Couponing 101: The Crazy Shopping Cart Explains Why Couponing Isn’t Crazy!

Here at Momma Making Moves we concentrate on saving money, time, and sanity. However, I will be the first to say that in order to accomplish this, we need to continue to learn and try new things. With that being said, I have to make a confession…

Couponing can be more than a little bit scary to me.

There! I said it! While I advocate doing what is necessary to save money, especially for us big families, I have just recently jumped on the couponing bandwagon. And I am going to share one more little secret…

I may not know much about couponing, but I know how to find good bloggers who do!

Tiffany at The Crazy Shopping Cart not only explains everything you need to know about couponing, but offers great resources to help you be successful. Annnnnd, she agreed to guest post on Momma Making Moves to explain couponing 101 to us. Here is her advice!

 

Couponing 101: learn how to save money with couponing!

Couponing 101: The Crazy Shopping Cart Explains Why Couponing Isn’t Crazy

When you hear the word “couponing,” what do you think of?

For me, I remember my mother sitting every Sunday evening at the kitchen table, intently pouring over the weekly ads and clipping the newspaper coupons.  She spent hours each week preparing and executing each shopping trip, only to save a few dollars.  (Although, a couple of dollars was quite a lot of money back in…..well, let’s just say that when I was kid, it was quite a few years ago!)

This image is what came to my mind two years ago when, at a church activity focused on emergency preparedness, a woman in our church raised her hand and stated she used couponing to help build an emergency supply of food to have on hand in her home.  I started to tune her out until she said, “I haven’t paid more than $.50 for a box of Cheerios in years, and I always get my toothpaste and shampoo for free.”

Couponing is a great way to save money on household essentials!
Couponing is a great way to save money on household essentials!
Couponing With the Internet

After that meeting, several of us surrounded her and begged her to teach us her ways.  I braced myself for hours of work, repeating that it would be worth it.  Imagine my surprise when our first meeting with her took less than 30 minutes, and I ended up saving over 50% on my groceries that week!

What makes the difference between my mother’s way of couponing and my own?  Two words: the Internet!

Now, instead of having to find each deal on your own when the Sunday paper comes out, someone else has most likely already had an early edition of the ad and upcoming coupons, done a matchup, and posted it on the internet to share!  What used to take hours of work to clip and catalogue coupons, read ads, and prepare shopping lists is now already completed several days before the sales actually begin!

In fact, there are now so many different websites, blogs, Instagram accounts, etc. that focus on couponing, it’s a bit overwhelming!  When I first began couponing, I felt adrift in a sea of acronyms and phrases that were more like a foreign language than English.  Thankfully, my friend from church walked me through it all until I was confident enough to go on my own.  And now, two years later, I even blog about it!

Couponing 101

Couponing can be very simple, if you follow the steps and go slow.  Here are some steps to help you along the way:

  1. Get coupons.  You can purchase the Sunday paper each week, or there are even some websites where you can order pre-clipped coupons mailed to your door!
  2. Start learning coupon terms, slang, and rules.  It’s extremely important to recognize that there are rules to couponing.
  3. Pick a grocery store that you already shop at and feel comfortable with.  Chances are, there is a website or Facebook group that is dedicated to that store!  They will provide you with lists of deals each week, matching up coupons with sales to help you get the best deal.
  4. Choose just one or two deals that you want to try out.  Perhaps something that you would normally purchase anyway (like diapers or cereal), collect the necessary coupons, and go try it out!
  5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help!  If you get to the store and feel lost, just slow down.  I found it helpful at checkout to tell the cashier something like, “Hi!  I have some coupons to use today.  I’m new to couponing and haven’t really done this before.  Please let me know if I’ve messed anything up.”  They’ll be very happy to help you out!

    Couponing can be less daunting if you shop at a store you know.
    Couponing can be less daunting if you shop at a store you know.
Continuing With Couponing

After the first few trips, as you start to get the hang of one or two deals, you can then start doing more.  Please, please go at a pace that you feel comfortable with.  It’s so easy with today’s technology to see posts on couponing Facebook groups of amazing hauls that cost almost nothing and feel like you are so far away from that.  I used to feel that way, too!  In fact, I still make mistakes sometimes!  Just last week, I messed up my coupon count and ended up losing out on $10 of savings.  It was pretty disappointing, but since it was something I normally needed anyways (diapers), I reminded myself that any savings on something I would already buy is better than the full-price I would have otherwise paid!

