SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

I had the most honorable of intentions for the money section of my household notebook. Have you heard the old adage about the road to hell? So as I refocus on organizing my life – yes, I fall off the wagon every year – I am looking for a way to get my money under control.

Don’t mess with my money.

My favorite source for organization tips is Pinterest. I found several bill binder ideas and took what I liked best from each. The main thing for me? I’m vain. If it’s not cute, I won’t use it!

Scrapbook supplies and a view binder started me off. This is a 2 inch binder. I used 12×12 papers and trimmed to fit. The fleur due lis was a touch of fun.imageimageimageimage

And, having leftover scraps, I repurposed part of my empty can collection:

The inside pocket is dedicated to incoming bills. I’ll record the bill and amount on a calendar and slide the bill in the pocket until it’s paid. That back inner pocket is labeled for taxes – W-2 and 1099 forms should be coming in soon.

I put a zippered pouch at the very front for calculator. I will probably put a checkbook and stamps in there, also, for snail mail bills. Behind the pouch is a checklist of bills for the year. The “regular” bills will be listed and checked off as they’re paid. I found the form I’m using right now on Pinterest, but plan to create one of my own.

The first divider has several things behind it.  Grizz and I sat down last weekend and completed a budget form (again, one I found on Pinterest).  After we finished crying, we worked on a debt snowball form, which was pretty cool.  If we follow the snowball to the letter (huh-lo, have you met us??) we could actually be completely debt-free in about ten years.  Including the house!  Unfortunately, life often gets in the way.

In this “bills” section, I also included a 2014 calendar.  As bills come in, we’ll record the information on the calendar and file the bill in the pocket at the front.  As we pay the bills, they’ll be crossed off on the calendar, marked on the checklist, and filed away.  Friday night is when we’ll sit down and go over money, pay bills, and so on.

The next divider has an envelope for receipts.  I tend to just chunk (technical term, folks) receipts into my purse when paying with my bank card.  I’d like to keep up with all the receipts to reconcile with our bank statements when they come in.

Next, I have a section for bank statements.  My plan is to keep 2 months at a time for ready reference in the binder. As the new ones come in, we can file the oldest ones away.

My “Pens” can contains different colored pens to color code the calendar.  The monkeys have some of the same activities, but as they get older, they are doing more of their own thing, too.  I figure color-coding lets me know when Grizz needs to assist because I have to be in two places at once!

One of my other goals this year is to get back on the envelope system.  Granny-at-the-Farm often reminds me that is how I functioned all through college.  Admittedly, my envelopes back then were dedicated to drink specials each night of the week, but I digress.  A few years back, Grizz and I attended the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University, and the cash in envelopes was a huge take away for me.  I’m able to pay most of our bills online.  I kind of don’t trust the monkeys with cash for cafeteria money.  But gas, groceries, and dining out?  Absolutely I can do envelopes.

So I’ve also been trying to find cute envelopes, but the prices on Etsy make me cringe…I may settle for making them myself so they can coordinate with the rest of my cuteness!

Anyway, this is what I’m trying out right now.  What do you think?  Any questions or ideas you’d care to share?

~ Katie

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{December 29, 2012}   Stretching My Grocery Buck

My favorite gift for Christmas this year is a gift card to the grocery store.

Gift Card Holders

Gift Card Holders (Photo credit: campbelj45ca)

Cuckoo crazy?  Maybe.  But Visa Giftcards and cash can pay bills – and often do.  A Brookshire’s gift card is only good for my belly or my gas tank. I’ve written before about my grocery budget (this card will take care of a week) and couponing. I feel the challenge all the way to my toes now.

How am I going to stretch this money and get serious bang for my holiday buck?  I want to see if I can get two week’s worth of goodies for $50.  Here is my game plan:

  1. Match my ad to my coupons (duh).  35 cents and under will triple, 50 cents to 36 will double.
  2. Plan a 2-week menu.
  3. Bring my re-usable bags – they’ll get me 5 cents off per bag.  Right now, I have 14 bags, which is a discount of 70 cents.  I think I can come up with even more by using some of my 31 gifts totes.
  4. Use my rewards points to take 5% off my total bill.

Now, I won’t be buying meat with this gift card, unless I find an amazing deal, because we have a deer at the processor right now.  I also won’t be buying paper/plastic/cleaning foo fah because I get that at CVS (my Double Extra Bucks are coming in about 3 days!).  This will be straight food.

The hurdle I may face is that we are still on Christmas Break, meaning my monkeys are home for another week.  Those extra days when I’m back at work, they’ll be eating pb&j corndogs at PawPaw’s, but for the next 9 days, they are my little pantry raiders.  I’ll plan some fiberlicious snacks to cover that.

Do you think I can cover 2 weeks’ groceries with $50?  Any tips you want to share?  I’ll let you know how it goes.

~ Katie

{November 23, 2012}   The Method to My (Coupon) Madness

Coupons Ecover

It started with that crazy show.  That Sunday, I bought 3 newspapers.  And I clipped and clipped and clipped. And I used coupons.  Some of them.

And I’ve learned a few things since then.

Recruit a Money-Saving Buddy

My friend Stephanie started couponing about the time I did.  We traded coupons, alerted each other to amazing deals, and kept each other motivated.  When you’re on a tight budget like I am, every little bit helps!

