Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Grocery Shopping With a Penny Pinching Lunatic

I haven't always used coupons. When I was raising three small children and working and attending school I felt I didn't have time to put into it. In fact I made several attempts at saving and failed miserably. I was disorganized with the coupons and never bothered to look at the sales ads. Shopping was a hurried affair racing through the store and tossing items in the cart, sometimes without even remembering what was in the cabinets at home. It would have been to my advantage to save then but at least I have the skill now.

Once I made a commitment to this way of shopping it has become quite easy. Every Sunday I purchase two papers. I read through the paper and then I clip and organize the coupons. Occasionally there are really good coupons for pantry items that I use large quantities of. If there are then I will buy two more papers.

I organize my coupons into envelopes according to my own categories. I've never liked those pre-made coupon organizers. They are too small and there aren't enough categories. My envelopes are leftovers from old card sets and they are lined up in an old five by seven index card file box. The best thing about having your own system is creating your own categories.

When the new grocery ads come out I see what I may purchase if it is a good enough price and if I am running low. Before I shop I make a list and bring only the coupons I will use. I cook pulling what I want from my freezer or pantry. I never pay full price anymore. My family never feels deprived because we have what we want.

I never run out of toilet paper for instance and have to run to the store to buy a four pack for $2.74 because I have several 24 packs in the hall closet that I purchased for four or five dollars.

When people complain about the price of an item it makes me happy to know that when they were buy one get one free the previous week I bought eight of them and used my coupons to get an even lower price. I don't like being at the mercy of the ever fluctuating prices.

One more step is pulling the coupons that have expired once a month. It may sound like a lot of work to many people. It is only a small amount of extra work for me but it is all worth it for the savings in my grocery budget. The savings are huge sometimes. I usually save more than half off the bill. On one recent trip I brought home $130.00 worth of groceries for $30.00.

It may not be for everyone but it sure helps me trim my budget.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Exhaustion

I've picked up extra shifts at work so the hours were good this week. I worked yesterday, then baked cookies til midnight, then went back to work this morning. After work was a whirlwind of visiting relatives and delivering cookies. I'm so exhausted, yet a full day of housework awaits tomorrow.

While at work this afternoon a man came in read the headlines on the newspaper by my counter and started yelling at me about the current administration and how we didn't need this health care plan and how he's looking forward to when we get rid of "him." First of all, I'm there to work. I'm a quiet person who remains professional at all times so I just back up, ask them what they need, or do something to diffuse the situation. If I were a bolder person I would have said, "So you don't believe I deserve health care too?" At work in the service industry you have to remain polite and bite your tongue sometimes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I owe anyone who's been here a huge apology. I would also like to say sorry to Kelly at who was nice enough to give me a guest spot on her blog on December 9th, and I didn't even drop in and leave a comment. She has an excellent site, by the way. You should visit.

My only excuse is that I allow things to weigh me down and cancel out my voice. Instead of logging in when times are tough and pounding out something on my keyboard, I choose to do things like sit in a chair and stare at a wall instead. I know, real productive.

I'll explain how my silence started. First I have a son who is incredibly talented (totally unbiased motherly opinion here) in art. He was accepted to an art school in California. His paperwork was complete and he was going to go full time and live on campus in student housing so he used the last of his money to buy a plane ticket and off he went. When he arrived he was told that all of his loans did not go through so he could only take two classes instead of four and he would not have a place to stay. We were broke in Florida and my son was homeless in California. He stayed as long as he could hopping from one couch to another, went to school and looked for work. he never found a job or a place to stay so I used the cash we had saved to repair our car to bring him home on a bus. It was a little bit cheaper than a plane and when every penny counts...

Second, my dad was planning to visit over the holidays. He has prostate cancer which leached into his bones. He's been surprisingly healthy but he's a tough man. When he went for his check-up he found he needed two units of blood and further treatments that cancelled his plans.

