Monday, February 8, 2010

Drug Store Delegate

The huz has always been frugal. According to the stories from his childhood, he was poor. He wore hand-me-downs, slaughtered cows and pigs, lived on hot dogs and beans, and did the bulk of his shopping at yard sales. This is only a half truth. His father was a union worker and there were rough times in their home during strikes and shut-downs but, for the most part, it was a relatively charmed life. The huz did not want for anything.

I have only recently discovered my frugal alter-ego. She was hidden, deep down, just waiting for me to let her out. All she needed was a push, which she got last March in the form of a couponing class. My frugal alter-ego, let's call her Shana, came out with a vengeance. Since then Shana has been saving money all over town and the Huz could not be more pleased.

Recently, Shana got a little overwhelmed with all of the work that goes into strategic shopping and decided, after much internal strife, to delegate the drug store shopping to the huz. To say that he has embraced this assignment would be the understatement of the century. Just last week, he went on a Walgreens tirade that ended up stocking our pantry with enough chips (18 full-size bags of various Lays) and soda (15 12-packs of Pepsi products) to last until the end of time. When it was all said and done, he paid less than a quarter each for all of these items. Yep, he's a savings prodigy.

**It should be noted that soda and chips are not something that we consume at the Hale house very often. We do, however, take them on our many Spring and Summer camping trips. Thanks to the huz, we shouldn't have to buy any of these items for the rest of the year.**

Shana is so glad she surrendered this task. It's a treat to see what the huz comes home with each week. His starting budget? About $5/week. This week he was asking me to look for polident coupons. Hmmm... could be interesting!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

January Savings

Since the beginning of the year, I've been closely monitoring my savings on a spreadsheet. These are grocery store/drug store purchases of food and toiletries. Here goes:

Shelf cost: $959.85
Coupon Savings: $198.88
Total Savings: $490.74
Amount Paid: $469.73
Savings rate: 51.13%

Not too shabby. My goal is to improve my savings rate each month. Bring it on February!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Minivan Woes

This morning the heat on my car wouldn't work. It sat "warming up" in my driveway for nearly 15 minutes and when the kids got in to head to school, I heard a non-stop flurry of complaints:

"I'm cold."
"It's freeeeeezing!"
"I can't buckle my belt. My hands are too cold."
"I thought Daddy fixed the heat."

I don't handle such complaints well because what they fail to acknowledge is the fact that I am not equipped with some magic inner heater that makes me immune to all temperature changes. I'm cold too dammit! I choose to keep such thoughts inside my head and take some deep breaths, bite my lip, and get the kids strapped in and ready for school. As soon as we start driving, Voila!, the heat kicks on and all is well with the world.

The first thing I did as I drove down the road was pick up my phone and call the huz to inform him of my problem. I try to steer clear of dramatics (I have a natural tendency TOWARD them--ask anyone) and simply tell him that his "fix" didn't take and that my car must be repaired. He tells me to take it to the mechanic. What? Mechanic?! He can't possibly be serious. A mechanic costs money and time, things that come at a premium in my world. When I stopped at my daughter's preschool and smoke poured out of the hood of my van accompanied by a toxic smelling odor, I decided to take his advice. The baby and I made a quick stop at the mechanic's on our way home. After a 45 minute onceover, I got the news. Some line between the heater in the engine and the heater in the back has a leak. This accounts for the smell and the smoke (actually steam). The cost to repair? About $400-450 with tax.

These are the kind of expenses that can send me running for the nearest Target, Visa in hand, ready to buy any and everything that might have that illustrious red "clearance" sticker on it. I am usually overcome with guilt by the time I reach the checkout line so I grab a Snickers to squelch that emotion. I'm just a picture of good health, aren't I? These are the habits that I am determined to break. Retail therapy and food are just not working for me anymore. So, instead of heading to Target, I took my broken van (it's still drivable and the part won't come in until Wednesday or Thursday) and I made my way home. The baby and I walked through the door, I took a little chunk out of savings and moved it to my checking account so it is there when I pay the bill and I took a moment to breath and put things into perspective.

The huz is great at helping me with perspective. All I need to do is think about his car and I am overwhelmed with grattitude for my broken down van. His car has 270,000 miles, no heat, no air, no radio, some jacked up windows and a terrible paint job. But he drives it every day to work, enjoys the 36 miles per gallon it gets, and never complains. He's no martyr--martyrs need recognition. He just wants his family to have one nice car so he makes that happen by dutifully driving his little trashdump on wheels.

So, I'll suck it up and pay the $400 and try not to complain. Then I'll do my best to enjoy the climate-controlled, radio-equipped, GPS-enabled luxury that is my broken down van from here on out.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Somebody's Startin' Somethin'

In the past few years I've noticed some major changes in my life. Things are shrinking. I wish I could say it was my waistline. Wouldn't that be awesome? This blog would be about my most recent triathlon and not about my most recent trip to the drugstore. But that is another blog for another time. The pervasive shrinkage that crept up on me was not my waistline but my wallet. My beloved husband who shall henceforth be referred to as "the huz" for the purposes of this blog, the primary bread-winner in our family, built his career in the once-lucrative finance industry. Our income was padded on all sides by monthly bonuses and yearly raises. Budgeting was a nice concept but far from a necessity. In the past two years of economic fallout, we have found ourselves in a position we haven't been in before. Our bonuses have all but disappeared and instead of looking forward to an annual income increase thanks to a raise, we face an annual decrease thanks to ever-increasing health care premiums and a stagnant salary. Good times.

As a result of these life lessons, my family is in a transitional period. We (in particular me) are learning to save. We are learning to budget. We are learning to appreciate what we have. We are learning to live on less. My husband has been a saver all of his life and is having no problems with this transition. I, on the other hand, fall into that undesirable entitled category and have many lessons to learn. In the interest of full disclosure and accountability, I invite you to come along on my journey into the world of fiscal responsibility as I set out on my quest for savings, Big Skimpin' all the way to the bank.