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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Start Saving Part 10: Planning Ahead

In this Start Saving series, I'm trying to share some of my experiences and advice with people who are new to the couponing world. If you missed the first 8 parts of this series, you can catch up by clicking one of the topic links below.
Part 1: Where Do I Start in this Couponing World?
Part 2: Printable Coupons
Part 3: Stay Organized
Part 4: Grocery Store Tips
Part 5: Shopping at CVS
Part 6: Name Brand vs. Generics
Part 7: Maintaining Balance
Part 8: Store Specifics
Part 9: When is a Deal Not a Deal?


My Organizer

I am addicted to my family organizer book! We have a copy of Amy Knapp's Family Organizer sitting in our kitchen. It has a large space for each day of the week, a space for each day's menu, a to-do list area, and a grocery list area. My husband and I have an agreement that everything we each schedule will go into this book, and we consult it before we schedule anything new. If it's not on the calendar, then you're not responsible to plan around it.

The same goes for the grocery list. When either of us sees that we're getting low on something, we write it in the grocery list area of the organizer. If I go to the store and don't get something that one of us wanted, it's usually because it wasn't on the list. The list is also detachable, so you can tear it out and take it with you.

I seriously don't work for Amy Knapp's company. I just love, love, love her organizer! You can see it HERE.

Upcoming Events

My favorite thing about using an organizer like this is that you can see upcoming events at a glance. As I menu plan each week, I can look ahead to see if there are any special events coming up. If there are, then I can work them into my menu plan. For example, my husband and I attend a small group from our church once a week. When I see it on our calendar, I can plan a snack to take and a meal for my parents who come to watch our daughter while we're gone. If I see a picnic on the calendar, I can plan what I'd like to take for my covered dish. Then, while I'm grocery shopping, I can buy the necessary ingredients. This eliminates the need for an extra trip to the grocery store. That saves me money!

I also plan ahead with my stockpile. When we were planning our daughter's 4th birthday party last January, I watched the sale ads and stocked up on pop and chips from CVS. I got a couple of excellent deals and paid pennies for these items. My friend Becky (who is probably reading this - Hi, Becky!) got a fantastic deal on pop for her son's graduation party. She stopped at several different stores that were running pop sales, and she stocked up. Her husband was quite impressed, and I was too! It pays to plan ahead, especially on budget-busters like pop.

Planning for Points

Because we bank at National City, we earn points on our debit card purchases. (Usually people have to use a credit card to get points, but National City offers them with a debit card! Yay!) We like to save these points and cash them in for rewards that we use for Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, or gifts for other occasions. You never know how long it's going to take for the reward to arrive, so you really do have to plan ahead. This is especially true around Christmas. I ordered a gift card about a month ago for my brother's birthday, and it's not until August. But the card has arrived, and I don't have to worry about it being late for his birthday.

We cashed in our National City points before our daughter's birthday this year, and we ended up with a $100 Amazon gift card. With this, we were able to get all of the decorations/paper goods for her party as well as her gifts! We saved a TON of money by using our points and got much cuter party supplies than we would have bought if we were paying out-of-pocket for them! But again, we had to cash them in early so that we had time to order and have the items shipped.

I'm a fantastic procrastinator, but this is one area where I've learned (the hard way!) to plan ahead. Knowing what I need and when I need it is a great way to save money!