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Whenever I tell people I’m the Discount Diva I usually get, “Oh you’re the Discount Diva, I love your blog,” which seriously does my seventh grade afraid to talk in class ego some good, but it’s always quickly followed by “I love to coupon.”

Though I’ll be the first to admit I coupon, it’s ranks pretty low in my money-saving arsenal. I’m much more apt to talk about buying used, negotiating bills, tracking expenses, finding alternatives, saving energydoing without, and appreciating what you already have. BUT since everybody and their mother is giving couponing a try these days in order to save money, I figured I’d do a basic crash course for those just starting out.

1. Get A Cheap Coupon Organizer – A lost coupon isn’t saving you any money. I use a plastic recipe organizer I got for my bridal shower. Set up a system that works for you. I usually organize by a few basic categories – Grocery, Baby Care, Household Items (like cleaners, garbage bags, pet food) Personal Care, Restaurants, and Other (this could be coupons for department stores, photo packages, toys, oil changes, etc.). If alphabetizing coupons by manufacturer is your thing, go for it. Whatever makes them easy to find in the store. Nothing is worse than pulling out a ginormous stack of unsorted coupons mid-aisle.

Coupon Organizer

2. Know Where To Find Coupons – Most everyone knows the Sunday paper is a great place to find those coupons inserts, but also check store circulars from department and grocery stores, reputable coupons sites like coupons.com, manufacturer websites, and in your grocery store (check the catalinas – coupons printed at checkout and given to you with your receipt, coupon dispensers in the aisle and even stuck to the outside of the product). You can also download coupons directly to your store loyalty cards or smart phones. Be aware that there are fraudulent coupons floating around the internet that may not scan. Also if you’re printing from a website, make sure you have enough ink in your printer because blurry or faintly printed coupons may not scan.

3. A Coupon Is NOT Always Cheaper – A lot of the time store brands are cheaper than a brand name even with a coupon, so really check size restrictions listed on the coupon and look at unit prices of competing brands like generics. Coupons are a great way to try brands you may not normally buy, but don’t forget they are a marketing tool used by businesses hoping you’ll become brand loyal for life. Sure we all have some products we have become hopelessly addicted to – like maybe coffee, deodorant, shampoo or diapers. Whatever you’re brand loyal to, be sure to clip those coupons whenever you find them and let friends and family know your regular brands so if they don’t use them they can pass them along to you. Offer to do the same for them.

4. Match Coupons To Sales – If you’re an old couponing pro you already know this, but newbies might think “great $1 off something I was going to buy anyway and want to use it immediately.” Hold your coupons till that item is on sale, but of course pay attention to expiration dates. Grab your grocery circulars, note sale items and match coupons you have to those items. I like to circle them and write the new price after sale and coupon next to it on the circular so I don’t forget while I’m at checkout what I should be paying. They have pay per use or subscription sites that will price match for you, but you probably already know how the Discount Diva feels about paying for something you can easily do yourself. There are free sites like couponmom.com that post price match ups with coupons by store, which are helpful. Price matching and pulling those coupons you plan to use at home saves valuable time at the store.

Next week I’ll talk about some things you might not know like when to use an expired coupon, stacking store and manufacturer coupons and even rebates for the same item to get it free, using coupons on BOGO sales, the truth about “doubling” and “overages,” and establishing thresholds for your regularly purchased items, which is between the lowest price you’ve ever paid for that item up to the maximum you’re willing to pay for it, and when stockpiling crosses the line into hoarding.

You know I love when my step dad calls me up and says oh did you know you could do this with a coupon. I could never get my mom to use them regularly so it’s neat to see him warm up to the possibilities of couponing. Stay tuned, and feel free to share your tips here.

 

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It can be really hard as a caregiver to untangle your needs from those of your family. Last week it was really on my heart to speak to all the moms out there who give everything for their family so I wrote an open letter to the self-sacrificing moms out there. Here’s the rest of the letter.

My Needs Are Supposed To Come Last, Right?

I can get really mad if I dwell on it, but if I’m honest, REALLY HONEST with myself I know that the person I’m really angry with is me. I’ve fed myself this bull that what I want will come eventually, when we have more money, when the kids are older, and when it’s finally “MY TURN.” It’s a lie and I know it. It’s not anyone else who puts my needs last; it’s me. I don’t feel worthy. There is a nagging voice that tugs at me whenever I dare to think about wanting something for myself and I listen. I give in.

My husband will just say, well why don’t you just go get whatever it is that you want. I tell him that he doesn’t understand how our finances work. I get his requests to purchase this item or that for himself and unless it’s something totally unreasonable I usually say yes. Why is that? I weigh my kids’ requests and I make informed decisions about if and when they should get something. Yet with myself the answer is always “NO” and I’m the one saying it.

Being a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) really has changed the way I view my worthiness in the grand scheme of things, but most of it is just motherhood that has slowly eroded the me that existed before children. Sometimes I don’t remember who that girl is.

The Quest To Untangle “ME” From “MOMMY”

Now for the truth I’ve been avoiding – I better remember and do it quick because that’s the person my husband fell in love with, and that’s the woman I want to show my kids as an example. If they were to take me as I am now and model it, they would say a mom doesn’t care all that much about herself. Now that I’m about to have my second daughter, I NEVER want my girls thinking that.

I’ve recently started going on “girls’ night” outings with other mom friends of mine. It’s only once a month, but it’s a baby step. It’s a night where I can go have conversations with other women like me who maybe need a reminder too that they are more than someone’s wife and mother. My husband supports me, even if the kids do refuse to go to bed on his watch. It’s worth it for those few hours of remembering the funny, smart, capable person I really am, not just the self-sacrificing mom the world sees.

So self-sacrificing mom, I get you. I am you. It’s my hope that one day you’ll throw caution to the wind and do what you want to do. Take a class, write a book, maybe visit someplace new. If we don’t start serving ourselves first once in awhile, those girls we used to be will forever be lost to the world and that would be an awful shame.

 

The expression goes – Don’t judge a book by its cover. But that’s exactly what I did with my local library. It looks like a sad little run down building. Lucky for me, I eventually gave it a chance because it has become one of the biggest resources in my money-saving arsenal. It has been a life-saver for me and my family. Here are the top 5 ways the library can save you money.

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1. Books, movies, magazines and newspapers – These are the usual suspects when it comes to libraries. Save money by borrowing instead of buying. Encouraging your children to borrow may cut down on the number of “I want”s you hear a day. Don’t have the patience to comb the stacks? Search online with your library account number, place a hold, and they call you when your books are ready to be picked up.

2. Personal finance and do it yourself books – I’ve personally read several books by financial experts Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey and they’ve helped me figure out how to conquer debt, start an emergency fund, and get my household budget on track. Whether or not they’d be proud of me for borrowing instead of buying their books remains unseen. You can also find books to teach you home repairs, cooking and other skills that could save you tons of money.

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3. Free coupons and discounts to local events – I snag great coupons for free that save me money on groceries. I also recently picked up coupons to a local Halloween event for kids. You can find discounts for local businesses, plays, and more.

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4. Free programs for kids
– From reading hours, arts and crafts, parties to special presentations on anything from dinosaurs to safe trick-or-treating, your local library is invaluable for free kids entertainment.

5. Continuing education and internet use – Whether you’re looking to get your GED or need a quiet place to job search online, your local library can be a great resource.

What do you love about your library? Share it here.

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