Happy Frugal Friday! Beginning today, and continuing every week to come, I will be posting a new article on My Frugal Ways- how I personally increase my savings and decrease my spending. Let’s start with my top rules on spending and saving, whether it be my weekly store spending, eating out, or online spending.
- Always check a store’s policies. The coupon, return and exchange policies vary by each store. Before considering using your coupons or returning an item, make sure to check with a store team member or on the store’s website for their policies. For example, one store may accept only one coupon (store or manufacturer) per item. This could mean a difference of paying half price for an item or paying absolutely nothing. I recently discovered that Target would accept a coupon on a previous purchase if you brought the receipt back to the original store of purchase on the same business day! This was a difference of $6 in savings for me when I purchased 2 maternity clothing items but left my store coupons at the house.
- Never settle for full price. It may seem a little extreme to some of you, but I refuse to buy anything (with exception of rule #5 below) that isn’t either on sale or that I have a coupon for. And since I began following this rule, I have done so without fail. When it comes to our weekly grocery shopping, I start off with looking at the store’s advertisements. What meats are on sale? What fruits and vegetables are on sale? Which snack items do I have a coupon for this week? And my meals are planned based on those items. If chicken thighs are on deep discount this week, but I have a week of meals lined up already, I’ll buy them anyways and freeze them for the following week. The same goes for retail shopping and online shopping. When buying retail, never pay full price. Countless times I have purchased a household item or a new outfit, only to find the following weekend it goes on sale. Going along with the rule to know each store’s policy, the store you made the purchase from may be able to do a price adjustment and refund you the difference of the sale price within a set amount of days. When shopping online, check out sites such as Coupon Cabin or Retail Me Not for coupon codes, % off coupons, and free/discounted shipping offers.
- Set a budget. For my family of 3 (soon to be 4!), I budget $60 every week for grocery and drugstore spending. This includes all items I may need for meals for the week, toiletries, household items, snacks and little something extras. Setting a budget allows you to make a limit for yourself and plan within your means. Now, $60 a week obviously may not work for every family size or lifestyle. In our household, I always try to make homemade meals, and have plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy snacks in the house. A budget should fit your family’s dietary needs, family size and schedule. Prior to going shopping I write down my shopping list, sort through my coupons in addition to tallying up my total mentally while I am in the store. That way I know if that extra snack item sets me over budget, I will usually leave it on the shelf instead of putting it in the cart.
- Plan your meals ahead. Planning our week of breakfast, lunch and dinners ahead of time greatly helps me plan out my shopping trips and my savings before I even step foot into a store. I begin by taking inventory of what I already have in the kitchen. I write down the meats, vegetables, and pantry items (such as pastas, rices, side dishes) we already have and I start there. If I have a box of pasta and a frozen package of Italian sausage, I’ll look back onto my inventory list and see if there is a salad or package of frozen garlic bread I can pair up with it to make a meal. I’ll add the missing ingredients to my shopping list, and then match those items up with coupons or store sales.
- Make an exception to forget all of the rules. In a perfect world, I would love to plan every meal, have a coupon for every item, and walk into a store to find that without fail, the new toaster oven we need is on clearance! Unfortunately, life happens and it doesn’t always work out as we planned. At the last minute, we may run out of toilet tissue and there are no sales going on, nor a coupon in site. I obviously am not going to wait on buying the item. If something isn’t on sale, don’t fret. My idea of being frugal means that the savings I take advantage of on a daily basis, allow me a slip-up to buy a full price item once in a while or treat my family to a night out that didn’t involve a Buy One, Get One Free entree. Although- those are always nice.