Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Having Necessities on Hand

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to pay full-price for something because I was disorganized and forgot to have a back-up of a product on hand. While I don’t stockpile to the extreme, I do like to make sure I have a 3-4 month supply of the things I use the most so I can usually catch the items on some type of sale, and hopefully find a coupon to pair with it! (You can see my post on How to Stockpile Sensibly.)

I usually do a pretty good job of keeping track of things but when I do forget, here’s why I don’t let myself get upset over it – Stop for a second and think about every product that you use. After about 5 minutes of going through a list in your head this is what you’ll realize: it’s a lot to keep track of! But here are the ways that I try to stay on top of always having our necessities on hand:

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1) You need to have an idea of how much of your most used products that you go through in a time frame. Pick up some small circle stickers (like you’d see used at a garage sale) – you can find them at most dollar stores – and keep some in your laundry room, pantry, bathroom cabinets, wherever you store your supplies. When you start, say a new bottle of dishwasher soap, write the date on the circle. When you are getting low on that product, check the date and it will give you and idea how long it takes you go through one. Try to keep a 3-4 month supply on hand. That should get you through your next sales cycle.

2) Keep a low inventory list. This can just be a simple piece of paper taped to your pantry or bathroom cabinet wall. Anytime you are getting low on things, jot it down on the list. When you go to make your grocery shopping list for the week, check to see if there’s a sale/coupon for those items.

3) Keep a list by the fridge. Jot down any items you need for the week as you think of them because more than likely, you won’t remember when it comes time to make your list later.

4) Get your family members involved! Make sure that they jot down on that low inventory/fridge list when something is getting low or you need a new one (for fresh food items.)

5) Make sure you always rotate your stock. Keep your soon expireds up front. This is especially important for food items. When it’s time to make your weekly menu plan, take a glance at what’s at the front of your pantry that may expire soon and try to incorporate them into your meal plan that week.

6) If there is a sale on something you use, make sure you check your stockpile. Do you have a 3-4 month supply already? You don’t want to overbuy or else you lose valuable space that you could use for other items. You could also be taking unnecessary money out of your weekly household budget that you could have used to save on something else.

7) Do your best to keep your fridge/freezer organized. If you try to keep items in a similar location each time, it might be easier to see what you are low on in case you didn’t update your list.

8) Besides checking soon expireds each week before you make your shopping list, make sure you do a quarterly check on all your items to make sure nothing has expired. You don’t want to go to grab an item and find out all your inventory has been depleted due to you not using them in time. An easy way to remember is to try to check inventory each time the season changes. This will help you get in 4 per year. The new seasons are often at the end of the month so it’s a great time to prepare for the next month, too!

I’m hoping these ideas will help you keep the necessities on hand to help you not have to ever pay full price for the products that you use, too!

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming on another stresser! The series is almost done!! In case you missed them, you can check the recap to see what I’ve posted already.

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Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Saving and Smarter Shopping

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

When some of you read the title to this one, you might have thought that I already covered saving and smarter shopping. But there’s a difference between spending less and being a smarter shopper. Hand-in-hand the two work together to help you save the most.

Here are a few ways I’ve brainstormed to be a smart shopper and to save more money:

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SMARTER SHOPPER

1) Keep track of sales cycles. Jot down each month the things I tend to find good deals on products I frequently use.

2) Always ask myself if something I’m about to purchase is at the lowest price. I can stop and check online to see what the going-rate is elsewhere. Some stores like to trick you into thinking that something is a hot price when it’s merely a few cents off.

3) Avoid impulse buys as much as possible. You can read my tips for these in the Spending Less segment.

4) Use Coupons! Without a doubt you can save money by using coupons. I’m not saying you need to go extreme and stockpile like the world is ending but just check websites of the products you use the most to see if they have offers. Clip only the coupons from the Sunday paper that you may use. Keep looking for new printable coupons to save more!

5) Instead of buying items just as I need them, wait for a sale and stockpile what I think I’ll use in 3 months time. You can read my post on How to Stockpile Sensibly.

6) Use a Price Book. This is a book where you jot down the items you use the most and then find out the current regular price in the stores you shop at the most. This is a great way to see who has the best prices and to know if a sale price is truly a good deal or not.

7) Try off-brands of the products you use the most. I’ve found some great store brands, especially the 365 line at Whole Foods, is of a great quality and price.

8) Buy in bulk. This is especially a good idea for recipes that call for smaller amounts for items you may not use a lot. I like to get a lot of bulk items at Whole Foods. They have the best selection in our area for so many items.

9) Keep a low-inventory list and update at least once a month. Pull aside any soon expiring items so they can get used quickly. Keep an eye out for deals on those items that I am running low on.

