Friday, December 31, 2010

Here Comes 2011!

I can't believe all the changes that have overtaken my life this year! I have learned so much from my venture into couponing. I know that I will never go back to my old way of shopping: paying full price for everything all the time and thinking I was doing the best I could by shopping almost exclusively at Wal-Mart. Who would have thought that, as I did a random google search while researching Disney World for a vacation, I would have stumbled upon the website that started my shopping revolution, I clearly remember spending most of last Christmas vacation scouring the net for more info. I came across These two blogs were my original inspiration and I owe Kristin and Collin a ton of thanks, and probably a couple thousand dollars! I am so looking forward to a new year of being a wannabe cheapskate.

I have been putting off posting a budget goal for 2011. I posted a goal for the school year toward the end of the summer. And that's been a total failure. I hesitate to make my failure so public again! Then, I read this post by the Passionate Penny Pincher and realized that I needed to just buck up and go for it.

So, here it is. I plan to keep our family to a grocery and household needs budget of $60 per week. I think $60 is just the right amount to get what we need and what's on sale. Hopefully, I'll be able to come in under budget most weeks so that I have a little room to groove if I come across a great deal that would put me over on another week.

I am working on a way for me to (easily and quickly) track my spending at each store I frequent (Publix, CVS, Walgreens, Target, and Walmart). I don't know how I'll do on that, though. I want to be able to post here about my success/failure without it taking an age. Time will tell.

I will start posting and tracking tomorrow, January 1, 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tonight's Special (and Frugal) Dinner, 12/29

After watching 30 Minute Meals, Talani and I decided we wanted to try making this meal. Of course, I can never manage to make a "30-Minute-Meal" in less than an hour, although this time I came close. Probably because I made only 2 of the 4 recipes she showcased on the episode. We tweeked the recipes quite a bit to fit our tastes. For example, Rachael used watercress in the Beef Wellington pouches, and we skipped it altogether. She used bleu cheese, and we used brie. She used tenderloin, we used the $4.29/lb. cut. I still found the beef wellington to be delightfully tasty, even if the cheese mostly ran right out of the pouches in a liquid. The dill and butter potatoes were yummy.
Here's the basic rundown on the cost of this very special meal for us:
steak -- $4.29/lb -- $4.70
puff pastry -- $4.39 per box -- $2.20
brie -- BOGO for $5.99 -- $3.00^^
potatoes -- $2.49 for 5 lb -- $1.25^^
butter -- $2/lb. -- $.25
dill -- $1.99 for a small pkg -- $.20
^^On sale until 12/31.
Total: $11.60 -- Quite a high total for a homemade meal, at least for us!
And for dessert? Chocolate covered macadamia nuts from Hawaii! (Thanks, Auntie Annie!)
It was delicious, and Talani ate the leftovers for breakfast! :)

Last Publix trip of 2010 -- 50% saved

I'm glad I read somebody else's year-end shopping trip show and tell, or I would never have remembered to use up those coupons for free items that all expire tomorrow. My percent of savings isn't very good, but we got some items for dinner and a few things that were impulse buys or needs that we didn't have a coupon for.

Here's how we did:

1 Butterfinger bar -- $.90
Used FREE coupon received in the mail.
Paid: FREE!
1 Natural Instincts hair color -- $5.99
Used FREE coupon received in the mail.
Paid: FREE!
1 Excedrin Migraine -- $3.99
Used FREE coupon received in the mail.
Paid: FREE!
This came with a small bottle of Excedrin PM attached, an extra bonus!
1 Sundown vitamins -- $5.99
2 Welch's sparkling grape juice -- $5
no coupon
Paid: $5 for both, or just $2.50 each!
2 Wise Cheez Doodlez -- BOGO -- 2 for $2.99
Used 2 $.50 printable coupons
Paid: $1.99 for both, or just $1 each!
Hooray for cheesy-puffy-goodness!
1 Pepperidge Farm puff pastry -- $4.39
1 dozen Publix brand eggs -- $1.90
Mock tender steak -- $4.70
2 Creme de Brie -- BOGO -- 2 for $5.99
Paid: $5.99 for both, or just $3 each!
2 TGIF frozen quesadillas -- BOGO -- 2 for $3.63
Used 2 $2 Target coupons
Paid: FREE for both, plus $.37 overage!
Yellow onions -- $2.99
Gold potatoes -- $2.49
Fresh dill -- $1.99
2 Pace salsa -- BOGO -- 2 for $2.79
Used 2 $.50 printable coupons
Paid: $1.79 for both, or just $.90 each!
1 can Hormel corned beef hash -- $3.69
Bakery cinnamon buns -- $4.39
Total spent: $42.eighty4
Total saved: $42.40
Percent saved: 50%

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Doing Disney the Cheapskate Way

We just returned from a wonderful week at Disney World. We had to be careful with our spending, though, which can sometimes put a damper on enjoying the magic. Here are a few things we did to help us get the most out of our trip while spending as little as possible:

1. We bought a cooler ($30) on wheels so we could keep food in our standard room. It has a drain spout near the bottom, and the wheels made transporting to the ice machine easy.
2. We bought groceries to last the week. ($60) We bought lunch meat from the deli, chips, bread, snacks, drinks, you name it. We also delved into our stock pile for lots of needed items. We had a limited menu: bagels and instant oatmeal for breakfast; sandwiches, chips, cookies for lunch and dinner; granola bars and muffins for snacks.
3. We "splurged" occasionally. If we had never been able to buy a treat, I think the magic would have been sapped right out of our vacation. We tried to splurge smart, though. One day at Epcot, we bought ONE chicken meal at Sunshine Seasons. It came with potatoes and barbeque beans. We each ate a little of it, plus our sandwiches and chips. We had a feast! It was delicious! We got to try something we'd never had before and didn't break the bank to do it. Cost: $10 for a meal and a drink. (Thanks to a 30% off coupon Disney was offering at many places.) Another time, we bought 3 snacks at the Germany pavilion in Epcot (not the same day as the lunch at Sunshine Seasons). We spent about $12, but enjoyed the snack immensely. Again, something new. We revisited a favorite at Animal Kingdom: Yak and Yeti local cafes. One lunch of sandwiches was supplemented with a couple orders of fried rice and a side of egg rolls. We spent around $12 or $13 there. (We LOVE the chicken fried rice there!) While our splurges were more than we would normally spend around town for a snack, it was so worth it! We felt like we feasted all week long, without spending like we were feasting at Disney! We spent, I'm guessing, less than 25% of what we would normally have spent at Disney for meals and snacks.
4. We took advantage of a special deal at a favorite restaurant -- We went for dinner at Panda Express, a favorite Chinese fast-food joint that we don't have here in Pensacola. They were offering a free meal with a purchase of a $25 gift card. I bought the gift card and got my meal for free. Talani, then, used the card -- and the free-entree-for-taking-a-survey thing that printed out on my reciept -- to purchase his dinner and dinner for the kids. We still have about $10 left on that gift card for later use. Without the gift card promotion and free entree, we figure we would have spent $27 to get the same amount of food.
5. We planned ahead for spending money and gas money. When Publix does their gas card or gift card promotions near Christmas, we try to snatch some up to offset our vacation costs. We got $150 in American Express gift cards and $100 in BP gas cards for around $200 -- that's a savings of 20%! (That made it a little easier to pull up to the BP station to pay $3.03 per gallon. We knew that we paid only $40 for the $50 in gas, making our actual cost for the gas just $2.42 per gallon.)

Our trip was amazing. We can't wait to go back, although it will be a while before vacation plans allow us to go. There are so many ways to do Disney cheap . . . it's almost always possible to work a trip into your budget!