Sunday, October 18, 2009

Playing the game

I like to shop.

There.  I said it.  I don’t think it’s any huge surprise.  My parents are laughing—they know.  My sister,Lauren, will have to have her money pried from her cold lifeless hand.  Me, not so much.  Lauren is my dad.  I am I don’t know who.

As I say that, though, I want to temper it a bit.  I like to shop.  But I don’t like to spend.  At least, not a lot.  Having financial peace and stability means a whole lot more to me than having items and things.  And that’s why I play the game—the money saving game.  It’s really quite easy, and the dividends are tremendous.  None of this is rocket science, and most of it is common sense, but I want to write it out so I can see for myself just how I am doing.  So I’m going to try to break it down a little.

1. Saving money on groceries.

This is one of the largest areas in any family budget.  The grocery budget.  I try to keep our weekly food budget between 35-55 dollars.  Sometimes I go over, but it usually evens out.  We eat fairly simple meals: soups, pastas, meat dishes, etc., that utilize similar ingredients.  I might buy a pack of carrots and celery and use them in two or three meals and as snacks.  Or roast a chicken that then becomes 2-3 different meals.  Sometimes we’ll have egg or potato or soup night, where I just concoct something out of what’s in the fridge.  You can make a frittata with just about anything.  Same with soup.  And leftover vegetables, meat, and cheese become a great baked potato topping.

I do coupon shop at the grocery store; but mostly, I sales ad shop.  A lot of food coupons are for processed products, like Pillsbury rolls or frozen vegetables in sauce or fruit snacks.  We don’t eat these things.  My primary food costs each week come from the produce department.  I buy produce that’s in season, and that is versatile.  In the meat department, I never buy anything that isn’t hugely on sale.  I know what a good price for chicken breast and pork loin looks like, and I only buy them on sale.  We rarely use ground beef (unless we’re having hamburgers) and instead use ground turkey in things like tacos, chili and spaghetti, because it’s cheaper and healthier.

I use coupons for things like cereal, granola bars, coffee, creamers, and canned soup (a fallback lunch for Andy and for me on busy days).  Sometimes I can find coupons for pasta and baking items too.  My coupons come from the Sunday paper, from,, and I can link coupons to my Kroger card at,, and somewhere on the Procter and Gamble website.

2. Saving money on household items

I buy a lot of our household items at Kroger too.  I can often get my facewash (Loreal Revitalift) on sale B1G1 and use coupons, so I pay just  a little bit.  A lot of times I can get great prices on laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels and shampoo and conditioner.  I watch my sales ads and match up my coupons.  The coupons I clip (and store in a binder) come in the most handy with things like cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products.  I always hold on to my coupons until the item is on sale, so I can match it up.  Just today, Hefty trash bags were on sale for 4.99 (regular 7.59) and I had a coupon, so I ended up paying about 4 dollars for my trash bags.

Sometimes I hit Walgreens and CVS, too.  They often have great sales prices, and combined with the Register Rewards and Extra Care Bucks, you can buy a whole lot for just a very little.  I have a stockpile of a lot of things we go through on a regular basis because I have purchased them at rock bottom prices.  A few weeks ago Andy was teasing me about the excess supply of toothbrushes in our bathroom closet.  I’ll be the first to admit that there were several in there, but I realized that I had not paid more than 1 dollar for any toothbrush in there (most were closer to 25-50 cents).  As it turns out, a service organization at my school is collecting items for soldier care packages, and I was able to donate some of my excess.

Another new favorite of mine is the website  It is a website where you can order all of the household items you need and have them delivered to your house.  For those weeks when things are really hectic, or for the things you always forget at the store (or just don’t want to lug around) this is a great resource.  There is always free shipping, and the prices are completely comparable to the prices at my local grocery/drugstore.

3. Saving money on clothes

I can’t tell you the last time I paid full price for something.  It’s been a while, that’s for sure. 

I keep lists of the things that Andy and I need or will need in the future.  For instance, Andy switched jobs, and now has a much more casual work environment, but he did not have a casual wardrobe.  Throughout the summer, I picked up pieces when I could that he could wear to work.  Now, as the temperatures are dropping, he needs a new cold weather wardrobe.  I sat down and figured out what he would need.  I get the sales emails from several stores (Old Navy, GAP, Banana Republic, Kohls mostly), and when something that he needs goes on sale, I order it.  Last weekend I was able to get him several warm shirts at Old Navy that were marked down to 15 dollars for their 15th anniversary, and take an additional 15 percent off with a coupon code.  Yesterday, I was able to get his jeans at Kohls B1G1 and with free shipping and an additional 15 percent off.  Not only do I check the emails, but I search for “Store Name coupon code” before I order anything.  By always knowing what we need and anticipating it, I am never stuck needing to find something at the last minute and having to pay full price.  I do this for non-clothing stores too.  Using things like like the 5 dollars off 30 coupons or the 20% off coupons from Bed, Bath, and Beyond or checking the sales/coupons for Bath Body Works can yield good savings too. 

4. Miscellaneous

I like to keep lists for other things as well.  Christmas gifts, house items, etc.  When the things I am looking for go on sale, then I purchase them.  For example, for my sister’s Christmas gift (it’s okay, she knows what she’s getting), I check the Target ad each week to see if the item I am looking for is on sale.  When it is, I will go to Target and buy it.  Another part of her gift will come from Shutterfly, and when I get a coupon code email saying that I can purchase that type of item for a percentage off, I will order her gift.

I also use for online shopping.  You just sign up for an account for free, and search for the store you are looking for.  Then, you can click on the store from their website and earn back a certain percentage of your purchase.  Then every quarter, they will mail me a check with my rebate.  I was already going to spend the money in the first place, so this is a nice way to get a little bitty piece of it back.

And lastly,  I signed up for swagbucks and use it primarily as a search engine.  I don’t totally know how it works, but I know enough to know that sometimes I earn a swagbuck, and when I earn so many, I can trade it in for something.  So far, I have enough for three, almost four, 5 dollar Amazon gift cards.  I could hold on and get a Starbucks card or a Target card.  I think I’m going to stick with Amazon, though, because I can use it to order Christmas gift.  A handful of people on our Christmas list will end up getting books or other things from Amazon, and this is an easy way for me to save a little money there.

We also use the website to save on our eating out costs.  Let’s be honest, it’s on our sushi eating costs.  Our new favorite sushi bar in Louisville is listed on, and that’s just soooo exciting.  Since Andy and I both feel that a month without sushi is month that isn’t worth living, I can wait and grab a 25 dollar gift card to our sushi restaurant when they go on sale for 2 or 4 dollars.  We have to spend 35 dollars at the restaurant, but that’s not a huge deal.  We usually end up spending 2oish dollars (including a very generous tip—Andy gets excited at sushi restaurants and tips like a madman) for a bill that should have been closer to 45 or 50. 

There you have it.  In a nutshell, some of my favorite ways to save money.


Anonymous said...

In all fairness my money is in the bank...I don't carry it around to be stolen (even out of my lifeless hands).

P.S. Feel free to bury me next to the goat in the woods so you don't waste money!

Lauren :)

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with holding onto your money Lauren, but with the goat???
I am impressed with the ways you are doing saving Ashley. I'll have to try out some of those sites.
Aunt Cris