My Favorite Ways to Save on Groceries

Groceries can be a major expense! If you have a large family, even more so. Even with our family of four, we can spend hundreds on food each month. I thought I would share some of the EASY things that I do to save on groceries each month.

  1. Manufacturer’s coupons.

Before you start panicking, I am NOT talking about Extreme Couponing. I don’t have the patience or time for it, so I stick to cutting coupons each week for items I use. I do keep a coupon binder and I look through it before I go to a grocery store. There are websites you can use if you’re interested in Extreme Couponing. DON’T disregard using coupons! You would be shocked to find there are coupons for items you regularly purchase and need and if you use them you can save so much money. For awhile I stopped couponing, when I started again I was staggered at how much I saved and it reminded me to stick with it. Take advantage of grocery store digital coupons as well!

2. Store coupons/apps – especially the digital ones!

This sounds obvious too, but some people don’t realize the savings that can be found here. My favorite drugstore to shop at is CVS. The reason is because CVS is ALWAYS sending me coupons through my e-mail that I can send directly to my CVS card. If I log on to my CVS account and click on the extra card section, there are always about a billion additional coupons that I can send to my card for everyday items. Pair this with manufacturers coupons or items that are already on sale and you will see the savings. Be sure to read the fine print! Those 30% off coupons don’t always include sale items. I’ll give an example. Let’s say CVS has pull-ups on sale for 10.99. They offer a digital coupon of $2 off all pull-ups. You have a manufacturer’s coupon that is $2 off. You can get the item for as low as $7. I save SO much at CVS because I never shop without a coupon there. Don’t ever shop Target without the Cartwheel App or without your Target or debit card where you’ll save an extra 5% every single time you shop.

3. Ibotta.

Y’all! You have heard me talk about Ibotta before! I write about it because it’s a really easy way to save money on grocery items you are already buying. It’s too easy to not be using. Also, if you refer a friend, you easily earn $5. All you need to do is keep your receipt, verify your eligible purchases, take a picture of the receipt, and voila – free money. After $20 you can have it cashed out in the form of a gift card or sent to you through Paypal or Venmo. The easiest money you’ll make shopping for groceries.

4. Walmart Savings Catcher

I don’t particularly enjoy shopping at Wal-mart (as I’ve written about in the past!) BUT Wal-mart is just so cheap that sometimes, I can’t resist. That being said, I love using Walmarts Savings Catcher. The way it works: you scan your Walmart receipt, Walmart compares prices, Walmart gives you the difference in price through a Walmart eCard and you can use it on any of your purchases. Now imagine combining coupons with sale items AND using this feature on the app. Win-win for your wallet. 5. Meal plan/freezer/cook/leftover life.

5. Favado.

Favado is a really excellent app that you can use to look up items and find out where certain items are the cheapest. If I’m looking to find a deal on Tresemme shampoo, I type that in and it will show me the stores that have Tresemme on sale. If I click on a store and the item, it will even show me what coupons I can stack with this item to make sure I am getting the lowest price.

6. Plan. Never shop without a list!

When I first started adulting and shopping for groceries on my own as a newly married woman, I never brought a list. I would just go to the store, walk through the aisles, and grab what I thought I needed. I ended up with stuff I didn’t need, a budget that had been blown, and essentially a hot mess on my hands. Bringing a list is important because it helps you stay focused on what you need! Also, don’t shop on an empty belly and also MEAL PLAN! So you know exactly what you need for each meal and will get just that. I recommend this grocery list template that will help you get started! They also sell these at select Marshall’s for really cheap!

7. Grocery shop online.

Here’s the thing, you’ll pay $10 for the online grocery shopping fee at some places, BUT you’ll save in buying exactly what you need – nothing more, nothing less. This is really helpful, especially if you’re insanely busy. I HATE grocery shopping , but there are times it’s unavoidable and I have to step foot into the actual store. I find that shopping online saves me money in the long run because I’m not tempted to buy things I don’t need and can look up exactly what I need to buy.

8. Shop at Aldi’s.

Aldi’s is insanely cheap and has some really solid items you can purchase at a fraction of the cost of what you would pay at a big box store. I don’t shop here all of the time, or even super regularly at that, BUT if I am really looking to slash spending I come here. The items I buy: rice, cereal, peanut butter, cooking items, etc. I don’t buy meat or produce from here, but I know so many people who do! It’s just my personal preference, I usually buy those items at Shoprite or BJ’s. Don’t count Aldi’s out as they’ve added many gluten free items and organic items at very reasonable prices.

9. Meal Plan.

This goes along with planning. I use a Google Calender to plan our meals every two weeks. This week I’ve slacked, but I meal plan and then make my grocery list around that. This way I have exactly what I need to cook and also don’t have to worry about spending money eating out on the week. Meal planning will help you stick to a grocery budget!

These are some simple things I do to save money on groceries. Nothing here is groundbreaking, but I wanted to share what I like to do personally! I always love hearing about new ways to save, so if you have some strategies that work for you please leave a comment and share!

