How I Am Gaining Control of My Finances…One Coupon at a Time

As promised yesterday, I want to talk a little bit more about the system I’ve been working on for organizing the different components of my life. Today I’m going to stick with writing about my coupon and shopping system, but I will dabble a bit into my finances because let’s face it, they are all connected.

How did this all start?

I need to buy a home. It absolutely kills me when I think about Erin graduating in four years and I’ve never provided a stable home for her. That’s the main reason, but there is also the Me factor. I long for a home of my own, not only to get my crap out of storage, but also for doing the things I love, like gardening. Then there is the financial aspect of it. I’m paying out $1,200 each month in rent and I’m making someone else rich, yet I’m struggling to put food on the table. And don’t get me talking about retirement savings and paying for college for Erin. It is just time for me to buckle down and figure this shit out.

When I think about buying a house I get very overwhelmed because my credit is atrocious and I just don’t have a good handle on things. I think a lot of it comes from those years when we first started out,  were so poor, and we never had enough. I got really good at scraping by and robbing Peter to pay Paul. Once real money started coming in, I had no skills on how to manage things. Sprinkle in the fact that one member of the family is disabled, the other has childhood expenses, things just break and eventually need to be replaced, I was just in an ugly 20-year cycle.

I knew I needed a system

I started researching budgeting systems and I instantly fell in love with the Dave Ramsey envelope system and debt snowball. (I realize that Mr. Ramsey has some kind of religious overtones, but I don’t know anything about him. I am not endorsing anything more than these two philosophies of money management that hit home with me.)

The reason why I love the envelope system is because I’ve noticed through the years that on weeks when I have very little money I always seem to make it work. I eat a little leaner for lunches. There are no extra items slipped into the grocery cart. I stretch dinners into lunches for Erin. I make less trips in the car to save on gas. Then when the money comes back around I just burn through it again. I never seem to have the discipline I need to live that lean unless I’ve been forced to.

This is how the envelope system works:

Each payday you actually go to the bank, withdrawal real money and place the budgeted amount into each pocket of the envelope. And that is all you have. When the money runs out, you’re out.  This is what my envelope system looks like:

Money

I purchased this little expandable envelope from the dollar store. You may be wondering why I have a section for meat separate from groceries and that is because I like to shop at a meat market and buy in a bundle in order to save money.

 

Once I starting writing our budget, I downloaded two months of spending from both mine and Rob’s account. I literally wrote every single charge we made and I put them into categories. I was appalled to see how much money we were spending on food. Secondly, the deal I made for myself is that anything that was left in a section after a full cycle would be transferred into the ‘Out to Eat’ section, but that never happened, I was spending every single penny. Frustrated, I started coming up with ways to feed my family and save money.

I turned to coupons

That’s right, I’m a certified coupon clipper my friends and as sickening as it might sound, I’m addicted to it. I literally get a high off it. I’m saving almost $50 a week in coupons combined with in-store specials and those little coupons that print out at the register.  Here are the last four of my receipts just to show you I’m not kidding about the kind of money I’m saving:

Receipts

It definitely takes time to get everything together, but I’m finding the more organized I get, the easier the process is. At first, I was a mess when I went into the store. I would have my list made, but I struggled keeping my coupons organized or remembering which ones I had. Now though I keep my coupons organized by store in the same type of dollar store envelope system I keep my money in.

Coupon Organizer

This way I know exactly what coupons to use at each store!

My post is running a bit longer than I expected to and I don’t want to put too much in one long post. Tomorrow I will talk about my household binder, the system I purchased off of Etsy, and how I create a pantry and fridge inventory before I sit down to clip my coupons and make my grocery list. Basically I’m not just clipping any coupon that I see, I’m using the coupons, plus what I have in my house to build the meals for next week.

Here is a shot of my entire system when I sit down to work on it:

My Set Up

And these are inserts from the system I’m using…

Organizing Sheets

More on this tomorrow.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What do you think of this system? It is similar to one you use? What tricks have you found with money management, coupon cutting and general household organization? I would love to hear all about it!

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A Fun Week to Come

While I have been slacking on regular updates, I’ve been carefully crafting my next chapter. Based on my experiences of the past year, I would have to guess that there is nothing like facing death to help you appreciate life. After soul searching for the past few months, I am absolutely finished with sitting on the sidelines of life, not living to my potential, and being miserable because I’ve built excuses and obligations around all the reasons why things need to be this way..

I am a big girl, with big dreams, and a big journey ahead

When I first thought about what it would take to accomplish my dreams one thing was clear, I needed to get my mobility back. It hasn’t been easy considering I have a gained another twenty pounds during the heath crisis of 2016. Add this to my already 100+ pounds that need to be lost and I get a little overwhelmed. Once my eyes were open and I saw where I needed to be, I literally started by putting one foot in front of the other, I charged up my fitbit (which I hadn’t used for years), and I started walking every day. Six weeks later I’m not ready to run a marathon, but I’m definitely stronger and I’m looking forward to adding a few more exercises in this week to step it up a notch.

