“Only thing we have need to fear is fear itself.” Poignant words given by FDR during his first inaugural address that many of us can feel at these trying times.

When he spoke those words, the Depression touched the lives of every American. Things in Europe were not much better and only got worse.

And 75 years later what do we see? Our nation trapped in a war overseas, banks struggling to hang on, people barely able to make ends meet.

Some people are afraid. Fears of losing their homes, their jobs, of history repeating itself. Can we really blame anyone? With a costly bail out package set to roll forward, the DOW still struggles. Inflation rises. And the bills are even harder to pay and futures seem far more questionable.

So are you afraid? Sometimes I am. I am not prepared for the scary end that we can see as a distinct possibility. I hope every day that maybe something will turn around. Maybe my husband will get that huge pay raise to catch us up to the inflation. (I wish, don’t you?) Perhaps the stock market will stabilize. Maybe Sarah Palin will find that rich oil in Alaska and we can lower gas prices. I don’t see any of these things occurring any time soon, but miracles do happen.

So what do I do? I do whatever I can. I cut pennies, I study ads for stores, I store food and personal items, and I try to learn what I can.

You can dedicate your whole life to working the deals. I must admit I get a sick pleasure looking at my deals after shopping. You know how the scenario. You walk into Walmart to get a gallon of milk and notice there’s a huge rack of clothes marked down. You walk out with milk, 5 blouses, 3 slacks, and you only spent $20! You feel pretty dang good, but you can’t help yourself. You just HAVE to know… how much was that stuff before markdowns? Out comes the receipt, the calculator, and the tags. You sit down at your kitchen table and after a few minutes of tapping you realize your $20 purchased you something like $87.25 in items.

You know you do it. Just fess up. And you know what follows next. The embarrassing “Go me!” dance around your kitchen table. Thank goodness the kids were playing out back and your husband wasn’t home, right?

Why work the deals? Why not. They are there, take advantage of them. A dollar here, four dollars there, another couple somewhere else… it adds up.

I will freely admit any day that I am a cheapskate. I’ve needed to be. You try juggling your finances on military pay. Ouch. I learned fast. Clip coupons, use discount cards, whatever it is.

My mother grew up in Europe. She hits the grocery store seemingly every five seconds. I can’t stand it. I am not a shopper. When I go into the stores, it’s like “get in and get out.” I am working on the world record for most shopping done in the least amount of time. The less times I go, the happier I am. I spend less money and there is less driving. Bonus all around.

Still, work those deals.

I know what restaurants give free kids meals. Great since we have two hungry boys. Sometimes it is nice to go out to eat, but it can get crazy expensive with our family. You knock the kids meals off, and it’s more affordable. Mmm nothing like Denny’s breakfast at 6:30 PM on a busy Saturday. Mom and Dad pay and the two kiddies are free! I also know Rita’s offers buy one get one free Gelati’s if it is raining. Score!

I have an entire wallet with my plethora of cards. I sometimes wish I could find a way to combine all these program cards. Best Buy gives me rewards for buying things. Every two ink cartridges gives me a pack of paper. I haven’t purchased regular computer paper in three years. If only they sold three hole punched paper! (It’s OK, I have a punch I can use.) I keep cards from PetSmart, PetCo, Best Buy, CVS, every grocery store in my town, Tropical Smoothie, Rita’s, you name it. Between store credit, freebies for purchases, and special deals I have found the evil tracking of my lifestyle worth it.

Give up a little privacy to save a bundle? Sure. I mean, if you REALLY want to track my purchases, have at it. I’m a homeschooling mother. My purchases of milk, cereal, ink, and notebooks probably will not score high on “possible terrorist” charts. Then again I’m sure McGyver could somehow turn that into something to break out of prison and a bomb. I’m not so talented.

Today I worked some fantastic deals. I can’t believe the fantastic deals! I am going to take some of these deals and really turn them into better deals.

So what did I do?

First I hit the new hardware store. Lots of Grand Opening deals. We got two free screwdriver sets. The boys claimed those puppies ASAP. Sir Megabyte needed a multimeter because of all the housework he needs to do. They had a little one for next to nothing. Because we have some projects around the house (molding replacement for one) that will entail some workshopping I grabbed a little workbench. I walked out with over sixty dollars in items and only spent $27.23. A little coupon at the bottom of my receipt offers $5 off our next purchase of $35 or more. Sweet.

Then I went to Best Buy. My printer has been wiggy so we were going to try to get a new one. Things got stuck in hyperdrive after our router went kablooey yesterday. Lucky for me, Best Buy offered a great deal on a printer and router combo purchase. More than I wanted to spend, sure, but I was able to get a movie for Caramon for his birthday as well as the router and printer for $20 less than the two regularly. Of course, I had to go to two stores. The Best Buy next to the hardware store did not have the router. The item I needed immediately. Oy.

My last stop was CVS. The king of all deals. CVS is the motherload. There are whole websites and blogs dedicated to working the CVS system. Guess where I learned my plan for this week? You got it.

I purchased: 1 razor (I lost mine in the move and have been using a disposable), 1 toothbrush (Joram’s is NASTY), 1 feminine hygene need, and 2 toothpastes (the kids only found their’s last night and we’re running low on both theirs and ours.) I threw in a CVS shopping bag for my CVS deal making. Total should have been: 23.49. I spent 17.88 with my coupons and their sales. And the kicker? I now have $12.98 in CVS store dollars. I have some more needs that I will get later this week. (like razor blades for said razor) and I will use those CVS store credits. The way I see it, I’ll spend like $20 dollars and get about $80 in things. And I’ll still be sitting on some CVS bucks for next week’s sales. We shall see.

This week I do our grocery shopping as well. My coupons combined with deals led me to decisions for meals. I will also double up on some things to restock my pantry. A well stocked pantry is golden. By doing this one simple thing I have seen us make it through pay screw ups, moving stress, unemployment, lean months, bad weather, and lack of a car for me to easily run out. Building a year supply sounds insane, but if you plan your spending, you can do it easily. For our family a year supply of salt is about 7 bucks. Well that’s super easy. Other items will cost me more like $100. So I’ll buy some here and there and before I know it, I’ve got it all. Which is the best way to do it because then it rotates very well.

I am working on building my organization of my storage. Lucky me, I have two great closets for pantry storage. Still, I want a good tracking system in place. Buy now when the prices are good and I can get through some of the hideous prices we are seeing and know will only get worse.

So that’s my shopping preparations to prepare for the uncertain times. I live in an area that gets struck by hurricanes and blizzards. We’ve seen extreme lockdowns due to the government HQ a mere 60 miles away. And this area is long overdue for an earthquake. Preparation? A great way to alleviate fear.

–Lady O