Getting into the Swing of Savings

Just when I think I’m starting to save money, I realized that I’ve invested it in salt, snow shovels and some home maintenance supplies for this week.

This past week, I set up a strict budget for myself. I’m trying to spend no more than $100 a month on groceries and personal care items. This will fluctuate a bit when I need to buy monthly medicine supplies, but I’m hoping to use a FSA for those expenses.

Earlier, I aimed to stop by CVS to buy new makeup, but I decided to try out Aldi foundation and lip gloss after reading a favorable review in the Daily Mail. I’m pleasantly surprised. At $2.99, it’s hard to beat. I also really like the lip gloss. The package calls it brown, but it’s more like a dark maroon. I also decided to splurge on extra skin care and purchased the night cream and exfoliating mask.

I’ve never used a night cream before, so I can’t compare to more expensive brands. However, it’s been ranked highly and smells really nice. I did like the exfoliating mask. I’ve probably tried every brand of exfoliating masks on the market. At only $2.99, it did it’s job. My skin was definitely scrubbed and now looks clearer.

With the exception of a few items, most of my grocery shopping can be accomplished at Aldi, and I was able to stay around budget of $25 per week.

I also decided to tempt my discipline and do a little shopping at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. I’ve budgeted $100 per month for clothes and spending, which is incredibly tight. Thus far, I’ve succeeded. I found a buggy full of clearance clothes at Marshall’s but talked myself out of everything but one. I found a Michael Kors sweater jacket for $15. Kors is my favorite label, and you don’t them on clearance very often! Plus, this sweater can be dressed up for work or down for jeans.

Since I’m just getting used to my new job and anticipating expenses for transportation, my budget needs a little adjustment. However, I’m trying to stay with it. I’m approaching it as a challenge rather than limits. I know that if I didn’t budget money for shopping or fun, I’d go crazy and blow it. In the long run, I know that I’ll be happy that I learned fiscal discipline once my credit cards are paid off, and I’ve saved up enough for a newer car.

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Weekly Cooking

Many years ago, my mom used to do the once-a-month cooking plan. She would spend a day busy in the kitchen and then freeze everything. Unfortunately, she used to make Hamburger Helper. As a vegetarian, mom didn’t realize that when you defrosted pasta, it turned watery and rather gross. (Once it was mixed with ground beef, she refused to eat it.) My father and I knew how hard she worked to cook, so neither of us ever said anything. One night, my dad came home from work late and noticed that there was defrosted Hamburger Helper waiting for him.

“Ugh,” I remember him saying. “Defrosted noodles. Yuck.”

“I know,” I agreed. “But don’t say anything. We don’t want to hurt mom’s feelings.”

Little did I know that my mom was walking down the stairs at that moment and overheard us. Rather than being hurt, she laughed. From that point, she pre-cooked the ground meat and made the Hamburger Helper the day it was served. Since that day, my mom has used the defrosted Hamburger Helper to measure how well we like a meal.

I share that story to say that I’ve never really been a fan of once-a-month cooking. For one thing, I don’t have the freezer capacity. Plus, the soggy noodles left a bad impression on me.

However, as I’ve embarked on this money saving journey, I realize that eating at home is the most cost efficient way to eat. It’s also far healthier. I enjoy cooking, but it’s a chore after working all day and surviving rush hour. I’ve gradually, started cooking a few times a week and eating the leftovers for the remainder of my meals.

On Sunday, I woke up and realized that this week is likely to be insane. I have an extra church service to start the Lenten season, a few meetings and the biggest conference of the year for my professional field. I spent the morning scrubbing my apartment down and cooking four meals for the upcoming week. Living alone, food stretches pretty far.

In little over an hour, I made four meals that should get me through the week. Most of them were healthy and inexpensive. Recipes are listed on my cooking blog.

Since it’s cold outside, I opted for lentils and rice, which is a comfort meal to me. It’s not particularly healthy, but it’s super cheap to make.

I also made Chili Soup in my Crock Pot, which is extremely healthy and easy to make. It’s quickly become one of my favorite meals.

