State of the Blog: October 2016

Happy Halloween! Our monthly wrap-up for October 2016 includes our regular blog happenings, Pinterest, extreme couponing class, and the resolution of our bread machine conundrum.

Blog stuff

October was a mixed bag on the blogging front, as we moved back from three posts a week to a more sustainable two.

My number of monthly visits has dropped a bit. I feared that would happen, but was hoping it wouldn’t. On the other hand, more viewers seem to be finding each post. I guess it’s all how I look at it. Does that mean my writing has more impact now?

Whatever way I shake it, I couldn’t sustain three posts a week, and I can two. (Even if some of my posts come online a bit late.) Sometimes you have to know your limits and work with what you got.

Social media continues to do well. I’ve made a lot more effort with Pinterest over the last few months, and more viewers seem to be finding me from that channel. I feel pretty good about the evolution of my blog graphics.

 

state of the blog October 2016

 

See? The dedicated color scheme, font usage, logo, decent pic.

With that in mind, I’m putting together a couple of group boards on my pet subjects: Paying for College and Raising Financially Savvy Kids. If you would like to be a part of the group boards, shoot me an email.

That said, I’d love to improve my graphics quality and move toward more quality original graphics and less stock. if anyone has good resources on photography or design, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

 

October Happenings

Bread Machine Resolution

For those who are curious, I did not buy a new bread machine to replace the one that died. Instead, a friend who no longer wanted hers passed one to us. While I would have loved having a bit more room in the kitchen and money was not the deciding factor, I had settled on waiting until I at least tried Mrs. Steward’s suggestion: picking up a copy of The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

When my friend offered the free one, I felt I couldn’t turn it down. Replacement at no cost beat room on the counter. 

The interesting thing is that I’m not the one making the bread now. Jon paged through the manual and now he has a new hobby. He’s baked 3 loaves of bread with the new machine. I even found him a 300 recipe bread machine cookbook at the library.

I settled on the wait list for the book.

Couponing Class

I’d been curious about couponing ever since I watched some lady in Target buy a cart’s worth of groceries for $30. So this month I attended a free Extreme Couponing workshop given by Jenny of Southern Savers.

On the one hand, I learned tons about how people do these things, and I found myself one of the least knowledgeable people in the room. You mean you aren’t supposed to pay for toothpaste? And it’s cheaper to shop at Harris Teeter and Publix than it is to shop at Aldi? Huh?

If I stack coupons and rebates and buy only what’s on a real sale (40% off or more), and stock up 6-8 weeks worth when I buy, I can save a lot of money. And I learned about drug store rewards (which I wasn’t using), and Ibotta (which I was.) I bemoaned the fact that my stupid smartphone doesn’t have the room for more apps, like Cartwheel and Checkout 51, and schemed to load them on Jon’s. (that’s probably not going to work.)

Serious couponing is a lot harder in practice than in theory, though.

It doesn’t help that directly after the class, we didn’t really need much in the way of shopping trips. When we did, Jon shopped. And even though I’ve kept a price book spreadsheet for 3 months, I still don’t immediately recognize good prices.

I’m also not sure the ideas for buying produce and meat really apply to us since I don’t want to buy an extra freezer or fridge just to stock bargains. I did, however, notice on my next shopping trip that previous “bargain” purchases probably weren’t actually bargains, and I’ll be a bit more selective in my purchases going forward.

Family Stuff

Yay! We had our cheapest Halloween in years! Little Bit decided to recycle her old Hermione costume and this year will go as Harriet Potter. We bought a $3 makeup kit at Walmart for the scar (and the opportunity for future play). I also bought a pair of readers at Dollar Tree and Jon popped the lenses.

I adjusted Little Bit’s allowance bonus a bit. If she doesn’t spend during the week, she still gets an extra $1.50 in spending money. Now she also can designate an extra Mom-provided quarter to either her giveaway jar or savings account.

She chooses giveaway every time. I’ll choose to be proud of my generous kid instead of worried about her long-term savings prioritization.

Little Bit’s Daisy troop had their first sale (candy and magazines) this month. It was the first time she’s had to sell stuff, although I’m sure it is far from the last. (Her school’s fundraising tends toward donation events.)

It’s probably good to make the kids get their feet wet before the big cookie sale, though. Little Bit needed a lot of coaching even to ask her grandparents to buy chocolates. I know the cookies sell themselves to some degree, but she’ll have to get a little bolder to make her sales goals this winter.

