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Confessions of a Coupon-Clipping Novice

Ever since I quit my job and became a Stay At Home Mom, my husband and I have tried to stick to a budget. The operative word is TRIED. I don't know that we've ever succeeded. Geeks that we are, we've spent hours entering our financial information into money management programs, coding fancy Excel spreadsheets, and testing out those free online services that help you track where your paycheck is going. But it doesn't matter how complicated our Excel formulas are, they aren't much help when you stop updating the spreadsheet two weeks later.

Fortunately for us, our spending habits have changed, just by virtue of becoming parents. You don't go out much when the smallest person in your household goes to bed at seven. I try to restrain myself at Target, my husband decides he doesn't really need that 500 inch television, and somehow we make it work.

Even though I've been too lazy to try, I've always been interested in the finer points of frugality. For the longest time, I've been subscribing to those money-saving blogs. You know, the ones where the moms post diaper and formula deals, or what store has baby shoes for 50% off. For a while I was even reading sites where they tell you how to go to the drugstore and buy thirty-seven items for something like three bucks. They use acronyms like BOGO and ECB and I've always thought these women were CRAZY. I mean, who has time to figure all that out?

Lately, though – in case you haven't heard – we are living in Dire Times. Gas prices! Food prices! Home foreclosures! Watching the nightly news is enough to send you diving under the covers and wondering how warm that cardboard box will be in the winter.

So I've been rethinking my approach to keeping our costs down. I've taken to writing down how much I spend at the grocery store on the calendar, the lowest-tech way to watch where our money is going! I'm paying more attention to the clearance racks, trying out all the store brands and oh, what a sad day it was when I put back that gorgeous pair of shoes.

But then I was looking through the Sunday paper this weekend and, for the first time, I didn't automatically toss the ads in the recycling. Oh, I look at ads for certain stores, but you know those circulars full of random coupons for every kind of product out there? I never look at those. Ever! Except this weekend I thought, "Maybe there's something we need?" And I cut out a dollar off coupon for swim diapers, something I've been meaning to buy now that summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest. I took this coupon with me on my latest trip to Target, where swim diapers happened to be on sale. With the sale and my coupon I saved two whole dollars. Big deal, right? Except two dollars adds up, people. Two dollars here, fifty cents here, and suddenly I'm wondering if I'm not too lazy to be a coupon clipper after all.

Getting your swim diapers for cheaper than the SALE price will put a little spring in your coupon-clipping step. Now I'm combing through the paper and printing out coupons I find online. I file them in neatly labeled envelopes and before my weekly shopping trip today I'm going to bust out my envelopes see how much money I'm going to save. I feel like the biggest dork saying this, but it's actually kind of fun. Fast times in the life of a stay at home mom!

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