Viewpoint by V. Finster
In 2013 I found out I was expecting my second child. Being a single parent made those next few years tight financially to say the least. I was always researching for ways to save money and earnestly seeking out ways to provide quality experiences and education for my children with almost no income.
While I did find many ways to reduce monthly living costs, I was always bothered by the amount of time it took me to do so. There were never enough hours in the day. Any extra time came after the kids were in bed. I was young, and I understood that I needed time for self-development, but I also had a responsibility to provide my children with a stable living environment.
Difficult as it was, with the remaining energy I had I would research ways to keep our lives together. My guitar sat collecting dust, college applications were never filled out, and I stayed in a hectic cycle of work and more work, with no break in sight. I want to share some of the tips I learned during those years that save time and money, provide enriching experiences and create opportunities in self-development.
The first tip I have is to find out what community resources are available to you. On campus alone, we have multiple resources that can assist students in many facets of life. For example, did you know as a student you are eligible to receive a bus pass at no cost? Simply visit the bursar’s office at the east entrance of the first floor of Fletcher Administration Center, and they will furnish you with a bus pass to accompany your student ID. This pass took out the financial and emotional stress of what I would do if my old vehicle broke down or I was without gas money. This college also has counseling services free to students and available for employees through the Employee Assistance Program. They can be reached by calling 210-486-1620, or in person at counseling services on the first floor of Moody Learning Center.
The student advocacy center, another excellent resource for students, includes a food pantry and clothing closet twice a month (students, staff and faculty eligible), a book voucher program for students (applications for the spring semester begin Nov. 13), as well as case management services, which through referrals can inform individuals about public assistance programs including SNAP, WIC or Medicaid, and emergency assistance, such as housing, child care, health care and utility assistance. Call the Student Advocacy Center at 210-486-1003, or visit the center in Room 323 of Chance Academic Center.
The empowerment center offers a range of services for women and non-traditional students. Resources include emergency transportation and textbook assistance for qualified participants, parent support programs, scholarship resources, GED services, academic skills development and more. Call the empowerment center at 210-486-0455 or visit the center at Evergreen and Howard streets.
An off campus resource is the city of San Antonio’s website, which includes information and resource referrals, such as housing, low-cost animal services, utility assistance and other human resources. I struggled paying this summer’s electric bill so I filed an application for assistance at www.sanantonio.gov/humanservices/FinanceEmergency/UtilityAssistance.
The next tip I have is to find out what’s free, or mostly free. I was tired of buying cleaning products with loads of chemicals, and was thrilled when I discovered through www.pinterest.com that I could make all of my household cleaning products (and many of my body care products) using baking soda, vinegar and lemons. All of which are SNAP eligible.
To find enriching experiences for my children that fit with our finances, I read Our Kids Magazine, a free local publication that has a calendar full of family-friendly events and activities around the city. These opportunities range from local museums, movie nights at Mission Marquee Plaza and even Astronomy in the Park. If you are unable to find a copy around the city, the calendar can be found online at www.ourkidsmagazine.com/our-kids-magazine-calendar/.
As a student of the Alamo Colleges, you are entitled to free admission to the San Antonio Museum of Art, the McNay Museum of Art and the Institute of Texan Cultures with your college ID. Additional fees may apply to special exhibits.
The final tip I have for saving time, money and energy is to use innovative couponing websites and apps. Most newcomers to couponing get hung-up with the technicalities of redeeming coupons or frustrated with the overwhelming time it takes to shop the circulars and clip coupons, resulting in consumers kicking coupons to the curb.
Mobile apps are now available for stores, such as H-E-B, that include digital coupons that can be redeemed at checkout. I recently attended a couponing workshop by grocerysmarts.com in conjunction with the San Antonio Express-News Oct.16 at the Hilton Garden Inn San Antonio. Marketing Director Veronica Hall of grocerysmarts.com spoke to the audience about the inventive way the San Antonio Express-News is helping the public save money. It’s an efficient website that has been formatted to display current sales at CVS, H-E-B, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart in San Antonio, along with eligible coupon usage for sale items at www.TexasSmartBuys.com.
Once the consumer selects a preferred store (you can choose all if you would like to compare sales), a spreadsheet is generated that lists current sales and how beneficial the sale may be for the customer. For instance, if an item is at its lowest expected price for the next three to four months, then the consumer would see on the sale item either five red stars (being phased out), the word EXTREME, or in some cases FREE. If the item on sale is a mediocre price, the website shows three black stars, letting the consumer know a better sale is yet to come and to save their coupons for those items. The spreadsheet also displays which applicable coupons can be used in conjunction with the sale and what the final price will be.
Veronica Hall also suggests a simple coupon organization system that takes minutes a week. First, take a plastic file container that will fit three hanging file folders. Next, separate your coupon booklets by similar inserts (Smart Source, Red Plum and Proctor and Gamble). Finally, before you place your inserts into separate hanging file folders, place a sticky note with the date of when it came out in the paper. Separating and dating the coupon inserts helps the consumer when cross-referencing against the TexasSmartBuys.com.
If you buy the Sunday paper and are paying checkout line prices, are interested in a hassle-free way to coupon or want to add additional Sunday subscriptions delivered to your door, call (210) 854-4640 to receive an exclusive rate of $1 for the Sunday paper with coupons inside.
Overall, I am happy with all of the information that I have about community resources, low-cost to free events and activities and coupon hacks. Using all of these has stabilized my home life and provided me with more time, money and energy to spend with my children. I can’t forget, however, the meticulous hours spent researching resources to become educated to bring my family out of poverty. Ultimately, my children paid the cost. There’s not a coupon in the world you can clip that redeems the time lost with loved ones, and I lost so much time with my children in their early years. I hope these tips assist and alleviate some stress you or your family may be facing so you can experience every precious family moment.