Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coupons and Home Economy

My coupon binder

I attended a Coupon Workshop four months ago. Before that class I had only used coupons in a haphazard manner and never seemed to save much money. I do pray regularly that God will help me stretch our one income budget so that our finances honor Him. We have more than we need, we're comfortable, but not one of our budget categories has a lot of wiggle room. I read of people who can save $1000 a month by cooking at home. We'd have to stop eating all together to save that much in a month. So when I pray that God would help me find ways to save money, I'm dealing in small amounts, five, ten or 20 dollars a month. Couponing seemed like a way to save what for us is a significant amount.

Four months in, how have I done? I'm pleased. We've spent less on groceries every month since I started. I'm almost under budget, and now we have a small stockpile. I've discovered it is possible to get our favorite brand of deodorant for free. But don't worry, this won't become a couponing blog- other people already do that well. Try Coupon Divas and Money Saving Mom, although they're both more involved than anything we do here.

I have given some thought to true and false economy, a home economy that balances my family's need to save money with our need to guard our time. Here are some preliminary thoughts:

True economy: A system that saves our family $200-300 a month.
False economy: Eating exclusively junk food, because it's cheaper.
True economy: Meal planning around store ads; what's on sale?
False economy: Driving 30 minutes to save on groceries (we only have Walmart in town but driving to another grocery store costs $9 plus time).
True economy: Stopping by a store when I know I'll be driving past and stocking up on what is on sale.
False economy: Running to ten different stores to save money. I limit myself to 3 (when I'm in the neighborhood), and that's firm.
True economy: Cutting Sunday coupons with my kids. Even the five year old is capable, with supervision.
False economy: Spending ten minutes printing out a $1 coupon.

So here's our menu for the week - chicken breasts were on sale:

1. Ethiopian (lentils and veggies)
2. Hot turkey sandwiches for lunch, dinner out and birthday cake
3. Enchiladas Verdes
4. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes (beef in the freezer)
5. Pizza (always homemade)
6. Chicken salad sandwiches (chicken cooked on enchilada night, with basil from the garden. Joy!)
7. Eggs and homemade cinnamon rolls (eggs were cheap two weeks ago)

We have chicken for next week too. We'll eat Teriyaki chicken sandwiches, pasta with chicken and chicken tacos. You'll notice I don't assign days of the week to my menu planning. That's because I'm not a serious list lady, I like wiggle room. I like to be in the mood for meatloaf while it bakes in the oven.

Am I in favor of coupons, shopping sales and meal planning? Yes, absolutely. But shopping, even saving, is and ought to be, a very small part of our lives as moms. We have a lot of worthwhile work and people with whom to spend our time. If you're anything like me, you know how easy it is to get distracted from the best and the best isn't preceded by a dollar sign. This is how, this week, I'm trying to honor God with both my time and my money.

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