 

Thred Up Review – The Good and Bad

I’d heard about Thred Up from a friend at work. She raved about it. I kept seeing it everywhere and decided to give it a try – especially because I have been trying to stick to a tight budget! I am a Plato’s Closet gal but haven’t been for quite awhile. I LOVE shopping at good thrift stores because there are so many choices and at such a reasonable price. Thred Up is like an online version without having to dig through the racks.

I went on a few times and was overwhelmed with all of the options and possibilities, I would browse and then feel like there was too much to look at. Finally, I started to sort through and ended up finding a few pieces I liked. I decided to order because it was 40% off of everything, which I thought was a good deal.

I ordered a total of eight items, which came out to a total of 87.99 which included $5.99 shipping. With the 40% off it came out to $58.74. This means for eight pieces I paid $7.34 for each item.

Not bad considering a few of the items were dresses! After a few days, my order came in!

Super cute!

This top was $6.

This top was $5.95 from Xhiliration [Target brand].

This dress came out to $7.20 from Old Navy.

This dress came out to $7.20 from Old Navy.

Another dress from Old Navy $7.20.

This top came out to $4.80.

Another dress from Old Navy for $7.20.

Brand new dress from Forever 21 with tags, $7.20.

So, out of all of the items I ordered, I kept five and returned three.

I returned:

  • The Target top – fit very strangely and in a crop top kind of way that wasn’t flattering on me.
  • The Yellow sleeveless – this one was annoying because a button was missing! Someone had replaced it with a safety pin! Thrifted or not, I’m not paying for something that’s missing a button.

I didn’t like the fact that someone obviously tried to pass this off like it was in good condition but was missing a button. I did not order this from the “Basement” section of Thred Up, which is basically a section where clothes have flaws, but the buyer knows about it before hand and decides to purchase. This felt deceptive so I was annoyed!

  • The white cutout.

I LOVED this top! However, on closer inspection there was a slight gray mark. On a white top, it was noticeable. I decided to send it back!

The way Thred Up works, if you want to return items within 14 days you will receive full store credit. If you choose to get your money back, you have to pay $8.99 in shipping and handling. I’m not willing to pay that for thrifted clothes so I opted for the full store credit. You fill out everything online. They want you to tell them why you’re returning it. Next,  you print out two pages, one which has the specific clothes you’re returning in list form and a shipping label. You ship the items in the same box the clothes were sent to you.

So, overall, would I use Thred Up again?

Probably. Why? I think the pros outweigh the cons!

Things I liked:

  • Clothes are cute and reasonably priced
  • Return policy is good
  • You can shop by brand, size, etc. Easier than going through a thrift store.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • Two of the items having issues! They need to check their products better.
  • The 8.99 fee if you want to get your money back on a refund.

Also, Thred Up has an option where you can sell your clothes to them and they will pay you. However, I’ve done extensive research and it sounds like Thred Up doesn’t pay much for even items that are in excellent condition. It sounds like they used to! They have something called a “Clean Out” bag where you can put clothing you don’t want that’s in good condition in, send it to them, and they’ll pay you for anything they choose to keep and donate the rest. The bag used to be free, now it’s $9.99 and the payout isn’t much. Before I did the research, I put in for a bag. I put some items in and am sending it in, so if I’m wrong I’ll let you know! BUT I will stick to Ebay for my valuable items/items in excellent condition.

Bottom line: Thred Up is a solid option if you are into thrifty clothes! However, when you receive your order check your items carefully! If you plan on returning, do so promptly so it falls within the 14 day return policy. This is a good option if you HATE to dig through racks. They also have items that are brand new with tags. I don’t think I’ll buy from them all the time, but once in awhile I will check them out! They just need to go through their items more carefully before putting them up on their site. Make sure they are in the condition you are trying to sell them for Thred Up!

Wore the Old Navy piece to work!

Have you ever used Thred Up? Why or why not? Would love to hear from some others on your experience with them!

 

8 Ways to Save Money and Make Money

There are times in life where you need to stop spending and are in a position where you need to save or even make money right away. Perhaps you’re saving for a vacation or it’s right after Christmas and you’re trying to rebuild your savings. Maybe your family is a position where there is limited income. Maybe you just want to rein in your savings and make some money. Here are some tips/suggestions that have helped me!

  1. Go on a spending freeze.

You heard it straight. STOP SPENDING MONEY. I have been able to do a successful spending freeze for about two weeks. The goal can be up to YOU. A spending freeze means you complete freeze spending on anything. Ideally, you want to try this for about a month, but you can adjust the time as necessary. One of my favorite bloggers writes in detail about this here. I have also shared my experience about what it was like to go on a spending freeze. You can save money REALLY QUICKLY doing this. You would be shocked at what you might spend on a daily basis, though it does take some prep work! A coffee here, a quick snack here, a stop over at this restaurant. Freeze your budget, expand your savings.

