Couponing for the non-extreme

Howdy all. I know, it’s been way too long since an update. I tried a few times (even have an unfinished Dragon Age entry), but wordpress decided it wasn’t going to cooperate, so we’re gonna try here. Wish me luck…

I have been on Maternity Leave since June 1st. Not bed rest, and hopefully won’t be on that, but the pain was becoming too hard to handle, causing cramping and other unpleasantness. So between the boss and the doc, they both agreed it was time. I have been feeling better, somewhat. I say somewhat in that I have had more good days than bad ones, but overall, not much has changed. I still feel pain, my body lets me know when I overdo it (which I try not to, but it’s not easy), and I still have eating issues. On the bright side in the last month I’ve put on 9 pounds :). I about hugged the nurse when I saw the first five of that gain. I know that the old addage of a pregnant woman is supposed to gain weight really isn’t true. It doesn’t really matter TOO much how much mom weighs, as long as the uterus and baby are growing at a normal rate. Somehow this little bugger has managed to keep growing, even with me shrinking. But it was a mental thing for me. I like loosing weight at a healthy rate, and the rate I was loosing it at (reference last posted journal entry for hell with stomach), not the quick pace I was loosing it. Thankfully, even with as sick as I got with my Gall Bladder, baby was not harmed by it. But I still about hugged the nurse :).

Hubby has a nice new job now, working as a Line Cook for a pretty upscale restaurant in Greenville. So far so good. Kids are doing good, helping out around the house, doing some baking and lots of gaming and movie watching. The garden hasn’t been doing too well. Most everything could not handle the intense heat we had for a while and then the torrential downpours that would occur here and there.

A bit of sad news. Trouble, our 11 year-old Queen of the House kitty, passed away in May. Well, it was more of a thing that we had to put her down. If you know anything about cats and their weight, here’s a scary figure for you. In March when the upper respiratory illness hit, she weighed over ten pounds. When we took her in May to see just what might be done to help her, she weighed about 6-7 pounds. She lost a third of her bodyweight, which is not good for the smaller guys. She wasn’t moving, wasn’t eating, drinking, nothing. We could barely get a reaction out of her at times. So the decision, sadly enough the day after Hubby’s graduation from Culinary School, we put her down. There was nothing we could do. No guarantee that she’d be better or worse. It wasn’t easy as she’d been apart of our lives for so long. We still catch ourselves looking for her. The pain of loosing her has died down a little, but her legacy still lives on. She has a brother in Charleston and a few of the younger kittens are trying to vie for the spot of Tubby. I don’t have the heart to tell them that there will always only be ONE Tubby.

Ok, now for some fun, or not so fun stuffs. Since I’m on leave, and not bringing ANY money in right now, things are very tight and pretty frustrating. We do get food stamps and a few family members and friends have been kind enough to help where they can (though it’s never expected, but always appreciated). The move has been put off indefinitely. If I were able to work now, it’d take place shortly after the baby is born. But, even though we’ve tried looking, there isn’t anything out there we can afford right now.

That brought the house to do the declutter project, if you follow me on FaceBook, you know all about it. What was supposed to only be a two-three week project took us about a month and a half to complete. But we have a little bit more space (that is quickly being filled by baby stuffs), a lot less trash, about 4 boxes of books went to the library and a grand total of about 11 boxes to Goodwill. One box is still waiting its trip to Goodwill, but that will happen this week.

And yes, we take our unwanted stuff to Goodwill. As long as it’s in good shape. We used to bother with the flea market, but after the last trip there where it cost more getting there and paying for the table and hauling the stuff back, we decided no more. And this way we give back to the community, and it benefits everyone. The books, we decided were not going to Goodwill. Nope, the library was the place of choice on that one. We actually donated enough to get rid of a poor, way out of shape bookshelf and still have room to add more books later :).

One way we have been working on saving money has been with coupons. I’ve dabbled with them through out the years, but nothing very serious. It was always hard to keep up with and I ended up with more expired ones than I did use. Well, a friend turned me onto the Southern Savers website. And then I noticed the show “Extreme Couponing” on TLC. Needless to say I’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks that have been most helpful in stretching an almost non-existent budget. Now before you call “Horders”, I am not, nor will I ever be like the extreme couponers. In fact one thing I dislike about that show is that what they don’t tell you (most of the time) is that these people do not always go out on these huge shopping trips. And the stockpile they have? Most of them have been building it for a long time, with small trips here and there. I still will never get to that level, especially not now. I don’t have the patience for it. But I have picked up some stuff, as I said earlier, that has helped me to get us the things we need and not spend so much for it.

