Getting the most out of spending challenges

Spending challenges are a big deal in the personal finance world. There are all types of challenges one can take on help tighten the purse strings and keep the money  where you really want it. Not everyone has the restraint to keep to a budget even if it’s to meet a goal. That’s what makes spending challenges so enticing– they have a foreseeable ending and because they’re not too long-lasting, they are endurable.

Remember last week I mentioned Sharon had two fiscal problems that resonated with me? I tackled my idea for gifts but there was one more– SUMMER.

Yes the lazy days of summer seem to translate into general relaxation– including the wallet. That doesn’t mean the money gets a rest, it just means I seem to take a rest monitoring it and keeping it check.

Funny thing, Sharon and I love the occasional spending challenge and other fiscal related challenge. So my thinking is to NOT do spending challenges until we need them most. For us, it’s the summer. Maybe for you, it’s the winter. We all seem to go through a season of letting our guard down more often with our spending. Maybe some of us have an emotional trigger to a time of year. Whatever it is, we all seem to have (at least) one weak time of year. And that is the perfect time to put the spending challenges into play.

The problem is, if you’ve been doing them all year, you’re going to be burnt out on them already and when you’re in the rut already, another spending challenge is going to do nothing for you. So save those challenges for when you really don’t have the strength to keep the usual vigilance.

The other problem is, we tend to resort to spending challenges AFTER we screwed up. That’s where a little self-examination comes into play. Like I said before, it’s ok to admit we all have vulnerable moments. The good news is they tend to get pretty predictable. So take a look. If you blog, this is even easier– just start searching through your blog and see if you notice a pattern that is tied up with your money mistakes. Same thing if you use those paper things (journals). If you know it’s coming, make sure you schedule a challenge for that time.

Of course, get ready to ditch the excuses. Oh that time of year is when ALL of the birthdays happen? Ok, well start shopping and budgeting from now! That’s the time of year you like to go out and do things together as a family? Open up a Family Fun container and drop a few bucks here and there. If you know it’s coming, the best thing you can do is prepare yourself for it– not steel yourself for the ugly aftermath. That’s just going to guarantee failure.

What about you? Seasonal spending affect you at all? Do you just deal with the aftermath or do you try and head it off?

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Finding Enoughness

75/365 A Measure of Self Worth

75/365 A Measure of Self Worth by ~*Leah*~ on Flickr

Last week, I reviewed Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It got some good feedback (even from the author!). One of the comments left was this one:

I don’t get it?! what’s wrong with having things and living a happy life?! why do we always have to cut back on things…

And I thought, “Those are good questions and deserve a post reflecting on them.” So here we are.

There is nothing wrong with a) having things and b) living a happy life. However, they are not inclusive of each other. We all know of the people who have lots of things and don’t live happy lives. Need examples? Look at the celebrities who unexpectedly lost their lives to substance abuse– legal or otherwise. And of course not having things doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy life either. If you actually know people who live below the poverty line, you now they are not all living unhappy lives.

The bottom line is, having things is not an indicator of happiness. Personally, I believe everyone has a baseline of happiness that is tied to having things.

Ok, let’s think about food for a minute. Everyone needs a certain bare minimum of food to survive. After you meet that bare minimum, you should take in food and manage it in a way to maintain your body in a healthy way. We all have our own personal cutoffs when it comes to food– that level where you know you’ve exceeded the amount you need to be healthy. The beauty is, we have actual evidence of this right? We have indicators of whether we’re managing our food intake properly. You can be underweight, healthy, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. When you hit the range of excess– overweight, obese, or morbidly obese, there’s only one way to get back to healthy– eat less.

The important thing to remember is this– although there are standard indicators of whether or not you are eating correctly, there is no standard on the exact amount of food a person should take in to be healthy. A quick search on the web reveals the “recommended” number of calories a young woman takes in a day is different than a young pregnant woman. Children at different ages have different recommendations as well. Bodybuilders require a different amount of calories than an average man. And anyone who’s ever even bothered counting calories knows that’s not the whole story.