Third my sister who is diabetic had an amputation over a year ago that never healed properly and she had to go in for more surgery to remove more of her leg. She's recovering now and working hard to build up her strength and balance.

In addition, my eldest daughter and her year old son were planning to visit when her grandfather came down. She was starting to get her life in order. Her boyfriend found a full time job, they purchased a used car, she was going to school, and they were set to move into a rental of their own. Then the car broke down and they couldn't take the rental because it was outside of town where they would need a car. She dropped school. Then, worst of all, her boyfriend sliced almost half his finger off on the saw at the meat packing plant where he worked. He then lost his job because he failed the post accident drug test. Lovely.

Other than all of that, everything is fine. I am working as many hours as they will give me. We are packed into our two bedroom house. My youngest who moved here with us originally has one bedroom, my husband and I the other. Currently, my son has the living room floor, two air mattresses have popped. We don't have money for extravagances but we are surviving.

I really can't complain. My husband, youngest daughter, and myself all have jobs which in this area are particularly hard to come by. Even fast food restaurants seldom hire. I just hope my son can find work soon.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Little Things

I make a low wage now, and I am frugal in order to survive. This situation however, does not rule my entire life. I don't mope around through my entire day worrying over my lack of money. Although I do often have struggles I also find time to enjoy books, nature, my family, and the dog who owns me. I realize I'm in another transition period right now and improvements are around the corner.

You can't get so bogged down in day to day struggles that you forget to have fun. While working towards finding a way to rise above your current situation you have to pause and find joy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stumbling Upon Savings

Our electric company has decided that they need to raise their rates by about 30% during a time when many community members are unemployed. I was shocked when I received my bill and it was double the usual. I called to see if it was a mistake. I thought they read the meter wrong, sent me my neighbors bill, or even worse someone was plugging a drop cord into an outlet late at night and stealing electricity. When they assured me there was no mistake I began to worry how I was going to keep up with the increasing bills.

One week later, something happened. My dryer broke. I pulled out the switch that I was fairly certain was the problem. I called around and found it would cost about $50.00 to replace but there were no returns if that wasn't the problem. in the meantime I started hanging my laundry to dry.

When I received the next bill with a savings of $100.00 I gave up on getting the dryer fixed for now. The little bit of extra work I do now is worth the savings to me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My True Confession

Our Earth needs protection. We manufacture so much crap that it's polluting our planet at an alarming rate.

Recycling is very important to my family and it's fairly easy to do. We rinse all of our plastic jugs and jars, glass containers, and tin and aluminum cans. We store them all together in boxes in the garage until we drop them off at the recycling center on our way to work about once a week. We even keep a garbage can for mixed paper recycling. It is lined with a net laundry bag and topped with a shredder. Junk mail is shredded and cereal boxes, used notebook paper, grocery receipts and etc...go in the bag.

We are so careful and conscientious about this that some people think we are insane. My own sister says, "If they want me to play with my garbage, they can pay me."

I'm proud of my recycling and now must confess to something that may shock you. When I found shower curtains at the dollar store, I quit washing them as often. I buy several for $1.00 each and put them in the cabinet. When they get too dirty, I yank the old one off and toss it in the garbage quicker than you can say Earth Day hypocrite. you think less of me?

Monday, November 2, 2009

On Being Frugal

Frugality for me is born out of necessity. Being frugal allows me to survive on a low wage. The job market is so tight in my area due to the economy that a typical Sunday paper will have two jobs advertised. Sometimes it seems as if it will pick up and there are four or six advertised. Mostly the ads are for nurses, waitstaff, or telemarketers.

I work at a grocery store which is a good place to work right now, considering that everyone still eats. When I work the service counter I cash a lot of unemployment checks.

I try to pay cash and save up for most things I need. Sometimes when I need a large ticket item I finance. I like to take advantage of six months same as cash offers when they are available. I just take the total cost of the item and divide it by the number of months I have before interest accrues and mark that amount in my calendar so I remember to pay it on time. You have to be organized and keep up with the payments to make this work. Credit cards are charging up to 30% now. Remember when 18% seemed high?