2. Download the Ibotta app and start cashing in.

I heard about Ibotta a long time ago and used it awhile ago! A friend recently sent me a link and was telling me about it and I decided to use it. It’s ridiculously easy. You shop at a store of your choice. After you’ve finished shopping, you look to see if any of the items you purchased offer a cashback reward on Ibotta. You scan your receipt, scan the item, and voila – you have money. After you’ve made $20 you can withdraw it and SPEND. This is by far an easy way to make a few bucks. It works even better if you look on Ibotta first and see what items you can receive cash back for!

3. Ebates.

Ebates is THE BEST. I’d heard about Ebates for awhile but didn’t get all of the hype. Finally, around Christmas season, I decided to look into it. Ebates offers a rebate anytime you shop online. This means that I can spend $50 at a store online and if Ebates offers 10% back, I automatically earn $5. You can also make major bucks for referring friends. They issue out two “Big Fat Checks” each year. I have one coming to me for about $50. There are Ebates for almost any store imaginable.

4. Sell your stuff on Ebay.

I started selling things on Ebay when I was pregnant and really started picking it up after the boys were born. Ebay is by far my favorite way to sell and in my opinion, the easiest. I have sold on Facebook group sites but I don’t like meeting up with strangers face to face. I’ve had the most success selling baby/toddler/children’s clothing and women’s clothing. Those jeans that don’t fit from American Eagle or Express? Sell them. That top you bought at Target that you don’t love anymore? Sell it. Those clothes your kids only wore a few times? Sell it. I’ve made a few hundred dollars doing it and it serves two purposes – you clear out your house while making money!

5. Yard Sale.

I recommend selling anything that you couldn’t sell on Ebay at a yard sale. These items will be priced to sell, so when you have a yard sale you should have a lot of items and be willing to haggle. This works best in the spring or summer. For example, our neighbor was having one and advertised well, she encouraged us to have one too to drive more traffic to the neighborhood. We made about $150 and we literally threw it together. I think with more planning and pricing things well, we can make even more. This is an easy way to make money.

6. Cut those coupons. 

It sounds like common sense, but this one will make a big difference in your savings. The average family spends about $380 a month on groceries! Grab your weekly newspaper, look at coupon websites, and get to clipping. Consequently, I saved $65 grocery shopping last week! As I was looking through our budget interested in ways to slash the budget (because who doesn’t like to save); I decided to resurrect my coupon binder. I divide the coupons into categories and when I make my list each week, use the coupons that I can. Combine your coupons with what’s on sale and you will slash your grocery spending greatly. Some websites will even show you how to be an extreme couponer if you’re interested!

7. Stop going to your guilty pleasure stores. 

We all have them. Well, I know I do. The stores that you go to and can’t help but spend money in. “This is on sale…” or “It’s SUCH a good deal.” Anyone who knows me knows what this store is for me – TARGET. I can go to Target for toilet paper and walk out with everything short of the end caps. When I’m trying to save or am in a freeze, I’ll avoid going here unless I have to.  I avoid the temptation.

8. Side Hustle.

Pinterest the term “side hustle.” You will find loads and loads of ways to work a side hustle, a.k.a to make extra money on the side. My suggestion is this – if you are good at something, find a way to cash in on that. My husband is the kind of person that’s good at so many things (piano, photography, Photoshop, and a bunch of other things), work a side hustle. Sell on Etsy, write for money, do online surveys, drive for Uber. I would say my side hustle is probably selling on Ebay!

There are so many other ideas, but these are some of the things I’ve done and have worked for me. What works for you?! Would love to hear some of your tips and suggestions!

 

Spending Freeze Update – Freeze Over!

So here is the Spending Freeze update. After going strong for about two weeks (two and a half to three give or take?!) we ended the freeze early. We were doing SO well but fell off the wagon hard during the weekend of our church retreat. We also had a few things going on where we had to spend money and it kind of spiraled downwards from there. Honestly, instead of feeling defeated I feel quite proud of the fact that for over two weeks straight we didn’t spend money. This taught me that a freeze IS possible and I am going to aim for doing another one this year and hopefully, nailing it for the entire month.

What I learned:

  1. I don’t need to spend money constantly.
  2. There is a major difference between a need and a want. I need to think about how badly we need something before purchasing.
  3. The best way to avoid buying, is to avoid going to the stores. For me this was key.
  4. Planning is an essential tool to money-saving. Meal planning especially.
  5. I cook more when I am “forced” not to spend money. I am also forced to be more creative with my meals.

Overall, going on a freeze for a short or even a longer period of time can be beneficial. This is especially true if you spend money on frivolous things without realizing how much it adds up! I will definitely try this again, but hopefully we can go the entire month! We’ll see.

 

Saturday fun with my boys on a budget.

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We are currently on Day 5 of our spending freeze.

I was nervous about going into the weekend, because it’s REALLY easy to spend money on the weekend. Fries from Chick-Fil-A for the boys, Starbucks for mommy and daddy, a pretzel at the mall, a stop here, a stop there. It all adds up. However, spending is not in the budget his week.

But fun can STILL be had on the weekend without spending a penny. And I have the proof.

