Tuesday, October 18, 2011

$$$ Money, money, money, money!! $$$

Once you live on your own, is there ever a time in your life when you don't find yourself talking or thinking about money?  It's obviously a conversation that takes place frequently in our house because...well, we're the ones paying the bills! (how much should we put aside for college for each of the boys?  how much are we each contributing to our retirement funds? the list goes on and on), but it's also a conversation that I find myself having with friends, coworkers, etc....everyone wants to save money!  I am, by no means, an expert, but I do consider us to be a pretty frugal family, and I absolutely love getting a bargain.  So, here are a few things we do to try and save a few dollars each month (mostly food related):
  • Non-food related: we asked for a programmable thermostat last year for Christmas.  After quite an effort to get it installed ("Easy 15 minute installation" advertising on the package was a bunch of BS!), I will say that it was definitely worth it!  I was running the AC pretty much constantly in the month July since it was so hot and I was still home on maternity leave, so I didn't bother with programming it.  But, I went back to work at the beginning of August and programmed it to not really run for the 9+ hours that we're not there; doing that made a difference of almost $50 in our monthly electric bill!! 
  • Coupons: I stopped getting the sunday paper (our subscription ran out and I'm holding out on renewing until they offer me a better deal!), but I get at least one packet of coupons in the mail with all of the ads every week.  I also get my mom's leftover coupons once she's gone through them, and we do a coupon exchange at work where we all bring in our stash and clip the leftovers (dorky?  maybe...but it saves!)
  • Stock pile: If I have a coupon, I stock up, even if we don't need it right at that minute.  Fortunately, we have the storage space to do this (for both food and other products, like cleaning supplies, shampoo, soap, etc...)  For example, had you opened up my pantry a few months ago, you would have found about 10 boxes of Kashi cereal bars; they're one of Jake's favorite snacks, and they were .75 off per box at Target that week, and I had coupons for $1 off of 3 boxes.  So, I stocked up!   I do the same thing with meat; I buy the huge packs of chicken breasts and ground beef, then divide it up and freeze it.  Oh!  And diapers!  I have a few boxes of diapers in my laundry room right now because Babies R Us had some great sales a few weeks back (if you bought 2 boxes of diapers, you got a $25 gift card, AND they let you use manufacturers coupons along with that)  I'm not on a hoarding level or Extreme Couponing or anything like that, but I will buy some extra products, within reason.
  • Aldi: I LOVE Aldi.  I especially love the fact that Aldi is about a 2 minute drive from my house, just across the street from our development.  The prices are just so unbelievably low, especially on produce. We normally made a weekly trip here to get mostly fresh items, like fruits and veggies, cheese, eggs, milk, bread (they sell whole wheat that doesn't contain high-fructose corn syrup, that's hard to find!)  It's also a great place to get canned goods, salad dressing, etc....
  • Walmart: *GASP* I know, I shop at Walmart.  I'm sure many people think I should hang my head in shame, but I don't really care all that much.  It's about a 20-25 minute drive from my house, so a bit out of the way, but I would rather drive that distance than go to the Giant Eagle by my house any day.  The prices at Giant Eagle are so out of control, it drives me crazy.  And I know, some people "shop the sales" and GE (or other local stores) and it ends up being as cheap as Walmart in those cases or maybe even a bit cheaper...but when I want to shop, I want to get everything in one big trip.  I don't feel like having to wait until the next week to pick up some cereal when the price drops to a reasonable amount at another store, when it's always that price at walmart.  So, there's my plug for the evil empire...they should pay me for this promotion! I usually do one big monthly trip to Walmart, then pick up what we need for in between at Aldi and occasionally Target if I'm there getting something else anyway.
  • Check the date: stores mark down the price of meat as it nears the expiration date, so I always check that section first.  If I can't use it that day or the next, I just freeze it.  I've been able to get some great bargains on steaks, roasts and stew meat from doing this.  And if I notice the date is within 2 or 3 days but the meat hasn't been marked down, I take it to an employee to have it marked down. 
  • Flexibility: With the exception of a few items, I'm not really brand loyal to anything.  If the generic is cheaper, I buy that.  If I have a coupon for something and that brand ends up being cheaper at that time, I get that. 
That's all I have for you.  Now go forth and save, my friend!!

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