We know that I have a different metabolism rate than you do so even though we might be the same age, weight, and height I need less calories a day than you do because I metabolize differently than you do. We also know there are different types of calories right? There are healthy calories and empty calories for instance. So you see, what works for me as far as how much food I should eat will simply not work for you.

Money? Is the exact same thing.

The hardest part is determining your financial number of calories. But, it’s just something you have got to do. What do I mean?

Figuring out your own personal “enoughness”.

What is enough house for you? What is enough car for you? Enough clothes? Enough entertainment? Enough education? Enough charity? Enough beauty? What is enough time spent earning money?

We are told throughout our lives, “The sky’s the limit!” and it is, but it’s most likely not the right limit for you or for me or for anyone really.

Determining what is your very own enough is one of the most liberating experiences you can imagine. Just getting started on figuring it all out generates a really calm feeling in your soul.

Why?

We don’t like endlessness. We don’t like not knowing where we’re headed. We don’t like not knowing the plan. We don’t like being at the mercy of others.

When you don’t take personal responsibility for determining your very own Enough, you are putting yourself in the hands of others. And you are putting yourself in the hands of two types of others– the type who are as clueless, blind, and lost as you are and the type who have their own levels of Enough set and they want you to get them there.

Now that I think I squared away the first half of the comment, let’s do the second half–

why do we always have to cut back on things…

Try this little mental exercise for me, ok? I’d say close your eyes but you wouldn’t be able to read the rest of it. So, empty your mind as much as possible.

In your mind’s eye, picture yourself. Go ahead and do a really good job fleshing yourself out there. Don’t do an imaginary you or a fantasy you. Add the pounds. Put some clothes on even if it’s a bit wrinkly. Figure your hair out. Give yourself a facial expression you like. Don’t forget the details– a wedding ring, shoes, glasses or contact lenses, a laptop case or a purse, etc.

Ok now that you’ve got you, add anyone you help support in a significant way. Children, parents, siblings, significant others, etc. And now put yourself in your home. Map out all of your rooms. Drop all of your furniture into them. Fill your fridge up the way you’ve got it right now. Go ahead and turn the TV on. Check the closets. Open the drawers. Have a pet? Don’t forget to set out their food and water.

And just keep going. Think about any car you might have. Think about everything you and/or your loved ones did in the past week. Think of the doctor visits, the breakfasts, the lunches, the dinners, Valentine’s Day, the movie rentals/streaming, the craft projects, the groceries, the clothes you laundered, the floors you washed, the toilets you scrubbed, the ride to and from work, and so on and so forth.

Do you see “enough”? Do you even see abundance? If you are honestly looking at just YOU, you most probably do. When we start bringing in other comparison points, things diminish and lose their luster don’t they?

And that’s the point. Just like your food diet is not going to work for me, your neighbor’s things are not going to work for you. Once you’re at Enough, everything else isn’t going to do anything for you. Just like with food, you can even reach a level of Too Much. And that’s when you start cutting back and doing so joyously.

When you’re losing weight, do you bemoan the pounds as they roll back? Do you suffer anxiety as your clothes becomes looser and looser on you? Of course not! Because you know you are on the way to health.

This ties back to what I mentioned in my review of 7. The unique thing about her approach was she turned her diet into an opportunity to benefit others. And maybe this is something you can try if the idea or act of cutting back in your life disturbs you. Imagine if there was a way doctors could take the weight you lost and give it to someone chronically underweight. Wouldn’t that motivate you to lose even more? The same thing applies with charity.

I’d like to believe that most of us care for people outside of ourselves. That’s the beauty of Enough. When you have Enough, you’re free to give and care for others. You can send your niece to college. You can volunteer at a hospital. You can donate to a food bank or a homeless shelter. You can hire a cleaning lady for your friend with cancer.

We tend to focus on people who have more than us when we seek comparison. And when we do, it’s pretty yucky feeling. We don’t stack up. But if we compare to those who have less, I believe we will more often than not  find ourselves wanting to help and we will always feel grateful, which is a pretty nice feeling.

