WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thursday thoughts: Back to basics with frugal living 101

Posted December 30, 2010 2:43 p.m. EST

As we enter the New Year, this is the perfect time to take a thorough look at your finances, debt load, couponing strategies and general frugal living techniques. Here is a series of articles I have written that addresses all of these important subjects and gives you the tools to live much more comfortably within your means!

I wrote these articles as part of a 12 week series last year at this time. We have many more blog subscribers since then so I thought I would republish them to help those who are new to couponing or frugal living. These are the techniques that my family has used to get out and stay out of debt for many years now.

In the 11 years that I have been couponing and living frugally, I have learned the difference between need and want, between a great deal and an ok sale and between stockpiling and hoarding. As many of you saw on the TLC Extreme Couponing TV show last night, there are certainly people who take couponing to such an extreme that it negatively impacts other aspects of their lives. I am at the point in my couponing where I buy what we need and reasonably stockpile the best deals. When I have extra, I donate to the food bank, food drives and individual families in need. The key is to find a balance so you don't feel like couponing has taken over your life. It is such a fantastic money saving tool and the best hobby I have ever found, but it is not my life (even though it is actually my job, now). 

For all of you, I suggest starting by revisiting or creating your household budget. That is step number one. In order to see how much money you have coming in and how much you have going out, you have to put down all the numbers and determine whether you have a positive or negative net income. Then the real work begins. The first Back to Basics article in the series, The Truth is in the Budget, outlines how to create a budget, provides an easy to use budget worksheet and helps you to determine next steps.

The next two articles cover checking your credit score and getting debt free, an amazing and attainable goal.

Weeks 4, 5 and 6 focus on couponing basics, store policies, drug store reward programs and all the techniques you need to cut your grocery bills in half.

Week 7 covers meal planning, one of those topics that is often overlooked. When I began meal planning, a few years after I started couponing, it was like it all finally came together. I was using the fabulous deals I bought with sales and coupons to provide balanced, healthy, frugal and less stressful meals.

The rest of the articles for the series look into various frugal living techniques including cutting utility costs, fitness and health, family fun, gift giving and more. It's a modern approach to frugal living that any family and use to cut their expenses. I promise there is no mention of foraging for edible plants along the roadside! Click the links in the box above to read all the articles.

I hope you enjoy the information and find some new and beneficial ideas to help you and your family reach your financial goals and live happily ever after. As I always say, it's your money - spend it wisely!