I wanted to do something that was outside of our normal Saturday routine and the thought popped into my head – why not the library? Our local library has an amazing children’s section and is very toddler-friendly. We went over the summer sometimes for the library reading time which we abandoned because it became toddler chaos time. I knew that Micah would do better with this trip because he can stay quiet and is pretty relaxed. Josiah is quite the opposite so my husband and I decided to do our own things with each boy for the time being. Off to the library I went with Micah. WE HAD A BLAST! Micah loved exploring the library, reading books with me, and was amazing even when I took super long browsing in the adults section. He plopped himself down next to me and just hung out. When he was bored, he started to race up and down the aisle. I let him! He was quiet, having fun, and wasn’t bothering anyone. On top of that, it was “Bring Your Child to the Library Day” so we ended up with a free book to keep! After over an hour, we left the library and headed home in time for naptime. It was an awesome morning!

Josiah woke up from his nap first and since he didn’t come up with us (he went upstairs to the place we keep our instruments and was able to jam out!) I read him the books we picked out for him and Micah!

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When Micah woke up, we decided to take the boys to the park! It’s not far from our house and despite the fact that it was cold today, we thought it would be good to get them out of the house. We had such a good time, even if it was cold.

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So while I am, in fact, quite the opposite of an expert in anything, these are the things we like to do when we don’t want to spend money and it’s cold.

1. We visit the local library. 

Just going to the library today reminded me of how much of a treasure it is and it’s FREE. You can rent movies, take out books, go to the library and read books without taking them out at all (if you just don’t want to), sign your toddlers up for reading programs or activities, and even put them on computers. Each library is different, so find out what your local library offers. Our library offers online renewal, so this means if I want to keep the books we borrowed longer I can do it easily.

2. We go to our local park.

I know for the majority of us it’s pretty cold! Yet, most toddlers need that outside time every day or at least a few times a week. I know my boys are absolutely no exception to that. They love it and they are able to release their energy. In addition, it’s an excellent sensory experience as well. We only stayed out for thirty to forty minutes, but we felt as refreshed as our boys did. Don’t be afraid of messiness either. Once the boys discovered the mud and puddles, they jumped in them and came home a wreck. We just threw them in the bath and called it a day.

3. We paint or do arts and crafts.

My little guys love arts and crafts. They love to finger paint the most. We strip them down to their skivvies, lay out a tarp or an old sheet, and let them have at it. They love it so much and it’s soooo messy. We block off the living room with the gate and literally let them go for it. By the end, they have paint everywhere. We put them in the bath and again, call it a day.

4. We arrange a play date with someone close by.

My aunt’s house is every child’s heaven. She’s a proud grandmother and has transformed her home into a very child-friendly environment. You know when you go to someone’s house whose home is completely child-friendly and you feel relief? You feel comforted in the chaos that surrounds you, thinking, ‘Well, my children can’t make it any worse…’ if you are that person – I love you. These are the kinds of homes I like to be in when I’m with my boys. There are Saturdays we head over and join the happy chaos. For free.

5. We take a field trip. To somewhere that’s restricted in the house.

There are some spots in the house that the boys don’t get to go to very often. That being said, when I have absolutely nothing else to do with them and we are all about to go bonkers, I break down the gates and let them go for it. A going upstairs to our music area and playing with all of the instruments or just running around.

6. We go on a mall walk.

We go to the mall without strollers, hold their hands, and walk them around the mall. We point out things, talk to them, create conversation about what’s going on around us, and so forth. They actually love this one. We let them climb on the mall rides or ride them. Most malls have toddler play areas. My advice is if you’re going to do this one, don’t go at a busy time. Our favorite time is right when the mall opens, or during a night of the week that’s completely dead.

These are the lame simple things we do when we are being cheapskates frugal. They’re not profound in the least. But they put a smile on the faces of my two favorite people in the universe.

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And they’re free.

What do you do with your little ones when you’re on a budget but want to have some fun? Particularly when it’s cold outside?

[Day 1] Spending Freeze

So today is the first day of our spending freeze. It was supposed to be yesterday, but I forgot that I scheduled dinner with one of my close friends who was moving out of town (from New Jersey to Iowa…how I miss her!) so I decided to push the freeze until today. It will last until March 1st, a day before my birthday.

So far, so good. Day 1 of this freeze includes setting ground rules for what this looks like for us. I explained it in my last post, but here is more of a breakdown.

Things we will absolutely NOT buy this month:

  • Amazon items – This is big because I buy off of Amazon ALL the time. With Amazon Prime and one click shopping it’s super easy to buy items…not necessarily for my wallet]
  • Starbucks – I buy from Starbucks weekly. Especially at Target.
  • Clothes – Another guilty pleasure. E-Bay especially.
  • Movies – February is a big movie month for me because of all the chick flicks that come out. Not this month!
  •  Rentals, music, and television shows from iTunes – especially easy because we have Apple TV.
  • Random Target “Must-Haves” – Ummm…Target-a-holics Anonymous anyone? ME.

