Saturday, October 15, 2011

Catching Up

This summer and fall have been very interesting.

Last summer we began an experiment in couponing. Our church offered a class in strategic couponing as part of our stewardship program. We originally enrolled because we wanted to encourage the teachers. The framework is to change the scheduling of purchase planning. Instead of buying what you need as you run out of something, we buy what we will need for the stores' six week merchandising schedules. Doing that allows us to combine buy-one-get-one-free offers with manufacturers' coupons and store coupons.

Neither of us was convinced we would really save money doing this so we saved all our tapes from the four stores we used during the three months' trial period. The first five weeks, we found we spent a little more than usual but we hung on for the full three months we had promised ourselves we would. Now, we are entering our seventeenth week. The first time I brought home $48.00 worth of merchandise for less than $5.00 made us think it might just work for us.

Taking all the tapes and entering the totals each of spent and savings, I entered them on a spreadsheet at the end of four months. Then, I averaged each column for the four months' period. We have actually reduced our household spending (groceries, cleaning, paper, grooming, dietary supplements and non-VA prescription drugs) by one-third. During that time, we actually had one week during which we spent zero, one we bought milk, yogurt and bananas, and one in which we spent $.68.

The hardest part was learning the rules each of the stores uses and the schedules. The next challenge was to organize the coupons an weekly ads. Figuring out how much we need to get us to the next sales' offers on that item was also interesting. David and I are agreed that it is worth the hour and a half a week it takes. We already had a system for making grocery lists (whoever uses the next to the last of any item writes it on the white board in the kitchen) so all we have to do is match the list to the best offer. If that week's best offer is not THE best, we simply work around that item until it's available at THE best price. It's actually quite a challenge....and fun.

The second interesting thing was the thirteen week Financial Peace University class. It's a money management/stewardship series by Dave Ramsey. Tomorrow is our last class. It, too, has been interesting. More than learning new "tricks", we learned why what we have been doing for years works so well. We did pick up some tips on investment strategies and learned the investment instruments we used in the past were quite well chosen. The small groups have given us the opportunity to get to know some people really well.

The third interesting thing is the series of things we've gotten involved in at our church (aside from the two stewardship activities). David has gotten involved in delivering flowers to and visiting with shut-ins (like he did previously when I had a cutting garden). He also takes people to doctors' appointments. His first time, he took a man "to a doctor's appointment" only to have it turn into a 7 hour experience.

The man got there and his doctor told him he needed chemotherapy. They (while David sat in the waiting room) called the son in St. Louis and got approval. No one thought to tell David. Finally, he asked the receptionist who told him he had plenty of time to get something to eat. The man was quite incoherent when they started home so David still didn't know the son had approved it.

David was worried that he had somehow taken him to the wrong doctor and obligated the man's family to an expense they weren't prepared for. The lady in charge of the program called him later and told him the so had approved. David, with his caring spirit, was still concerned so I started teasing him.

"Well, Sugie, just be glad he didn't have an ingrown toenail. You might have treated him to an amputation." We laughed until we had tears rolling down our cheeks and were choking. It got worse from there.

I'm still working at the church office one day a week though I've had a couple of projects which took much more time than that. In addition, I'm on the school board for our church's pre-school and the scholarship committee there. That, too, has allowed me to get to know some people a lot better.

The last interesting thing that happened this fall was a visit with Akira's oldest son and his family. When we went to Japan the last time, Chris and Aya scheduled their religious ceremony for the time during our visit. It meant having a much smaller ceremony (Aya's dad's family is very large so it was to e expected that they might have a very large wedding). The custom is for a couple to marry at City Hall in a civic ceremony like a business contract. Then, they live with parents until they can save enough money to have a religious ceremony. It's not unusual for them to have children by the time they have the religious ceremony.

Chris and Aya were in The States for two weeks. They brought their two babies (2 yrs and 5 months, respectively). They met us in Orlando where we spent two nights and three days or parts thereof. The babies were amazing! They had only seen or heard us on SKYPE and yet they were totally at home with us from the very first! Despite traveling for four or five days, they were relaxed and joyous. We kept the baby with us while they took the older one to Disney World. It was wonderful!!

So, we've had an interesting summer and fall and a busy one! We don't mind. We have the time.

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