04 April 2008

Hey brother, can you spare a coupon? An epic tale of urine & finances.

I like the internet. I like to look stuff up on it quickly & make snap decisions on whether it’s reputable or not. I like to discover different points of view, ideas I’d never thought of, and stuff that might improve my quality of life. And videos of singing cats.

Three years ago, one such search (well, not the singing cats kinda search) led me to make all of V’s cloth diapers. All of them. 3 sets of sizes, in various configurations (some didn’t work at all, but by this last round they are pretty close to perfect for her). Initially I just wanted to learn about where one might purchase cloth diapers if we decided to go that way, but a Google search led quickly to the Sew Your Own Diapers website, and I was gone. I spent over ½ my pregnancy at the sewing machine, zigzagging fold over elastic around waterproof bum covers. I dreamt about diapers. I talked about them at family gatherings. It was embarrassing for everyone, really.

In the process of researching sewing my own diapers, I ran across information on Elimination Communication. (that's the actual site I first found. Weird, huh?)I was intrigued: I’d never even HEARD of such a thing (and I’ll bet most of you haven’t, either). What fascinating life was this? Let me say now that though I may sound disparraging, I really do think parents should do what feels most right when it comes to raising their babies, most of the time, and that includes EC. Just as a side note.

So I found this whole idea totally FASCINATING! How did I get to be 32 having never heard of this concept? At this time, Tenessa and Dan’s son Linus was about 8 months old, and I was about 5 months pregnant. Tenessa quickly assured me that Elimination Communication was not going to be my way: “That way lies madness,” she said, over and over. And thank goodness: my house is enough of a mess without having my infant daughter pee in the sink.

I tell you that story so I can tell you this story: it’s happened again. I’ve fallen in with a crowd of people I accidentally found online. I was searching “Frugality,” because, you know, we don’t wanna run out of milk money around here, and I found a seedy underbelly of coupon-clipping, obsessive clearance shopping maniacs. Dave Ramsey seems to be their king, and a lot of them have websites with lots of ads and e-books on how to save money that I can buy for $9.95 or less.

Clearly, this way lies madness, too.

Now I know the basics of economics: if you spend more than you earn, you’re screwed. There’s no way around that, and I have a good grasp of what we make (I see the paystubs) and what we spend. I also know that nearly every American is about 2 zillion dollars in debt (or so it seems) and if you don’t have at least 2 maxed out credit cards, you’re probably doing something wrong. I also know (mostly from watching people struggle, like my mom's struggles after my dad’s stroke) that not having a handle on money, even if you have good intentions, can be disastrous and take years to repair.

We have no credit card debt, except one interest-free jobbie we found at the dentist-who-will-eventually-own-my-first-born-child. We will pay that off this shortly with our recent tax return, and then our only debt will be student loans and the house mortgage. So we’re better off than a lot of folks, obviously. Most of that comes from my white-knuckled terror of high-interest debt, but some of it comes from the fact that I make pretty good money pushing back the walls of ignorance. It is not really due to stellar money management skill on our parts, though.

Cue the internet: I want to know how to do more with what we have. Shaun and I have worked on an allowance system for years: we each get a set amount each month to do as we like (usually it’s been $150, sometimes only $100, and on rare occasions below that), with the other not allowed to criticize however we spend that amount. It’s how I buy fabric without him muttering about it under his breath, and he buys yet another handheld video game. It also needs to cover any fast food we chose to eat, or vending machine snacks, or any new shoes for me. And it worked pretty well, overall. But in recent months (the last year? Maybe more…) we’ve gotten lax, and as my income increased slightly, our leftover cash did not. Turns out we were both overstepping our allowances/being more frivolous in other areas, and that quickly ate up what we were supposed to have leftover each month.

My research turned up some really interesting sites with helpful if repetitive information. Let me sum up: “if you don’t control your money, it controls you. If you’re not sure who’s in control, it’s not you. Now go pay off your debt.” Most of it is aimed at people with several credit cards, but still I’ve found helpful things. We’re starting a savings account this month at each of our banks…but you don’t care about the details. It’s really amazing, frankly, that you’re still reading after all this time. My point is, I found a lot of stuff that we can think about all from a mundane online search. And I’m utilizing sites like Hot Coupon World (sexy name, eh?), where crazy people sit around all day and look at ads and coupons and match them up for me so I can just go “Oh, look, tuna’s on sale this week and I got those tuna coupons in January, so they’d be free.” I don’t have to think too much. I get my mom to bring me her spare coupons, and I keep them in a binder like a dorky 3rd grader with a baseball card obsession. Why, just last week I got 6 free boxes of Pasta Roni.

Now, who wants to come over for supper? Pasta Roni’s pretty tasty, and I promise none of us are peeing in the sink. If you have any coupons laying around, why don’tcha bring them along?

1 comment:

Extraordinary Ordinary Life said...

Too funny! I am trying all this coupon craziness myself. I need a tutorial on Hot Coupon World. I just can't get into it. Any advice?