Having a baby has been one of the most fulfilling and joyful experiences of our lives and marriage. But as most parents know, a child can put a strain on almost any budget! Matt and I would be the first to tell you that we are not always the best with money- we are both pretty big impulse buyers, and for me, shopping can be not only a fun/social hobby but also a stress reliever at times! Since I'm a nerd and get excited over things like coupons, I wanted to share some of the fun and easy ways that I try to save money in our everyday lives. As a mom who does not work outside the home, I look at trying to save money on our everyday basics as a way to help provide for our family.
1. Big-store shopping
We've been blessed since day one of our marriage in having a Sam's Club membership! It can be a bit of a pain sometimes since it is hard to make quick in-and-out trips, but we try to use this to our full advantage by stocking up on anything that we use very frequently (diapers!) or that won't go bad if we stock up on a huge amount of (cleaning supplies, tp, paper towels, etc). We have found that diapers and wipes are a great deal here. Pampers here average 25 cents per diaper, and Huggies wipes are a steal at 2 cents each when you buy these ginormous packs. Sam's has the best deal on baby formula we've ever seen (19 cents per ounce) and has almost exactly the same ingredients when compared side-by-side to Enfamil which averages more like 78 cents per ounce, even on sale! I had hoped to breastfeed exclusively and never need to buy formula, but had lots of difficulties and am so thankful that we could find an affordable way to buy formula! Sam's also now offers multi-packs of Gerber's fruits and veggies which average 50 cents per container. For a little over $100 we bought the following, which will last us about 2-3 months (longer for the wipes!).
2. Online Free Samples
There are LOTS of companies online that will send you coupons/free samples just for signing up or requesting them. The good ones here are all the baby websites- Gerber, Enfamil, Nestle Good Start, Pampers, Huggies, and Beechnut all have online memberships where you can sign up and receive freebies or earn points based on the products you buy. Wal-Mart.com has freebies that change monthly on their website. I went crazy one night googling "free sample" and requested them from probably 50 different sites. These are all the freebies I've received in the past 3 months or so:
This idea is great for mostly toiletries and houseware items. Two suggestions are to be careful to keep your computer's spyware up to date in case you run across a "bad" website in your searching, and also to set up an individual email account (or use an old one that you never use for real stuff anymore) to keep from cluttering up your inbox. That gives you the freedom to let them send whatever they will, but you don't have to deal with it on a daily basis unless you want to. Then enjoy finding surprises in your mailbox! (By far, my favorite part!)
There are LOTS and LOTS of websites out there that have done a much better job and much more research than I on the subject of coupons. Some of my favorites are: Mommysavers.com, babycheapskate.com, and smartsource.com
I had given up on coupons in the past because a lot of times they are for expensive items that I would not normally buy, but would just because I had a coupon for it. Then I would come home with an expensive grocery trip, and no "real food." Now I save them only if I know for a fact that we buy the item on a regular basis. I try to "stack" the savings by using a coupon for an item that is already on sale, and shopping at places that will double or triple coupons (Harris Teeter!). I've also found good deals at CVS and Walgreens.
I think the true trick to not getting frustrated with coupons is to have an organizer, use them on items that you always buy and that are on sale anyways, and make your list and THEN search online for a coupon for a specific item you want to buy... I ended up wasting money if I made my shopping list based just on items I had coupons for. For example, the other day I knew we needed dog food, so I googled "Purina" and ended up finding a $5 off coupon that I printed and took to the store, which ended up making it cheaper than the store brand!
I also have an organizer so I can see what I'm working with. I took a little $1 plastic photo album (and of course, stamped it up a little pretty downstairs in my craft room just for fun!):
This way, if I have multiple coupons for the same brand or same item, I can put them all in the same pocket. I put the ones that will expire soonest on top so that I remember to use them first. To save room, I also pair things that go together in the same pocket (ie: men's deodorant and razors or ziplock bags and trash bags).
Two other pluses: I can flip through it easily to see what I have coupons for, and Kenna sits and plays with it in the cart while I grocery shop and the coupons don't fall out easily! I also tuck store coupons inside the front and back covers (such as Michael's 40% coupons).
4. Have a "rock bottom price" list
This is something I just did recently that I am really happy with! A lot of times I see something on sale but have no idea if it is a truly a good price or not (example: I bought a huge pack of coffee filters at the dollar store and got really excited. Then I found a pack twice as big at Wal-Mart for 96 cents. Then I got home and realized our coffee maker uses a resuable, washable filter). I read online that you should try to pay 20% less that the least expensive, non-sale price you can find. So I made a list of things we use on a daily basis, and researched the best prices I could find for them, and wrote the price to beat next to each item- I try to find the item for that price or less. I typed them up in an Excel spreadsheet (only because it is a quick way to have all the info in nice, pretty columns!) and now have a quick and easy list that I can add to easily, or print off and keep in the back cover of my coupon booklet. Yay!
We also love consignment sales for baby clothes, toys, bottles, and other items that can be bought and sold gently used. If you are local to Raleigh/Wake Forest, the Kidaround Kidsale is a really good one (coming up soon!) that is great if you get stressed out by the ginormity of the Kids' Exchange out at the fairgrounds.
I hope these little quick tips are of help to you! I'd love to hear your tips or questions too.