So there you are. That’s my very long answer to your very short comment. What about you, readers? Do you see enough? Do you see abundance? Do you compare a lot to others around you even in external ways like TV shows, movies, ads, etc.? Are you still working on figuring out your Enough?

My Thoughts on No-Spend Days

Nada en los bolsillos 174/365 (Explored!)
“Nada en los bolsillos” by Esperantista on Flickr

Nicole and Maggie asked about No-Spend Days this weekend. I figured I’d give them my answer in post form.

Like everything else in personal finance, I suspect the key to No-Spend Days is that they’re personal and this is definitely not the type of thing where One Size Fits All. I know N&M are always amazed by the frequency with which people who do the challenges spend money. I’ve noticed the ones that spend very frequently either have school-age children and/or are stay at home parents. School-age children are really expensive and full of those tiny little expenses no one ever seems to grasp the immensity and frequency of. I’d imagine stay at home parents simply have more time to spend on a daily basis. If you’re the type of person who already has spending on a schedule of sorts, these are probably not for you unless, perhaps, you feel spending is too much of your schedule.

Why I Do Them

I really underestimated the frequency with which I spent money. I honestly didn’t think I was spending money very often, but I was. And I found it was on little things that may have been justified but not really. Also, because of my hectic schedule and lack of ease to go out and run errands consistently (like grocery shopping every Saturday for instance), I tend to usually find myself out of things and instantly go for instant gratification and convenience. Not to mention, I just didn’t want to be updating my ledger daily.

My Rules

I don’t have any exceptions. For me, it’s simple—if I spend money, I lose that day. The only exception I can think of is when bills post to my account. I count the day I pay them all off, or schedule them, but the day they actually post to my account is out of my control and I’m not that anal. Oh and I never ask someone else to pick up my tab because I’m trying to get a No-Spend Day. If someone does pick up the tab for me on a day that happens to turn into a No-Spend Day, I don’t disqualify myself because chances are I’ve either already done that very thing for them this month or I’ll be doing it before the month is over so it’s all even-steven in the long run and again, I’m just not that anal.

How I Do Them

I’ve done Spending Challenges and some people classify those as No-Spend challenges. I don’t. Spending Challenges are just challenges to reduce spending across the board or in a specific category. So for No-Spend Days, I just say I’d like to have x number of no-spend days in x number of days.

Why They Work For Me

Because I’m not putting my spending on total ice for seven straight days or anything like that, I don’t fall victim to Stock-Up Syndrome. However, let’s say I don’t feel like making lunch for the kids tomorrow. Well, I can either make the lunches or lose my chance at a No-Spend Day. Granted, this isn’t as effective as a day where I’m already planning on spending money, but it’s been very effective on the days I don’t really have a good reason for spending anything the rest of the day.

About the days I’m already planning on spending money—the spending on these days hasn’t been any more amped up than usual. I don’t do the opposite and plan spending binges for days when I know I have to spend money. That just hasn’t occurred to me and it really doesn’t appeal to me either. I’m trying to be conscious of my spending and make good choices with my money—planning spending binges runs counter-intuitive to this mindset. Not to mention, my schedule is so tight that I really don’t have too much room to add too much extra spending on days I have to do it anyways. I might be able to manage filling the tank and some quick groceries but not the tank, full-blown groceries, and a quick trip to Target.

This also encourages me to think about my purchases. I might really want to make a particular purchase but if I know I have no other spending to do that day and it’ll put a dent into my No-Spend count, I’ll hold off on it. I might get it the next day when I do have necessary spending to do, or I might not because I’m over it or have come up with a suitable replacement.

Who I Think They Work For

I think No-Spend challenges are great for people who have problems with impulse purchases and by impulse purchases, I don’t mean whether or not it’s a want or need. If you’re prone to seeing something and suddenly realizing you “need” it, that’s an Impulse Buy whether or not you can justify it fifty million times over.

This would also probably be suitable for people who don’t really understand how their money vanishes so quickly. Combine a No-Spend challenge with tracking your expenses and you instantly gain quite a bit of control (or at least a sense of it) over your finances you didn’t have before.