Things we have committed to paying for this month:

  • All of our normal bills.
  • Our contributions to our church [tithing – something for us that is noncompromisable…giving in general and/or blessing others if we feel led to]

Grocery/Toiletry Items We May Buy this Month:

  • Food/items for the boys – fresh fruit, diapers, wipes, food, anything that is considered necessary, focusing on the keyword necessary
  • Bread, milk, eggs, or any perishables that we run out of – items like cheese, bread, and milk is something you can factor into your allotment for the month

The whole point is to set ground rules that work for MY family. We can obviously adjust according to plan, but the whole point is to do a spending freeze, so the goal is to not spend at all and instead save that money. I will be happy if we have a surplus of $400 dollars for the month…or anything!

Today wasn’t too hard at all. I think it’s much easier to not spend during the week. The weekends will be the most challenging, but I’m hoping it will push us to be creative and resourceful! Money doesn’t have to equal fun. Each day there is a task that you are supposed to do. Today’s task is – getting started and establishing the ground rules. Here’s to a great start!

Spending FREEZE for the month of February.

My little family will be embarking on a challenge for the month of February. A SPENDING FREEZE! I was inspired while reading Ruth Soukup’s book, “31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero” along with a few of her other books. Love her perspective! And nope, this isn’t an endorsed post, I really do just love what she has to say and what she’s about.

Her book is basically about the idea of instituting a spending freeze for the month, being resourceful, cooking from your pantry and freezer without spending a dime for a month! The result is saving money. She does this with her family twice a year and they save at least $1,000 each time. I decided I wanted to give it a go for the month of February because February is a short month and it would be a good month for our first time. So…

Starbucks Frappe? NO.

Target clearance jewelry? NO.

Dinner at Olive Garden? NO.

For one month. No. This is going to be the hardest on ME because I am the one who spends the most money in our family. And I know it.  I calculated how much I spent at Target last year and the sum was shocking. While yes, some of that is on food, the majority all comes from going in for one thing and getting a bunch of other things I absolutely “needed.” Another area that we can cut down on is groceries. If I actually use what’s in my freezer and pantry, before going out on another grocery run, we can cut down majorly in that department. I used a spreadsheet to go through every ounce of our budget (I used the one from the LWSL website) and the numbers were alarming. There are a LOT of areas that we can cut down on. The ones that stood out to me the most:

  1. Frivolous spending – mostly my weekly Target trips. Not kidding. Basically, the majority of the time I go to a store I buy something. I won’t necessarily drop a ton of cash for each trip, but these little things add up each month.
  2. Eating out – this one is major! The funny thing is, we hardly EVER go out to eat officially. We don’t do sit down restaurants often at all. It’s all the little things – the Wawa coffee or hot chocolate, the Chick-Fil-A quick stops, the must-have Starbucks to accompany me on my Target shopping trip, the weekly pizza on Fridays, and the like. All of these things are typically unplanned, but it cuts into our budget more than I realized.
  3. Cable/Phone/Internet bundle – we have a bundle but we literally only use the Internet section of our bundle. We do the majority of our television watching through Netflix or Hulu. My mother-in-law uses the television portion to watch Spanish television. Once the school year is over, we plan on cutting out the phone and cable.
  4. Groceries – I need to get back on my coupon/shopping sales game. I fell way off the wagon when school started because I felt like I didn’t have time. I can make a little bit of time for this each week. Even if I don’t use coupons, but, at least, try to shop the sales, I should see a difference in our spending in this area.
  5. The unnecessary add-ons – Kindle Unlimited, Hulu AND Netflix AND Cable, Lifelock, etc. We don’t need all of these things.

Each day there is a sort of “assignment.” The goal is to freeze spending and in the process become more organized, eliminate clutter, become more creative, and make use of what you already have. By the end of it, I will hopefully see a surplus of money! HOORAY.

Getting my husband on board wasn’t as challenging as I expected.

Me: Hey, do you want to try this spending freeze?

Husband: Do I really have a choice?

End of discussion. Of course, he has a choice and if he was adamant about not doing it, there is no way I could go forward successfully because it’s a team effort! But he knows that once I get an idea in my head, I’m all for it and it’s hard to deter me from the course. Plus – how can you be against saving money! So here is what I hope to gain from this experience:

  1. Better budgeting skills.
  2. An ability to save money better.
  3. A push to become creative with my meals.
  4. A push to become more creative with my wardrobe.
  5. Better organization/cleaning skills.

One of my main goals during this freeze is to develop a cleaning schedule and become more intentional about it. I’ve come SUCH a long way, but I still have a ways to go. I’ve been using Ruth’s checklists here.

I’ve been prepping for the freeze by checking our inventory and making sure to snag some essentials so that don’t have to worry about spending during February. On Sunday, the day before the freeze, I will be spending time preparing some freezer meals. This will help curb our spending on the days we don’t have much time and are attempted to order out. I also mapped out our eating menu for dinner for the entire month. I intend to blog about this experience each day – Day 1, Day 2, and so forth…more for my own accountability than anything else! I think if I know I have an audience who knows what I’m doing, I will feel less tempted to spend!