It’s not just about my body, it’s about the stuff all around me too

Outside of the physical changes going on in my life, I have started a massive organizational project, complete with the creation of a household binder, coupon clipping, and budgeting goals. When I truly looked at my life I knew other things beyond my weight needed to change. Money was going out the door faster than I made it, and knew I was going to need money to move forward, having a better handle on things was not optional, it was necessary.

What’s to come?

This weekend, I sat back, took a few pictures, wrote about some of the tricks I’ve learned and the tools I’ve found, and I hope your interested in seeing what I’ve come up with. It’s going to be a fun week of sharing.

Honoring Your True Self

I’m up early and it’s Sunday. The sun is shining pretty bright and I have a feeling it is nice outside. I can’t remember the last time I was up early on a Sunday. Sunday’s are typically the only day that I have to just sleep in. I feel like I’ve been sleep deprived for a very long time and Sunday just wraps me up in a nice warm blanket and says, “stay, sleep, let the world pass you by”. And like a good listener of the world I say, “thank you very much, I will do that!”

What’s new?

I’ve been purposely walking for exercise for six weeks now. My goal was to make it a full six weeks and to then evaluate how I felt, where I had come from and where I want to go. I’d say being up, feeling good and ready to take on the world so early means that my body is actually healing, even if the scale tells me I’m still larger than life. The funny thing is that I don’t even care about that damn thing anymore.

Over the past couple months years, I’ve been striving to meet certain personal goals. I have been told I have been too hard on myself at times, suggested by others that these goals didn’t really matter and they surly didn’t define me, but I keep trying to fill this empty void that is inside me. When you know with all your heart that you are someone different and then everyday you wake up and you’re not this person you are meant to be, life gets hard. It causes us to make bad decisions, stay in relationships that aren’t healthy, and making it so very easy to neglect ourselves.

Do you ever feel like you are not honoring your true self?

So over the past few weeks I have been doing just that, honoring my true self. Taking care of my body. Organizing the things in my life. Looking internally and listening to my voice, finding out just who Catherine really is. I’m don’t know much yet, but I do fully understand that I am ready to break free of the bullshit. This I know for sure!

What’s next?

So I’m taking on another step tomorrow and I’m going to be focusing on the next six weeks. Since I feel my walking is now a habit and my body is used to the idea of moving again, I’m going to focus on my food. Much the same way that I just worked on the exercise, one day at a time. Evaluating my likes / dislikes, finding what foods make me feel better and which ones make me feel like crap, taking the time out to actually pack healthy things for myself so that I am prepared all day long. For me, it’s all about taking small steps to eventually get to some larger goals met.

I took this picture below my first day out walking. I was so weak from being sick earlier this year that I was unable to walk much faster than a snail. I kept at it, taking one step at a time and now I’m here today much stronger than I was before. I’m not perfect, but I am very much whole.

sidewalk

Organizing Old Photos

This is a long overdue post, but be assured I think of writing often.There just gets to a point where there are only so many hours in the day and unfortunately as much as writing is my leisure time, it ranks zero on my list when the world is pulling at me.

I just wrapped up some of my busiest times at work. It lasted three weeks and I was challenged in ways I never have been before. I’m learning a lot too about designing thing the way I want them to look vs sending them to our creative people to process.

I’ve started walking. It’s hard. I am just no where near where I once was. At the end of the day, I really don’t care much though, I’m doing the best I can.

Then I started the next phase of my photo organization project. Did I tell you, when I thought I was going to die the only thing that kept running through my head was that my photos were so disorganized. I was so upset about it I cried to my mom, “everyone is going to have to come over and help me get my pictures into albums.” Now that you guys are stuck with me a little longer, I still feel the need to get them together, but it is a big damn job. So I started in steps:

First I pulled all my photo boxes out and one by one started organizing them by year:

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If you look close, there is a hilarious picture of me from junior high on the table!

Once I had them sorted by year, I put them into ziplock bags, marked with the year.

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My next step will be going through them by year. Pitching the photos that are blurred or have multiple shots of. After that step is complete I plan to put them into albums. Since I can’t just run out and buy a ton of albums, I have been purchasing one each paycheck.

It was actually a good process. Not only was it great to see baby Erin and loved ones from years past, it gave me a concrete visual of how fast time has flown by and that has sparked my wanting to make sure that I cherish every single day I have here.

Plus, it unearthed beauties like this:

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Yes, that would be me. High School. Band. Enjoy!

