I recently talked to Michelle of WickedCoolDeals.com about the safe way to buy coupons on eBay, putting four kids through college, and the 20 jars of peanut butter in her pantry. Michelle, 46, is a marketing consultant, stay at home to four kids, and blogger who lives in Connecticut. I edited and condensed this interview. How did you get into saving money? I had four kids in five years. I was shocked to learn that we were spending close to $1,200 a month on food and baby diapers. We were both working. When you’re busy you don’t really know how much you’re spending unless you look at it. I said this is ridiculous. I became a student of how am I going to get this expense down. What were some of the first changes you made? I started reading blogs. I had no idea you could print coupons online. Where do you print coupons online? Coupons.com is the best. I like SmartSource, RedPlum. I also go to manufacturer websites. I’ll do a Google search for a coupon. Where else do you get coupons? We get two Sundays papers. If it’s an especially good week I’ll buy another paper. Friends give me coupons cause they know I’m crazy. I go to my local YMCA and there’s a big bucket where people dump their coupons. I’m at the Y three times a week. Sometimes I buy coupons on eBay. I usually warn readers away from buying coupons on eBay. I only buy coupons from top-rated sellers. I only buy coupons clipped from newspapers. You only stay a top-rated seller on eBay if you are legitimate. You get one bad write up and that could affect your business significantly. What about coupons for non-grocery items? We like to have nice things, but we don’t like to pay for them. My husband literally called me just before you called. He saw a printer on sale. He had a coupon plus they’ll give you $50 bucks for trading in a printer. He finds the deals and then he lets me decide if we should buy it. We’re hunting down deals for almost everything we buy in our house. We feel very comfortable we are getting the best price for everything we buy. Tell me more about how you manage money in your house. My husband has everything on quicken. He’s in the office a couple nights a week reconciling credit card statements so we can see what our net worth is, how much we are spending every month. Our goal is always to spend less than we are earning. Can a focus on saving money be bad? Forget about what you are saving. Did you need the box of cereal? Because you focus more on the dollar that you saved than the $3 that you spent. How do you balance fine line between taking advantage of a sale and sticking to your budget? Sticking to my budget is always first. I reserve a certain amount of money for stocking up. Skippy was on sale for $1.69. I had $.60 off coupons that double, so I paid $.49 [per jar]. I bought 20 jars. It’s regularly $2.59. If I am getting close to budget, I’ll say I’m going to use up what’s in my cupboard. One time we found 10 boxes of Bisquick in the cupboard. Quiche, pancakes, the recipes on the boxes. At some point you have to use what you buy. What’s your secret to shopping online? Here’s an important thing that so few people know. I tend to shop online at stores that take more than one coupon code. Kohl’s. The Children’s Place. If I can get cash back [through eBates] and get two promo codes that stack, that’s my ideal deal. What are your tricks to getting discounts on Amazon? The Amazon Mom promotion is the best thing since sliced bread. It was free to join. What Amazon Mom gets you is free shipping on anything eligible for free shipping and then the $25 minimum is waived. Did your parents teach you to be frugal? No. My mother spent the same amount of money on groceries and she bought exactly the same things. She never swayed. When I was growing up I didn’t have ice cream. It was too expensive. So that motivated you to save? We have to put these four kids through college and that is a huge motivation for me. Where we live, we may be paying for high school for these kids and it’s horrifying. I worked my way through college and grad school. I’m just very motivated to help my kids through college.
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