You are “allowed” to buy items like bread, eggs, fruit, and such because they won’t last an entire month, especially with twins! Obviously, I can buy whatever I want, but the goal is not to spend unnecessarily. SO, Monday will be our first day. Wish me luck!

Operation stay at home daddy in FULL effect!

My family is in a new season of our lives as operation SAHD is in full effect! I started working full time again as a teacher last Tuesday. If this is all news to you, check out my previous blog posts both here and here about how we came to a decision for my husband to leave work and stay at home full time. This means that we are down from two incomes to one. We had a bit of a savings to help us get through the summer and so we have been able to make it work. Our thought frame now is –

ok, what next?!

Some of the things we are considering – having my husband work part time, having him go back to school full-time/part-time, and also continuing to launch his photography business . These are all exciting possibilities and ones that we are trying to consider very prayerfully. In my heart, I would love for my him to go back to school for something ministry related because I know that’s where his heart is. Because of my firm belief in this, today I surprised him with a ticket to Dallas, TX to check out an amazing school of ministry during their “Campus Days” in October. I registered him for the event, bought the ticket, and told him all about it today! This all happened this morning and he’s still in shock but so excited. I think it will be an amazing opportunity for him to truly check out this school. He’ll also have a chance to spend time with his sister and my niece (remember – I road-tripped out their this summer with them to help them move!) so it’s a win-win all around. Being a SAHD provides for lots of moments like this –

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My boys loveeee having their daddy with them all of the time. It’s a true blessing and honestly – a true sacrifice…but the benefits are worth it. It’s especially been such a major help because this year has been particularly overwhelming so far. I live super close to my job and have been staying after work for hours and hours every day just because it seems like there isn’t enough time in the actual day to get things done. It’s been helpful to have my husband home with the boys because it gives me the time I need at work and most importantly, I know the boys are in the best hands possible. This season in our life has felt a bit isolating as well. My friends are in their spending money glory and I’m over here penny pinching and trying to live on a super tight budget. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy…it’s not! But it also helps me put things into perspective. What’s TRULY important to me?

Is is having the latest Coach purse? The trendiest clothes? The fanciest home?

No. For awhile, those things were important to me, I’m not going to lie. It’s very easy to get caught up in the comparison game of who has what, especially when not everyone sees things the way that you do. I do work with people that are, in fact, extremely materialistic. I know for a fact that in the eyes of some people, we would not be considered “successful” because so many people define success by how many things and material possessions you accumulate. Having things is wonderful, but I can’t put a price on what I have right now – my boys have their daddy with them ! That’s pretty precious.

My husband has been really wonderful. When I come home from work, there is usually dinner in the works. The boys are bathed, fed, and happy. The house is tidied up. Basically, he makes it easy so that when I come home I can focus on spending 100% of time with my boys and family. He knows that it’s not easy being away from them for the majority of the day. He knows that I’ve been really stressed out because of work. He knows that the last thing I want to do when I get home is have to do another zillion things so he makes it easy for me. I’m really blessed in this way.

Things have not been absolute perfection though. We both have to check ourselves inwardly every day. We don’t want to develop resentment, unrealistic expectations, or anger towards one another. That can slip in easily. I don’t ever want to feel superior to him or vice versa. I don’t want to place all of these demands on him either. I still want to help out…so we do our best to keep the lines of communication open. There have been tense moments (not going to lie!) but we’ve worked through them and continue to talk everything out. We are open to whatever it is God has for our lives. It’s just such a new season all around! We are also still in the process of trying to find a church to call home.

In the end though, the song that keeps resonating in my heart is:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.It is well with my soul,

 

 

 

And the miracles have begun.

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The last time I wrote, I updated you on the fact that my husband resigned from his job. You can read about that here and here. A part of me was starting to panic just a bit, because as I’ve mentioned in previous posts…we have a busy summer ahead of us. An anniversary, a 1st birthday, and a vacation. Do I feel peace about it all? Yes. Do I still worry? Yes. The 1st birthday and the vacation were definites (I paid the majority of our vacation in advance) but when I sat down and went through our budget, I decided it would be best to cancel our trip to Baltimore to celebrate our 5th year anniversary. It just seemed logical. I called my husband, told him about the numbers and what I thought we should do and he reluctantly agreed. I was sad and disappointed but figured it made sense (not gonna lie, I cried). I haven’t had any time alone with my husband for any period of time since the boys were born, beside the occasional date night. Even that has been super sketchy lately. I made this decision on the last day of school for teachers, which was this past Thursday. I even texted my mom and told her I was cancelling, since she would be the one babysitting the boys for us

Fast forward to Friday. I woke up in the morning and checked our bank account since it was my husband’s payday. I noticed TRIPLE the amount that should have been in there. TRIPLE!!!! There was a second direct deposit from my job…what the heck?! I immediately sent out a group text to my girls from work, “Um, did anyone get any money from our job in their account?” Some said yes, some said no…but at most it was abuot $200 extra. I wrote back, “Uh….I have a lot of money in my account from our job and I don’t know why or what to do about it!” Obviously part of me says, “Just go with it lady…it’s yours!” but the wiser part of me thought that I should contact the payroll department and find out what happened and if it was a mistake. I didn’t want to spend the money and then owe it…especially if it was a simple mistake. My friends confirmed that’s what I should do (I have honest friends, hooray) and so I immediately shot an e-mail over to the payroll department that read:

Hi,

This morning a significant amount of money was deposited into my account from the payroll department and I just wanted to double check and find out why it was before I spend it. I was out on maternity leave for most of this year, maybe that helps. Thank you!

