Lisa Rogers Cherry
As a debt counselor, my telephone rings continuously with calls from people who are in dire need of financial help. Recently I met with one client who told me that she and her husband have allowed three grown children and two grandchildren to move back home.
Her grocery bill has increased from about $250 to more than $600 per month. Her light bill increased from $150 to more than $500 per month. Her husband insists that they help their kids, but she said that on a fixed income, it was killing her. For the first time ever, she is more than two months late paying her mortgage.
When she asked me what she could do to make ends meet while helping her children, I told her that she had to make some tough decisions. Although she felt obligated to help her children, they had to help by pitching in. None of them, all grown and working, were paying her any rent or contributing anything toward the household expenses.
I suggested that she meet with each child and find out how much money he/she was making. Second, she must establish what their expenses were. Third, she must ask what each child could afford to contribute. I told her that if each child could pay at least $200 each month, then that would give her $600 to use toward payment of household expenses.
I recommended that she shop differently by picking up the Sunday newspaper and clipping coupons. The Sunday newspaper is the first place that I usually look for coupons. Then I look at various websites such as www.couponmom.com, www.coupons.com, www.couponcode.com, www.8coupons.com, www.shortcuts.com to get the best deals on the food, household and personal items that I purchase for my family.
In some stores, if you purchase an item that is buy one, get one free, you can use two coupons for those items. If an item is not on sale or if I don’t have a coupon for an item, I generally leave that item in the store. If I don’t save a minimum of 30-40 percent on each grocery bill, I know that I am leaving too much money at the grocery store.
Not only does the Sunday paper have coupons, but it usually has a variety of circulars from stores with items that they are advertising. After clipping and organizing your coupons, put them in your purse or car so that you don’t forget them when you go to the store. Don’t be afraid to comparison shop. See which store has what you need for the best price. Try to be flexible about buying store brands or trying a new item that is either on sale or free. Sometimes the store will offer you a sample of an item as well as a coupon on that item. If a sign says 10 items for $10, generally you don’t have to buy all ten items to get the discount.
Pay close attention on the size of the container for many items. A loaf of bread now has less slices, the cereal box is smaller, even snacks like chips and cookies are packaged in smaller containers with less product inside. I like to shop at discount stores. However, I make sure not to get so distracted by the lower price that I miss the fact that the box or carton is smaller, which actually means that I am paying more per ounce or per pound than I normally would on that particular item.
Two suggestions – Don’t take your children to the store with you. Take a list with you. When you shop with a list and are disciplined enough to stick strictly to the list, you avoid spending on the unplanned and unnecessary extras. If you have a list, you can find the coupons that you will need prior to going to the store. I often find in-store coupons on the particular items on my list. Sometimes I will switch from my preferred brand to get a brand that I have a coupon for.
Purchase generic items. Many items contain the same ingredients. Frequently you are paying extra for the name brand. However, there are some items that you can’t skimp on. My mom is quick to tell you that you can’t use just any brand of bleach and expect good results.
Even if you save only $5, each time you shop, that’s $5 more that you can put in your pocket or into your savings account. Make every penny count. Let’s stop giving away so much of our money and let’s start paying more attention to where each dime is being spent.
Lisa Rogers-Cherry is the author of Lifting the Burdens of Debt: A Helpful Guide to Getting Your Debts Paid and Your Life Back on Track (2005; $14.95). If you have a question or for more information, go to www.redpenpress.com, e-mail her at [email protected], or write Lisa Rogers-Cherry, Red Pen Press, P. O. Box 1196, Dania Beach, FL 33004.