I also think they’re good for people who feel they live very hectic lives and want to slow down. Participating in a No-Spend challenge can help you analyze how your time is spent and encourages planning even if, like me, it’s on the tiniest of levels.

So there you go. Some people don’t really need silly games, challenges, or anything to get them to make changes in their spending habits or money management. Some of us do. No-Spend days can work for some, and they can destroy others who can easily fall prey to Stock Up Syndrome or who just get way to stressed under those circumstances. But, it is a creative way to take a look at what you’re putting out and how often. And there’s nothing wrong with learning something new about yourself.

Weekend Summary

Eldest decoding a clue

Eldest loved his treasure hunt. He had eight clues and he had a great time figuring them out and then running to find the next one. It was really cool. We had flan instead of cake because it’s his favorite and my mom makes it deliciously.

Found one!

Friday ended up being a No-Spend Day for me which was nice. Saturday was the party day. I do the parties late in the afternoon because it gives me plenty of time to get things ready. Early in the day parties don’t work for me.

Another one!

Unfortunately for me, I woke up on Saturday feeling like total crap again. I was completely congested and miserable. My mom came over and got to work on cleaning with her super amazing cleaning abilities. I attacked my congestion with every treatment I could. I did the sinus rinse. I did the inhalations with a scoop of Baby Vicks (which had the unintended effect of making my house smell quite lovely actually). I took the Sudafed. I took the Nasonex. I took the steroid. I took the antibiotic. I took the Advil. Party time came and I was as ready as I could’ve hoped to be. I decorated the cake. I’d done the goody bags. I prepped the snacks. Guests arrived.

Gratuitous Kitten Cuddles

The party was chaotic but I guess that’s what happens when you jam a bunch of 7 year old boys together. They mostly played with the Beyblades and anything else they could lay their hands on in the play room. Finally when I was getting tired of all of the screaming and stuff, I checked the time and saw it was almost 5:30. YES! Reptile people should be here any minute.

Daughter's photo of the cat in the bag

Except they never came. We called over and over and over again. Nothing. No shows. I was sad. And I was relieved I hadn’t told Eldest what I’d planned but I was still sad. Really sad. But we did the cake and gave the goodies and collapsed.

Made by my mom, decorated by me

At least that made Saturday another No Spend Day for me. Yay I guess. And it also meant I now have freed up $250 I’d been reserving. But still. Major letdown.

I'm gonna eat you!

Sunday we were useless. Even the kids. We watched movies and played with the cat. Actually, we did have a productive morning and picked 69 avocados from my tree. There are at least another hundred up there. I think I might sell off a bunch of them. At a dollar each, I could make another $50 bucks and have plenty to eat and giveaway. And that’s just from this harvest. There are plenty more that need to keep ripening. We wrapped up the day at my cousin’s house for his going away dinner. He’s heading to college this weekend.

Bonding with the cousin

So Sunday was another No-Spend. Three in a row. Who would’ve thought it possible?

And then yesterday I couldn’t keep food down. And today, I’m fighting to keep down toast and Gatorade. I think I’m going home soon. Someone tell me something lovely is heading my way please.

July Closure, August Goals

Miniature Roses in a Shot Glass

Today is payday and so ends my fiscal month of July. I’m honestly very relieved. My income hasn’t been this low since November 2010 and even then I managed to pull in a couple hundred bucks more than this month. But I survived and didn’t borrow a dime to do it so that’s a win in my life.

As August comes around the corner, here are the things I’m looking at.

Financial

Eldest’s party is coming together with a pretty large group (15 – 20 kids alone) which isn’t surprising. I am aiming to keep the cost of the party and the gifts under $400, if not $350. This is going to include a reptile show I was able to find for $250. I have a lot of ideas for gifts so I need to narrow them down and start hunting. Or crocheting. Or both.

This month marks my one year anniversary at work. I am officially part of the Retirement Savings Plan where my employer makes a contribution equivalent to 5% of my pay to my403-b. My employer will also match me up to another 5%. So contributions equal to 15% of my pay for only a personal 5% contribution is a no-brainer. I signed up for a 5% personal contribution which went into effect this month.

