I have been extreme couponing since long before there was a name for it. You know the type: obsessively clipping coupons, buying the items on sale in bulk and filling their pantry for a "raining day." That is why when I heard TLC was going to air a series called Extreme Couponing, I was very happy. Perhaps I could pick up some tips from others that I didn't already know. The series might help me save money.

I was wrong.

Instead, the show seems like some kind of twisted combination of "Hoarders" and "Supermarket Sweep." The Extreme Couponers gleefully show off their "stockpiles" and exclaim "I won't have to buy toothpaste for the rest of my life!"

I have used coupons for years as a way of stretching my food dollars, particularly when I was supporting an extended family when my oldest son and his wife lost their jobs and had to move in with me. Without the coupons, my grocery bill would have either been a lot higher than it was, or we may have had a tougher time putting food on the table.

Now, since "Extreme Couponing" has hit the airwaves, more people are "abusing the system." They are trying to emulate the Extreme Couponers and come up with ways of paying next to nothing for their groceries. They do this by combining printed coupons with the store's loyalty cards and sales. I have done this, too...but I know damn well I don't need 500 tubes of toothpaste. Some of these folks subscribe to coupon clipping services to get considerably more newspapers than they would ever possibly by just to stock up on the coupons. In one episode, a man purchased $4,000 worth of breakfast cereal for pennies on the dollar. Granted, he did donate the cereal to a food bank, but how likely is it that store will offer a similar deal in the future?

In my area, grocery stores and even some pharmacies, are wising up to the abuse. They are changing their coupon policies. At one grocery store chain where I live, they will still double coupons, but only on the first item. After that, they will only accept the face value of the coupon. Yes, they have indicated that the change in policy is due in large part to people employing the practices they have seen on "Extreme Couponing." Because of these gluttons, it is no longer possible for me to save as much money as I used to with coupons. No, I do not have a "stock pile."

Savvy Frugality, saving money, couponing....that's one thing. There is only one word for one person single-handedly clearing an entire shelf of underarm deodorant and paying for them with nothing more than a pile of clipped coupons: greed.

You might recognize the title of this post as the old motto of the Morton Salt Company. However, it can also be applied to people who are going through tough times, and the tough times only seem to keep coming.

I have detailed here how things were humming along for me quite nicely, as far as my finances were concerned. Then, my family was hit by temporary homelessness. OK, we weren't totally homeless. We did live in a hotel for four months, but the experience did wipe us out financially, despite having a savings account, money in stocks, and renters insurance.

After we moved into another home, we were hit with another family crisis: my son and his wife both lost their jobs. To help them out, my wife and I let them come and live with us temporarily. Unfortunately, they had to stay with us longer than originally planned. Now, not only was I recovering from my own crisis, but I was essentially supporting two households. I only earn so much money at my job, and things reached a breaking point.

So now I am in a unique position for a personal finance blogger. I not only get to write about how to manage money when things are going well, but I get to share with you how to recover when things downright suck.

During my previous post, I promised to keep you updated on our progress. Recently , I earned another raise at my job, and this will help a little. My wife is now completely on board with our need to move to a less expensive rental property, and since our lease is up in a couple of months we have given our notice to our landlord and are now actively searching for a new place to live. Currently, our rent is $1,200 per month. We are now searching for a place that is no more than $750 per month.

We are also looking for other areas to cut our expenses as well. We have been with the same insurer for auto and renters insurance for about five years now. After doing some checking around online, we found another company that will give us the same coverage for about $30 less per month. That doesn't sound like a lot, but over the course of the year we'll save $360 per year. That is money that is going right into our savings account to rebuild our emergency fund, along with other savings we'll realize after we move, plus the amount of my recent pay raise.

When you face a "when it rains it pours" moment, it is easy to wallow in your own misery. Don't. Worrying never solved anything. The best thing to do is come up with a game plan and find a solution to your problems. My family has been in a tight spot before. We'll make it through this one, too.

As I mentioned in a previous post, a flood led to my family and I becoming homeless last summer. OK, we weren't living on the street and begging for food. We were living in a hotel and depending upon my renters insurance to cover room, board and food. But, eventually that coverage ran out, and the house we were living in was still under construction. I had to cash in $5,000 in retirement savings and pay security, pet deposit and first and last month's rent to move into another home.

On top of this, my wife, who is not as thrifty as me, managed to overdraw my checking account by several hundred dollars. I had to cash in my stocks to pay off the debt. This now left me with no retirement fund, no emergency savings and no savings account to speak of. I, the guy writing the Savvy Frugality blog, am now back at square one. The worst part is there is little I could have done to avoid this situation, other than having more money socked away for myself.

Sometimes you will be faced with a situation over which you have very little control. The victims of the recent earthquakes and tsunami in Japan are certainly in that type of situation. Even if they were fully insured, had lots of savings, etc., the survivors are in a situation where they are just trying to find basic needs like food, water and shelter. With that in mind, here are a few pieces of advice I have for you:

1. Have a disaster recover plan. This was my main mistake. If something catastrophic happens and you lose your home, what is your Plan B? Where will you go, and where will you live? Think about this now. Waiting until the worst happens is too late.

2. Save until it hurts. I was saving, but not enough, it turns out. I thought I had that aspect of my life covered, but you can really never have too much in savings, unless you aren't meeting your basic bills and needs. If that is happening, you might need to dial back your saving.

3. Get your whole family on board. If you are the only on living a life of Savvy Frugality and the rest of your family isn't, your plan for saving, investing and living isn't going to work to its full potential.

