New year(and no resolution), new month, new coupons

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I actually have never liked the idea, although I have never admitted this out loud. When it’s a fun topic of conversation for people, I don’t want to be the one who’s a downer. The idea just doesn’t appeal to me because it usually is too broad and open-ended. I like to have goals, and I like to-do lists, and I like to keep track of progress and steps to a process along the way. A year’s resolution just isn’t my thing. If you saw my calendar, you’d see I have tons of goals each week and things often change. Some goals get pushed into the next week, some get abandoned. Some goals actually get accomplished, but that often spawns new goals. So, I’ll just start with my goals for this week. I’m going to re-examine my spending categories and evaluate my budget allocations. This needs to be done periodically as your needs will change.

My current spending categories are: Pets, Health, Home Improvement, Car, Farm/Barn, Restaurant/Take Out, Food – fresh, Food – pantry, Food – freezer, Food – gift, Clothes.

Each month, I have an envelope and I put my receipts in that envelope. If I think of it during the month, I categorize and add up the receipts by category, but usually not. Usually, it’s an end-of-month thing. It doesn’t take long when you take it in small bites like that.

A few things I’ve found that make us really different from most of what I see online – we spend almost nothing on clothes. Nothing at all for most months out of the year, then about 3 times a year, a few larger purchases. I think that’s mostly because we make very conscious clothing decisions and buy quality, durable, classic pieces. I don’t tend to be wild with my fashion choices and I don’t go crazy for shoes. From what I understand, that’s not typical.

We also spend almost nothing on restaurant and take-out foods. I cook 3 meals a day, and I often prepare extras and freeze single or double portions so that I can re-heat them if time is short. We just don’t go out that much to eat. There’s many reasons why, mostly that we really don’t like the restaurant choices in our area, and to go to restaurants we really like, it’s a longer drive and something that needs to be planned. In this past year, we went out to eat on purpose exactly once. The exceptions are when certain relatives from out of town visit, because they like some of the local quirky restaurants in town. Every area has those, certain specialties you can’t get anywhere else. In the past five years though, our family has never chosen to eat at those restaurants unless we were entertaining out-of-towners.

That brings up another point, but I don’t have an answer. Why is it so difficult to make good food? I make food we like at home, but most of the time, we are severely disappointed with the choices of food in restaurants. Inconsistent quality, unseasoned, heavy on sugar, canned-tasting vegetables, I don’t understand. There’s one local place that is immensely popular here, lines out the door on a daily basis, hard to find seating, everyone raves about it, and the food is 100% crap. You can taste the canned vegetables. Nothing is fresh. You can tell, and yet so much of their advertising uses the word “fresh”. I guarantee that everything they have is either frozen or canned. No seasoning at all, but heavily loaded with salt/sodium and that particular taste of preserved food. And it is packed with raving customers all day long, every day, with everyone you ask talking about how good the food is. I don’t understand.

Another local seafood restaurant that has great quality seafood, but seasons nothing. Not one speck of salt or pepper even. The breaded items are tasteless, also. The breading just tastes like flour cooked in oil. I don’t know how they manage this. The seafood is all cooked perfectly, and all tastes like textured air. Seriously, not even seafood flavor. I don’t know how this is possible. It really is a marvel. They have tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, salt and pepper at the table. Seasoning cooked fish and shrimp afterwards does not have at all the same effect. You can only taste the sauce. I’m sure the sauces are canned, and they taste great. The most consistent part of this restaurant is the hush puppies – they are all identically shaped, seasoned well, and cooked nicely. I am sure they are either batter from a box or frozen and deep-fried right out of the freezer. When everyone I talk to raves over the food, they are raving over the sauces and the hush puppies, neither of which the restaurant can take credit for. I don’t get it.

It’s just so hard to part with money for sub-par food that isn’t good for you, when I can cook it at home ten times better at one-tenth the price. The only times we go out to eat is to socialize, and we always end up leaving the restaurant feeling bloated, unhealthy, unsatisfied, and frustrated at the price.

Yes, I know there are fancy steakhouses. I cook steak, too, and sides just as good as they do. And I do it for $15 instead of $80.

Most restaurants serve good coffee. So, there’s that.

Every other category, I spend a much larger portion. By far, the “Food – fresh” outweighs the other food categories, and that’s fine. I do the best I can with that, but I accept that I’ll spend more on fresh food to make the best possible meals, and that’s just how it goes. Car, Home Improvement, and Farm/Barn goes in waves, which makes sense, as we service the vehicles, plant grass, or fix up a room.

And here are this month’s coupon links:

The first of the month means new printable coupons.  If there’s anything you use, go ahead and print it, because coupons have a print limit and once they reach their limit, they remove the coupon. In most cases, you can print 2 copies of each coupon before it is disabled.

The major coupon sites that will list an aggregate of manufacturer’s coupons are:

Some stores also use e-coupons, loaded by your loyalty card or using your phone number. Go to the website and sign up, that way you don’t even have to print these coupons, you will automatically have them deducted at the checkout line.

Some stores also have their own printable coupons, or they may take competitors coupons. It’s worth it to print these out to match with the manufacturers coupons for double or better on the discount!

Don’t forget that just by walking in the door at CVS, you can get extra coupons printed at the automated machine. You scan the card in the machine’s reader, and it will print out coupons just for you. Some have very short expiration dates so pay attention, but these may be very useful on your trip.

If you do not already do this, I would recommend trying SavingStar. This is a program separate from coupons, you can shop as you normally shop, with or without coupons, and when you use your store loyalty card, savings are automatically posted to your account and you can claim the money online with Paypal. It won’t change anything about your checkout process.

Link to sign up for SavingStar

Proctor & Gamble, who make Scope, Crest, Cover Girl, and other brands, has a page where you can print their coupons directly.

You have to sign up, log in, and they do limit the number you can print per month. It’s a good augment to your list each month though, because they have many items that go on sale and are great to stock up on.

Also, I have a new coupon link to add to my list – Kimberly Clark products, such as Kleenex and Colgate.

On that page, it says if you share the link, you’ll get extra savings. In this particular case, I do not qualify for the extra savings by posting the link. The choices were Facebook, Twitter, and directly emailing them to people. I don’t do Facebook or Twitter at all (and hopefully can avoid them forever for my entire life), and I feel weird about directly emailing people stuff like that, so I’m just posting the link but not getting the “extra” savings. Actually, the coupons themselves are pretty good, so I don’t mind.


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