Many people in our community are looking for ways to save money. Megan Ross, 24, of Cornelius decided to take matters in her own hands.
Three years ago, Ross graduated from nursing school with $70,000 in debt. In 2007, she moved to Charlotte with her husband, Mitch, and shortly after became pregnant with her son Caspian, who is now 15 months old. Ross made a commitment to find ways to save money and pay down their debt.
Ross, who is a stay-at-home mom, decided to research ways that her family could save money each month.
"I am the financial protector of my home," Ross said.
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First, she learned the ins and outs of the coupon system in North Carolina. She now spends only $40 per week on groceries for her family of three. This includes all of their food, paper and hygiene products.
How is this possible?
Ross has found many different ways to save money on nutritious, healthy foods and products for her family.
The first way Ross saves money is through using coupons in the most effective way. She finds most of them in the Sunday newspaper but also uses manufacturer's Web sites, eBay and Web sites like coupons.com and redplum.com. This process takes about one hour per week.
She then figures out which grocery store has the best deals for that week by researching their specials online. She only goes to one store each week. Ross spends about 2 hours planning her grocery trip to ensure she maximizes her savings. Most of the local grocery stores automatically double coupons up to 99 cents.
The special weeks are what Ross really looks out for. Many stores offer triple coupon weeks, which means they triple the value of coupons up to 99 cents. Some stores even offer super doubles where coupons up to $1.99 are doubled. Ross stocks up on all items that her family uses consistently during these weeks.
It only takes a few minutes to find out if Harris Teeter, Bloom, Lowes Foods or Food Lion are having these types of specials.
Eating nutritious meals is important to Ross and her family. Ross joined a co-op called Your Neighborhood Produce. Every two weeks, Ross picks up a basket of mixed fruits and vegetables that costs $17.99 from a location in Huntersville. The basket contains a different assortment each time and has enough produce to last her two weeks. Anyone can join the co-op at www.yourneighborhoodproduce.com.
In addition, Ross collaborated with several other families to purchase a grass-fed cow. Ross receives an eighth of the cow meat, which she freezes. It lasts her family nine months and is antibiotic- and chemical-free. They pay $150, which Ross calculated to be about $5 per meal.
It is the small things that add up to a lot of money.
Ross always asks herself, "What is this going to cost me?"
She does simple things like turning off lights, using less water, using cloth diapers and cooking from scratch.
Ross has been so successful that she now offers coupon classes to teach others how to save money. There are four one-and-a-half hour sessions. Each class costs $12, and Ross hands out plenty of coupons to her students. She also offers one-on-one classes for $15 per session.