Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Moms By Heart - Guest Post!!

I am super excited to have Lori here from Mom's By Heart. I "met" this awesome Mama through Blissully Domestic, and let me tell you, I'm so glad I did! Somehow between managing 5 kiddos, she finds time to run her amazing blog that helps many of us save some money! Today, she is going to share some of her best money saving tips with us. She must know me well, she made a list.

Oh how I love a good list.
Welcome Lori, we're so glad you're here!

Here she is:
Early last year, my family began to feel the crunch of the economy in a big way. I’ll be honest. At that point in my life, I was a seeit-likeit-buyit kinda gal. I had no idea how to be frugal. But these new challenges required a new lifestyle. So with the help of some great blogs, I began learning all I could about couponing and bargain shopping. Within just a few months I was able to implement this new information and cut our household expenses in half.

Since there are so many folks struggling in this dismal economy, I want to share the top ten things I’ve learned that have saved my family the most money:

1) Have an organized and plentiful coupon stash – the best place to find coupons is still the Sunday paper. Get a sneak peek of coupons that will be in the upcoming paper listed each Thursday afternoon HERE.
2) Match coupons with sales and deals – This sounds like a daunting and time consuming job. And it would be were it not for blogs! Visit The Grocery Gathering over at BeCentsable for a long list of blogs that match sale ads with coupons. All the work is done for you! Just scroll through and find the store you need. You can make your list, grab your coupons and go! Combining coupons with sale prices is the best way to get stuff for free or nearly free.
3) Know your prices – It helps to know when things are at their lowest prices. There are two ways to do that. The first is to familiarize yourself with store sale cycles. I have a month-by-month list HERE. The second is to keep track of prices at your local store. Most of the time, prices are on a three month rotating cycle. Choose twenty items that you buy most often and write down their price each week for 12 weeks. It might look something like this:
YourBrand Pasta Sauce:
1- $1.49
2- $1.49
3- $1.19
4- $1.49
5- Buy one get one free = $.75 each
6- $1.39
7- Dollar sale $1.00
8- $1.49
9- $1.29
10- $1.49
11- $1.39
12- $1.49
If you purchase one can per week for 12 weeks, you’ll spend $15.95. If you buy all 12 during week 5 when they’re at the lowest price you’ll spend $9 for a savings of $7 or 44%. Multiply that savings over 20 items for 52 weeks and you’re talking some serious savings!
4) Take advantage of FREEs – Look for TRY ME FREE stickers or hangtags on products in the store. Scan your Sunday inserts for rebate forms. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Staples or Menards, you’ll find oodles of free-after-rebate opportunities each month on everything under the sun.
5) Ask for a deal – Check out THIS article by the Wall Street Journal about how to get your cable and phone bills lowered just by asking!
6) Have a plan, Stan – Since I’m no Martha Stewart, I occasionally have those crazy days when the last thing I want to think about is what to make for dinner. These are the days when my budget is in greatest jeopardy because I just want to break down and order a pizza. But with a meal plan and a few items prepared in the freezer I’ve saved a ton by skipping the convenience foods. For meal planning inspiration, visit the OAMC Group at Recipezaar HERE, Once A Month Mom blog HERE and at Menu Plan Monday at HERE.
7) Save on children's clothing – I love the Sears KidVantage program. If your child wears out his/her shirts, jeans or shoes before they outgrow them, you can take them back to be replaced FREE! Every two months I visit Sears with all the jeans and shoes in hand for replacements. My kids always look nice and the budget stays intact. I also watch for in-store and online sales at Gymboree, The Children’s Place and Gap Kids. Since these are sought after name brands, when the kids outgrow them I can resell them on eBay and recoup much of my cost, especially if I got them on clearance to begin with! In the end, I save as much (or more) on clothes as I would buying at thrift stores.
8) Make it yourself – This economy has brought many-a-mom back to the basics. We are relearning how to can and preserve food, how to garden, sew, and make things from scratch. I’m not suggesting you turn Amish. But consider the possibility of cutting an expense in one or two areas by making it yourself.
9) Be content – This was a biggie for me. In the beginning, I thought all this frugality would be restrictive. I guess I pictured myself in plaid polyester pants from the thrift store eating beans and bread by candlelight. In truth, my quality of life hasn’t changed. All the same, it was important for me to make a conscious effort to change my thinking during this challenging time. I chose to count my blessings, as cliché as it sounds, so I could stay focused and content. And it worked.
10) Give – Yep, you heard me right. There are many ways to give that require little or no out of pocket expense. You can give to food pantries out of the overflow of your well stocked pantry. You can give your time volunteering for something you’re passionate about. You can send notes of encouragement to a pastor, missionary, teacher or single mom. Giving is a big part of being content. And being content is a big part of financial success!