"I Was Frugal, Before Frugal Was Cool – Here’s How"

by: Amy Hannold, 247Moms Frugal Living Editor

Before frugality and coupons became chic, I was saving money nearly everywhere I went.  I like to think that I was frugal-cool, before frugal was “cool”.   Back then, I paid with my coupons and discounts under the raised, narrow eyebrows of fellow shoppers.  Saving money then was just my “profitable hobby”.  My money saving success often fell onto deaf ears of many around me.  What I did “differently” had yet to catch on.

Once saving money became more of a necessity, it also became more “attractive” to coupon and hunt for bargains.  News clips about couponing and tips on “Living on Less” became common on the evening news.

Our nation’s economy and the stability of income took a turn(s) for the worse. We “lifer-frugals” became known as the “Coupon Moms and Ladies” in our social circles.  Our circles of friends on Facebook and around the coffee tables grew.  What we did to save money, our tools and techniques were a hot topic.

I won’t go into what happened when full-length tv shows began to swing common-sense couponers into the far, now different kind of spectale end of the spectrum.  Seen as “eccentric” for our frugality before, we now had the broad-brushed “extreme” label to contend with.  We had the attention of a wider, more eager audience.

Now my phone rings rampant with those that want to do what they’ve seen on tv.  Without trying to be too discouraging, I explain “how its done” and to them, it sounds like work. But, there are those that join me.  As a community inside our community, we mentor them in steps to avoid burnout.  Lives are being changed.  Those utilizing common sense will prevail over whatever we need to do to keep couponing a viable way to reduce spending.

How to you work frugal into your daily life?  I like to say its as simple as “Stop, Look, and Listen”.

:  A good deal isn’t always a good idea.  Ask yourself if you “need” this, can you afford to maintain it, and what weight will it add to clutter in your life.  When will it go on sale?  Think seasonally, and put off that “new” purchase for a discount coming once it’s older than the new thing coming soon.  Where can I find a better deal?  Educate yourself on available discounts, less expensive alternatives and a creative subsitution.

Look:  Look for coupons and deals wherever you are.  Coupons can be found at the WIC office, doctors offices, on the backs of grocery newsletters, and in the trash receptacles just inside the grocery store lobby.  There are still those who toss their Catalinas.  I don’t “dive” into garbage, but I’m known to grab what goodies are sitting on top.  Just today, while in Safeway, I picked up their free produce newsletter.  Inside were $2/1 coupons for Fresh Express salad bags.  Cha-Ching!  We were having salad for dinner.

When You Know Where to Look – Keep Your Eyes Open:  Head for the clearance aisles and discounted meat sections.  Carry the coupons for the items you use most and stack these with store discounts.  Before you buy online, be sure you’ve found a discount for shipping, new customers, or rebates (Ebates.com).

  Start the conversation with friends about what you’re looking for.  Tune into the talk around you and find those who have an “in” to what you’re looking for.  Establish relationships with store personnel and experts in the area you’re looking to spend money.  Connect to money-saving bloggers in your area, who know how to enjoy your community, for less. Find reviews on what you’re about to buy and make sure what you’re buying is quality, to avoid quanity purchases of the same thing.

Other Tips:

Make it a Game:
  I often have “Half-Price” days.  When I’m in the mood to go out for lunch or buy a new outfit, I map out a route for the fun day with coupons.  Begin with cashing in your coffee card stamps for a free drink.  Dine at lunch with coupons, or make it an “Early Bird” dinner.  Books are my downfall, so I head first to the thrift store and pick up some new reads (on “half-price days, of course!).  Even better, I find new resources at my local library.  Our local library holds book sales throughout the year.  I know myself however, so sometimes I don’t go.  I know that so many “good deals” on books will burst my budget.  I prefer to find my new reads a little at a time when they’re half-price around town.  That wisdom and those choices will keep my spending in check.

My Money Saving Calendar:  My datebook is a detailed map of all the discounts around town.  I’ve got the “double stamp”, “half-price”, “bag sale”, and other misc discounts listed.  My coffee card stamps, restuarant punch cards and coupons torn from newspapers are all together in one coupon file.  Saving money takes me less time when I’m organized.  Nothing defeats the goal of saving money faster than being disorganized.

Coupon Swaps: 
It’s not just for groceries.  When you buy your Entertainment book, trade via Craigslist, Facebook, or bulletin boards.  You can stock up on the little coupons which will save you money throughout the year.  The best way to get more coupons is to start collection boxes.  Get to know your neighbors as you stroll through the neighborhood collecting coupon inserts.  You’ll be the toast of the town and you’ll be more confident in your couponing when you’ve got everyone in the spirit.

The lessons of “Stop, Look and Listen” have made me many friends and have helped me to help others.   I remain inspired and enthused about saving money when I see the daily difference it makes.  Keep your eyes on your goals.  Bank some of your savings for the splurges and emergencies — you’ll save credit card interest and be ready for the rainy days.

My “Half Price Life” is a great legacy. I live by the motto “Live a Fuller Life, at Half the Price”.  It’s more valuable to create than to spend.  Memories and new family favorites are created that way.   My kids have come around to know that money has value, and how we spend it is a choice. We can give ourselves a “tax-free raise” when we spend less.  Be a blessing; empower and encourage those around you.  The dividends you’ll get in return will be far more valuable than you could imagine.

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