Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Power of Coupons

I am absolutely blown away that I still have so many of you reading my blog each day. I feel like I only sign in every couple of months to apologize for not writing and for that I am truly sorry. I don't know what to say except that sometimes it truly feel like there is a spiritual force trying to prevent me from writing. Why, I don't know...but every time, without fail, that I begin to blog again, something tragic strikes me.....house fire, pneumonia, illness....tragedy. So, it is with a bit of apprehension that I begin again.
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But that is life, truly... isn't it?
I believe truly in planning. I think that trying to manage your life without a plan is like trying to remember the orders on 10 tables as a waitress without your notepad. You can attempt to. But you will realize within minutes that something very important has been forgotten. When we are younger, it is easy. There is relatively little to manage. We have all the time in the world to shop, groom, exercise and even play. Then one day you grow up. The enormous amount of responsibility that falls on you can be exhausting. At the end of the day you realize that the house is a mess, you forgot to defrost the meat, you're out of milk, your son needs cupcakes for tomorrow and you hadn't even gotten to that bath you were going to take. And it's all simply because you didn't write it down. Like taking orders with a notepad, organizing your life will keep you on track and keep you from losing your mind.
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Those that know me know the tragedies that have fallen upon me. It was the other day when something so tragic happened that I was sitting alone in tears and then something reminded me... 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger', and I had to chuckle. Not a day goes by that I don't mourn for the life I had just a few years back, but I do believe that you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and recreate it. Tragedy makes you fearful. You begin to close off and avoid the things that hurt you...like a puppy huddling in the corner where it thinks it's safe from the big dogs. But what do you give up in that fear? The very life your heart mourns for. I think of the tragedies that have been occurring. We could all hide in our homes and avoid public events for instance... or we can go to those events and refuse to let tragedy hold us down. We can prepare for tragedy and go out more emboldened. Take a self defense class, study what ails you... and in that sense, OVERCOME it.
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One of the things that I see with women is a lack of self direction. They become the servant of everyone. They lose themselves. While there is a great and beautiful calling in caring for others, it is just as important that you are cared for as well. In our high paced, fast moving world, you must find time to care for yourself. I decided the other day that I'd had enough of devoting every hour from am to pm to what others wanted and I decided to try an experiment.
 
 
I spent one hour tending to them. I did everything they needed, tended to them, fed them, etc.
The next hour, I did one of the many to dos that 'I' needed to do for me. During that hour, I focused solely on what 'I' needed. This could be that pantry you need to tackle, a garden that needs to be weeded, a return you need to make, a fridge you need to clean.. or it could be a much needed shower, plucking grooming etc. or time to think and plan.
 
 
I did this every hour that day.
At the end of the day, my kitchen was beautiful, I was groomed and I had gotten through half of a to do list I'd been putting off for months.  I had NO idea I had been spending EVERY hour for them, and none for me. I decided to fit my needs, my grooming, my to dos into the equation and it improved my life immensely.
 
 
If you think of that you may see as an ideal housewife you may notice something. She doesn't put off grooming. She doesn't put off things that she delights in. She doesn't let others mistreat her.
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In this time of revelation I also happened upon a hobby that has been such a delight. I was on a quest to save grocery money. So much of our money is groceries and I spend far too much of our week running to the store for this and that. I sat down, watched every coupon video there is and cut coupons.
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By the end of the next day I had overflowed a shopping card full of food for $99. My receipt showed that my savings were 51%. I saved more than I spent and I got enough food to last for 3 weeks which had been my goal. I had always passed off on coupons. I'd clip here and there, decide that the name brand store was cheaper and just quit couponing altogether. But the secret is combining and once I did that, I felt such a relief. And I was able to buy a couple of things that I have been denying myself for YEARS. It felt SO good to be able to buy something I had denied myself for so long. It was truly liberating. That simple move was a relief I was so desperate for. I was exhausted from years of denying myself this and that and working all day long to fall into bed unappreciated, tired and overwhelmed.
 
 
So these are my simple rules for couponing and relieving yourself of the stress money and in particular, grocery money may be causing in your life.
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1. Set aside ONE day for groceries. Keep a running list on your refrigerator on a sticky note so that you know exactly what you need and make a point to only, if able, shop on that one day. I selected Thursday as my shopping day. The garbage man comes on Fridays and when I bring home new food, I make a quit clean of my refrigerator to make room for and organize the new food and the old goes into the waste bin never to be seen again.
 
