Ways To Visualize Your Debt Repayment

We all need a little motivation to keep going when we’re paying down debt – especially if it’s large amount. I know from personal experience that sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s easy to get discouraged. Some of us need to come up with some strategies that make debt repayment something tangible where we can actually see it working.

Dave Ramsey Quote on a chalkboard

Dave Ramsey quote I wrote on a chalkboard

We used to be debt free….not anymore.  Long story short, our daughter made the decision to transfer to another college sort of at the last minute and pretty much lost a lot of her scholarships and grants last year. So we took out a Plus Loan for $15,750 to help pay for that year (which was not the whole amount of tuition btw ). In hind sight, I’m not sure it was the right move to make but what’s done is done. We worked our way out of debt before and we can do it again and at least it’s not credit card debt for stuff that I didn’t really need but wanted :)

Anyway, I’m a visual person so I thought it would help me if I could find some visual ways to track that debt reduction besides using the debt tracker worksheet in my Budget Binder. You know- to keep me motivated so I can see the amount coming down since it’s so huge. Here are a few ideas that I found!

visual motivation for debt repayment - paper chain

Debt Repayment Paper Chain – make a paper chain to track your debt free progress like this one from The Drumgoole Family Blog. Each link represents a set amount of money (whatever you decide). As you make a payment you remove a link. As your chain gets smaller your debt gets smaller until the day you remove the last chain and that debt is paid! What a great visual motivator!

You can hang it off the back of a door or as a garland on a wall. Some place private or some place where everyone can see it – it’s up to you.

debt repayment chalkboard thermometer

Debt Thermometer - you can make one on a chalkboard like this one at  Doctor In Debt, wipe off board, paper or poster board like the one below from My Total Money Makeover.

example of using a debt thermometer as visual motivation to paying off debt

You can put the total amount of debt on the top and each bar represents a payment amount. You can make larger bars represent a percentage of the debt paid. You can also do it in reverse and have the top be zero. Fill it in as you make payments to track where you are in your debt repayment plan.

Here’s one that you can print out Free Printable Thermometer and color in.

Or how about some thing like this to keep you motivated. A gallery wall of framed Dave Ramsey quotes with a chalkboard that keeps a running total of debts that you can change out monthly. (Money + Debt Pinterest Board)

gallery wall with Dave Ramsey Quotes and chalkboard debt tracker

I’m kind of leaning toward printing out a debt thermometer and tacking that on my bulletin board where I see it every day.

Have you used any visual tools to help keep you motivated in your debt free journey?

Creative ways to visualize your debt repayment plan

 

20 Brilliant Ways To Use Leftover Bread

We’ve been baking our own bread for years now but we don’t eat as many sandwiches as we used  and homemade bread doesn’t last as long as store bought bread,  so I always wind up with some bread in the freezer.  I don’t want to waste any food so I was wondering what you could make with leftover bread other than using it as a binder in meatloaf,  making stuffing, or using it for making french toast.  I found some great ideas!

20 Brilliant Ways To Use Leftover Bread

20 Brilliant ways to use leftover bread - waste not want not!

Waste not want not!

  1. Leftover Bread & Cheese Patties from Give Recipe
  2. Artichoke Spinach Goat Cheese Strata from eat.drink.smile
  3. Italian Panzanella (bread salad) from Martha Stewart
  4. Italian Bread Soup  from A Little Bit Crunchy
  5. Baked Cinnamon Toast Triangles from Orangette
  6. Homemade Croutons from A Sweet Chef
  7. Cheese, Onion, Bread Souffle from Real Simple
  8. High-Fiber Bread Quiche from Big Oven
  9. Homemade Bread Crumbs from Creative Savings Blog
  10. Classic Bread Pudding from Mikey’s In My Kitchen
  11. German Dumplings from The Food Club’s Food
  12. Vegetable Bread Tart from Delectable Victuals
  13. Grilled Dark Chocolate Sandwich from Kitchen Daily
  14. Pineapple Upside Down Cakes made with leftover hamburger buns from Real Simple
  15. Queen of Puddings from les-trois-chenes.hubpages
  16. Apple Pan Charlotte  from Real Simple
  17. Tomato Bread Soup from SparkPeople
  18. Easy Pancake Recipe with Leftover Bread from Frugal Foodie Recipes
  19. Coconut Cinderella Crisps from Winnipeg Free Press
  20. Leftover Bread Breakfast Casserole from What’s For Dinner?