Coupons from the Sunday Paper

I only purchase one paper on Sundays.  If someone gives me their inserts, I graciously accept them (Thank You, Dad & JB!), but why am I going to spend $10 on papers to save a few dollars with coupons?  It makes no sense to me.

As I’m clipping, if I spot something awesome that I don’t see often, I may go back for more papers.  $1 off Dog Chow is great for me and worth another paper.  Apart from that…..

Printable Coupons

I do use printable coupons.  A lot of products have FaceBook pages that you can “like” and get a coupon.  That’s how I stockpiled my Kool-Aid!  The website I use most for coupons is probably  In addition, you can sometimes go right to the brand’s site and print coupons.  Google for free coupon sites and you’ll be amazed at what you find.  Be careful, though, because some links that will show up are virus-ridden (thank you, White Rain Kids’ Shampoo).

Loadable Coupons

If you use store loyalty cards, a lot of times you can load the savings right to your card and not have to think about it. This is fabulous!  Both of the groceries that I frequent (Brookshire’s and Kroger) have this option.  However, both of these stores triple hard copy coupons up to 35 cents and double up to 50 cents.  Preloaded coupons do NOT double or triple at these stores.  I only load higher value coupons to my store cards.

Clip What You’ll Use

My Rhonda Belle and I had this conversation today.  She is enjoying clipping coupons but says she’s stopped clipping things she doesn’t use.  This makes sense.  Our time is valuable.  I don’t color my hair so why clip a Clairol coupon?

On the flip side of this, I don’t clip based on brand.  Right now I use the store brand dishwasher soap, but I’ll still clip Cascade or Finish coupons.  Why?  It might save me money!  If I see a coupon for something we use – deodorant, pasta, etc. – I’m not brand-limited.  Clip it and keep it!

Matching Coupons to Sales

It is a rare occasion that I use a coupon right when I clip it.  I know that after X number of weeks, Totino’s pizzas should be going on sale at Brookshire’s.  I pour over the sales ads when they come in and match up the deals to my coupons.  If my family’s beloved frozen pizzas are 4/$5 this week and I have a coupon for $1 off 4, then it goes on my grocery list.  I try to match the coupons to the ads to maximize my savings.

Coupon Match Ups

Don’t pay for your coupon match ups.  There are websites where this is available for free and many SmartPhone apps.  Personally, I check my GrocerySmarts app every Sunday morning to check on deals at my CVS (my other favorite place to shop!).  This app creates a coupon match, lists sales prices, and shows which items are generating Extra Bucks.  I have the free version, which shows one store at a time, and I refuse to upgrade just to compare stores – I don’t shop Wal Mart, Target, Rite Aid, or Walgreen’s often.  There is a GrocerySmarts website where you can see it all and create a printable shopping list.

Organizing Coupons

I used to love the little coupon wallets you can order through the newspaper or buy at the store.  They’re so cute – and collect dust on my shelf.

Coupon wallets and envelopes are not helpful for me.  I end up with expired coupons.  I can’t find the specific coupon that I know is in there somewhere. It’s more frustration and just not worth it for me.

When I first got into couponing, I went to a class (Duh, I’m a teacher). It cost $5 and I didn’t learn much, but it was interesting.  At this class, the instructor was SELLING coupon binders for $20 each.

Really?  I know you need to spend money to make money, but I’m not going to spend money to SAVE money.

I’m a teacher.  I have a ton of empty binders. If you spend $20 on some coupon binder, please do not let me know about it.

  • Supplies for Your Coupon Binder
  • 3 ring binder of your choice
  • trading card binder pages
  • dividers
  • pencil pouch

Like I said, I already had binders on hand and I’m not picky.  The trading card pages I bought at Hobby Lobby ($7.99 for a package of 30 and I used a 40% off coupon – on my phone – so it was under $5), but a quick Google search a minute ago and I found good prices from  Dividers I also had on hand, but I printed my own on pretty paper from Dollar Tree and slid into page protectors.  My binder is sorted into store areas (pantry, beverages, freezer, baking, feminine supplies, etc.) and in order of my grocery.

There are 9 pockets on each of my pocket pages.  I slide the coupons in, with the soonest expiration at the front.

The pencil pouch holds my store cards, any extrabucks, maybe the coupons I’m already planning to use, a calculator, some cash…..

I use a binder clip to clip my list to the front of my binder.

I’ve heard people say they can’t remember what is in their binder.  For me, this isn’t a problem.  If you spend an hour or two loading your binder each week and cleaning out expired coupons, you’ll get familiar with the contents.

Again, this is just what works for me.  I never see 99.5% savings like the ladies on “that show.”  I’m just not that good, I work too many hours, and if I can stay within $50/week for my family of 4, I’m a happy couponer.  I have seen over 50% savings with my system.  It doesn’t happen really often, because we go through a LOT of milk and meat, but I’m usually at 30-35% saving between my store card and coupons.  And we eat REALLY well on a shoestring budget!

Again, I encourage you to search around the web and see what other people are doing.  Find a method you think will work and try it out.  Modify it.  Make your couponing system your own.

And let me know what you figure out!  Happy Shopping!

~ Katie

et cetera
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