2. Set a limit to how much you are willing to spend on that day and stick to it. $100-$150 is a great goal if you can pull it off with coupons. 'Weigh' yourself every week. I see it like weighing yourself on a scale. When you just shop once a week, similar to weighing once a week, you can truly track your spending and see if you are overspending or underspending and you can work to reduce your grocery shopping 'weight'.
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3.  No impulse shopping. Ever. It's got to end. Every time you see something you like, take a picture on your phone. Then... plan it into your next grocery day.. IF it's still something you even want at that point. When I began to do this, I would take pictures of shirts, lawn swings, pictures, dish sets, you name it.. typically whatever was on the end of the aisle. I simply quit buying on impulse. I stopped. I took a picture then compared it to prices elsewhere, decided if it was truly a need and ONLY purchased IF it fit into my budget the next shopping day. THAT has saved me immensely.
 
4. Clip coupons. Anytime you see coupons clip them. If it is in your mail box, your newspaper, you see them hanging on aisles at the store etc. clip them. If you want to master combining coupons, you have to HAVE the coupons to combine. Once you get them clipped arrange them. having a manila envelope for each category or a page protector etc in a 3 ring binder. Find something big. you will have a lot if you get good that this so a manila folder may be best. I have mine separated into apparel, beauty (deodorants, soaps, makeup etc), breakfast items, meats, dairy, chips/crackers/nuts/breads, vegetables and sides, main dish kits, desserts, cleaning items, school supplies and office, home décor, yard, car, fast food and dinning, etc.. and then, I alphabetize them. Every time I find coupons, I slide them into the appropriate envelope.
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5. The day before shopping day or during the week leading up to shopping day, review the store fliers in your area. Either they will be in your paper or you can find them on line by searching your favorite store name.... weekly flier. See what is on special that looks like its a really good price. then snip it out or note it in the above categories and move on to the next store. I made a list of several grocery stores in my area and looking at weekly fliers, one had notebooks for .19, another .19 another 5 for a dollar etc.. by putting all of them in one category I could immediately see which store had the best price. One had them for .17 and that is so far the best price I've found. Now take the office/school supply manila folder and review manufacturer coupons that you've found. If you find one for an item that is also on sale, that is where you make the savings. you can take advantage of BOTH offers and save a lot of money. In fact, you can use one manufacturers coupon PER item. so if you do a buy one get one free special and you have save .50 on one.. get two of those coupons and you've saved a dollar on top of the buy one get one free offer. You will get better as you go but for now. clip and categorize... review store fliers and compare in categories then combine as you see you are able.
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6. Make an envelope for each store you plan to go take advantage of an offer at. write on the envelope the special and coupons you saw. then slide them into that envelope. decide on a budget for that store of the most you will allow yourself to spend and file it away until you've made one for each store you plan to go to. If you have a manufacturers coupon you really want to use but aren't sure which store is the best price, take the manila folders with you and paper clip that coupon to the outside to remind you to check each store to see if you can find a good deal on that item. I did buy a set of pens this week for free and they are lovely. I am so happy with them. They were on sale at ride aid for $1 and then I had a coupon for $1 off. They did charge me 6 cents sales tax but I literally walked out of the store with a free pack of pens and they are really nice pens. I was particularly depressed this week and it was a fun treat that I didn't have to spend any money on.
 
7. shop discounts for anything that you buy. compare and shop and look for coupons... that could be gyms, oil changes, hair salon visits, nail services.. make it a game to find the lowest price possible.
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8. Only shop AT the restaurants you have a coupon for or search for a coupon for the restaurant you'd like to go to and print it out before you go.
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9. And the biggest money saver. Once you've found what meats, dairy items etc are the most on sale and that you have coupons to save on.... design your menu around them... not vice versa. I don't prewrite my grocery list based on items out of a cook book. I write my grocery list based on what I have coupons for. Then when I get everything home, I create my menu based on what I bought. ON SALE. You can create a menu out of anything once you get it home. Just hit your breads, eggs, milks, veggies, cheeses, drinks, butters/oils, sugar etc.. and then design your menu around what you bought. I watched a coupon video that suggested getting 6 weeks worth of whatever was on sale. They said that coupons rotate and they should go on sale on average in about 6 weeks. By stocking up, you have what you need until they are on sale again. You will get better as you go but as a month goes by, you will have a VERY stocked pantry and find that you've spent half of what your normally spend. I even browse the discounts on home décor etc and I got a lovely $10 set of salt and pepper shakers for $3 at World Market. They were lovely.
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Once you get groceries tackled, just that frees up so much time and energy. Then give yourself at LEAST  one hour for every two you give to others. Make a to do list and on your hours, get to them. Don't forget to include taking care of yourself on that list. Do your hair, get some rest, do your nails. Take care of you.
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I do hope you are doing well and wish so much for you.
 
Much love,
Veronique
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