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The incredible $800 (a year) food and sundries budget

Mother of three has a few tricks to share.

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 4:34PM

Erin's annual budget for food, health and beauty items, and cleaning supplies for a family of four and two dogs is $800. That food category includes occasional dining out.

We read about her budget and blog, Jane4girls $800 Annual Budget, at Frugal Dad, and wondered, how can she do that? It seemed almost beyond belief. She has three daughters -- ages 18, 11 and 10.

We now know some of her secrets -- coupons matched with sales, stockpiling, gardening, ExtraCare bucks, Swag Bucks, and the list goes on -- and they are doable. She also earns gift cards or gets them through special promotions; she never buys them "as that would defeat the purpose," she says. That's a gift card strategy that even Liz Pulliam Weston could like.

Erin deposits $800 in an online savings account, spends out-of-pocket with a credit card that earns cash back and other rewards, then transfers money to her checking account to pay the credit card bill off each month.

This is important: That online account also gets deposits. "Any money earned from surveys or rebates is added back into the budget for future use as long as the rebate was for a budget item," she writes.

Also important to note: That $800 does not include spending for the house and utilities, car, gifts and clothes.

Offering proof, she keeps a running tally of what she buys, how much she spends, and how much she saves whenever she goes to a store or restaurant. Amazingly on that budget they do eat out from time to time. Thank you, gift cards.

We initially thought, Erin must work at this full time. She says not. She looks for deals online, which saves time. She writes, "It takes me on average one hour per week to find the deals, gather coupons and make my lists." It took her three years to perfect the system.

Bonus: Her blog is also a good resource for frugal living tips and hot deals.

Related reading:

Published March 19, 2009


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