First things first: Today marks three years since Mike asked me out.  A lot has happened in those three years!  We dated, graduated college, got jobs, got married, got a house, and now we have a kid on the way.  Crazy crazy!
And to celebrate, we are going to dinner at The Blue Pear.  The original plan was for tonight, but since I am on modified bed rest for the weekend, it is getting moved to another night (hopefully this week).

Look at these lovely flowers my boy brought home to me:

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And next things next:  I am learning to save money.  This is a hard task to learn.  But with a mortgage, college loans and a baby on the way, I really don’t have a choice!  So I welcome the challenge.  With much prayer, of course 😉

Here are some things I’m learning (emphasis on the present tense there…):

1) Most importantly, God will always provide, just as He always has! And as I pray for grace to do the best with what I can, I often find the  money goes a lot further than I thought possible.

2) The difference between needs and wants. And the kindness of God to still help us find ways to incorporate some of those wants.  Also choosing which wants are an “important splurge” and worth the money, and which ones aren’t.

3) Some things are worth the time, others the money. The other week I spent a good two hours simply comparing prices at BJ’s Wholesale Club and Walmart.  Let me tell you – ABSOLUTELY WORTH MY TIME.  Whenever I buy something, I always find myself wondering “is this cheaper somewhere else??”  So I took my notebook, wrote down things I usually buy (mostly household items), and hit the stores.  I chose BJ’s for the wholesale option, and Walmart for the regular option (because it’s almost always cheaper than Target, though I like Target better).  My findings?

For brand name items, BJ’s is always cheaper.  Significantly.  A few examples:
Pledge Furniture Polish: Walmart: [$3.98/12.5 oz]
BJ’s: [$7.69/ (2) 17.7 oz.]

Swiffer Dry Cloths: Walmart: [$8.47/32 sheets]
BJ’s: [$12.49/64 sheets]

Venus Razor Refills: Walmart: [$10.47/4 refills]
BJ’s: [$29.99/16 refills]

For items that I don’t mind using the store brand, however, Walmart is usually cheaper.
I say usually because BJ’s does have a store brand for some items (such as Contact Solution, Kitchen trash bags, Aluminum Foil, butter), in which case it’s cheaper to buy in bulk.

Meat is cheaper at BJ’s than at the grocery stores.
They have some good organic and grass-fed options, too.

You can get a quart (NOT pint!) of Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream for $2.99!
As you can tell, this is clearly the most important fact I learned from my trip.

If you’re interested in knowing more, or are wondering about a specific item, let me know – I took A LOT of notes 🙂

4) There are two Food Network shows that I find particularly helpful:
Sandra Lee’s Money Saving Meals
Ten Dollar Meals with Melissa D’Arabian
Both of these ladies show you how to cook good food on a budget.

5) Check your receipts and always fight for $1.50!
I went into Giant the other day needing Jimmy Dean sausage.  The sign said
2/$5, and I only needed one, so I was planning on $2.50.  When I looked at my receipt, it read $3.99.  I didn’t want to be a pain over $1.49, but it was the principle of the matter!  So I took it to the customer service desk and asked.  Turns out it had been mis-marked and wasn’t supposed to be on sale, but since it was their fault they gave it to me for FREE!  It cost me an additional 10 minutes, but I got free sausage out of it!  So always ask.  The worst they can say is no.

6) Receipt Review
This is something I learned from Real Simple.  For groceries in particular, save your receipts for a month, and at the end of the month go back and evaluate what you bought.  Did you use everything?  Did you buy more of something than you needed and end up throwing a lot away?  Is there anything that you can eliminate?

7) Philly Half-Off
This is Mike’s favorite.  It’s a site where you get gift certificates to restaurants (and an assortment of vendors) for half the price!  So, for example, we got one for Kooma for $50, but only spent $25.  They also make great gifts!

8 ) If you can make it, don’t buy it.
Generally, ingredients/supplies are always cheaper than the whole product.  I bought Simple Syrup the other day, and while it was only $2.49, I could have easily made it for a fraction of the cost.  But it was in a pretty bottle and it snagged me! 😉  Sandra Lee talks a lot about this in her show, and when she shows you the numbers it’s pretty impressive!
Refinishing things is often cheaper than buying new things, too.  Like here, when I refinished our server (and later hutch).
I plan to research homemade cleaning products, too.
The only thing to keep in mind here is it does take more time, so make sure you have the time and that it’s worth it to you.

So, that’s it for now.  I’m still not as good at this as I’d like to be, and I have a lot of room to grow!  What are some helpful things you’ve tried to save cash??  Please share your knowledge with me! 🙂

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