Oh, and an update on my heath – I’m just not talking about it right now. I’m basically in the same place. Looks like infection is back. Scheduled for an ultrasound on Monday to determine how they are going to open me back up, i.e., big or little. Don’t worry about me though, I’m just going with the flow.

Winning

So my depression talks. Just like you and me. I have a running dialog with it all the time. That is why I am seeking out meditation, because I believe that I can quiet that voice down, maybe even shut it the hell up.

One of the greatest stories depression tells me starts when I go on antidepressants.  As soon as I start feeling better, depression says,

“hey, you know these meds you are taking? You think they make you feel good, but really you are missing out on life. You might not be depressed, but you are not happy either. The medication takes all emotion out of life and what is life worth living if you don’t feel anything?”

I then stop taking the medication and I spiral down into a hole.

Depression tells me another story too, it’s a bit simpler, but basically he says,

“HEY!!!!! Did you notice how great you feel????  You don’t need those crappy antidepressants anymore…YOU ARE OVER THE HUMP!”

and then…I stop taking them.

It’s a cycle I’ve been unable to break since I’ve started treatment when I was 19. My last cycle was years ago and when I stopped the last time, I said I was never going to go back on medication again because I’d rather suffer than play the on / off game. These past four years have been the hardest of my life and I haven’t went back to the medicine.

That was until the medical drama that started this year and I needed help. I promised myself when I asked for the pills that I would stop playing that game. That no matter how much shit depression talks, I know I am sick and I need these medications. For life.

****

So meditation has been going fabulously. Things are clicking and I’m feeling like this has been a missing piece of my life. I sit down to meditate around 9:00 every evening and some days I may even sit back and enjoy a guided session beyond that. It has been nothing short of wonderful.

On Saturday I sat down for my session and my mind starts to wander. I push through the session and I’m happy, but I felt somewhat of an emptiness. I didn’t recognize it until Sunday, but depression was at work trying to fuck up this good thing that was taking over my life.

Sunday I sit down for my session and I have the shittiest session again and this time I hear depressions voice,

“Hey, you know these problems you are having these last few sessions?  Yeah, it’s the meds. They are stopping you from really exploring the benefits of meditation. This is the extent of what you are ever going to feel from meditation unless you stop taking the meds or quit meditating. You decide, but something has got to give.”

And this is where I stayed all day. His voice just running through my head all day.

Tonight is my meditation class and depression tried talking me out of going, but I plugged through and made it to class. During one of our exercises, our instructor started the session by reading a disclaimer about how meditation should never replace therapy, and what we are doing should never be considered therapy. He explained to us that he was going to ask us to go the “that place”. You know the uncomfortable place at the pit of your gut that is raw and ugly and sparks all your sadness.

Oh, I know that place well and I go to it instantly.

I close my eyes and I see my 19 year old self, in the living room of my apartment up at school. I’m on the phone with my mom, the health insurance card in my hand, I’m telling her how sick I am with my depression and that I needed to come home.

I felt nothing. I couldn’t bring myself to feel the pain we were reaching for.

“You can’t bring it up because of the medication.” says depression.

Damn, I think to myself. Depression might be right. This is my trigger. This is my place. This is the defining moment of my life. My mom failed to tell my dad I was sick, and when he found out I had failed out of school, kicked me to the street.

I realize this story wasn’t working so I went to my second heaviest place of pain.

I was just beat by someone I love. I locked myself in the bathroom and I was black and blue, crying, leaning over the sink. I looked in the mirror and all I saw was my mom in the reflection. The sight makes me cry harder. I’ve repeated the cycle.

Nothing. I feel nothing!

The instructor rings the bell, everyone opens their eyes and a box of tissues is placed in the center of the room for anyone that feels the need to clean up a bit from the experience.

I sulk.

I cross my arms and mope the rest of the class. Depression dances in my head, not just with a ribbon, but he’s got a trophy too…he fucking won and he feels like a million bucks.

The class starts wrapping up and the instructor tells us a story.

He’s at the park with his granddaughter, she is 3-4 years old. They start racing to an imaginary finish line and when they arrive she stumbles a bit a falls over, but not hard enough to cause any type of pain or injury. He goes to pick her up and she starts sobbing uncontrollably. He knows that her crying is about something greater than her fall and they eventually calm her down enough to ask her questions and she tells them that she was crying because she was a big girl and big girls don’t fall like that. He explains to the class, we could have done a lot of things in this moment, we could have assured her that she was a big girl. We could have told her to brush it off and go play, but we didn’t…we just held her.

The tears start streaming down my face and I sit in silence, hoping the rest of the class doesn’t see me crying. My heart is so heavy it feels like a weight is sitting on my heart.

Our instructor tells us to close our eyes and as I sit and meditate, the tears stream down my cheeks and start collecting on my chest in a pool. When the session is over, I wipe my face, blow my nose. I tell depression that it can fuck off and it can shove that trophy up his ass.