If you’re still feeling nervous or overwhelmed about couponing, you’re in good company!  I can’t count the number of times I received emails or Facebook messages from people who just feel lost with couponing.  To help them (and you!) get a firmer understanding, I’ve put together a free ebook:  it’s called “The Beginner’s Guide to Couponing,” and it walks you through all of the different steps I mentioned above.  You’ll learn all about where to get coupons, how to organize them, what the coupon rules are, coupon lingo, and so much more!

How To Find More Information

You can find Tiffany’s ebook (and so, so much more about couponing) at The Crazy Shopping Cart. I plan on utilizing her ebook when my hubby and I sit down to do our meal planning tomorrow. If you want ideas on how you can save money on meals for your family, go snag her ebook and then check out my series on meal planning here.

Tiffany is a former math teacher and SAHM who loves finding good deals!  She and her husband, who is an engineer, work together on The Crazy Shopping Cart.  They enjoy spending time with their family, geeking out over sci-fi, and saving money.

Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy! (Part 2)

Welcome back! If you haven’t read Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy (Part 1), please start there first. To recap very quickly, we acknowledged that sometimes we moms are a LITTLE bit busy (enter sarcastic voice here), and that sometimes the term “meal planning” gets a bad rep.

meal planning, large families, big families, part 2, saving money, saving time, Momma Making Moves
Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families Part 2

But we also agreed that we don’t know what works until we try. Then, I explained why I tried (and how I failed at) meal planning. I did, however, find a way to successfully begin meal planning for my family- saving me money, time, and more than a little bit of sanity. I explained all this and all you had to do was commit to trying something new.

Well, yesterday I did all the work. Today, you get to do some work.

What is meal planning?

Simply speaking, meal planning is deciding what you are going to eat. See! Not scary at all! We do this every day for every meal. Only, with meal planning you are not waiting until you are hungry. You are thinking about it at a predetermined date (more about this later), and considering every meal- not just what you are craving for that moment.

It does NOT have to be super specific, though. This was where I made my first mistake. Obviously some details are necessary- “Dinner” written on a scrap piece of paper does not constitute meal planning. However, “chicken breast, mashed potatoes, veggie” on a piece of paper pinned to the fridge would suffice if you have various veggies available at home and a cupboard full of spices.

I am one of those people that may come home after work and not want Italian chicken. Or, perhaps I have heartburn (no, no more babies!) and the thought of Cajun chicken makes me want to die. As long as I have other spices and staples in my pantry, it will be okay! I feel like I need to say this because these exact situations helped me be discouraged with my meal planning at first. I don’t want this to happen to you.

However, if you need that type of structure- do what is right for you! Meal planning can be as rigid or flexible as your family needs it to be. I don’t care if you need to measure out how much of protein each person is getting to the ounce! Do what works for you!

Keeping a stocked spice cabinet enables you to change your menu to suit your mood.
If you have a stocked spice cabinet you can always vary your meal plans to suit your mood.
What is my next step?

If you have a significant other, discuss with them how long you plan on meal planning for. This is actually really important, and if no one else tells you that there is NO correct answer, I will! This was seriously crucial to my family’s success.

While everyone told me that I need to plan for at least a week, we struggled. We do have a deep freezer in the garage, but we only have one fridge. Sometimes, one fridge cannot hold all of our necessary items (such as milk) for the week. It made me feel slightly discouraged. Then I talked to a friend. After listening to my vent, she asked me why I wasn’t satisfied that we were at least planning for a couple of days.

Were we still not saving time? Most importantly, were we not still saving money? The answer was yes to both questions. I kinda felt a little bit foolish.

The research that I was reading did not take in to account the size of my family. I think that this may be a trending situation for larger families. We may have a lot of mouths, but that does not mean that we have a lot of space. (Spoiler alert- we shop for staples once a week, and necessities as needed- usually twice a week.)

 

Okay….now what?

Have a family meeting. This decision is not going to just affect you. In order for meal planning to actually be effective for your family, your family needs to be involved. We started the initial conversation without the kiddos, and then brought them in. Our first question was, “What are your favorite dinners?” and the conversation went a little like this-

Kid 1, teenage boy- “Meat. And shrimp. And seafood.”