For a change, I defrosted some tilapia fillets and marinated them in a mixture of salsa, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Coming from a Cajun family, I naturally like my food spicy, and this recipe has a bit of zing to it. I marinated the fillets overnight and cooked them for 30 minutes at 400 F.

I also whipped up some Snowed-In Deviled Eggs, which were once again yummy.

If this works out, I’ll try to make a habit of the weekly cooking. One hour on a Sunday beats coming home from work and staring at the contents of my pantry waiting for something to magically appear on a plate. It also gives me better control over my diet to ensure that it stays healthy.

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Single Saver Deals: 2/8/10

I’m not sure if the Blizzard has helped me save money or not. Last week, I was gearing up to hit numerous stores with coupons and weekly specials, when the storm hit. In order to get everything that I needed, I just went to Walmart. Oh well.

It looks like we’re getting more snow tomorrow, but I’m trying to plan out the specials this week. There are numerous items on sale that I need to stock up on such as razors and make-up.

Couponing as a single is interesting. Last week, I noticed numerous bloggers going crazy over B1G1 egg specials. I struggle to eat a dozen eggs in a month, so a B1G1 special would just cause me to waste food.

I’m also a little more picky when it comes to flavors or types. I’ve never been a name brand shopper, but I do have preferences. It’s frustrating to wait until a specific type of cereal goes on sale.

Then there are items that I can’t stock up on, such as yogurt and Clariten D. You can only buy so much yogurt before it goes bad. Since I struggle with severe asthma and allergies,  I need some type of allergy medication with a decongestant. Thanks to meth producers, you can only buy one package of Claritin D per week. Even when it’s on sale, I can’t buy more than 1. Are there any strategies for dealing with issues when laws limit how much you can buy?

Below are my shopping strategies for the week. However, they are contingent on the weather cooperating with my shopping.

Old Navy
$2 camis (via Coupon Craver). There was also a $5 off any purchase of $25 or more coupon in the paper. I love Old Navy camis! They actually make them without the shelf bra.

Target:

Venus Razors buy 2 at $6.99 get a $5 giftcard +
$2 off coupon in RedPlum
.75 replacement razor cartridges (Target couons

Yoplait Yogurt: .50 each
$1 of 10 coupon

CVS
Maybelline Makeup $5 ECB wyb $15
$2/foundation
$2 lipcolor

Nivea Lip Products
B1G1 Nivea Lip
$1/Nivea product

L’egg Pantyhose
Buy one, get one 50%

B1G1 vitamins

Walgreens
Kleenex-.89
.75 coupon from Walgreens booklet

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Single Saver Deals: 2/5/10

I’ve been a little busy around here. Thankfully, I started a new job this week (yay paychecks!). Unfortunately, making a living cuts into blogging time, and I have multiple blogs to maintain!

Here’s a smattering of deals that I found today that might interest other single people.

Free sample of Purex 3-in-1 Complete Laundry Sheets.

Why did these not exist when I was in college? They could still be useful since my laundry room is across the parking lot of my apartment complex. (via A Coupon Chick)

Purex also has an iPhone app to help with laundry challenges.

Coupons.com has also reloaded their coupons for February and there are a number of them for board games! Board games are a great way to socialize with friends and save money.

Coupon for $15 of $15 purchase at The Limited. Offer good Feb. 1-10. (via My Frugal Adventures)

Bath & Body Works has a coupon for a free Signature Collection Body Care item with a $10 purchase. Works both off and online (via Saving Cents with Sense)

Enter to win a free organic cotton t-shirt from Product of Your Environment when you sign up for their mailing list.

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Brits Learn to Save at Aldi

I’ve been an Aldi shopper for several years now. It’s one of the reasons I live in the suburbs. Today’s Daily Mail in the UK featured a story about a mom who tried her weekly shopping at Aldi and discovered that her weekly bill was cut in half:

Suddenly, I hear a familiar voice booming out across the store. It is one of the mothers from my daughter’s private prep school, trying to organise a skiing trip on her mobile phone.

When she spots me, she leaps behind a tower of discount tins. But I am not ashamed to be shopping in Aldi. Far from it – my trolley is laden with 46 items, my usual weekly mixture of fresh meat, pizzas, fruit, vegetables, kitchen and bath cleaners, pasta and drinks.