I only had 4 no-spend days in the month of July. As much as I want to join Sharon and Carla for the seven straight days of fiscal fasting, it’s just not a good time for us to do that. Instead, I’ll be going on my own fiscal challenge and am aiming to double the number of no-spend days from July. So, 8 No Spend Days in August (technically starts today) for the Mutant.

I’m experimenting with a new system where my bills are paid from one account and my spending is done from another.

I am staying on top of the Income Deduction Order. Ex’s next pay periods are August 12 and August 26. I am pushing for the 12th because the company originally received it May 27 and are past the deadline to be in compliance. I’ve been working with Ex’s employer’s garnishment company directly although Ex doesn’t know. He’s continued to be vague about the process on his end saying he had to send it to another city and that he already did but he doesn’t have any contact up there to confirm they actually have it blah, blah, blah. Me: Smile and nod.

If the garnishment goes into effect or Ex pays as he’s supposed to, the priorities with the money will be 1) padding my super slim budget for back to school (currently it’s at $50 for three kids and no lists have been sent) and 2) rebuilding the savings accounts I had to drain to compensate for the evaporation of 2/3 of child support this past month. Specifically I’m looking to put $1,000 into the starter emergency fund, $450 into the education fund, and $300 into the Christmas account. They’re listed in order of priority.

Of course, money isn’t everything (seriously?) and so I’ve come up with a few personal goals this month as well.

Books I'll Be Reading- Most of Them

Personal

I’m committing to working out for at least 30 minutes every day the kids are with their father. The excuses are over. After all, maybe one of the reasons I’m tired all of the time is that I’m not working out!

I’m going to make a concerted effort at getting as much stuff ready the night before instead of putting it off until the morning mad rush. I’ve done it in the past and it’s been a huge help. After all, it’s not fair I’m the Nightmare Mommy first thing in the morning because of my lack of organization. So, clothes and lunches and bags ready the night before and I’ll likely be enlisting the kids’ help.

After being constantly inspired by Judy, I’ve decided to have a family meeting on Monday, August 1st. We’ll talk about things happening this month and we’ll go over budgetary issues as far as things relating to them– specifically back to school items and allowances. This is where I’ll also explain the concept of getting ready the night before and what is expected from each of us to that end.

I’d like one outing with a girlfriend this month for some lunch and chit-chat. I need woman to woman time but often can’t swing it thanks to time and money restrictions. It’s a priority. It’s budgeted for. I’m doing it.

I’m going to keep smashing away at the book tower in my house. I got totally slowed down by Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day. It’s lovely to read but it’s slow and taking me forever. It’s just not a page-turner. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, the writing’s inspiringly lovely. But, yeah it’s slowing me down. So I’ve actually started another book that Jacq recommended to me a while back called Loving What Is which is so insightful and helpful so far, that it will likely be featured here in its very own post.

Finally, I’m going to dedicate some serious mental and mind power to this blog. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and I have a clearer idea of what I want for and from this blog. I want my blog to remain authentic. I don’t want to feel forced to write particular content to drive a particular viewership. However, this doesn’t mean the content I am writing isn’t suitable for a wider audience than I have now.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, because I run the risk of sounding cocky, but I’ve seen so many blogs for so long now, I finally believe that my writing is better than a lot of what’s “popular” and that there is an audience out there who wants my kind of content. No, I’m not a personal finance blogger and I don’t want to be a personal finance blogger. But, I am a single mom blogger, I want to be a single mom blogger and I want to be a well-rounded single mom blogger which understands personal finance is part of the picture, but only part.

I’ve taken a very laid back and natural approach with this blog, if you build it they will come style, but I’m changing that and making a larger effort to get my content out there. However, I’ll be doing it on my terms and avoiding the things other blogs resort to in attempts to drive traffic that I don’t really appreciate as a reader—namely asking for votes, purposely participating in flame wars, posting sponsored product reviews, or hosting sponsored giveaways. I’m going to rely on my content, technique, and style but do a better job of putting myself out there. I’m aware I’ve probably shied away from going for gold because of a fear of exposing myself to the big, bad, and nasties of the world. Well, I’m over it, and it’s thanks to you.