I don’t go dumpster diving, steal papers from foreclosed homes, or beg for coupon inserts. You will never see me do that stuff. Goes against several of my pet peeves. I do have a binder for my coupons, though. I doubt it will ever be bigger than the 1 1/2″ it’s all in now, which suits me fine. It’s just easier to plan shopping trips this way. So trick/tip #1 from the websites and show. At most, you will see me pick up four Sunday papers from our local Wal-Mart. I get it from there because the Wal-Marts in our area have a deal with our major local newspaper. The Sunday edition is only 0.98 when normal price is about $1.50-2.00. And with the way the hands are some days, four is the most I feel I can handle when it comes to cutting them all out. That and I don’t want to hog all the papers. Now as far as finding out which week I get four, or just one, or none at all, I go to the Southern Savers site. They do a preview of the next weeks inserts, so usually about Wednesday or Thursday I’ll be able to decide. Trick/Tip #2. I also do spend a bit of time at the computer hunting down coupons. I use the database and links supplied by Southern Savers and The Krazy Coupon Lady. I also go to the manufacturers websites and sign up and am able to often get good ones that really help out for things we need.

Which brings me to another thing about why I could never go to the extreme. How many of them get this work in their favor is they buy everything they have a coupon for (90% of the time combined with a sale) and they use it. That’s nice when you have skin that will tolerate anything you put on it. A Hubby who does not have a restrictive diet. And the list goes on. I cannot do that. So I hunt down the coupons for things we need and can use. Sometimes we try new stuff with the coupons, but for the most part, certain items have to be purchased, regardless of sale or coupon, because that’s what we have to use. Maybe one day I may try the extreme route and donate to a charity(s) the majority of the stuff. But that is a long way off.

Another trick/tip I’ve picked up through all of this, is calling or e-mailng the manufacturer and asking them coupons. Or just by thanking them for supplying a great product. This has helped me with buying the Dreft laundry soap for the baby, as well as helped with the cats and the cat litter. Our local Bi-Lo had the Tidy Cats litter on sale for 4.99/14 lb container. I had two $2.00 off coupons any size that I’d gotten from calling Purina. I bought three of them, spending only 10.97 for 42 lbs as opposed to what I normally end up spending for one 32 lb container at Wal-Mart for about $12. A pretty decent savings.

And here’s tip/trick #4: combing coupons with sales. If I take the time and plan out each trip, especially if the store of choice has a lot of stuff Buy 1 Get 1 Free sales, I can typically save about 50% on the entire bill. Nothing like the TV, but still very helpful and ensures we get what we need. After you take out the food stamp money from the order, the actual out-of-pocket cost is very low, it’s refreshing.

So far the couponing hasn’t been a huge help in the bill shrinking department, but it certainly hasn’t increased it at all. And it helped out big time when I received a few gift cards and checks to buy things for the baby. Since I didn’t have to pay much for the smaller ticket items thanks to the coupons, I was able to pick up a few bigger ticket items needed for the baby. But as I get more into a rhythm with couponing and learn more, we might see it helping to shrink the household bills more. It would be nice.

So, you see, you don’t have to be an extremist with this stuff. In fact, thanks to an increase of extremists, a lot of stores are changing their policies to dissuade people from doing so. It pays to get familiar with a store or two, especially if their policy with coupons is more friendly. I’ve discovered I save more when I go to Publix and Bi-Lo. And a bonus with Bi-Lo, they have a fuel perks program that goes off the entire bill BEFORE coupons and sales, so no matter how little I actually pay for my trip, I get the full amount for the fuel perks. Which has helped tremendously. Wal-Mart I can’t save that much to save my life, so I only go there for items that we need that I know are not on sale at other places. I still try to make sure I have a coupon, though ;).

Ok, that’s it. I’m done in. Time to proofread and grab something to eat and rest for a while this afternoon. Girls helped in getting a lot of stuff done. I still have a few things, but I did manage to get most of it done earlier. Just a little here and there. I’m off!

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