What do you do with leftover bread?

 

Lower Your Grocery Bill Without Couponing

I want to share with you  something that has really been helping me save money on my grocery bill! Actually, I’ve re-introduced two strategies that are helping me with my budget.   I made a  grocery store price book and I’m back to weekly menu planning! In this post I’ll just explain the ins and outs of making a Grocery Store Price Book and I’ll do menu planning in another post.

Lower your grocery bill without couponing -learn how to make a grocery store price book

This is definitely an old school strategy to saving money. I learned about making a grocery price book many, many…many years ago from Amy Dacyzyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette  ( great book  if you haven’t already read it and a good one to re-read even if you have).  A few months ago I  started keeping a price book again (haven’t had one in about 8 years).

Grocery prices have gotten so high that what I used to consider the regular price is now the sale price! Plus  there are so many more avenues (online and brick and mortar)  for me to shop for groceries that I decided that a grocery price book was the only way to keep track and to know what a good deal is at least on our every day essential items.

One day boneless chicken breasts were $1.69 lb and then they jumped to $2.29 at  the store with my every day low prices (1.99 is the sale price at Kroger but this store had boneless chicken breast everyday for $1.69)!  It’s all crazy now and I can’t possible “remember” what’s a good price and what isn’t these days!

What is a Grocery Store Price Book

For those of you that have never heard of this concept, a grocery store price book is  just a  place where you track the prices of items that you normally buy.

Organize with binders

Benefits of Keeping a Price Book

Grocery spending is one of the most common areas that people cut when they’re trying to reduce costs.

  • A price book will you allow you to compare prices and make informed buying decisions (how many times have “sale” items in store ads really been the “always” price or a penny or two cheaper = sales gimmick)
  •  A price book will also help you track sales cycles for items
  • A price book will alert you to a change in the size of packaging (downsizing is something manufacturers are doing more and more)
  • A price book can save you money without using a coupon since you will know what the lowest price for that item is and how often it’s at it’s lowest price (that’s when you stock up)

If you can couple the lowest price with a coupon that’s even better. But just buying at the lowest price is good enough for many people.

You can go old school like me and use paper and pencil to track prices. I happen to like using binders for different things. You can also use a tabbed area in your planner(Filofax etc).

Some people share their price books online so can check to see if someone in your area has already tracked some prices by “grocery price book your area” and see if anything comes up.

Digital Price Tracking

You can make an excel spreadsheet.   Make a google document. If you have a smartphone you might try apps like Evernote, Out of Milk,  Mighty Grocery, ValueTracker , Sharky Shopping and I’m sure there are tons more (if you use an app as a price book leave the name in the comments).

High tech or low tech doesn’t matter – anyway that works for you! Just make sure whatever way you choose you are able to update it as needed.

record prices from receipts for your price book

How I made my price book

  1. I thought the easiest way would be to keep my grocery receipts from various stores for a month and then transfer the amounts onto paper. I also used my local sales fliers. You can also  visit the stores that you shop at and go aisle by aisle writing down the prices of things you normally buy.
  2. Decide if you want to keep your price book organized by store, product or category (ex. dairy, boxed foods, fresh fruit etc). I do category.
  3. Write down the store (make yourself a code so you don’t have write out the name each time) item, size, price, date of purchase and make a note if this was a sale price or regular retail price (this way you can track the sales cycle of a product). Unit price is also important to know.  Add whatever info is important to you.
  4. Start with just your top 10-15 items and add more as time permits. Trying to do everything that you always buy at once will take a chunk of time and you’ll probably burn out before finishing this project. Baby steps! I’ve been adding to mine for months!

make a grocery store price book and save money on your groceries without couponing

How to use your price book

You  will always know what the lowest price is. So when you’re looking at a sales ad you’ll know if the sale is worth it or not.