I waited, waited…and soon got the following response:

You were owed that amount because of the way that we pay.  When you go out on an unpaid leave and then come back you are eligible to receive the next paycheck that is run upon your return.  If you complete the year we then go back and count the number of days you worked times your daily rate of pay and compare it to how many paychecks you received and the dollar value of those paychecks.  In your case, the number of days you worked was greater than the number of days you were paid for.

Enjoy your summer 🙂

UM – WHAT?!?!? AHHHH! I freaked out, praised God…and kind of sat back in awe at how this all happened. Random money deposited into my account that I wasn’t expecting but that we really needed. I feel like God is reminding me to trust Him and that we are going to be okay. We really are.

Finances & being frugal. How we survived my six month maternity leave!

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Originally I was only going to take a six-week maternity leave. That all changed when the boys were born at 34 weeks and spent weeks in NICU. When Micah caught RSV and was in the PICU in a children’s hospital an hour away…I knew I wanted to take a longer period of time to be with them. Yet, I am a teacher. I was going to go back to work in December but extended my leave to March 3rd. By the time I go back to work, I will have taken a total of six months off of work. I was able to be paid full-time from September until mid October. From that point I was granted the six weeks of Family Leave Act. Still, it was not my full income and after that was exhausted we were left to live off of half of our income…when our family doubled. As most of you know, when you have babies, your bills do not magically stop or decrease..in fact, they INCREASE (obviously). Add diapers, formulas, baby supplies, and all of that jazz to the list and things can get interesting. So how were we able to make it successfully? Here is what we did:

1. Cut back on all of the extras.

This included eating out, shopping for ourselves (anything we did buy was baby related for the most part), carpooling when we were going out with friends (to save on gas)…if we did catch a movie, we ate before the movie to avoid caving in to the price of theater food. When I’m working I usually get my nails done along with my eyebrows every two weeks or so. While on leave, I get my eyebrows done twice a month and that’s it, no manicures or pedicures (oh, the sacrifice…just kidding). I also got a haircut once and will cut my hair one more time before I go back to work. No Starbucks every other day or smoothies from Wawa (Pumpkin Cream…obsessed).

2. Breastfed as long as I could.

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My goal was to breastfeed for six months. I made it for about five months until my supply dried up. Micah was breastfed for a much shorter time than Josiah, because of his reflux/digestive issues. Josiah made it until five months, and then we switched him to formula. This helped during the first few months because we were able to save on formula. I also pumped like crazy and had a freezer supply at my house and even at my parents house. When my supply started to dwindle, we were able to live off the supply for a bit. I officially stopped breastfeeding after Christmas when I thought I had the flu and had to take some crazy meds…but it did help us save (and obviously, was great for the babies). I’m not against formula and was actually grateful when I could put the boys on it..(so much less pressure – don’t judge me! lol) so don’t feel bad if you weren’t able to breastfeed!

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3. Saved on Formula.

  • Avoided buying formula WITHOUT a coupon and combined the coupons with formula sales.

Even while I was breastfeeding, I saved all of the Similac and Enfamil coupons that I received in the mail, just in case. These came in handy when I needed to purchase formula. I browsed the formula sales in advance and used the coupons in combination with the sale which helped us save drastically. This site is a great site to help you survey the sales and figure out what places are best and what coupons to use.

  • When I ran out of coupons, I posted about it on Facebook, to see if anyone had any they didn’t use.

When I ran out of formula coupons, I posted on facebook. It went something like this: “Hi everyone. Both of the boys are officially on formula, and as you know, formula for twins can get pretty expensive. If anyone has any formula coupons they don’t use or don’t want, please let me know.” And just like that, my post got a lot of responses from friends whose babies no longer used them or didn’t need them for some reason. People began to save them for me and mailed them to my house! People still save them and send them to me. Never underestimate the kindness of people (or even fellow bloggers like Bree who are beyond thoughtful..love her). Every little bit helps!

  • Never left the doctor’s office without free samples.

I was reminded of this by Bree as well. It’s true, doctor’s offices get these samples for free and for the purpose of giving out, so don’t be afraid to ask. My doctor’s office has no issues and every time we leave the office, we ALWAYS leave with samples of formula. Huge help.

  • Wasn’t afraid to buy store brand.

Target has great formula and it’s $10 cheaper than Similac. On top of that, if you download the Target Cartwheel Coupon app, they often have an extra 10% off Target formula coupon.

