I don’t know exactly what I expected when I began the 90-day Budget Bootcamp with Mummy Deals and In Good Cents, but I am probably not too far off in saying that I thought I was already doing well when I started this 3 month challenge. In fact, here’s where I was when I started:
When Claire and Beth invited me to participate in their 90-day Budget Boot Camp last month, I answered immediately with a resounding YES! I have always considered myself a frugal person. I shop the deals and I cook my meals from scratch. But the last two years have been extremely detrimental to my finances and my budget, and I am determined to get back on track. I have a few budget pounds to lose. Here’s a run-down of my shopping and cooking habits and history:
- I love to cook, but I hate to decide what I’m going to cook. I know that spending a few minutes every 2 weeks or so to plan out several meals in advance is SO worth it, and yet I rarely stick with it. My bad.
- I like the idea of coupons, and use them when I can, but I often find that I can get better deals by buying generic. I get jealous when I hear about friends who have mastered the art of couponing and see the deals they come home with.
- My favorite way to shop is to stock up on each store’s current deals and then “shopping” my food storage shelves in my basement. I keep tons of cans and boxes on shelves and freeze meat in bulk.
- It is impossible to budget $0. When I had a steady income coming in, it was easy for me to say that I could spend X amount on groceries and other miscellaneous supplies each week. But when I had nothing coming in for months, I got into the habit of a) shopping only with cash on hand (which is a good thing), and b) not sticking with a plan (which is a not-so-good thing). I kind of gave up on budgeting, planning, stocking up, etc. It was scary to see my food supply dwindling.
- Now that we’ve got a little bit of income trickling in, I want to get back into my better habits of planning ahead, stocking up, and I would love to master shopping with coupons.
And now? Three months later, I am feeling more confident with my budget and I am saving money. I use a hand full of coupons at every shopping trip, and I am finally convinced that coupon shopping is the way to go (when combined with in-store sales, of course). I love reading my receipts after each shopping trip and seeing that I am saving around 50% on each visit. I am well on my way to mastering rolling rewards, and I am determined to keep going with it. And best of all, my cupboards have food on them and I’m using those items and wasting less.
The last challenge of Budget Bootcamp is sponsored by Peter Pan, who not only sent us some yummy peanut butter in the mail, but is also hosting a giveaway along with this week’s challenge. The challenge is to give back. Whether it is giving some of the money we saved or some of the freebies we gathered along the way, the point is to give. This is what Clair said about this week’s challenge:
So often when we see a need we think that the only way to give is money but that’s simply not the case. There are three other great things you can give that don’t require a lot of money:
1) Your time. Places are often calling out for volunteers. From helping at a resale shop that supports a great cause to lending time at an animal shelter, these are examples of ways we can donate time.
2) Your expertise. Do you know how to build a house or even just how to paint? Habitat for Humanity may be able to use you. How about by giving your services as a consultant or help with accountant.
3) Your freebies. Yup, for those of you who’ve been around here long enough you know what I mean: Grab toiletries from Walgreens, CVS or Rite Aid because they’re free and sometimes you make money using a coupon. Then, donate them. Women’s shelters love toiletries, food pantries can always use peanut butter that you didn’t need 20 jars of but got for free. There are fab places that ship supplies to our servicemen oversees that would really help them. Donate paint brushes and other supplies from Menards freebies to Habitat for Humanity.
I was thrilled to find a donation box at my kids’ elementary school where I could donate some of the extra school supplies that we gathered by shopping the back to school sales. Yes, believe it or not, although I shopped for 5 kids’ back to school supplies, even I ended up with extra folders, notebooks, pencils, and erasers. And composition books. Don’t forget the composition books.
We also had the opportunity to serve dinner at a local homeless shelter. CandyMan took KitKat and Necco with him, along with food donated by members of our congregation and lunch bags that the I got to help the teenagers in our church assemble the night before. Even more important than the food donated that night (to me) was the time that my two daughters donated, willingly. I love the fact that they have this opportunity, and can’t help but believe that it is going to make a difference in the way they appreciate and value what we have.
Now that Budget Bootcamp is over, I feel better equipped to face the store….and my wallet. I am saving more money than ever. And I feel 20 lbs lighter.
Disclosure: Peter Pan sent me 4 jars of peanut butter for this week’s challenge, but I was not otherwise compensated for this post. As always, the experiences and thoughts presented are my own.
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