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SAVING MONEY

1) Set up an automatic transfer each paycheck of a certain amount to go into a savings account, even if it’s as low as $10. It will all add up over time. Do what you can not to touch that savings unless there’s a real emergency.

2) Keep a bank at home and dump your change into it at the end of each day. Turn your change into the bank once-a-year and add to your savings account. You’ll be surprised at how much it can add up to and how you probably won’t miss that change on a daily basis.

3) Every time you get a $5 bill, put it in your bank. It’s a great way to save up fast.

4) Take any money you earn from having a garage sale, selling DVDs/CDs/Books, etc to go into savings. You’d be surprised at how much you can earn from selling items you are no longer using.

5) Set goals. This is the best way for me to save. If I have a big goal in mind, I tend to watch my spending even more.

6) Consider using a credit card for major purchases and paying it off right away. Just be sure the credit card is one you’ll earn a high percentage of rewards with. Use cash for your other purchases.

7) Consider having a no-spend month and putting all the money you save into savings.

8) Set Limits and Create a good budget and stick to it!

These are just a few ways I’m trying to be a smarter shopper and to help get a good savings account building up. In what ways do you save?

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming on another stresser!

Re-Cap for Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses Series

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

I wanted to take a minute and re-cap the Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses Series so you can easily access any that you may have missed. There are a total of 20.

I’m hoping that you are enjoying the series and finding some tips to help you reduce some stresses in your life, too!

1) Laundry
2) Email & Mail
3) Spending Less
4) Exercise
5) Fridge/Freezer
6) School Lunches & Schedules
7) Meal Planning
8) Work/Parent Time
9) Dishes
10) Clutter Spots
11) Healthier Meals & Snacks
12) Finding Friend Time
13) Finding Family Time
14) Keeping the Bathroom Clean
15) Morning/Evening Routine
16) Saving and Smarter Shopping
17) Keeping a Clean Car
18) Having Necessities on Hand
19) Reducing Food Waste
20) Time to Myself to Recharge

Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Spending Less

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

I’m sure a big stresser for quite a few of us is to find ways to spend less. Times are tough and money is tight for so many people and it seems like we are continually needing to find more ways to cut-back and to make that same amount of money stretch even further with prices going up far too fast.

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Here are a few ways that I’ve brainstormed to spend less money:

AVOID IMPULSE BUYS:

1) Prior to any making any purchase over $20, I will think thoroughly on whether I truly need it. There’s a fine line sometimes between a want and a need and here are a few questions to always ask:
~Do I TRULY need this purchase or is this just something I’m buying on a whim?
~Is this truly a good price or can I find it cheaper elsewhere?
~Will this purchase bring me happiness or will it bring on the reverse effect after the newness wears off?
~Will buying this item take away from another purchase I’d like more or need more?

2) Make a “Wish List” either on paper or via Amazon (as they tend to sell everything!) and make sure I truly want the item before buying it. I’ve added items to my wish list in the past and later been thankful I didn’t buy them!

3) When shopping at the stores, any impulse buys, or anything not on my shopping list, will go in a separate part of the cart. Before checking out I’ll examine the items one last time to decide if I truly need it. Often just walking around the store is enough to convince us a purchase is truly an impulse buy.

BUDGET, PLAN AHEAD and GOALS:

1) Create an overall household budget and after working out all the glitches, stick to that budget for the year. Make sure to plan in unexpected expenses such as medical bills and car/house repairs, etc.

2) Each quarter I’ll make a “Plan Ahead” list and brainstorm all the events I think I might need to spend money on in the next 3 months and try to find the best deals on those that I can. (The exception to this rule: electronics! Often stores only have a 30 days return policy and it can be difficult to return an item that may not work.) This planning ahead will include birthday parties, special events, school parties, etc. I’ll also do a better job of planning my garden ahead of time so we can maximize our harvest.

3) Set goals for the year. By having a goal in mind it helps cut-back on spending as there’s a visual we can use to say, “This purchase will take away from this goal.” When we were saving up to buy a house, I printed off a picture of a nice house I liked and taped it inside my wallet. Each time I went to buy something I’d see that picture of the house and think twice about what I was buying. Visuals work great!

FREE!!:

1) Make a list of things that we can do for free, or nearly free, and organize it by season. Create a “bucket list” for each season, such as my “Summer Bucket List” to encourage us to find ways to spend time together as a family without breaking our budget. Continue to take vacations close-by to save money for future vacations further away.

2) Cut out all book purchases and either check out books from the library or find free ebooks online. Should we find a book to add to our collection it will go on our gift list for birthdays/holidays.

3) Continue to follow blogs that focus on freebies to help cut-back on purchases. (See my “Are Freebies Worth It?” post.)

4) Instead of getting a gift for birthday/holidays, ask for gift cards for the family or for myself. It’s fun to later in the year tell the giver of the gift card, “We just went to the movies/dinner with your gift and had a fun time together as a family!”

