Corrie Cole knows what families go through to stay on budget. On her blog, "Cents"able Momma, she shares savings tips, coupons and ideas tested through hard experience, using her finance background to bolster her family's budget. Corrie spoke with us about saving money and getting the most out of your monthly budget.
What are some common misconceptions you've seen among moms when it comes to saving money?
With the advent of the Extreme Couponing show several years ago, many moms felt like they needed to save 95% every time they shopped or they weren't saving enough money. That's not realistic for most shopping trips. I recommend tailoring your savings to how you prepare food for your family and try to save in the areas that are possible. Even if there are no coupons available for the food you eat, you can always save money on toiletries by getting great deals at the drugstores.
How do you strike a balance between saving money and not driving yourself crazy? What's the line between frugal and miserly?
Having a budget allows me to spend money that I've allocated without any guilt. I love to stretch my budget with coupons and getting great deals, but there are times that I just can't do it all. I don't worry about it, since there will always be another deal next time. I love having a stockpile of toiletries and food, since I can always take a break if I get burnt out from saving money. I also like saving for items like Christmas gifts year-round so I don't have to worry about extra expenses during the holidays. It's a lot more fun to give gifts when they've been paid for with cash!
What are some common money-saving tools more moms should use?
There are lots of great money-saving tools out there. First, I like to use software, like Mint, to work out my budget and then make sure that I'm spending within my budget. There's no point in getting great deals if you're spending money that you need for other budget categories. Second, I like to use blogs which share the best online deals and in-store coupon deals each week. That way, I can stretch my food and toiletry budget to the limit without a ton of work on my part.
Are there any common "money drains" you've come across that people should cut out of their lives?
Since everyone has different interests, it's hard to recommend a one-size-fits-all "money drain" to cut out. For me, I tend to spend more money than I probably should on beverages, like soft drinks. I could easily save some money if I cut them out. However, it could also be argued that I could cut cable/satellite TV and stick to just Netflix or network TV, which my husband and I did for many years, or we could cut our cell phone plan to the bare minimum, if necessary.
What would you say to a new mother worried about money? Where should she start?
I've been there. It was terrifying to me when I quit my job after we had my oldest son, since it was a large loss of income coupled with higher expenses. I would start with a freeze on all unnecessary spending and then make sure that your budget is in line with your income and expenses after baby. Baby doesn't need to have every gadget out there, and I found that it was easier for me to stay home most days than venture out with baby.
What's the cleverest money-saving strategy you've ever come across?
I couldn't believe it when I discovered back in 2008 that people were getting things like toothpaste and shampoo for free from the drugstores after coupons and loyalty rewards! Even six years later, it still gives me a high to get a great deal, and I love how I can allocate those savings to other areas of my budget.