Hints and Bargains

Keep your eyes open! Jon found a “Save $5 if you spend $65” coupon left over in a cart in the parking lot at our regular Food Lion, and I put that sucker to work. I’m sure that someone didn’t look at their receipt and just left it, but for us, that was an easy win.

I added one more thing to my “What Can I Buy at Dollar Tree?” list: scrub brushes for housecleaning. I need to go back to buy some more mouthwash, because that worked out fine, too.

Some seasonal treats are so worth the wait (Starbucks PSLs), some disappoint dreadfully (I really want to like pumpkin beer, but…) and others just seem too scary to try. That said, Pumpkin Spice Lindt Truffles taste sooo good, and we wiped out the White Chocolate Booterscotch M&Ms from Target in no time flat.

Thanks for coming by! You can follow us on  TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and StumbleUpon. Also feel free to let us know if you have a topic you’d like us to cover. or just want to say hi!

How did October go for you?

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*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and Femme Frugality*

27 thoughts on “State of the Blog: October 2016

  1. I’m sure the coming class was interesting. To me it seems like a big time commitment and hard to put into action. I’m sure once the habits are built though it pays dividends.
    The Green Swan recently posted…Feed the Beast!My Profile

    • I’m still “eh…we’ll see.” The more important factor was to buy the shelf stable things when they were at least 40% off, and buy 6-8 weeks worth. Jenny’s site tells you when stuff is BOGO’d or on deep discount at a given store. I think we’ve just got to commit to it, but with both Jon and I shopping, we haven’t done that yet.

  2. The Extreme Couponing interests me, but seems like a lot of work. We do clip some but don’t go overboard. I’ve been posting twice a week for some time now, and do see some peaks and valleys with visits to my site. I’m considering dropping some of the social media sites and just focusing on 2-3 to try and boost traffic. Hope you guys have a happy Halloween!
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Holiday PreppingMy Profile

    • One of the smartest things i heard was to not actually clip the coupons (just save the fliers) until you need them. Then just take the ones you are going to use, according to the sales cycle. That kinda seems easier to me, but it means my lists will need to become a lot more specific.

      As far as social media, Twitter is still my top referrer, then Pinterest, then Facebook, then Stumbleupon (which doesn’t seem to need much work.) I don’t think I’ll be adding any new channels but I do think I can do more with Pinterest. So many great financial blogs don’t seem to pay it much attention. (or at least i find a lot of great pinnable information that doesn’t come with a good pinnable graphic.) Maybe I should start a side hustle.

  3. I’ve read articles with extreme couponing that they make way less than minimum wage for the amount of time that they are spending clipping coupons and finding the best deals. I still would take that in a heartbeat. Making less than minimum wage shouldn’t stop savings or someone from doing something. I make practically nothing blogging but I enjoy writing and helping readers out. It’s not always about the efficiency!
    Finance Solver recently posted…Environment Matters Most to Career SuccessMy Profile

    • I don’t want to spend a ton of time on it. If I can cut our grocery expenses by 25% or so with couponing with an hour of extra effort, that would be okay. For us, that would work out to be $25 an hour. And that seems doable after the class if i can get it together.

  4. The art/ practice of searching out others’ receipts with discounts or loyalty points (in the trolley or car park) has earned itself the name ‘wombling’ in the UK, and some people seem to pursue it like they do couponing. I try to be cautious with my cash, especially on food where you can easily fall into bad habits, but I can’t summon up the will power to really get into wombling or couponing personally. If I see something, I’ll snap it up, but life is too short for some things!
    Sarah @tortoisehappy.com recently posted…How to not be skint anymoreMy Profile

    • “Wombling” is a great word, but I don’t know if we’ll do more than pick up the occasional windfall that literally blows our way.
      My biggest fear is that we’ll spend a bunch of extra money on stuff we don’t need. We’ve saved so much by limiting our purchases to what we need that the idea of buying 6-8 weeks worth at a time may be a hard change.

