Friday, December 10, 2010

Coupon Confessions

Earlier this year, I posted about my new-found love of couponing. In that post, I explained what worked for me and what I was attempting to do to cut down on grocery bills. Well, I have some confessions to make now that I've been doing this for about a year.

I don't cut out every coupon. Okay, I don't cut out many coupons at all!

I don't try to get every freebie.

My "use yogurt tubs instead of purchasing disposable tupperware" backfired.

And -gasp - I stopped at Walgreens the other day!!

What changed? Nothing, really, except that I've gained a bit of wisdom about what does and doesn't work for me. I had to start somewhere, but over time I've been able to streamline a lot of things to make them work for our family.

For example, our local Safeway grocery store recently unveiled their new couponing program where I just simply upload coupons to the store card. This, combined with other e-coupon sites, has all but eliminated my need for cutting out paper coupons. Also, I don't get to see my parents quite as frequently as I used to, so the stretches between visits are longer and thus a lot of coupons expire before I get them (my mom kindly saves me her inserts so I don't have to spend $$ on a weekend subscription of the newspaper).

I also renewed our Costco membership because it dawned on me that I only have to save $5 a month to pay for the membership fee. I save at least that by shopping there, plus my cheese comes grated! (I love saving time as much as money, so this was a great thing for me.) Costco doesn't accept any coupons but their own, so again, the need for clipped coupons isn't there.

Now that Jon works days and takes the car, I don't have the option of taking a quick trip out to grab a few freebies at CVS, Walgreens, or wherever. I try to take a semi-monthly trip to Target or Walmart to pick up the needed household items, and I use a few coupons if I can. I don't get shampoo for free, but I do get a good deal, and I'm sure I've saved in gas whatever I'd have saved by getting the freebies since it takes so much gas to drop off Jon at work.

My biggest money-saving flop was using yogurt containers in place of buying clear Tupperware or Rubbermaid tubs. Since I couldn't see through the containers, I'd forget what meal was saved in which cup, and I ended up wasting a ton of food. So much for that frugal idea! My mom came to my rescue (again!) with this, though, and gave me a whole stack of clear containers she no longer needed. Hopefully, this way we'll save on the cost of containers as well as avoid throwing out spoiled food.

I know our needs will continue to change, and I'll have to modify my approaches with each season of life. It's rather fun, though, and I enjoy discovering what works and what doesn't. I even stopped in at Walgreens to get my recent prescriptions and to take them up on their free 8x10 collage offers.

Life as a stay-at-home, penny-pinching Mommy can be very exciting even in the seemingly-mundane areas. Life isn't static, and I take joy in finding the new changes, even the minute ones.

I'm sure things will have spun a 360 by the time I even post this. But at the moment of this writing, this is what's working for now. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The "Secret Weapon"

When it comes to action stories, the scripts don't change much: hero and villain fight a mighty battle, and at first it isn't clear who will become victorious. That is, until the hero produces his "secret weapon" and deals his opponent the fatal blow. The hero wins, the enemy dies, and everyone goes home happy.

Whenever I read one of these plots, the first thing that comes to mind is, "Why didn't the hero just bring out the 'secret weapon' in the beginning and save himself some battle wounds?"

As far as I know, there isn't a logical answer to that question.

I've noticed that my own life isn't much different from the scenario above. As a wife, mom, and home educator, I have a "secret weapon" that, instead of tapping into right away, I tend to neglect until things have really run amuck. It isn't as though this secret weapon lies buried, forgotten, in a dark closet. Rather, it is daily before me, though I seem to stare right through it.

No, it isn't God's Word or prayer - though I've been just as guilty about neglecting those necessities as well.

The secret weapon of which I speak?

My husband.

Yes, I have forgotten to let him fulfill the role which God designed for him. I plan, create, develop many good ideas, but only when they fall apart completely do I turn to him and ask for his input. As it turns out, he has some really good insight (imagine that!). And if I would more readily seek his advice, I think I'd save myself hours of worry, frustration, and misery.

What opened my eyes to this was a book called "Don't Make Me Count to Three!" But it wasn't what the book said that sent me a warning signal; it was what WASN'T said.

I always begin reading a book at the beginning - the introduction, the preface, or whatever part comes first. So I did with the above-mentioned book. The author began her acknowledgments by thanking her children, then her friends, editors, publishers, and so on. But she never once thanked her husband (I double-checked). Honestly, he was rarely mentioned at all, even though it was a book on discipline - something I consider to be both parents' department, not just Mom's.

That isn't to say the book wasn't good; I found it very helpful in understanding discipline from a Biblical perspective. But I feel it could have been so much more profound if the author had enlisted the help of her husband.

I think that often we Mommies get lost in this battle of child rearing and teaching. We're with the kids day in and day out, often without respite. We feed them. We love them. We educate them. We train them. We chauffeur them. Caring for the kids becomes so ingrained in us that we forget that God has designed parenting to be a joint effort, and this can be very dangerous.

Of course, there are always special situations - I know of single moms who home school, of families where Dad does the schooling while mom works - but for the majority of homes, Mom does the child care and education while Dad wins the bread.

Please don't follow in my footsteps and neglect this wonderful helper whom God has graciously given you. Ask your husband for help and guidance. Get his perspective on your kids' education (and other areas of life, too). Use your secret weapon from the beginning and avoid some battle scars.

Chances are, not only will your home school life improve, but your marriage just might, too! :)