Kid 2, preteen girl- “Everything that he did not say.”

Kid 3, 5 yo girl- “Tacos and spaghetti. Can I have both for my birthday?”

Kid 4- 4 yo girl- “Glitter. No wait, red glitter!”

Kid 5- 2 yo boy- “No!”

Okay, it is not verbatim, but it is pretty damn close. The last three kids are actually verbatim, hence the reason why my daughter is not allowed anywhere near glitter without my supervision.

But you get my point. If you do not take into account what your family actually likes to eat, you are shooting down the possibility of successfully meal planning before you even get started.

Don’t stop at dinner, though. In order to effectively avoid the grocery store for any amount of time you need to consider alllll of your meals. This includes snacks for every member of your family.

Including snacks in your meal plan ensures you are able to stay on track.
Not including snacks in your meal plans can throw the whole plan off.
What is my homework for now?

Okay, maybe that wasn’t your next question. But it does not excuse you from your homework. Make a running list of all your family’s favorite meals- breakfast, lunch dinner, AND snacks. Don’t worry about ingredients or planning. This is baby steps people! If you need some ideas check out my Pinterest board on meals for large families.

Don’t forget to ask any questions in the comment section and go to Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families Made Easy Part 3.

Create Your Family Budget In 14 Easy Steps

I am constantly talking about ways to stay on track with a family budget, so is it hard to believe that up until recently we didn’t actually have a set budget? We really just created an actual budget. We kind of just cruised on this notion that as long as our bank account stayed out of the red, we were on budget. But there are many flaws to this system including the glaring problem- what happens in case of some unplanned, unforeseen circumstance?budgeting, family budget, create, saving money

Our story.

Well, we found ourselves facing this exact question when our only “reliable” vehicle decided it did not want to be a moving, working vehicle anymore. In the middle of a 12 lane intersection. During rush hour. On the day that I had a very important meeting at work.

Good times. Not!

Unfortunately we had to make a difficult decision and purchase another vehicle. This was an aha! moment for me. While our income may object, we definitely needed to start finding more ways to save money. We needed to start being more accountable for our finances. We needed to start some serious adulting and it was going to be hard.

I will say this, however. Setting a budget for our family was definitely a difficult task, at first. Once we actually started implemented our family budget, I felt better. We were more conscious about what we needed and what we wanted and were very quickly able to assess if we were being smart with our money or a little frivolous.

My husband and I thought we were money conscious before, but really we were just aware of the bottom line at the end of the month. There really is a difference.

Here are some ideas on creating your own family budget.

  1. Make sure you have the time dedicated to make your budget. This is not a conversation that your family should have five minutes before soccer practice. Serious thought needs to go into this, and some emotions may run high. Also, be prepared for this to extend to more than one meeting. If something is truly important, it deserves to have undivided attention which can be extremely difficult with a large family.

