This year I had decided to keep track of not only how much I was saving by using coupons & rebates but to also keep track of how much I saved by buying items on sale (when known). I also decided to give myself a budget and to track the spending to see if I could stay within that budget. Now, the budget was only for items spent towards food (including dog food) and health/beauty items (such as over the counter medications, lotion, body wash, etc). Husband and I charge everything (and yes we pay off the credit card every month) so the budget is more of a virtual budget than actual cash. If I went over, no big deal, but the game was in trying to stay below that number.
My monthly budget this year was $330. I came up with that number by looking at my spending for part of 2009. In June 2009 I decided to start keeping track of how much was being spent on food and health/beauty supplies and was surprised that 4 of the months I went over $400. That seemed really high for a family of 2. I thought $330/month would be a challenge yet within my grasp.
A couple things, before I show you the numbers. I track coupon savings for everything, not just those items I include in my budget. I also know that I didn't mark all the coupon savings because I forgot, usually this would pertain to restaurants and online shopping. These numbers do not include gift cards either. The advertised sale number is only from items found at grocery stores and stores such as Target, Walgreens, etc. So basically, mostly just on food and health/beauty items.
I saved $2,017.25 by using coupons and rebates. Seriously! That's a lot of $$$$ just for clipping coupons and sending in rebate submissions. Now, that is down $256.92 from last year, however, since I also changed my eating habits that meant I was using less coupons at the grocery store, so I'm ok with that.
The coupon usage isn't just limited to what I can get out of the Sunday paper. I also printed some coupons from the internet. I also used coupons at book stores, restaurants, craft stores, and clothes stores. Basically, if I'm going shopping, I'll look for a coupon before I leave the house. As you can see, the time it takes me to clip/search for coupons pays off.
I saved an additional $2,881.56 by buying things on sale. I didn't happen upon the sales either, at least not most of them, I'm one of those who looks at the ads every weekend to see what is on sale and what I have a coupon for. If I can get an item on sale and I have a coupon, that's when I buy it.
Between coupons and advertised savings, I saved a total of $4,898.81. That comes out to over $400 a month. I couldn't imagine spending an extra $400 a month on stuff! Now, I realize that on a lot of items I stockpile, so chances are I wouldn't have paid an extra $400 each month, but over time I would have spent that much.
Also, I mentioned we use a credit card for all our purchases. We do this because we get points that we then redeem for cash. In August of this year we redeemed enough points to receive a $500 check. I didn't include that with the coupon/rebate savings since I didn't think it counted towards either one.
As far as sticking to a budget, I did a lot better than expected. Remember, my goal was to spend no more than $330/month. My average spending was $286.52. I do believe I impressed myself. haha! I didn't go over $330 at all, although I came close two months ($329.57 and $323.95). What is impressive is that I had 7 months where I spent below $300.
The two months that I spent the most were during the summer and I imagine that was due to having family over for pool parties and that meant we spent more on groceries. We also had both sides over for Christmas, yet in December I spent below $300. I think that's because both sides helped out with the food.
I was thinking about how it is I was able to cut my spending down so much. Part of this was paying even more attention to sales and buying items when I could match coupons, sales, and rebates. Oh yes, there are several items I bought where I actually made money because I could match up all three. Part of this was also do to the fact that I was able to take advantage of some sales and stockpile items and therefore didn't have to buy them for the last several months (such as body wash, shampoo, contact solution, etc).
I think the most important factor, however, was being aware of what I was spending. Now that I was paying attention to what I was spending, I was a lot less likely to buy something that I wanted, but didn't need.
I will continue to track spending and savings for 2011. It's going to be interesting to see how 2011 goes. Now that I eat more organic items, my grocery spending is going up. Now that I'm more aware of harmful chemicals in every day items, my health/beauty spending is more expensive. However, in some areas this is causing me to spend less. I don't buy as much junk food or processed foods like I used to, not even close. I think this kinda cancels out the increase of spending on groceries. I also don't use as much paper towels, cotton balls, etc as I used to, which means I spend less on those items. Keeping all this in mind, I had a tough time coming up with a new budget for 2011. However, knowing that I spent less than $300 most months in 2010, I finally decided that my budget would be $300/month. This will include groceries and dog food, and all health/beauty supplies. I believe I bought some stuff online or at specialty stores that I forgot to include in the spending budget last year (because it never dawned on me that I should), so this year I'm going to include that as well. I'm also going to include all make-up and fingernail purchased, not just those at your normal stores but also the specialty stores (where I buy most of mine). So, not only am I lowering my budget, I'm also adding things to it.
Wish me luck!