An almost identical trolley cost me £120 last week. Today, my total bill for the week is just £45. An astonishing saving of £75 with just one shopping trip. I have saved more money than I’d thought possible.

Perhaps frugality is an American trait, but I love Aldi. I’ve always been impressed with their food and brands. I’ve started using their makeup and actually like their eye shadow better than more expensive brands. Their Fit & Active healthy food line is comprable to Weight Watchers/Healthy Choice but at a fraction of the cost. One of my main questions in this couponing journey has been if I can beat Aldi’s prices?

According to the Daily Mail, the quality of Aldi’s products is actually better than name brands:

The children have wolfed down their Aldi breakfast cereals and declare them to be as good as their usual Kellogg’s.

But while they like the taste of most of the food, I want to know just how healthy this budget fare is – so I ask nutritionist Angela Dowden to help.

She inspects the ingredients of everything I have purchased – in particular, the salt, fat and sugar levels.

Both Amanda and a leading nutritionist were impressed with how healthy Aldi products are

The results are rather surprising. Angela declares that the cheap Aldi own brands are as healthy, or even healthier, than leading makes which cost far more money.

For example, the Aldi Swedish meatballs which cost me £1.59 (£3.39 cheaper than the equivalent amount of my usual Swedish Kitchen Organic Meatballs) actually contain 15 per cent less saturated fat than my usual organic favourites.

Angela says: ‘I’m impressed by the 91 per cent pork content. In similar products, the highest meat content I’ve seen is just 75 per cent.’

Angela adds: ‘Quiche is not a healthy option, but there’s no skimping on ingredients with Aldi, despite the small price. In fact, the nine per cent whipping cream puts it on a par with premium quiches.

P.S. As an anglophile, I love how Aldi in the UK looks identical to US stores.

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Single Saver Deals: 1/30/10

While scanning through a few blogs, I found these good deals that are great opportunities for singles to save. Saving money doesn’t mean completely sacrificing.

Today and tomorrow (January 30 & 31), Old Navy is taking 30% off of your total purchase, including sales and clearance items. No coupons are needed.

Old Navy has the best camis and basic t-shirts. So stock up!
(via Saving Cents with Sense)

Through tomorrow (January 31), Bath & Body Works has a 20% of any purchase coupon, which can be used online with the code 20Percent.

(via Saving Cents with Sense)

Victoria’s Secret has two promotions currently. Through February 14, sign up online to play their instant win game for a chance to win a $500 gift card. Most people seem to be winning a free Lacie thong with the purchase of a regularly priced bra. The free prize can be redeemed online or in stores.
(via A Coupon Chick)

You can also get a free Pink Pup with the purchase of any Victoria’s Secret Pink item. Use DREAMPUP at checkout. I’m not sure if these two offers can be combined.
(via A Coupon Chick)

Get a free emergency preparedness kit at Prepare Then Share. We live in the DC area. Everyone needs one.
(via A Coupon Chick)

Get a $10 gift card to Amazon after writing 10 reviews on Viewpoints. This offer is valid from January 28 through February 11 and is open to the first 10,000 complete reviews. According to Alaska Coupon Diva:

-You get the gift card by registering with Viewpoints, then click on the “write a review” tab. Write a review for any product listed here and your review must contain at least 900 characters.
-You must write your review between January 28 and February 11 to be eligible to receive a gift card. This is good for the first 10,000 who complete reviews. Go here to read the official rules and gift card codes will be emailed out within 30 days of completion.

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Vista Print: 100 Business Cards for $1.99 + Shipping

I noticed this Vista Print deal at a number of blogs. I wasn’t aware that mommycards existed, but then mommyblogs are a universe to themselves!

This is also a good deal for us non-mommies, particularly those who are out of work. It’s awkward to be at an event and not have one when someone requests it. I’ve also been in situations at church or with my political blog, where I didn’t want to hand out a business card.

I ordered some adorable pink cards with my monogram. Personal cards are also reminiscent of calling cards at the turn-of-the-century.

Added bonus: You have the option of getting $50 in free GoogleAd words. Vista Print will email you the code to get get started.

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