    Emotions may run high when creating a family budget.
    Emotions may run high when creating a family budget.
  2. Consider who is included in the planning session. This definitely varies family to family. While the majority of our conversation consisted of just my husband and I, we did take input from the children. My husband and I explained to the kiddos what we were doing and how important it was. Then we also were clear about the fact that some things were going to change, and not all of the changes were going to be desirable. We felt that our decision to include them was important for two reasons. First, it reinforced that we value their opinions and input. They may be little but they mean a whole lot, and we try to remind them of this consistently. Also, it helped the children understand the importance of what we were doing. We are not that family that tries to act like money is not a contributing factor in many decisions we make, but we also understand that they may not comprehend money restraints due to their ages and maturity levels. This meeting helped our children have a little window into our reasoning when we deny that awesome, amazing, EXPENSIVE camp that they are dying to attend this summer.
  3. Make a goal (or goals). It does not have to be a publicized goal. Your best friend or your mom does not need to know what your goal is or why you set it, but you need to know what you are trying to accomplish. Perhaps you want to pay off debt, or save for a fantastic vacation. Maybe you want to cushion that emergency fund or prepare for retirement. Maybe you just want to see where your money is going. Maybe you have two short-term goals (should take less than a year to accomplish) and one long-term goal. Your prerogatives are your own. Write down possible goals to determine which goals are the best for your family.
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  4. Make the goals achievable. Please don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. I have soooo done that in the past. It makes you feel depressed and unsuccessful, causing you to slip and not make progress toward real goals. Think of what is truly important for your family and decide how that goal is possible. The word budget often seems like a negative thing, but actually it doesn’t have to be. Use your budget as a tool to reach your goals. It outlines where you need to be right now in order to get to your desired location- similar to a map.
  5. Have documentation in front of you. Have your bills and pay stubs so that you can actually see where the money is coming from and where it is going. We may think we know the money trail, but it may be a drastic difference once you are looking at reality. My hubby and I thought we were doing really well with our money. Then we printed our bank statement and started noticing how we were nickel and diming our way through our money. Once we highlighted the necessary expenses, we ended up staring googly-eyed at the other numbers. We definitely did not have the self-control we thought we had. Having the physical documentation in front of us was definitely an eye opener."<yoastmark
  6. Determine how your family defines expenses and income. This will definitely vary family to family. Some families share everything, including expenses and income, equally. Other families keep budgeting separate. I have friends that have such unique ways of planning family expenses I cannot begin to explain or understand them. There is not a blanket acceptable way and you should not worry about approval from outside sources. But if you are deciding to keep things separate, this needs to be addressed during your sitdown meeting.
  7. Calculate your net income. Your net income can sometimes be called your take home pay. Net income is listed on your paycheck but if you have various forms of income you may need to make some calculations. Your take home pay includes any money that you bring in- child support, alimony, side jobs, etc. should also be included. Items such as taxes, 401k and Social Security deductions, should not be included.
  8. Determine your NEEDS. These are the items and bills necessary for your day to day life- housing, food, medical expenses, etc. Is coffee a need? Probably not, but don’t despair. There is a much happier step down below.
  9. First, focus on the expenses that occur every month. Recurring debt should include your rent/mortgage, car payments, insurance, credit cards, etc. This is why you should have all of your statements and bills in front of you- so you don’t forget anything (such as one of your car payments, like we did the first we sat down to plan. Ooops!).

    Budgeting, housing, make a budget, save money
    Housing costs, such as rent or mortgage, should be included in your recurring debt.
  10. Now add in your flexible expenses. Items that possibly change monthly are groceries, gas, kids activities, family entertainment, etc. We always say that we are going to stick to a certain number figure for groceries, but rarely do we stick with it. If you need to cut back on spending, these are the expenses you may be able to trim.
  11. Identify some of the things that may not be a need, but are important nonetheless. Insert coffee here. And chocolate. And possibly wine.(Told you that you would be happy again later.) This is going to be different for everyone and can be of varying degrees. Perhaps you feel like a coffee from a chain makes you feel and perform better in the morning. Maybe you think that it is necessary for you to take time out for yourself and have a pedicure or a girls night out. Mommas need taken care of too and that’s okay. This is what will help you actually STICK to the budget. Family fun can be on budget if you plan carefully enough. Check out my post about Disney on Ice here.
  12. Match the numbers to your budget goals. If your goal is to double your savings in six months, are you on track to do so with your current spending habits? Or do you need to alter some of your spending patterns?Take the coffee, for example. I pretty much need it on Mondays (most humans who come in contact with me can confirm to this). I prefer to actually go to Dunkin on Mondays because no matter how hard I try, I cannot replicate it perfectly. However, for the other days of my week I brew my own coffee at home. I buy the huge bag of coffee because it is cheaper in bulk, then add my Dunkin creamer and Hershey syrup for my iced mocha. If you go to get your nails done once a month check to see if they ever sell gift cards at a discount during special promotions.
  13. Review and reevaluate often. Check back in one month and see how you did. Did you cut back if you needed to? Did you spend less than the month before? Or did you just make smarter decisions with your money? Decide if your budget goals are still appropriate. Maybe, now that you are more aware of where your hard-earned money is going, you want to save more. How can you adjust your budget to work for your family? If you feel like you are stuck don’t be afraid to ask for help. Family, friends, or even professionals can offer you insight that you may be overlooking.

    budgeting, review, save money
    Revisit your budget often to check for progress.
  14. Do not be too hard on yourself. Obviously you should be firm with your goals and attempt to work toward them. However, remember you are human. You can (and will) make mistakes. Just, as with everything else in life, learn from those mistakes and use them to guide future spending.

Do you have any secrets that helped you make and keep your family budget? Is there anything that you feel you need help cutting back on? Leave them in the comment section below.