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Find your own reward for saving money

Coupon Lady

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What if I told you that your family could take an all-expense paid vacation every year for the rest of your life?

Where would you go? Beaches, cruises, museums, parks or any place your heart desired. I’m not talking about signing up for one of those time-share seminars, either. I am talking about saving money each month that you would have spent and putting it in a jar or a savings account until you have enough money.

This is my third year of couponing, and I wanted to do something different to increase my motivation. Since we have met some of our other financial goals, we decided that this year my couponing “sacrifice” of time and energy will be used to fund a three-day vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., without using credit cards or derailing other savings goals.

Couponing can help you fund your vacation, too.

First, estimate how much money you spend on groceries each month. The Official USDA Food Plan’s latest figures show that a family of four (two adults and two kids ages 6-8 and 9-11) will spend an average of $852.30 a month (about $213 each week) on the “moderate” plan. To find out how much money you need to budget for your family, the document can be found at www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/Food Plans/2011/CostofFood Oct2011.pdf.

A low-cost food plan for my family of four (two adults and two children) would be $170.90 each week and a moderate plan would cost us $210.10 a week. So let’s say my family needs $200 a week for food. Once I have my estimate, we are ready to start saving.

Since I already use coupons, my weekly estimate also includes pet supplies of about $15 a week and $15 a week for non-food items such as cleaners and toiletries . In the spirit of full disclosure, I also have to subtract my couponing costs; my newspaper subscription and magazine subscriptions. I subscribe to four Augusta Chronicle newspapers with a Sunday-only subscription, which costs $19.26 a month, roughly $4.45 a week. I pay for two monthly All You magazines at a special price of67 cents an issue, which breaks down to approximately30 cents a week. That means my weekly coupon expenses are $4.75 a week, lowering my weekly budget to $195.25. This figure is completely customized for my family. You may need more or less depending on pets, children, etc.

Since I am a couponer, I know that I can save 50 percent to 70 percent off my food bill when couponing. I shopped this week and spent $80 at the grocery store, $29 at a drugstore, and spent $48 on eating out (we went out twice). That means we did not spend $38.25 out of our weekly allowance, so that money will go into our vacation fund. If I save $38 a week for 6 months, I will have almost $1,000 by the end of six months!

There are two reasons I am excited to do this. First, it motivates me to save as much as I can. The more dedicated you get with couponing, the more money you will have. The second reason I love this is because you still live within a fixed monthly budget. Once grocery and food expenses are budgeted, you can still use the rest of your monthly income to pay other expenses or even building a stronger emergency fund. If you don’t coupon at all, you can still live, but using coupons allows you to pay for your wants, not just needs.

If the idea of couponing to Disney sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. There is a Web site with that title. It talks about coupon matchups, different ways to “find” money, a coupon database (for her local area), different savings ideas and even a trip planner to figure out how much money you need.

Learn how to coupon and your next vacation may be a lot sooner than you think!


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