Everyone knows that the economy hasn't been the best this year for most people. We are among some of the fortunate who have not felt quite the crunch hundreds of thousands of others have felt the past couple years. There's been belt tightening around here, but we have yet to lose a job or a house to the bank, so I consider ourselves abundantly blessed in that regard.
Because of this blessing and our understanding that what we have is not ours, but God's, we do try to help others as much we can and we do try to be good financial stewards with regards to credit card use and purchasing things when they are on sale when possible (and based on need vs. want). I buy secondhand clothing as much as possible and when I'm buying new, I almost exclusively shop clearance racks. If we're ever seen in something name brand, you can be fairly certain it was bought at a consignment shop.
C makes a lot of homemade things -- because he likes cooking and baking, but also to save money. And who doesn't like homebaked bread better than any store-bought loaf?! While dining out is probably one of our worst habits financially and healthwise, we do our best to go to places having a Kids Eat Free night or someplace we have a coupon or even someplace C's company offers a good discount.
Recently, I've been trying to get on board this whole coupon craze. It's been slow-going, but tonight, I felt like I had our first big break thanks to coupons. Not as much as those amazing couponers I've read about who buy $200 worth of stuff and end up paying $1.50 or something; but still, for me, I felt good about it.
First of all, we waited to begin Christmas shopping till after C's annual bonus posted. Usually I start buying gifts a little before Thanksgiving, but this year it wasn't really an option. So I've been on hold. Now, you'd think that since the check posted yesterday, I'd been gone all night and day and just get it done. But no, last night we had our annual church Christmas dinner, with which we were involved (C with food coordination, I with decorations coordination), so I had to wait till today.
Then this morning, my sister and I took our kids to see Arthur Christmas. Wonderful movie with themes of brotherhood, teamwork and family at the center of what I told C was basically like Mission: Impossible meets animated Christmas film. Are we allowed to say 'film' anymore? Anyway...we went to the early bird show, so it was the least expensive and bought a large, refillable popcorn to share (they gave us styrofoam cups for passing servings around to our group of ten).
So finally this evening, C stayed home with the kids while I spent one hour at Tarjay (that's Target, for the less-fancy readers, ha!). I didn't run around like a lunatic, I went in with a bit of a plan and armed with several useful coupons. This was so unlike me. I shop with my eyes usually. Even as a planner type of person, who loves lists, these things never cross paths with my shopper side.
But while frantic, one-week-till-Christmas shoppers raced down the aisles, I leisurely strolled specific sections and while I did browse a bit, I didn't act impulsively and I didn't think or worry about how little time is left before Christmas. There was a peace about the whole evening that I didn't expect. Perhaps it helped that I'd prayed on the way to the store to make good financial decisions -- a prayer that was answered certainly.
When I checked out, the register rang up $105 worth of stuff (mostly gifts, but a couple household items we needed). Then I handed the man* at the register my small handful of coupons. The total dropped under $100. Then I paid the total with my Red card (note: debit check card, not a credit card) and my final total was about $87!
Again, this was all stuff we needed or I'd planned to purchase as gifts before getting the coupons. I was thrilled. I'm no coupon expert, but somehow, I managed to save a bit of money on Christmas gifts just one week before Christmas. Isn't this when they mark it all up?! Anyway, that was my victory for the day. I hope that continued gift-shopping goes as successfully.
I hope the same for you.
* Am I the only one in the world who feels uncomfortable taking my lady-purchases to the male clerks? I, personally, believe that giant stores, like Target, should always have at least one female clerk working the registers for women like me who don't like to see young men handling my unmentionables. I didn't have any in the cart tonight, but it's a good thing because at three open registers, I had only a choice between three male clerks. I don't know if I'm old-fashioned or just squeamish, but I barely like buying that stuff in public as it is ... it makes it worse when there isn't a woman behind the counter who can at least partially relate. Maybe it's just me...