  5. Glad the bread machine situation worked itself out, and gave Jon a new hobby. We use coupons occasionally, but I don’t spend a lot of time on it. It seems in the past there were more useful coupons (or at least stuff that we actually used), but I can still find some good ones around. I think it’s more important to get into sync with the sales cycle and buy enough to last. Unfortunately lately our shopping has fallen into disarray (due to a variety of factors) so we need to get back to one main shopping trip a week where we buy what’s truly on sale.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…Small Is the New Big – Why Bigger Isn’t Always BetterMy Profile

    • Yeah, i think finding out that the real sales are 40% or more will be a key. I was buying a lot of “on sale” stuff that in retrospect was really just stuff on a display at a minimal discount.

  6. I tried couponing once. But I honestly bought stuff I didn’t need just to score free or nearly free deals. And it took more of my time than I wanted to spend. That said, it works really well for some people. I’m always impressed by the people that can get a cart full of groceries for very little money. I’m able to keep my grocery bill at a manageable level without coupons and I literally spend 15 minutes a week scanning the various ads and making my list. I probably spend an hour shopping (I’m going to actually time it in November, so that’ll be interesting).

    I take some of my own photos, and it’s just a trial and error thing with a digital camera. Natural light works the best. Most of my photos are stock from Pixabay though. I use Canva.com for all of my photo editing – they have a Pinterest template I use exclusively. 90% of my traffic comes from Pinterest, so that’s where I focus the majority of my time. (My traffic has ups and downs too – there doesn’t seem to be any reason I can pinpoint either.)

    Thanks for sharing, Emily!
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…5 Things I Am Tired of Hearing About MoneyMy Profile

    • I really like the Canva templates, and use them as well….the Pinterest and the Blog Title, mostly. And while I mostly use stock photos, I want to use more of my own but I’m not the best photographer. Fortunately digital makes it easy to take (and delete) a lot of shots, and usually at least one works.

  7. Similar to some of the other readers, I’m intrigued by the extreme couponing, but it seems like so much work! And, since my wife does the grocery shopping, I couldn’t ask her to take on more work in order to get it done. She’s already got too much on her plate with the everything else.

    We end up taking most of our own pictures for the blog. Just stuff around the house usually works out fine, a wallet here, a picture of our front door there, etc… Most times we don’t even need any stock photos.

    Good luck with the new bread maker!
    Jon @ Be Net Worthy recently posted…The Scary Cost of a College EducationMy Profile

  8. I did extreme couponing once upon a time and it worked well for me then. Now, I am not sure. I keep thinking about getting into it, but it is a time commitment that I don’t have. I use Ibotta and Checkout51 and SavingStar to try to get some money back on my purchases, but I have also found grocery mystery shops which really helps keep my costs down. I’d rather spend the time on mystery shopping than couponing at this point.

  9. I have watched the show extreme couponing and holy smokes it seems like it takes a TON of work. I am exhausted just watching and I didn’t do anything. With that said it seems like they get incredible value for very little money. I will definitely need to look into it and see if the time to put in is worth it.
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…How We Save Money on FoodMy Profile

    • One thing that makes me think it might be manageable is the Southern Savers website, which points out both the items on sale at a given store and lists all of the coupons and rebates available. Without that resource, I’m not sure I would even want to attempt it.

  10. My deep freezer is an important part of my strategy for saving on groceries. On the other hand, I have five kids to your one, so we probably benefit from that more than you would! I found mine on Craigslist, practically brand new from a guy who was moving. It was a nice bargain.

    Great job on Pinterest! It’s good to know your limits. Better 2 quality posts than 3 you didn’t really have time to work up right.
    Jamie @ Medium Sized Family recently posted…5 Ways We’ve Saved Money This Week 56My Profile

    • That’s an idea if we break down and get an extra freezer…I’m sure you can get some bargains, but I don’t think Jon wants to add more electrical load when he works so hard to minimize ours.

      I admire the folks who can do 3 posts a week. But I know it’s probably not for us. Thanks for coming by, Jamie.

    • It is sweet! While I’d love her to think more about saving, she’s got her heart set on contributing money to the American Heart Association. They do a fundraiser for AHA at her school in the spring, and I think she wants to save up money to contribute then even though we usually target end of the year (Christmas).

      Fresh bread is addictive as all get out.

    • Last year there seemed to be a big “Basic” backlash against PSLs and lots of other white, suburban, middle class indulgences. Sorry, hipsters, scorn will not diminish my love of creamy spicy goodness!

      If the couponing gets intense, I won’t do it. Probably. More than an hour a week extra is not worth my time.

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