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.