Sunday, October 25, 2009

More on Couponing

I've received lots of questions about my Frugal Finds post, so I thought I would add a little more about my couponing strategies and what does and does not work for me.

First of all, I found myself wasting lots of time hunting through my stash of coupons, so after reading a guest post on about the use of a coupon binder, I decided to make one. Since I couldn't justify spending $27 on something designed to SAVE money ($27 was the amount that the blogger spent on her binder), I used Target gift cards and Extra Care Bucks at CVS to get my supplies without spending any money out of pocket.

Above is my binder (which is still greatly a work in progress). It's even purple on the front (not shown). I like all the nifty little pockets on the interior - scissors, pens, cell phone, receipts, etc. I'm still working on organizing all of my coupons into categories, but I'm finding that putting all items of one type into a page, such as baby, bread, breakfast, etc., is working the best for me. Although I have single-sleeve pages for my store names, the rest of the pages are baseball card holders. If I have several of the same coupon, I'll put them all together in one slot and use a magic-erase marker to write "x2" on the slot. If a coupon is nearing its expiration date, I'll note it in magic marker.

Yes, it's taken LOTS of time to organize this, and it still needs improvement, but it's also saving my sanity while shopping with three little ones in tow. I currently take the whole binder into the store with me, but once I'm more comfortable with couponing, I plan on simply moving the coupons for that week into the single sleeve of whichever store I am visiting and only take that portion in with me.

Oh, and an update on my coupon-collecting habits: I no longer clip EVERY coupon I come across. Gasp! Well, since we don't have a dog, there's no need to clip any coupons for dog paraphenalia. I also don't use hair color (though I may be persuaded once I start showing hints of grey), makeup (my husband hates it), or protein powder (you'd be amazed at some of the coupons I've found). If I know that I won't buy the item for any reason - free or otherwise - I just toss the coupon.

I do find it hard to resist a good deal on an item that I would dearly love to have but don't usually purchase. I'm getting better at resisting, but if I find I can't leave the item at the store, I may try clipping coupons for only items I routinely buy.

I also sign up for as many freebies as I can. I do it for two reasons: the freebies are often for healthy and/or organic items or for items that I commonly use, and they nearly always come with a super-priced coupon for more of the item. It seems like a win-win situation to me! Plus, it's fun to get something other than bills in the mail, wouldn't you agree? (Just a note: although signing up for freebies requires your phone number, I have never received a telemarketer call from any legitimate offer.) If you do choose to apply for freebies, I highly recommend setting up a junk email account for such purposes. That way, in the event that you get spammed, it won't clog up your usual inbox.

I'm also going to look into Swagbucks at the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Elissa!). If I understand it correctly, you can earn "free" money to such places as Sounds good to me, but I'll write more on that when I learn more.

Happy saving! May you all have a restful Lord's Day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Isn't it Obvious?

Recently, I've come across the John 21 passage where, while out fishing, the disciples encounter the Lord after His resurrection. They were out laboring all night without any catch for their efforts. The Lord directed them to cast the net over the other side of the boat. They did so, even though at the time they had not yet realized it was Jesus Who was speaking to them. The incredible yield was 153 fish. In verse 12, we learn that they did not ask Jesus Who He was, for "they knew it was the Lord."

Sometimes, things occur in life that are so inexplicable in human or scientific terms that we know instantly that only the Lord could have performed them. There is no doubt that He is the One orchestrating these events, and they leave is in greater awe of His majesty than ever before.

For me, the days and weeks following Jon's surgery come to mind. I thought I knew exactly how the Lord would choose to meet our needs while Jon took time off of work to recuperate. He had accrued a week's worth of paid vacation (so we thought), and the previous month had had an extra pay day. While the extra pay check from the earlier month was an enormous blessing, the paid vacation fell through. Instead, the Lord graciously met our needs above and beyond what we could have imagined. My mom came to stay with us while Jon was in the hospital, and she brought with her ingredients for over a week's worth of meals. Other family and friends gave us gift cards, brought meals, provided childcare, and helped out financially. I was amazed and humbled at the ways the Lord used so many people to bless and comfort us!

I also know that there are times when it should be obvious that the Lord is behind something, but I fail to recognize His hand. Occasionally, I will realize it later, but I know that in some situations, I've completely neglected to thank Him for His provision. For these instances, I can only ask forgiveness and pray that I will continually become more sensitive to seeing the obvious.