Target

All of this was purchased Target for less than $4, originally priced at over $20.

Maggie Hensler photo

I didn’t set out to be some crazy coupon lady. I had been somewhat frugal, shopping sales and clearance racks, thanks to my mom who does the same. But then, more than six years ago, there we were: newlywed teachers making teacher salaries while still paying off student loan debt, expecting our first child. I started to purchase necessities and thought, "Almost $10 for a pack of diapers that will only last a newborn a couple days? How were we going to afford all this?!"

I was reading about similar concerns on the BabyCenter birth club and someone mentioned couponing and shared another group, and I went to check it out. Here were all these ladies getting things for free, so I followed along, decided to try it myself, and I was hooked.

It’s not that we live this crazy frugal life that we go without. In fact, I’d say it’s the opposite. Saving money on our needs allows us to fulfill many of our wants, and I try to save money on the wants, too, like dining out and traveling. I started sharing deals on my Facebook to hopefully inspire friends to save money, as well. While many people tell me they are impressed, I often hear reasons why they can’t do it themselves. But once you eliminate the reasons, you can also live the frugal life.

Reason #1: I don’t have the time.

Believe me. If I can do it, you can do it. My husband and I are both teachers and coaches. Our two boys are in school and getting involved in extracurriculars. I volunteer for the education association. I write for a blog and now this column.

Couponing does take time, but invest the time. I consider it a hobby, because I have fun doing it. The money I save is totally worth the time. Most hobbies cost money; this one saves money. Plus, once you learn how, the faster it is.

Reason #2: It’s too much work/I don’t have the patience.

Again, once you figure it out, it’s really not that much work. You learn the rules of the game (yes, there are rules), follow a couple good blogs to help you with the planning and organizing, then shop with your plan, just like you would do ordinarily with a shopping list. It will require some patience to learn the process, but start slow and master just one store. Sometimes patience is required in a store when things don’t go quite as planned, but if you follow the rules, you can win the game.

Reason #3: I don’t buy things that have coupons.

Do you buy toilet paper, shampoo, soap or toothpaste? Save money on any necessities you can so you can spend that savings on the things that don’t usually have coupons, like produce. Plus, being frugal isn’t just about the coupons. Look for the grocery ads in Wednesday’s paper or mail and buy what’s on sale and meal plan around the ad. Stock up when prices are at the lowest. Shop consignment or the clearance racks. Buy higher priced items at the right time of year.

If you want to save money, you first need to eliminate all the reasons you can’t live that frugal life. There are lots of ways to save money; you just have to find the methods that work for you. If you follow me every Saturday, I’ll help you find what works for you and your family.

Maggie Hensler is a teacher living the frugal life in Davenport with her husband and two boys. Her column runs every Saturday in the Quad-City Times.

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