5) Swap babysitting nights with friends to save money and still be able to have a few hours of free time with the spouse.

6) Continue to eat more meals at home and less carry-out. We do pretty good with this except for the super busy holiday season and when sickness hits our house. I need to make sure I have some freezer cooking meals in the freezer prepared for those times.


ORGANIZATIONAL SAVINGS:

1) Keep coupons organized so I can continue to save on our necessities. (You can see my current coupon system that I use.)

2) Waste less and use more. I’ll touch on this one a little more later in the month. Overall, use everything to its fullest capacity, such as not letting leftovers go to waste or letting food expire.

3) Continue to push forward with weekly meal planning. (You can read more on meal planning.)

4) Keep track of birthday/holiday gifts as not to “go overboard” or spend too much. Keep a journal of not only things purchased but $ spent, as well. Keep all gifts bought ahead of time in one place, and organized, so they don’t get lost.

5) Keep track quarterly of clothing items the kids are getting low on so they can be added to birthday/holiday lists or I can easily know what to look for in the clearance racks, garage sales or “gently used” stores.

6) Always know what’s “in-season” so I can work those into meal plans as they tend to be the freshest and least expensive of fruits/vegetables. Also buy more when the price is low so I can freeze them for when they are out-of-season. Keep track of great deals to stockpile as far as other groceries, as well.

7) Continue to brainstorm ideas of cutting-back!

These are just some of the ways that I’m working on spending less. As time goes by, I’ll brainstorm again and find many more ways to make the most of our money but I think this is a very good start! If you are interested in a little more reading, you can check out my Budgeting: Savings on Groceries and Entertainment post that I wrote on Coupon Geek last year. There are some more tips there on cutting back on impulse items and finding more savings. It also includes a long list of free/inexpensive things to do for entertainment.

In what ways have you found to spend less?

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming tomorrow on another “stresser.”

Note: Photo Credit

New Series: Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses!

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This past week, I reached a moment where I realized that without a doubt, I did not have it together. We try to kid ourselves that we can keep saying, “Yes” to everyone that needs help and still, magically, be able to keep up with all our own work and responsibilities. While we can often fake ourselves into believing it’s possible, all it takes is one or two curve balls to be thrown at us to make us drop this juggling act that we somehow briefly mastered.

While I am often upset at the time when these curve balls come my way, I am later thankful that they happened because they make me stop and slow down a bit. And boy did we slow down this last month. Our school was hit not only with a flu bug but also a high-fever sore throat virus. Things that take you out for days. And when you are juggling more than you can already handle, you don’t have days to spare. Things start piling up and you begin to wonder if you’ll ever dig your way out of this household/work nightmare that you are now in. Sound familiar?

I was stung hard by both illnesses from the school – to such an extreme that I had to cancel a trip I had been looking forward to for almost a year. My husband had already taken the time off work and I already had everything set for meals, clothes, school events etc. so he would have an easier time. Rather than not take the time off, he suggested I have a few days to rest and regroup at home while he took care of the kids and household responsibilities. And I have to tell you, it was like Christmas came early.

I spent time thinking about all the things that add stress to my life and pondering if there were ways I might be able to reduce or even eliminate the stress with proper planning and getting more organized. I pulled out a trusty old notebook and pen and went to work jotting down everything that was adding unhappiness to my life. Now, I’m not talking little quirky things that annoy me but things that truly had control over me that I might be able to fix.

My first plan was to write down one thing for each day of the month of October but I stopped at 20. My being overwhelmed was basically the result of twenty things. I tried to divide them into categories and stuffed them into these areas: Household, Organizational Help, Food & Finance and Personal. And from there, I plotted out one thing per weekday, with a day to “recap” and so became my homework for the month. Yes, at 37 I have homework to do! :)

Here is my plan and I’m hoping that all of you will take the month of October to follow along with your own plan so that we can all be on our way to a happier holiday season:

1) Each weekday I am going to take one “stress” to brainstorm as many ideas as I can for how to fix it with better planning, organization and/or even help from my family. Slowly I’ll begin putting the best of the ideas into place. Key word there….slowly!

2) Once a week, I am going to have one day to “recap” and take a look at what I’ve accomplished for the week.

3) At the end of the month, I am going to take pictures of what I’ve achieved and have a solid monthly agenda in place going forward. And of course, I’m going to celebrate!

I’m hoping that you’ll join me in this journey. Each weekday in October I’ll be posting my “stresses” and the ideas I have brainstormed for them. Perhaps mine will be similar to yours and my ideas might help you or trigger ideas of your own.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, for today is this: Grab a notebook and a pen and write down all those things that stress you out. See if you can find 20 or so that you might be able to brainstorm possible solutions for them.

Hope you join me in this brainstorming fun!