I want you, my tiny and amazing group of readers, to know that I do very much listen to you. I hear your words of support, encouragement, and kins(wo)manship. I pay attention when you express gratitude and appreciation for particular content. And you bet I note when you all go mute on other content. I want to continue helping, supporting, encouraging, and inspiring you because you help, support, encourage, and inspire me.

So, here’s to August! It promises to be a busy month, but I’m ready for it.

What about you? Is August a big month for you or are you going to take the mellow approach to the last full month of summer? What are your top priorities coming up?

Ten Challenges to Stimulate Your Savings

Frugality - Penny Pinching
“Frugality” by Living Studios

Whatever the reason, and there are so many, sometimes we need to come up with some extra cash or at the very least, scale back some expenses. To this end, people embark on Fiscal or Spending Challenges. They all work in generally the same way—reduce spending in a particular fashion for a set number of days. At the end, put whatever savings you get (no matter how small) into a savings account of your choice. Here are ten different challenges you can try.

1 ) Dining Out Challenge

Sit-down meals, take-out and delivery, or fast food all take a larger toll on our funds than eating from our home. For a mild challenge, aim to eliminate one category of convenience eating for one week—for example, no fast food. If you’re looking for extreme changes, eliminate at least two, if not all three, of these categories for one month.

2 ) Clothing Ban

You know you don’t need any new clothes when you have mountains of laundry and your family is still able to easily put together complete and tasteful outfits from your closets and drawers. Put the freeze on spending—no clothes, shoes, or accessories for one month. If you want to make this challenge a bit tougher, get rid of one article of clothing for every day of the challenge. If you’re able to sell at least some of the clothes you unload, you’re really amping up your savings.

3 ) Stick to the List Challenge

If your weakness is being lured away from your shopping list, this might be the challenge for you. Write up a list before you get to the market and don’t let anything else in your basket. When you go pump gas, leave the drink in the fridge. When the mission is to find the perfect shoes for the interview, forget the cute sandals and the perfectly priced dress. For a mild challenge, aim to ban all impulse buys for just one week. If you really want a shot at curing this practice, aim for at least 30 days.

4 ) Plastic Freeze

If swiping your debit card is making your funds too easy to get to, put the booger on ice. Go cash-only for a week or even a whole month. Online purchases count as credit card swipes. Paying your bills from your account don’t.

5 ) Say No to the Store

It seems everyone I talk to has a store that is their weak spot. Something about it wreaks havoc on your mental wiring and suddenly Wants and Needs are all in the same pile. For me, it’s Target. Maybe for you, it’s Amazon, the thrift store, e-Bay, CVS, or the convenience store. Whatever your Store, skip it for a month and see just how much of a drain it is on your wallet.

6 ) Limited Spending Challenge

This is one of the more common financial challenges. It’s highly customizable and is often an eye-opening experience on just how low you can go. If you’ve been tracking your spending, figure out what your average spending on non-bills is, either weekly or monthly, and challenge yourself to reduce that by a certain percentage. Go for a quick and easy 10% or get drastic with 50%.

If you’re not tracking your spending, this just might be the reason you start as it was for me. Figure out the amount you think you spend monthly on your bills. Subtract it from the amount you think you receive a month. And then commit to living on only a percentage of what’s leftover.

(Income – Bills) / Percentage of your choice = Spending Challenge Amount

7 ) Complete Fiscal Fast

Seven Days. Zero Dollars. It is that simply difficult. You can’t stock up before you start, except gas. Take your wallet from 60 mph to 0 and keep it idling for seven days. Half Dozen Daily is getting ready to embark on one. Think you can do it?

8 ) No-Spend Days 

Seven straight days is definitely challenging. For some people, it’s even impossible. For this challenge, pick a target number of no spend days for a month. Taking a cue from the Complete Fiscal Fast, seven is a good way to start. Can you take it higher?

