Saving money can be a good feeling

In addition to vibrant colors, delicate patterns and fresh silhouettes, a new trend this spring is quickly becoming a wardrobe staple?and not just for fashion gurus. And all this little-black-dress trend costs is the practice of frugality.

The media call it many names?thrift, penny pinching, economizing?but the goal is the same: saving money. I have enjoyed all the money-saving tips presented on local and national news broadcasts, particularly those geared toward practicality.

Enter the Coupon Mom (aka Stephanie Nelson). For Nelson, the nickname Coupon Mom isn?t just a promotional gimmick. She is a wealth of money-saving knowledge and was recently featured on ?Oprah? and NBC?s ?Today Show? (and probably others, but hey, I can?t sit around and watch TV all day).

I was given a Coupon Mom book about a year ago, before frugality was popular. I found it hard to believe how much she saved.

But then I saw her in action. While featured on ?Oprah,? Nelson saved about $100 on her grocery bill using coupons and advertised sale items. On the ?Today Show,? Nelson purchased a cart full of items for one quarter. Now, that?s what I call penny (err, quarter) pinching.

While I can?t claim those numbers, as a recent stay-at-home-mom hire, I am trying to make thrift a major life staple. I scour over sale inserts to find the best deals, I write a week?s worth of menus on a white board hanging on the refrigerator, I clip and organize coupons and I use a free, online Quicken account to monitor our spending habits. It?s challenging to overcome ingrained consumerism, but I?m having fun.

It?s particularly rewarding to discover not-so-obvious areas to cut back.

For instance, taking shorter showers. I used to enjoy taking showers, but ever since my 11-month-old developed a shower phobia, I have cut back. I mean, who wants to stand in the spray of a hot shower while your child pulls open the shower curtain screaming hysterically? That scenario takes the relaxing out of shower. And I guess it saves on soap as well.

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Before running an errand, I always ask myself, ?Is it worth putting on the appropriate outerwear (on my daughter and me), stocking the diaper bag, carrying the diaper bag and baby to the car, strapping baby in the car seat, strapping myself in the car seat, driving to my destination, unstrapping myself and baby from our respective restraints, grabbing the diaper bag, completing my errand, repeating the car scenario, driving home and repeating the car scenario while possibly unloading other miscellaneous items??

Most of the time I save gas and pain killers by answering, ?No, it?s not worth it.? I dread the moments when I have to answer, ?Yes.?

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I?m thankful the weather is warming up, as errands are much easier when I need only buckle my daughter in the stroller at the beginning, and undo at the end.

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For about nine months, I have been making homemade baby wipes to save money. For the price of a case of store-bought wipes, I can make at least 24 rounds of a more-effective version.

All it takes is a roll of Bounty, halved with tube removed (apparently off-brands don?t hold up as well, but I haven?t experimented), two cups water, two tablespoons baby oil and one tablespoon baby soap, plus a container to store the wipes.

The only tricky part is cutting through the roll of paper towels. I have found that my electric kitchen knife (that has never been used for its intended purpose), works sufficiently.

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I no longer need to pay for exercise. Not that I don?t need to work out, but I have my own 15 pound, 27-inch personal trainer who keeps me on my toes 24/7, and she doesn?t charge a dime.

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Now that my daughter is close to walking on her own, she insists on practicing whenever she finds an empty hand.

She will beg with outstretched arms until someone holds out two hands (if you try to trick her into just using one, she will search out the other until you give in), and as soon as hand contact is made, she is off running.

And so, my back is getting in shape from bending over, my hamstrings are getting stronger from straddling my little go-getter, and my biceps are getting toned from flexing them in the same position all day.

A word to the wise: if you see my daughter, don?t give her your hands, or she?ll whip you into shape as well?.

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I have also saved money by shopping. Off-season clearance that is. My daughter will need a new wardrobe next winter, and I have managed to buy her new clothes for less than the price of some used. Every item has averaged out to about $3.

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Doesn?t it feel good to pay less?