Living Laughing And Creating

Loving Life On A Budget

We’re Starting A “No Spend” Month!

We may be crazy or we may have a great month, but for the next four weeks we will be spending no money. Yes, you read that correctly–we will be spending no money. I’ve seen various blog posts floating around on Pinterest about having “No Spend” months, and I thought it was a great idea. I also thought it would take a little more to convince my husband, but he jumped on board immediately. I read that some people don’t prepare at all, and some people do. Well, if you know me at all, you know I prepared because that’s just how I am. I went through the stash in the freezer and pantry to determine what meals could be made, and then included anything else we would need in the past two weeks’ grocery trips. So what possessed me to try this? A couple things. First, we always have some big bills that come at the end of the summer, so this will help us save for those. Second, we will hopefully be moving soon, which means the deep freezer needs to be emptied. So we are saving money and preparing for the move all at once. The only things we will spend money on this month are the bills (obviously), gas for the cars, my Sunday newspaper, and milk (I just can’t live without milk in the house). Thank goodness I already have everything I need to work on some Christmas gifts, so I have plenty to keep me busy. We will have to get creative when it comes to date nights, but that will all be part of the fun. Yes, I said this would be a great idea and fun….ask me about it in four weeks 🙂

If this idea of a “No Spend” month intrigues you, here is a post for you to read that provides more ideas for how to spend your month without spending any money.

31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero.  Freeze your spending.  Change Your Life.  Awesome way to reset your spending patterns or kick-start your budget!

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How I Coupon and Save Money

I have heard “I just don’t have time for that” from many friends when I mention I do certain things, such as coupon or bake our sandwich bread. I believe doing these kinds of things is important for our family, because it allows us to save money. In 2013, I saved $1,950, and this does not include SavingStar, Ebates, or any coupons I used at Walmart. I basically saved over $2,000 by giving an hour of my time (give or take 15 minutes) a week to coupon. So if I only spent an hour a week, I made at least $38.46 an hour. Most people spend a lot more than one hour a week online, so why not block off an hour and make some money?

5 Tips to Save Money

Here are some things I have learned along the way:

1. SouthernSavers.com is a huge time saver! Jenny does an amazing job giving lists of the best deals available. If you create an account on the site, you can check the items you want added to your list, and it will create a list on your account of just the items you want to shop for that week. For example, I shop at Ingles every week. When she posts the Ingles list on Saturdays, I go through the list and check all the items I want to buy. What’s even better is the fact she matches the coupons for you, so you see what a great deal you can get! After I’ve checked all my items, I click the button to create my list. There is a Saved Lists option at the top of the webpage where I can find all my saved lists. You can also type in the other items you need from that store and print your list to take with you. I use this every week, and it saves me a huge amount of time. Here are some of my favorite links from SouthernSavers:

2. If you don’t normally use it, don’t buy it! If there is a new product you are interested in trying, go ahead if it’s a great price. If not, leave it on the shelf. The priority is to stock up on items you use, not to stock up on a bunch of stuff you will end up throwing away because you run out of space in your house. This took me a little while to learn. I wasted a lot of time and money buying things we usually don’t use just because it was a great price. Now, I just look for the items that I know we will use.

3. Set a budget for the month and stick to it. If you have already spent all your grocery money for the month, then you will have to bypass some sales. It’s ok not to shop every week. I think I went for about 3 weeks around Christmas without shopping. This was on purpose, because I didn’t want to deal with the madness. When you have stocked pantries, cabinets, and freezers, you can skip a week or more. The important thing is to stick to your budget. This is also why it’s important to only buy things you will use. If you are buying a lot of stuff your family will not use, then you will go over budget every time.

4. Plan a menu for each week. I do this on a weekly basis, but some people do it by the month. I prefer to shop every week, but some people do not. It just depends on your preference. The important thing to remember is that when you know what you are cooking, you can go shopping with a purpose. By having a stocked pantry, you usually won’t have to buy much to make a whole week of meals. Most of my shopping now is stocking up on the sale items and buying produce, milk, and eggs.

5. Use SavingStar.com! This is so easy to use and requires very little effort. Register on the site, put in all your store card numbers, and click on the “I want this!” button on each item you may buy. Every time you buy a qualifying item and your store card is scanned, you will get money in your account. Once you get $5, you can have the money put into PayPal, Amazon gift card, or various other gift cards. They also do direct deposit into your bank account, but I prefer not to use that option. Be sure to check back often to see what new offers they have. I’m loving that they are now offering money back on some produce!

The point of this whole couponing adventure is to save your family money. Don’t spend too much time searching for deals, because there are too many other important things you should be doing. Give yourself an hour a week. All those extreme couponers who spend hours and days planning a shopping trip are missing out on the joy of living their lives. All you need is an hour. Your grocery bill will be more in the beginning, because you don’t have a stockpile. When your stockpile starts growing, your grocery bill will decrease. This is not an overnight deal, this is a process that takes time. Once you start getting items for free each week, you will be hooked just like me 🙂

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