9 ) Coupon Challenge

The only challenge that requires preparation a month ahead whether or not you’re new to couponing. For newbies, take advantage of the preceding challenge month to stock up on coupons by buying the Sunday paper every week, asking friends for their discards, printing coupons online, and collecting those little blinkies in the supermarket. Track your grocery and drugstore spending and what your average savings, if any, are without coupons. Finally, visit couponing websites to educate yourself on how couponing works.

If you use coupons now but think you can do better, save your receipts from your shopping the month leading up to the challenge. At the end, figure out what your average savings are currently and challenge yourself to increase them by a certain percentage next month. Generally, the higher you are, the harder it is to keep going so keep that in mind. It is truly a challenge to average savings above even 50% (it CAN be done).

When the month of your challenge starts, get your coupon on. Make sure, like the previous month, you’re tracking your average savings and see what the difference is at month-end.

10 ) Power Down Challenge

Can you say no to electricity for seven nights? In this challenge, your family unplugs every night, at the same time, for seven nights. Candles and battery-operated devices are acceptable but you can’t recharge until the power comes back on. This challenge has a two-fold benefit. One, it will surely help reduce your utility bill while quite possibly pointing out power leeching devices and habits in your home. Two, it’s a great way to test your family’s Disaster Readiness level. Having experienced hurricanes myself, including Category 5 Hurricane Andrew in 1992, I know how important Disaster Readiness is, and how easily it’s forgotten.

Have you embarked on a financial challenge? What was your experience?

The latest reason I love couponing

Went to Publix last night to take advantage of the last day of last week’s sale (here Publix sales run Thursday to Wednesday unlike everywhere else because that’s how we do it down here). I paid $46.17 for $85.84 worth of stuff. Here’s how it broke down across the three categories I made purchases in (pre-tax because otherwise I get befuddled):

Food (Almond milk, sour cream, feta cheese, chuck patties, pita bread)

Cost: $21.34 Coupons & Sales: $4.18 Savings of 20%

Personal Care– Kids (Diapers, Wipes, Diaper Cream, Body Wash)

Cost: $46.46 Coupons & Sales: $20.99 Savings of 45%

Personal Care– Mine (Toothpaste, toothbrushes, facial tissues)

Cost: $9.89 Coupons & Sales: $9.45 Savings of 96%

Overall on my bill (with tax), I saved 46%. My receipt further explains I took advantage of $17.99 in store coupons (21%), $11.15 in vendor coupons (13%), and $10.53 in special prices (12%). I want to emphasize, these savings are in Florida which does not double coupons. If they did, my savings would have been even higher. Regardless, this trip goes to strengthen my assertion that coupon savings’ strength lies outside of Food especially if you’re not into really junky food and is still very much worth the time and effort (which incidentally is not much). This is especially important for those who place high value on high-quality foods (which in all honesty is not me, I’d say I’m in the moderate camp) because it’s the perfect example of the savvy money mentality to save where you can to splurge where you want.

P.S. When you do your shopping, and your bags are loaded, and you’ve paid, take your cart to an out of the way place by the exit (don’t block any passages) and look through your receipt carefully. Two weeks ago at Publix, the eggs were on sale ($2) but rang up at regular price ($2.59). I probably wouldn’t have done anything except I’d bought three dozen eggs for the baking marathon I went on. I went back to have it adusted and the lady gave me back the full value of the three dozen eggs. Why? To my surprise, their policy is if they charge you wrong, they refund the full amount of the item. So what I thought would be a savings of $1.77 (the difference in price) turned into a savings of $7.77. This week, I ignored my own advice and have overpaid in two separate instances and didn’t catch it until days later when I was entering my data in my price book. I lost $4.09. Oh and I forgot to use a coupon because I was on the phone at checkout losing another $1.25. My total loss for negligence this week? $5.34. Lesson learned? It’s important to be vigilant with your money, even in the little things because they add up fast and no one is going to watch out for your money any better than you are.