I love money. As a kid one of my favorite things to do was count and roll change. The feel of the coins in my hands always made me dream about the things that could be bought with it. Now that I’m a responsible, ahem, adult I realize that money doesn’t just buy stuff–it buys freedom. Toby and I have the freedom to live in our very own house, use heating and air conditioning to make our lives comfortable, give to our church and to charity, buy gas for our cars…you get the picture. After all of our expenses are covered, that doesn’t leave much money for food. And we like to eat. Silly us, right?

Saving money on groceries and toiletries has, in the past, consisted of just doing without, sometimes even going without things we really needed. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t get to buy the junk food I crave (which is a good thing for my wallet and my health) but now I’ve learned how to get things we need and want while spending half of what I used to spend each month.

Before I share my secrets with you, let me just say that you do NOT have to do any of the things I do. In fact, if using coupons or shopping at certain stores horrifies you, by all means don’t do it. But please don’t waste time telling me why you can’t do those things. You can do anything if you want to, but you don’t have to either. That’s the beauty of living in a free country.

My first and biggest secret I have learned is to subscribe to money saving blogs where very dedicated people have already done all the work for you. They will tell you what the best deals are at certain stores every week and where to find the coupons and how to score the deals. All you do is clip the coupons and go. It’s a beautiful thing. Check out Money Saving Mom, Super Savvy Shopping, Jane4Girls, or someone local to you.

The next thing I’ve learned is to buy most of my groceries at Aldi. Several people in my life, including my dear husband, grew up in poverty and have very negative associations with this grocery store. Those issues aren’t there for me, so I have no qualms about walking into Aldi and buying milk for $1.49, eggs for $0.88, bread for $1.49, etc. Sweet Baby James LOVES the cinnamon graham crackers from Aldi and doesn’t mind that they aren’t “name brand.” I will caution you that there is a learning curve–you have to figure out which items at Aldi taste good and which don’t. Since I’m VERY PICKY and like HIGH QUALITY ingredients, I would be happy to share my experiences with you anytime, just ask. I used to spend $100 a week on groceries at County Market or Wal-Mart–last week at Aldi my entire week of food cost $42.15. We were ecstactic!

The other trick I’ve learned (again, read those money saving blogs!) is how to use coupons correctly to get toiletries and groceries for FREE or for just pennies on the dollar. This is *usually* done at CVS and Walgreens, but sometimes Target, Meijer or Wal-Mart. Most of us don’t use coupons well and don’t stock up on items when they are cheap. My good friend Coupon Lady really opened my eyes to this. Coupon shopping is very effective, gratifying and downright fun, but it does require good organizational skills (which can be learned, trust me) and some space in your house or garage to store the stocked up items.

Some other money saving websites that may interest you are:
Baby Cheapskate
Slick Deals

What are some ways that YOU save money? I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts and ideas.