When you see a particular item on sale at a great price, then you’ll know it’s time to stock up!

When you’ve been tracking your prices long enough, you’ll start to see the sales cycle which will help you figure out how much to buy until the next sale. That way you are always stocking up at the lowest price.

I found out that some stores that I thought had the best price for an item didn’t and some stores that I thought had high prices had the best prices on some items. Go figure!

Even if you only shop at one store,  it’s still good to look at Amazon and other online places that offer groceries (Zaycon etc). Especially if you have special dietary challenges.  At the moment, Amazon has the lowest price for certain of our gluten-free grocery items (much lower than Kroger even).

I wouldn’t know that if I didn’t know my prices!

Printable Grocery Store Price Sheet Resources

Price Book Printable by Home Storage Solution pdf

Organized Home Price Book Printable

Dollar Stretcher pdf price book pages (3×5, 5×7 & full sheet sizes)

Store printable @ Grocery Shop For Free

Money Saving Mom Price Book Printables

It takes a bit of initial effort but it’s worth it in the end. Be a smart consumer and know your prices!

Have you ever made a price book?
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2 Financial Challenges You Might Want to Participate In

Hi everyone! Just popping in to let you know about 2 financial challenges that are starting in January that you might want to join in on.

First, there’s 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero
31 Days of Spending Zero

at Living Well & Spending Less. There’s also a closed facebook group that you can ask to join for support in this challenge.

Most people are doing it in January, some people are doing it in February since it’s a shorter month, but really you can do a no spend month anytime it works for you!

Then there’s the 52-Week Money Challenge

The idea is simple! Every week you deposit that number of the week into a jar or savings account. Week 1 you save $1, week 15 you save $15, on week 52 you deposit $52 for example.
52 week savings challenge
*I have no idea who originated this idea or the chart-thank you!*

Some people do it in reverse- $52 for the first week ending with $1 on the last week (might be easier on the budget since it ends in December). Some people even do an “alternating” plan. One week it’s a low amount the next week it’s a high amount, then back to low, back to high etc.  Just cross off the amount as you do it.

Here’s an open 52 Week Money Challenge Facebook page if you’d like support doing this challenge. There are probably others but this one isn’t closed.

Will you be participating in any of these challenges?

Frugal Living Blog Posts You May Have Missed

As 2013 winds down, it’s time to start thinking about what you want to accomplish in the New Year.  I know many of you will be like my family and setting some new financial goals.  I will be focusing more on frugal living this coming new year (the reason behind that is something I’ll share in a later post). But in the mean time , check out these posts that are on this blog already that have to do with living frugally.  Maybe you missed one!

As 2013 winds down, it's time to start thinking about what you want to accomplish in the New Year. Here's a round up of frugal living posts

Here are some of my top frugal living posts that you may have missed.

  1. Making A Budget Binder & A List of Where to Get Free Printable Worksheets (updated frequently)
  2. Learning From the Great Depression
  3. 21 Frugal Tips to Try
  4. How The Envelope System Works
  5. My Top 10 Favorite Frugal Sites
  6. The Basics of the Pantry Principle
  7. Make Your Own Liquid Hand Soap
  8. Home Sweet Frugal Home Series (start here)
  9. Blooms On A Budget
  10. Save Money & Make Your Own Cleaning Products
  11. Coupon Organization so you can actually find and use your coupons!
  12. Lower Your Grocery Bill Without Coupons

Also check out my upcycle category for some great posts on re-purposing lots of things ranging from old jeans and Christmas cards to clothes pins and dressers!

New Year's Resolutions Printable from Mama's Got it Together in my budget binder

Write it down and make it happen! I found this great 2014 New Year’s Resolution printable that’s  in my Budget Binder at Mama’s Got It Together

What are you going to be working on this new year?

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