4. Get the biggest bang for your buck on diapers. Browse around first and don’t be afraid to switch brands.

When it comes to diapers, I typically buy from three brands – Pampers, Diapers, or Huggies. I’ve tried the cheaper generic diapers in the past but have paid for it when it has leaked through or stained/ruined good baby clothing. Therefore, we decided to stick with a few favorites. Luvs at Target is $25 for a box of 148. Target usually has a sale where if you buy ____ boxes, you get a gift card. The gift card you can use right away pretty much. I always pay for the boxes of diapers in one transaction, and then use the gift card for whatever I have left, in addition to any Target Cartwheel coupons or regular coupons I have. For example, this past week Target had a deal where if you bought 2 boxes of Luvs, you would receive a $10 gift card. The price per diaper (for a size 3) ends up being about 14 cents a diaper. Not bad! If you are a Huggies or Pampers fan (which I am, but have switched to Luvs since it’s cheaper and works well) they offer you a $20 gift card for each $37.99 box. That ends up being about 20 cents a diaper. There are diaper deal websites that will tell you how to combine coupons to receive super cheap diapers..but I don’t buy anything that’s under 140 count. With twins, it’s not worth the hassle to me.

5. Deferred some of my student loans.

I got a little “break” from paying my student loans while on leave. This saved me about $150 and more monthly.

6. Made necessary sacrifices…like choosing to share a car instead of buying another.

My car went last year in the spring. Instead of buying an additional car we decided to share and make it work through the summer, since the car we own has no car payments (paid it off early knowing I would be going on leave, saving us $250 a month). To this day, we still share a car. We plan on buying one before I go back to work (I go back in a month, we’ve started to browse just a little)…and though its’ been extremely HARD and has made for some very b-o-r-i-n-g days but it has been worth the sacrifice and savings.

7. Couponed a lot more than usual.

Being on leave turned me into a big couponer. I’m by no means an “Extreme Couponer” (in the words of Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody got time for that!) but here is what I do:

  • Buy Saturday paper. Cut coupons. Browse all of the circulars and see what coupons to combine and browse websites such as krazycouponlady which take the work out of it and tell you what coupons can be combined where..and they have a comprehensive list of stores on their site.
  • Combine clipped coupons with print out register coupons (i.e. Register Rewards, Extrabucks, whatever you want to call it) to get the best possible prices possible (I have paid as little as 64 cents for formula, not bad).
  • Go to coupon websites such as coupons.com, Redplum, P&G
  • Load coupons on to my reward cards where possible. Walgreens now allows you to load coupons to your card!
  • At Walgreens use the monthly savings book (has extra coupons), at CVS hit the Kiosk to see what coupons print out…I don’t go to Rite-Aid much.

8. Meal planned and bought accordingly.

I’ll be honest, meal planning is not something that I did before the boys were born. When I was looking up ways to be thrifty and save, it was a topic that kept coming up. So that’s what I did. I planned my meals and purchased items according to the plan. This helped out because it meant that I almost always had the ingredients I needed and didn’t have to run to the store and spend more money on something I forgot. It doesn’t take long either (at least not the way I do it). I keep it simple and write out a rough outline of what I’m cooking what days, add the ingredients I need to my grocery list and it’s a done deal.

9. Ordered my groceries online.

You may be thinking, what? Isn’t there a charge for that? And the answer is yes. Where I shop, there is a $10 charge for ordering groceries online..but I order them anyway. I actually SAVE money ordering online than when I go to the store. First off, when I go to the store I almost always forget things, whether I have my list or not..or I give up after awhile and just say “ehh, I’ll come back later.” This is especially if the store is crowded or if it seems like I have been shopping for an eternity. I start to get impatient. On top of that, I end up with more than I intended and with things that are not on the list. I don’t take the time to calculate everything because I get impatient or because I forget midway through so it’s just kind of a mess. People from my job introduced me to the gloriousness of online grocery shopping and I haven’t looked back since!

Benefits:

  • You can work on your list all week and preorder your groceries for a certain day.
  • You can still use coupons just like you would at the store.
  • There are almost always promotions that waive the $10 charge.
  • You get exactly what you need with the click of a button.
  • You don’t have to spend time in the store dealing with the crowds or anything else.

There are drawbacks too, but I feel like the benefits outweigh them! I online grocery shop twice a month…I love it.

10. Redefined what our “date nights” meant.

My husband and I still had our date nights, but not every date night was necessary a night out. Sometimes it would be as simple as watching a movie on Netflix, eating some chocolate, drinking some soda…and just relishing the quiet.

I just wanted to share some of what we did to make it through. I’m by no means recommending this for everyone (after all, every family is different) but just wanted to share! It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been perfect, but we have been able to make it through by the grace of God. God also ALWAYS provided for us (I wrote a post about some of the awesome ways He did so here) and I’ve learned that in the end, I need to trust God. It’s been really helpful because it has been like a training for when my husband leaves his job in September to stay home with our little ones.

Are you thrifty or frugal? Have any tips you would like to share? I would love to hear them! I’m always looking for new ways to save.