Food shopping is a precise, well planned affair. I keep my freezer and pantry stocked with items I bought on sale, most often at buy one get one free, and I usually use coupons for the sale items as well. I read the weekly sales flyer's for all the grocery stores in my area, match coupons with sales, and make my shopping list accordingly. I buy the produce I need at a local produce stand unless the grocery store sale prices are better. I usually save 60 to 70% off the regular price.

It can be done, you just have to plan your purchases and stock up what you can when you find a good sale. I once bought a pack of ten pens, six bottles of shampoo, four bottles of dish detergent, two hairsprays,and four jars of peanuts for $1.35.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Healthcare...or the Lack Thereof

I have enough and make enough to pay my bills, keep my old car running, keep groceries stocked, and keep a roof over our heads. What I do not have is healthcare. There's just not enough extra money left for this luxury.

Luckily, besides dental problems so far, I have been fairly healthy. I would love to get a check-up just in case but finances haven't caught up yet. The last time I saw a doctor was 1990. Why so long? When you are poor and pregnant you get free medical care through medicaid. The working poor receive no such benefits.

I've read scathing articles by angry individuals who are upset by the way government benefits are set up. Many believe it is unfair to reward people for having children while young or while poor. I feel it doesn't matter. I see the need to protect the children from complete poverty. However, I don't understand how we can ignore those who are 18 to 64. Why not give everyone the same healthcare? Who is it going to hurt?

People should receive healthcare because they are human. You shouldn't have to die earlier if you are poor. Why does it cost so much in the first place? If you knew first aid and came across a wounded person in the park would you stop to help or would you first demand payment?

I think the whole thing could be simplified. Make all drug companies non-profit. Pay all doctores $40,000 to start, cap them at $90,000. Cap CEO's and hospital administrators at $125,000. Create non-profit healthcare facilities.

What if we completely revolutionize the system? The current model isn't working. Let's try something completely different. Bring together a large group from all backgrounds and income, including the very poor and brainstorm to come up with a new model.

What are your ideas?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just Starting Out

My reasons for starting this blog are varied. I'm still not sure exactly what I hope to accomplish with this. I can say what inspired me to start this venture; Dr. Wayne Dyers' latest PBS special "No Excuses," another blog (I can't remember the name of it.) on which there was a lively discussion about poverty, the opportunities and new hope from the possibility of healthcare reform, and the hope that my shared experiences could help or educate another human being.

Whenever I have a Saturday night off I enjoy watching the British comedies on PBS. When I tuned in one night they had Dr. Wayne Dyers special on for a fund drive. He spoke of Dharma and finding your life's purpose. I realized that I am not pursuing a purpose now nor do I even know what it is. I started wondering if my life experiences are building up to some new chapter for me. Can I use what I've been through to educate or benefit another person? I'm hoping this will work to some degree.

On a money type blog I read there was a lively discussion on poverty and how people in different circumstances view economic advice. One viewer had a completely different take on the advice given on this and several other sites. It made me think that neither side can truly know what it is like to be very poor or moderately well off unless they communicate. An investment bankers financial tips would not help a welfare recipient and the one may resent the other if he doesn't understand where they are coming from. I noticed at that moment that there are frugal blogs and money blogs but not many that tell what it is like to live as the working poor.

Healthcare reform is a topic of great importance. As a worker with no healthcare and no extra money saved up it's a very personal struggle. I have some theories and personal stories for those who don't understand what it's like on this side.

In real life I'm a loner, so this is my way of dragging my socially reluctant self out. It's an outlet for my thoughts on varied topics and possibly a way to help others, or if not just to get a conversation started across all class lines.

Here I will discuss the American working poor-of which I am a member, healthcare reform (yes please), frugality (or the fine art of making ends meet), books (can't live without them), the environment, and anything else that tickles my fancy. I hope you join me on my journey.