Monday, August 18, 2008

My Frugal Journey

I had a good laugh when I read this post today. I'm sure my husband could have written it. The coupon box, the stockpile, CVSing, the adrenaline rush as you plan and execute your shopping excursion--it's all stuff I can relate to.

I started getting in to the whole "frugal" thing more than a year ago. It was a gradual process that started after H was born. With two children, I desperately wanted to stay home more. I would have quit my job then and there if it weren't for one problem: Going to medical school cost about as much as our first two mortgages combined. And somebody was going to be coming after us pretty quick if we stopped paying that loan back.

There's no going back and saying, "Excuse me, I've decided I don't want to be a doctor after all. I'd like to return this degree. Can I have my money back?" Which is really unfortunate, because I'm pretty good at returns in other situations.

That little problem combined with the fact that hubby was between (paying) jobs at the time made the stay at home mom deal not an option. I hated the fact that decisions about how to care for our children were being dictated by money. I never wanted to be in that position again, so we determined to make debt retirement a priority.

We started out by cutting back on frivolous expenses like eating out and getting Starbucks regularly. I started buying store brand items to save on groceries.

The next step in my frugal evolution came from reading Jeana's blog. I was intrigued by some of her comments about combining coupons with sales to get things free or nearly free. I started asking myself her coupon question: "Would I use this item if I could get it for free?" If so, I clipped the coupon. My stockpile began to grow. I would strike deals here and there, but was far from expert at it. (Jeana's actually evolved past the coupon stage now, but I'm not there yet.)

By saving the coupons until the item was on a super sale, I started to get more brand-name items for less than I'd been spending on the store brand. I signed up for the free trial of the Grocery Game during this phase. It was good training to learn how to scan the sale papers for the best deals to match with my coupons. I started trying to stock up on things when they hit the rock bottom (preferably free) price rather than waiting until we needed something and paying whatever they're asking at the time.

Then, I discovered Money Saving Mom and progressed to a new level of frugality. I took her Supermarket Savings course and read CVS 101. It opened up a whole new world to me! My first big CVS heist, and I was hooked!

I talked B into CVSing with me one night. As we walked in, I assured him he'd have so much fun that he'd be out doing it on his own! We split up the list between the two of us, because, although I'm usually brave enough to ask the cashier to split my things into two orders, I've never been brave enough to do more than that. (With one exception, but she asked for it!) When you've got multiple $2 off $10 coupons, you really don't want to go over $10 per order, you know. I gave B the quick check out tutorial - "Give her the CVS card first, then your items, then the $/$$ couons, then the manufacturer's coupons, and finally pay with the ECBs. Don't let those manufacturer's coupons out of you hand until the $/$$ coupons are scanned or it screws up the whole deal!" He was a good sport about the whole thing. And while my prediction that he'd want it to be his new hobby hasn't come true, he did have at least a smirk on his face when we walked out with 4 bags full of stuff they'd basically paid us to take off their hands.

It's been a fun way to make the most of what God has given us. I view each dollar saved as a little less time away from my precious children. I've been able to stretch our dollars and have plenty left over to share with others. Our church's food pantry got a case of pasta when Meijer was "giving them away." The homeless ministry has gotten high-end toiletries, courtesy of CVS. I've found frugality to be contagious, too. I've got my sister in law hooked, as well as Julie - whose husband even hijacks her blog to brag about her great deals!

I'm still learning and evolving in my management of our family's resources. I'm thankful to the many wise and godly ladies I've "met" and learned from courtesy of the internet. And I'm very much looking forward to November 1, when the fruits of my frugality are starting to pay off and I'm stepping down to part time at work!!


Lois R. said...

Good for you!!! Just think....because you started this when you were so young, you'll have saved a bundle by the time you reach retirement!!! When you reach retirement you see how much money you could have saved if you'd really tried! A good thing to teach your children also!

Lori said...

I feel as if I have lost a week. I'll be back to catch up on your tomorrow. Your vacation pictures are so cute.

Hopefully, I'll see you tomorrow.

I see you have a Birthday coming up soon.