The First Three Weeks on Cash-Only Budget

Time for a cash budget. (Photo credit: 401K)

It’s been a long time coming to use cash for food, gas, clothing, and entertainment. I’ve been religiously watching Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s show, “Till Debt Do Us Part,” and eyeing those money jars. It just makes sense. But, I never did anything about it.

But one day, I realized my grocery budget was creeping upward, even with couponing. What the heck was I doing wrong? Using a debit card and not using a solid budget–that’s what I was doing wrong.

I drew up a serious budget (much harder than it sounds, it takes t-i-m-e, but it’s essential). In my budget–$75 cash for groceries, $25 a week cash for gas in my car (my husband uses more, but I work from home), $20 miscellaneous or “blow money,” per Dave Ramsey. That’s only the cash part of the budget.

I didn’t use jars, but I did use basic envelopes, which proved too cumbersome as I went through my week.  I ended up labeling two pockets of my wallet. One pocket says “Gas” and the other says “Groceries” and that’s where I keep the money.

Some highlights:

1. Week One: I was filmed for Channel 12 News (not aired as of yet) on a shopping trip at Stop & Shop in Fairfield–it was an extra shopping trip that week and I shelled out an extra $54.00. To balance the budget, I decided to reduce my grocery budget for two weeks.

2. Week Two: Did relatively well, was able to buy about four pounds of expensive organic ground beef because I used some Catalina coupons from ShopRite thanks to some great deals I put together. By week’s end, I spent an extra $10 at Whole Foods when I found a couple of extra deals. It’s only $10, you say, but you know how the psychology on this works … “it’s ONLY $10….” turns into “it’s ONLY $20 and so on…” But, it’s like a diet, you make peace with yourself and get back on the program.

3. Week Three: So, it’s now Saturday, one day into my third week of cash only, and I have spent my reduced cash budget. But, we have plenty of food and will only need some fruit and veggies–but it’s extra money.

But so far, it’s great, I love it, and I see where my money goes and it gives me great hope. I spent $200 so far in three weeks–not too terrible in an affluent town like Fairfield.

Stay tuned.

~Marilyn from TFF


Avoiding Couponing Distractions

Example of an American grocery store aisle.
Bargains are everywhere which causes distractions. Image via Wikipedia

The couponing stars are not aligned for me this week and it has to do with too many distractions.  Continue reading “Avoiding Couponing Distractions”

ShopRite in Fairfield, CT Accepts Competitor’s Coupons

Accepting competitor's coupons.
ShopRite in Fairfield now accepts competitor’s coupons, per this sign in the entryway of the store. This is welcoming news, but watch the limits on the coupons! Next step: see if Stop & Shop takes ShopRite coupons. I also wonder — does sister store PriceRite take ShopRite coupons? Doubt it, but I’ll ask… Photo: TFF

After getting in trouble last month at our new ShopRite for using a competitor’s coupon (I really did NOT know it was a competitor’s coupon because it came from the manufacturer, not from a store flyer…and it was a bit confusing)…well, ShopRite now accepts competitor’s coupons. Yippee! Well, hold on, there’s a catch, of course. I thought I’d test out the new policy and here are the results:

Today, November 9th: Stop & Shop‘s recent in-house coupon flyer (which you pick up from the front of the store) has a great coupon for $1 off of one Near East Couscous that expires 12/2/11. ShopRite has a sale this week for three Near East Couscous boxes for $5 (making each box $1.67). I figured I could get four boxes (the store limit) for .66 cents each. I took my four coupons in, confirmed with the cashier that they now accept competitor’s coupons, and we began check out. But the Stop & Shop coupon said “limit one coupon per specified item purchased.” Phooey! There goes my great deal to get four boxes of couscous for .66 cents each.

Anyhow, the bottom line is that I really need to read the fine print of every coupon! But, this new policy is still great news for us penny-pinching Fairfield, CT shoppers! For non-Fairfielders reading this — check the policy on competitor’s coupons with your local store, it could be different in each ShopRite location.


Find Savings at the Service Desk

If you spot a coupon booklet at the service desk of any store, grab a few before they’re gone.

(Back and at it slowly after a week of what may have been the flu…)

If you poke around the service desks of any given Stop & Shop, you are bound to find some hidden gems–meaning, booklets with coupons in them. The courtesy desk workers barely know about them (as a Frugal Fairfielder found out). So, ask. It doesn’t hurt. And, the coupons in the booklets are pretty good–stack them with manufacturers’ coupons to create big bargains. This particular booklet shown above was found at the courtesy desk of the Stop & Shop on the Post Road in Fairfield near the circle (near the McDonald’s).

One booklet is called the “Meal Makers Savings Book” — inside you’ll find $15 in store coupons (save $1 on a number of things, such as sausage, rolls, muffins…).

There’s another hidden gem from Stop & Shop that I’ll post tomorrow. Inside, there are coupons for free veggies, etc. Be on the lookout for that Monday…

By the way, in case anyone was wondering, we do not work at all for any of the stores mentioned on this blog! We just shop there!

Teri Gault’s Shop Smart, Save More Book Review

Teri Gault's book
Teri's book spurred me to start saving $200 a month in groceries.


A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from my friend, Aimee, who said that one of her friends went crazy over Teri Gault’s Shop Smart, Save More book. Her friend said she saved $66 off of her grocery bill in one week. Of course, I ran right out to get the book from the library. As I skimmed it at first, I didn’t find much in the way of new information, but I liked reading letters from her fans. It made me go to her website,, where I signed up for a free trail run to get pre-organized lists of groceries that match up with existing coupons. Hey, I’d like to save $500 a month on groceries like her readers say they do! But–really now… 

Keep reading…because there is a positive outcome and there are positive comments on Teri’s book…  

So…I signed up for a trial run, and downloaded a couple of lists (Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, Walgreens, and CVS), saw that most of the lists included things I don’t ever want to buy regardless of the savings, and saw that I had last week’s lists and couldn’t figure out how to get updated lists. Sigh… 

Keep reading… 

I don’t really need the lists, and I don’t want to pay for a service that I basically already do on my own (match coupons to circulars, scour store for unadvertised sales, etc.). So, I ended my 12-hour old trial membership. 

What happened, though….? I was so envious of those letters about how much readers saved, I decided to round up my receipts and see where I am with my food shopping budget. I have not kept great track of things for a while. Lo-and-behold, my husband and I tallied up that since the beginning of January 2010, we’ve been spending $150 a week on groceries! And I considered myself a good shopper! That was just unacceptable so I decided we can and will make it on $75 a week, even in expensive Fairfield, Connecticut! Even though food prices have doubled and more!  

Teri’s book made me get hold of my grocery budget once again, I’m happy to say. And, I’m happy to say that it is Tuesday, and we have a full pantry and fridge and I’ve only spent $52.50 of my $75.00 budget that I have given myself each week (my week corresponds to store circulars, or, from Friday to Thursday is one week for me). If I hold true to this figure, I’ll save over $200 a month–not bad. I know that I’ll most likely spend some of my leftover budget from this week on stockpiled items ($1 bags of pretzels at Shaw’s, for example).  

So, even though I cancelled my membership, I am still ever so grateful to Teri. Plus, I read through her recipes last night–they look wonderful (a simple dinner of biscuits and bacon sounds great, and one that my kids will just love…for pennies). 

I’ll report back if I actually save my $200 in February!