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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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.