Although I am in a position of starting over, I look at it as a positive thing. I now have an opportunity to rebuild and make my financial situation stronger than it was before. The next time I face a disaster such as losing my home, I will be prepared. Here is my recovery plan.

1. Emergency savings. Just like Dave Ramsey says, you have to have something socked away for emergencies. I am going to build an emergency savings account of $1,000.

2. I am going to get my wife on board with the need to save and live below our means. That means I will be getting her a copy of The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I would just have her read this blog, but she won't take my advice to heart. What can I say? She is my wife and believes I don't know things. (OK, that's a joke, but contains a nugget of truth).

3. Come October, when our lease is up, I will be getting a cheaper place to live. Right now my rent is $1,200 per month. My plan is to find a place that is close to half that amount.

4. We will cut our expenses so we are living off 3/4 of what I earn. The other 25 percent will go to retiring debt, including my student loan and car payment. After we are debt-free, that money will get dumped into our long-term savings and retirement.

5. I will buy a home. I plan on getting a duplex, living in one half, and renting out the other half. The rent will cover the monthly mortgage payment for the whole building, allowing us to live rent-free.

That's the plan. I'll keep you up to date on our progress.

It has been quite some time since I have posted here, and I thought I would finally write about the reason why. My summer wasn't spent on vacation or at the beach. I spent the summer being homeless.

It wasn't because I could no longer afford my mortgage, I got fired from my job or got caught up in the housing market bust. No, it started with something that seemed initially to be a very minor problem: a leaky pipe.

It started with a small wet spot on the living room floor. At first, I thought maybe one of my dog's had an accident on the carpet. By the next morning, the wet spot had grown much larger, covering about one-fourth of the living room. I knew then that there was a leak. We called in the plumber, and he confirmed that suspicion and gave us even worse news: a pipe had burst under the foundation of the house. The water would need to be shut off to the entire house immediately.

Within a day or so, the house took on the smell of mold and mildew. We could no longer stay in the house. I immediately called my insurance company and they made arrangements for my family to stay in a hotel. Little did we know that a weekend in the hotel would turn into a four month ordeal.

The house is actually owned by my father-in-law. My family and I just live in it until he retires. We found out the foundation of the house would need to be cracked open so the plumbing could be fixed. All of the furniture, which now reeked of mildew, would need to be removed from the house and put in storage. We would not be going back to the house anytime soon.

After two months we got more bad news: my father-in-law and his wife wanted to put new hardwood floors into the house, and since we had pets, we would not be able to move back into the house. We had to find a new place to live.

After cashing in a portion of my retirement funds, we found a house to rent. Living in a hotel with a pool and a hot tub may sound like fun, but it isn't home. It was a very trying experience for the whole family, and there were times we took out our frustrations on each other. No, we weren't on the street or living in a box, but we had no home for one third of the year.

My experience this summer was a good learning experience, which I will share with you now.

1. If you could not live in your house due to an emergency, where would you live? Do you have a "Plan B" if something happens to your house? Do you have emergency funds you can use to tide you over, or an insurance plan that will cover your costs if you are the victim of fire, flooding or natural disaster? If not, the time to think of one is BEFORE you need it.

2. Are you fully insured? Thank God I was smart enough to buy renters insurance several years ago. Not only does it cover up to $50,000 worth of damage to my belongings, but it gives me up to $10,000 for living expenses if I am displaced (which I maxed out this summer). Make sure your renters or homeowners insurance gives you this kind of protection.

3. Do you have emergency savings? I did, but this ordeal wiped out my funds. Thankfully, I had the funds to spend. Before we got a hotel room with a full kitchen, my family and I had to eat out every meal. That becomes very expensive, even if you are eating fast food and try to eat "cheap."

4. Don't touch your retirement funds unless....you are going to be homeless. Yes, I did dip into my retirement account, but I used that money to pay security deposit and the first month's rent on my new home. I know the common wisdom is you don't touch retirement funds no matter what, but if the choice is retirement money or homelessness, put a roof over your head. I'll replace my retirement money now that I have a place to live.

5. Don't think it can't happen to you. It can happen to ANYBODY, and as I learned, it can be something as simple as a leaky pipe that puts you out of your home. Plan for a worst-case scenario now, and you will save yourself a lot of stress during an emergency situation later.

This is the time of year that stores roll out their "back to school" sales on everything from pencils and pens to jeans and sneakers. My oldest son is no longer in school, and my younger son is homeschooled, but that doesn't mean my family doesn't take advantage of back-to-school deals.

We use this time of year to stock up on clothing items in our wardrobe. It's not just kids' clothing that is on sale this time of year. You can find deals at practically any store, for almost any clothing item. For other deals, you have to look a little harder. The hidden sales I have found recently have been at the local thrift stores.

That's right, thrift stores have sales, too. Not to be outdone by the regular retailers, many of them have "back-to-school" sales, mainly to clear out their inventory and make room for fall fashions. Last weekend, my family descended on one of our favorite thrift stores and restocked on casual clothes.

The sale was "98 cents for anything in the store". Less than a dollar per item for clothing...count me in! My son got three pairs of shorts and 3 t-shirts. I got two Hawaiian shirts and a pair of shorts. My wife bought a few clothing items and three handbags. Two of them were designer handbags. Total price? A grand total of $14! I'm lucky if I can find one shirt for that price at the retail stores.

Don't forget, summer is winding down, and many people are throwing that "one last garage sale" while they still can. Great deals can be had, and they don't have to come from the retailers!

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